Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Twittervism for Wednesday Night Virtual Dinner

Work kicking my ass this week. I've posted to social media more than I expected. Enjoy some Twittervism.



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Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Week or So Ago: [45], Politics, & a Leftist Forum on Honduras and the Philippines that Inspired an Epiphany

A few events have converged thematically for me two weeks ago to help me reach a useful epiphany for my project, for my cause(s), and for life (this entry took me a few days of a couple-hour sessions to write!). The events are:

The essay from two weeks ago really speaks for itself, my despair, and my hope. If anything, I think it set the base for my asking about the motivations of people to do or neglect to do things that increase suffering in the world, especially when they do it under the auspices of love, kindness, and good.

The double dealing of [45] and weaselness of Stephen Miller and the Far Right Congressmen provide me example of the lack of caring, the shameful one-upmanship real politicking, and crass bigotry (made even worse over last weekend by [45] when he said that he's the least racist person that the media would interview. Add to that fire, the enabling of [45] by Martin Luther King's nephew and the Haitian Ambassador when they just called him ignorant rather than outright call at least his statements racist.

(COMMENT FROM RIGHT BEFORE POSTING: I appreciate Lindsey Graham's point out [45]'s penchant for vengeance, but Graham provides another example of enabling by stating that [45] isn't racist)

These two events only set the stage, put the logs in the fire pit. The forum last wek put the kindling and newspaper in the fire pit with the logs. I don't remember many specific details, mostly feelings and interactions when they occurred. The forum generally went as follows:

  • Lorena Cervantes had a slide show cycling on a screen of protests and scenery in Honduras while she related the events that have occurred in that country since the 2013 General Election that has generated much unrest and protest in the country over corruption and Election Fraud.

    Some quick research reveals, however, that the recent issues down in Honduras started with the 2009 coup d'etat staged by their Supreme Court and military (but can be traced all the way back to the '70s and '80s Cold War action by the US). If you kept up with things during the 2016 Election starting in 2015, that coup should ring a bell since many of her Progressive and Conservative critics attribute the final result to Hillary Clinton (in what appears a little facilitation and mostly inaction to try mitigating supposed "communist" influence in South America and increase the US military-industrial complex influence down there).

    I've reached this understanding of the events by reading some articles at The Intercept, The Guardian, and The Nation. I remember hearing some stories on NPR years ago about corporations disrupting the land and lifestyles of indigenous people, too, but I don't recall too many details about that news.

    I won't make judgments on Clinton's suitability for President since she didn't get elected, and frankly, our relationship with Honduras probably wouldn't be that different. Right now seems like just a continuation on past policy in Honduras. Hearing this woman talk about the protests and and Human Rights violations of the Honduras government moved me, but there were a lot of details that I didn't record and can't remember.
  • Lorena Buni, Solidarity Officer for Anakbayan Chicago started with a Filipino protest chant that got the audience a little energized, which they needed. Cervantes provided an interesting slide show and presentation, but we had been sitting for awhile in a room with minimal air circulation. We couldn't resist the soporific influence of the air.

    Buni started by mentioning Ferdinand Marcos then also mentioned Rodrigo Duterte. Clicking on those links will take you to their Wikipedia entries, where you will find many horrors that they had and do perform with a large amount of impunity in the Philippines. Duterte even won his last election by bragging about extrajudicial shootings he performed to kill drug users and others who would insult him because of his tribal ethnicity. Law and order, these types of kleptocrats don't need it apparently.

    After mentioning these two most infamous names, Buni provided a bunch of reliable alternative journalistic resources to get up to date and stay up to date on news and their Resistance. Below is a screen capture from their Facebook page of the media list:

    She provided a bunch of numbers about atrocities and showed them on the screen at the front of the room, a lot of numbers. Then she moved onto probably the best part of the forum. Up on the front screen, Buni projected a map of the Philippines that had symbols that showed the locations of natural resources. Most of the resources lay in the south part of the Philippines, not surprising with the uprisings occurring there and the martial law that Duterte has declared. That type of sense doesn't make for valid logic, but where there is smoke, there is fire.

    She also showed a great slide illustrating colonialist neoliberal neomercantilism. Arguably all these three words describe the same thing. Buni explained that the Philippines imports a lot of finished products, while a lot of their raw natural resources get exported out of the country, mostly from and to the United States.

    It benefits the leaders of the Philippines while putting a large burden on the middling and lower classes since much of their work comes from extracting the resources then shipping it out. Workers in the Philippines enter the chain of labor at the bottom, generating the most raw materials, then as those materials move up the chain of labor and become refined into a more usable product, the surplus value/value added of the produccts grows increasingly until the end consumer purchases it, providing the final seller the most value.

    This process sounds great in theory, product value generation as more people work and get paid wages. Problems arise, however, when these workers at the bottom then purchase the final products because they can't purchase that much or many times not any product at all, and they probably put the most physical work and most risk in the whole process obtaining the raw materials to send up the chain of production. All that to get little in return, even when taking into account the local economy where a lot of people get into this situation. How many hours do they have to work attaining a natural resource that makes multiple units of a product, so that they could make enough money to buy one unit of that product?

    A lot of this happens in the Philippines, in Honduras, and many other places in the world because the governments of these countries end up ceding or selling land and resource rights to corporations that originate in more developed countries, a lot of the times companies from the United States and Europe. We can likely include China, Russia, and other large economies, too. A lot of this activity occurs through bribery and corruption with polticians in high positions. They even mentioned Dole as one of the big corporations engaging in this activity, a company that I referenced back in 2012 when discussing how big corporations do major stuff like this in Costa Rica and Central and South America for the huge banana industry.

    Mercantilism, this category of national economic policy, is when a country looks to maximize its profits, through the form of its people laboring, its corporations, and in the modern-day United States, to pay the taxes and pay back debt it has accumulated. The worst part: mercantilism doesn't care what damage it does to people outside of the nation, it only concerns itself with that particular nation.

    During the colonial times of New England, Britain put in a lot of mercantilist laws to restrict trade between New England traders and non-British West Indies. Britain wanted the resources and goods from the colonies. If they weren't going to keep the trade in the British empire through unregulated trade, they would tax and tariff legitimate trading with foreign countries, restricting trade going to other countries and keeping it in Britain, or at least putting money into their coffers from trade going out of the empire.

    This very profitable direct trade, which Britain didn't like, supported slavery, but the British Empire wasn't putting these laws into place to fight slavery. They wanted a cut of the profits, and they didn't want other countries to get it. As all the countries saw it back then (and many insider elites see now), wealth was a zero sum game, the more you had, the less they had; the more they had, the less you had. These laws and acts by Parliament contributed a lot to at least New England pushing for the American Revolution.

    That pretty much sums up colonial mercantilism: gain control of the resources and direct them all back to home to maximize assets and capital, other parties be damned. The politicians and wealthy don't care much about the workers, either. Do whatever is needed to bring that wealth back into their hands. Add neoliberalism, basically let the corporations do all the work outside the mother country but provide them with covert and even military support. If possible, though, let forces of other nations do the dirty work and, if required, invite those forces to the motherland to teach them how to do the dirty work. Do it right, then profits, taxes, and prosperity will come back to the motherland. Who cares about the little people who get in the way? (Sound familiar?)

    The explanations of the neo-mercantilism that Buni provided gripped me, mixed with the questioning that I did here a couple weeks ago, and also my understanding of the British Empire colonial history in America, especially the slave trade and all the ancillary markets that came from it -- all these things bothered me, boiled around in my head, and supported a statement I made on social media some time ago about Marx was right that workers worldwide will need to Resist and discussions during the 2016 Election about outsiders/Progressives needing to resist for the good of the planet and the human race.

    All of this mixing around in my head still bothered me, though. As I had for a long time, I couldn't understand the motivation of the insiders and the controllers of this system. Many of them feed us propaganda about how capitalism and free trade support freedom and prosperity. Small businesses and direct trade would lead to a better world. The fact that at least the US needs people to work and pay taxes to bankroll it seems to contradict these practices. I even put forward the hypothesis that corporations and producers of goods and services need customers, and wouldn't more customers be better than minimal customers, so wouldn't they seek to get more people free, more people to work, and more people producing, so that these people can end up paying more in taxes and buying more products to bankroll the corporations? (But with how much Conservatives in the US hate birth control and push for untrained labor, their Stoic moral code seems to also support their neoliberalism.)

    And based on my questions, feelings, and the elucidation provided by these two presentations, my mind gets pushed closer to reaching my epiphany. Before getting there, though, I need to address John Beacham's part in the forum (coordinator from Answer Chicago -- of this forum or of the organization?).

  • Cervantes and Buni provided a lot of powerful facts and stories about Honduras and Filipino politics and activism that got the gears going in my head. Beacham, however, brought things to a screeching stop. He generated the impression that he didn't listen to or read any of the news since somewhere between the end of the summer of 2017 and the November elections, like he didn't know that marginalized groups created intersectional coalitions in the November elections and the election that put Doug Jones into the Alabama seat left behind by Jeff Sessions.

    Instead, Beacham talked about how the working class in the "Rust Belt" that hold a lot of responsibility for electing [45] into office were very much the same as the workers in Honduras, the Philippines, and other countries outside of the United States. . .and some of the big problems come from not reaching that population. If they could be reached with information provided by Answer, this "Rust Belt" working class could liberate themselves and help make the country and world a better place.

    Beacham also made interesting statements when he compared "small" street gangs with the drug cartels. Beacham argued that the small street gangs committed crimes but not as horrendous as the drug cartels. Also, the drug cartels had influence over governments while "small" street gangs had influence over smaller communities and little interaction with governments.

    Both these claims and comparisons have some element of truth to them, but Beacham made them from a position of privilege. A black journalist in the audience, who I believe also mentioned that he may have had some sort of disability (which didn't seem very apparent by his erudite criticisms), took Beacham to task. The journalist pointed out that:

    • Beacham's "Rust Belt" comment came from a very privileged place, doesn't acknowledge the racism of the "Rust Belt" working class as demonstrated by putting [45] into office (plus surveys that these people valued [45]'s protecting of the heritage and traditions of the US), and fails to acknowledge the experience and importance of other populations in the United States.

    • Beacham failed to acknowledge the history of gangs and that gangs have had, at some points in history (and I wouldn't hesitate that maybe sometimes in the present), positive effects and functions in society. One of those functions included providing community and support systems for alienated populations, especially those in diasporic populations who were marginalized by the majority privileged part of society. The journalist did acknowledge that these gangs can and do cause harm and damage, too.
    I agree with both points of the journalist. Beacham really rubbed me the wrong way. I think he had a good knowledge of events that happened in the past and institutions in the United States that caused evil that has occurred through neoliberal ideologies and actions. Nonetheless, I found frustrating Beacham's criticizing both US intervention in the past and that they're doing nothing now about the corruption and human rights abuses in these other countries (and not just because it seems that the US continues to do some intervention in other countries, including Honduras). I didn't ask verbally, but I wondered to myself how much Beacham (and thus Answer?) had similar motivations as the imperialist, colonialist, neo-liberals, just instead of doing it for money, he would have wanted to impose his own morals and behavior on these other places. For their own good, of course.

    Today, at Women's March Chicago, a friend compared a democratic socialism focused on forming a society through the interests and the guidance of the People against a more Lenin-esque communism following Vanguardism, a revolutionary approach that sees the interest of the Communist Revolutionaries as the only real interest and that anyone disagreeing or blocking the Vanguard Revolutionaries will be crushed.

    I kind of have a feeling that Answer might have twinges of Vanguardism.

    After hearing the journalist give Beacham the run down, Beacham went off on a tirade about how racist the US is these days, and he kept talking about the importance of striking down racism. I kind of have the feeling that Beacham was using racism a little bit as a buzzword without necessarily having checked his privilege and having a fully understanding of it, especially since he focused a lot on the march co-organized by Answer Chicago that will happen tomorrow, "Shut Down Racism, War & Bigotry on 1st Anniv of Trump". Other organizers include:

    I'm not familiar with these two other groups, but they do give cause for second thoughts on the march tomorrow. After the forum last week and some thinking about the presence Beacham had, Answer Chicago has turned me off and made me have little interest in the march tomorrow. I went to the Women's March today instead for very much that reason. I wanted to be around like-minded people that would provide, even if provided by an impersonal mass crowd, some social support and embolden my beliefs in what makes up a good social fabric or at least in my distaste for the current state of the US government and toxic masculinity. Not going tomorrow won't be so much about Answer Chicago, though, it'll be more about having a whole bunch of other things that need doing.
For that reason and to finally post SOMETHING, this post is TO BE CONTINUED. In my next original essay, I discuss the epiphany I had at the end of last weekend that I believe will help emotionally provide a filler argument for my project and will give me an "opponent" to fight in the goal of increasing more emotional attunement in the world.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Some Twittervism to Tide You Over Until the Weekend

I still have a lot more work to do on a big essay about some revelations and my attendance at a forum put on by a progressive socialist activist group this weekend. To tide you, my readers, over, though, how about some Twittervism? There's been a lot of fuel out there to throw out some angsty posts.

Well, White House admin contradicating [45] and themselves has gotten endemic, hasn't it?

Click on the next one to read a great thread:

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Some Twittervism for Your Sunday NIght

I have a few interesting things that I plan to type up into an essay, but it will have to wait. It's lateish Sunday night, and I want to try getting a healthy amount of sleep tonight.

With that in mind, some Twittervism!

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Exploratory, "Playful" Essay into Social Bonding & Fighting, Authoritarianism, and Wondering About the Rise of Minority Influence

I want to write more of a philosophical, maybe spiritual and psychological essay tonight. I write this in a form of exploration and play, not authoritatively. Through the process, I have discovered some questions, a hook or two, and yet another direction to do some research for my projects. It's endless, I tell you. But I invite you to come along on this journey with me, and to contribute if you have anything to add.

A typical question I ask myself on a regular basis: Why do people come together to form societies and cultures? What keeps them together?

For my bachelors project, I've given myself a high bar to evaluate an all encompassing universal hypothesis to tack on it: Would this theory for good behavior convince a Hitler, a Stalin, or any other horrible dictator to act better (even a [45], who sometimes feels like a wannabe dictator)? I don't justify what they've done, but the the end of their reign, any chance of a good reputation, or their ideas not spreading mostly occurred because of circumstance.

I'll admit, I'm not too familiar with Stalin, and his oppressive tactics continue to be used by dictators. Nonetheless, there are enough people on "both sides" that his legacy has become a norm, and even ostensibly has become accepted as a horrible reputation among many, to be avoided at all costs.

Many would argue that Hitler's downfall came about because Nazi Germany turned on Stalin's Soviet Union. Germany basically turned World War II to war on one front to a war on two fronts.
But then add the United States entering the war, with a fresh army compared to the armies of other countries that had been beat down by Germany and Italy. Without this combination of events, Fascism likely had a good chance of taking over Europe, Asia, and possibly, in a little more time, America.

And frankly, with the anti-semitism in the whole world at the time, the biggest outlying characteristic of Germany and Nazism versus the rest of the privileged populations of the world at that time was more about their organization and success at war for a time. The rest of the world seemed to have more a problem with Nazi Germany having success at winning the fight for their bigotted interest than with Germany being bigoted in the first place. Some may argue that the reaction to Nazi Germany's success created a turning point in at least liberal demoracies, creating a momentum of norms against anti-semitism. Philip K Dick may not have had to use too much original imagination when he wrote Man in the High Castle.

Another crazy circumsantial turn of events and norms: the turn against chattel slavery in the United States. I've spent a fair amount of time trying to trace the growth of people feeling that chattel slavery is unjust in the United States and how it brought the country to the Civil War. I still haven't had the luck or research skill to find how this momentum of history grew and came to fruition.

At least a minority of white colonists or even just inidividual outliers existed that spouted against slavery or tried convincing people that it's an evil practice, but no one took them too serious until a few years or decades before the Revolutionary War. Then up in New England, at least, some of the Founding Fathers before the country's founding wrote against slavery and sometimes took legal and rhetorical action against it.

As tensions grew against the British, New Englanders felt that Parliament levied too many taxes on them, everyday townspeople wrote town-wide Declarations of Independence arguing that they felt England was treating them as slaves, and they wouldn't take such indignities. The momentum to outlaw chattel slavery became adopted by "regular" white people through a rhetorical flourish that justified fomenting revolution, which then entered the nation's zeitgeist. I still haven't isolated where all that came from, though I have the feeling that it came from the rising tensions of Absolute Dictatorships in Europe disrespecting national/ethnic cultures, instead trying to build strong states without nation.

No matter the occasion, though, I feel like only historical circumstance has prevented authoritarianism from spreading all around the world. It reminds me of the trope of a child thinking "As long as I don't get caught, I can get away with it." Do dictators just not totally succeed and create an everlasting legacy because of their personalities, because they can't trust anyone else enough to hand off their nation that can possibly become an everlasting monument to their family or something like that?

In some way, North Korea feels like a success when it comes to dictatorship and leaving a legacy of an authoritarian system in place. We're in the third generation of the Kim's since World War II. Many in the world might think the Kim family has a strain of crazy megalomania, and that country might grow more and more isolated in world that simultaneously grows larger and smaller at the same time.

Seventy years after installation, though, North Korea remains with the same authoritarian structure. I'm not very familar with the history of North Korea, but it could very well have gotten stronger if China and the Soviet Union/Russia had given it even more support than they had throughout the years or if China and Russia hadn't spread themselves thin during the Cold War. At the same time, would those larger, stronger country really wanted to have dealt with the Kim family?

With the inreased reent development of nuclear weapons in North Korea, though, the country could grow and sustain the Kim family structure of authoritarian government, possibly the longest authoritarian and maligned country in at least the United States consciousness. Will they "get away with it" if they become a nuclear power and other nations fear them? Even now, if they could release utter destruction on the Korean peninsula with conventional weapons, would they be "getting away with it"? Has the Kim family bucked the trend of circumstance of history that seems to turn against authoritarianism (even China, which has successfully kept something of a stable, steady regime through the decades has been making "compromises" to grow and fluorish, at least economically).

[At this point in an edit run through, I tried finding some analagous phenomena regarding novelty and evolution for the sudden appearance of novelty when too much order occurs. I got that idea from a magazine article I read something like 15 years ago. Couldn't find anything useful, but I found some interesting research hooks that are pointing me toward minority influence, Serge Moscovici, cryptomnesia, and other threads looking at norms changing via phenomena similar to how I'm describing in this essay. For now, I'm just going to have to accept randomness occurs through novel circumstances. . .and plan to fill the conceptual space missing to me at a later date.]

I don't have the knowledge and expertise to get into all the details and come up with historical or even psychological arguments for all these situations. Nonetheless, from the standpoint of minds very different than mine that disgust me, but based on historical, philosophical, psyhological, and other trends I can't identify, being an authoritarian jerk with a plan to create a legacy of a nation state that can continue a legacy of acting badly, violently, horribly, domineering, and so forth seems like a rational direction to go if someone can get away with it.

Just because it hasn't succeeded before doesn't mean that the person deciding to do it can't get it done. The people before just weren't smart enough, they didn't think of all the contingencies, they didn't plan well enough, they weren't charismatic enough. People full of pride, narcissists, can make plenty of arguments for why they're so special that they'll succeed where so many others have failed before. Note that this paragraph is me putting myself in someone else's shoes.

After all, the route of sharing, working with other people, democracy, republics, etc. etc., these are systems and practices in which you need to work with others, people need to depend on each other. They need to trust each other. That requires people to let their guards down and make themselves vulnerable. Even for people who believe in democracy and rule of the people, doing such things has its difficulties. Not just because people might turn on you, but because other people might make mistakes or not have the capability to complete what they're supposed to do.

Successful authoritarianism just requires being the first one to get IT right and be able to handle all the contingencies. Plenty of people have enough of pride to think that they're the chosen one to make it happen, and they can also get a base to support them. [45] got into office after all. Then throw on top of that uncontrolled emotions, the ease of manipulating the emotions of crowds, etc. etc. As much as I would hate to see sustainable authoritarianism happen, a sustainable democratic utopia of happiness would probably be harder and slower to make, though more rewarding.

The latest Doctor Who Christmas Special, "Twice Upon a Time", has a great line that I think summarizes my feelings about all the above. I have complicated feelings about Steven Moffatt's writing on Doctor Who, but I had the feels when I heard this long line because it felt like it described me:

DOCTOR 1: There is good and there is evil. I left Gallifrey to answer a question of my own. By any analysis, evil should always win. Good is not a practical survival strategy. It requires loyalty, self-sacrifice and er, love. So, why does good prevail? What keeps the balance between good and evil in this appalling universe? Is there some kind of logic? Some mysterious force?
-Copied and pasted from transcript of the episode found at
I don't have answers to that big question. Maybe I will some day, more likely that I won't. Lately, though, I've run into some thoughts and theories that provides some insight into societies, democracy, civic republicanism, and "rational" arguments for people coming together. I don't know how original any of the following is, but I feel the need to put some random thoughts out there, play with them, and possibly get some insight from my audience.

Last night, I listened to Episode 49 of APM's podcast, Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly, titled "Gerrymandering, hard-wired brains and the baby under the desk". Kai and Molly revisited episode "12: This is your brain on Trump" where they had on George Lakoff, professor emeritus of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Lakoff discussed our instinctual brains, [45]'s sophisticated use of rhetoric and Twitter to manipulate the minds of his base by appealing to their need for a "strict father". Lakoff mentioned three other strains of appeal that connect with the instinctual mind, I believe. One of those three stuck out as the opposite of strict: the language of the nurturer. The following quote from Lakoff's essay, "Why Trump", I think gets to the brass tacks about the strict father:

[. . .] The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality (the strict father version), and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate.

[. . .]

Family-based moral worldviews run deep. Since people want to see themselves as doing right not wrong, moral worldviews tend to be part of self-definition — who you most deeply are. And thus your moral worldview defines for you what the world should be like. When it isn’t that way, one can become frustrated and angry. [. . .]
Read the rest of the essay, Professor Lakoff has some good insights into the minds of traditional conservatives. I hate how much truth this reflects and want to fight the mentality that many traditional conservatives and reactionaries embody. On Make Me Smarter, Lakoff discusses the difficulty of changing the minds of people who take this kind of mindset, and even people who take the nurturing mindset won't have their minds changed if they're approached in a way that goes against their way of framing the world.

As someone trying to get as close as I can to writing a novel or some piece that might convince even a Hitler or a Stalin that they're framing things wrong, I guess I need to understand this type of thinking more. Seeing that I might have to take such an approach brings me to the end of my next random thoughts that I've mulled over the last couple days, but we'll need to start at the beginning.

Back in the spring of 1998, I wrote a set of two college papers during my sophmore year that compared and contrasted Jesus of Nazareth's Kingdom of Heaven and Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, a social contract theory of giving up natural liberties to a monarch for security in society (because fully free people in nature would be in constant war with each).

I finished the book Citizenship & Community: Civic Republicanism & The Modern World by Adrian Oldfield a couple weeks ago (don't worry when you see the price on Amazon, I borrowed it from the library). It defined civic republicanism, did a quick survey of some "classic" thinkers on the topic, then made some final conclusions about requirements to make it work. The book has some useful information and a bit of useful insight, but I don't accept it hook, line, and sinker.

Oldfield's discussion about Alexis de Touqueville's view of republicanism and praising of early 19th-century United States brings up social contract theory, but discusses it in a novel way to me. Instead of talking about Social Contract theory as GIVING UP liberties, Oldfield talks about joining together with other people in a community, society, nation, etc. as a way to FREE ourselves from the dangers and destruction of the natural world. The peace and collaboration of civilization allows us the ability to do so much more than we could in a State of Nature where we have ultimate freedom. In civilization, we're not totally obsessed with survival and putting all our energies into surviving (I'm not saying that our nations and states are civilized enough to help us reach this freedom).

The sacredness that Christians put into Jesus of Nazareth sacrificing himself on the cross always confuses me. It still does. Please bear with me because this will relate to social contract theory.

On a secular level, Jesus of Nazareth provides an interesting allegory. Jesus of Nazareth sacrifices himself on the cross to provide us the potential to gain freedom from Original Sin. In a way, through this sacrifice, Jesus provides an example that by giving of ourselves to the rest of us, we can find freedom from the suffering of nature. Jesus was selfless on the cross for us, we can be selfless in civilization for each other.

Another Jesus of Nazareth story always fascinates me: Pilate asks the crowd whether they want to free Barabbas, the violent political revolutionary, or Jesus, the peaceful revolutionary of the mind and soul, and they choose to free Barabbas. The Bibles of today hide the fact about Barabbas being a political revolutionary, pretty much just saying that he's a violent murderer.

When the part about him being political revolutionary gets brought up, the power of Jesus of Nazareth as a historical figure and the desires and consciousness of the masses becomes more poignant: Jesus brought true but long and difficult change to the people so they might possibly establish a long lasting peace because they have peace and collaboration in their hearts. Barabbas offered change, too, but just a surface change, a change in the position of a group of people in a society, something that they might accomplish faster but also more likely to lose.

As I addressed in the first few paragraphs of this essay, Barabbas offered a change of circumstance while Jesus offered the chance for more lasting, sustainable change, though a harder change that requires more effort because it required changing your identity and soul. The crowd chose to free Barabbas. Barabbas allowed themselves to stay the same for the possibility of changing outside circumstances. Jesus, however, requires the crowd to lose themselves to establish themselves, to establish a Kingdom of God.

Adrian Oldfield and many civic republicans talk a lot about the importance people's obligations and duties to society, in opposition to liberals arguing for rights and liberties of individuals, especially to grab hold of the rights of the oppressed and marginalized. Until I took a more serious look into civic republicanism that argued against liberalism, I didn't see these two positions as opposite sides to a dichotomy.

Reading academic, nonpartisan essays about political philosophy, I had understood rights as "fundamental to civilization". After all, the first sentence of the United States Declaration of Independence says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Rights, as academic political philosphers understand them, require the obligation or duty of other people to respect them. I can't agree with rights being self-evident or unalienable, since if other people exert enough force, physical or social, on someone, they can take those rights away. We see it happen it authoritarian countries. It happened in the United States with chattel slavery after the Declaration of Independence that argues for these unalienable rights.

I advocate a lot for equal rights and liberties that civilization can provide to all humans, but for them to exist, the other people in communities, societies, nations, states, and civilization have to accept the obligations and duties required to grant those equal rights and liberties, rather than seeing society as fighting for the interests of your self and your chosen and unchosen groups. This type of situation can break out into a State of Nature at any time and causes a ton of stress, which defeats the purpose of coming together into a civilization.

At the same time, however, Christianity and other social arrangements have a history of one internal group or person sacrificing or giving up their rights, just engaging in obligations and duties to support the rights of others who have a higher social status. At the same time, that dominating other gets to exercise all the rights they want without feeling any obligation or duty toward the people sacrificing their rights.

That's pretty much what authoritarian leaders like Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Hussein, and plenty of aggressive and/or privileged interest groups do out there: take, take, take all the rights and benefits that they can while the other side sacrifices, sacrifices, sacrifices to meet obligations and duties to the other person, party, or group interest that lords over them.

We have norms that justify enabling domestic violence to create this social arrangement. Privileged people in our societies believe norms that create this kind of social structure. When interests are equal enough that one side can't win but they can't see eye to eye, they fight to become the dominator, to get all the rights while the other side has all the obligations and duties, and they have ideologies and norms that tell them that this OK, people tell themselves that it's normal and good to create these tensions, so they can try to be on top, so they can create the circumstance where they come out on top and "get away with it".

To the depths of my soul, I can't accept this. I can't believe any side can have true happiness or contentment where there is all this tension and vying for power and property, even though the fighting and take can get exhilirating, filling people with adrenaline. But we have studies and anecdotes that show that praying for peace creates contentment in us, meditating on compassion for the world brings monks contentment, making connections with other people gives us rushes and exhiliration, and doing good acts for others can provide us euphorias and highs that can rival psychoactive drugs for intensity, length, and even for our inability to build resistance against the joy of giving selflessly. Humans were made for emotional attunement and protecting that attunement from loss.

And yet we can also debase our integrity by giving too much and other people taking, taking, taking, feeding their neverending desire for more and more illusionary connection, debasing themselves of having actual emotional attunement. I understand that we can't just focus on duties and obligations because in giving too much, we start losing; but at the same time, if we focus too much on rights and liberties, when we take too much, we become overfilled with stuff, losing the ability to sense happiness and contentment, but thinking if we just get more and more, we'll eventually get our fill, except we won't. It's like in a society of affluence: eating too much junk food is ingesting fake, artificial sentiment and connection that our souls don't know how to get any nutrition from it, so it just keeps taking, taking, taking in empty emotional energy, but it keeps getting starved of nutritious emotional energy.

The other day, imagining a world where everyone focused so much on giving to each other that it became effortless and the rights and liberties came out of nowhere, I had that feeling of world-embracing love. I also had some righteous anger at [45], his base, and others who focus so much more on all the taking and not seeing how they're hurting others with all their taking. . .an anger that wanted to figure out how to get them out of power, so we can go on learning how to teach giving and getting to real emotional attunement.

Other than polticking here in the United States, connecting to people, learning, and sharing with people, I don't have any good answers. I want to keep going, though, and hopefully I'll find a way to contribute to other peoples' consciousness and also to civilization so future generations can do a better job than what we're doing, if we don't destroy ourselves in the process.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Nerdy Productivity Frustrations and The GOP Doesn't Mind Hurting Citizens

Today I discuss some Nerdy Productivity Task List Frustations and that the GOP Doesn't Mind Hurting Citizens because Citizens Haven't Voted.

Nerdy Tech Productivity Frustrations Over the Last Couple Days

I've had an avoidable rough last couple of days. My productivity system of handling my to do list has hit a roadblock because months and months ago, Google decided to no longer include reminder alerts on their Task list.

I had what I guess was a pretty typical syncing system set up between Microsoft Outlook 2010 on my computer through Gsyncit, Google Calendar/Task List, and GTask on my phone. At one point, I noticed that GTask didn't have reminders, so I switched things up to have Gsyncit sync tasks to a Google Calendar. That doesn't work well, either, because even though it has a reminder set up, it doesn't cause an alarm to go off on my phone. I can make these things work if I edit al of it after syncing them, but that pretty much makes the whole system worthless.

I've figured out how to set reminders on Google Calendar. I found the Reminders app on my phone. I've spent a lot of wasted hours Friday morning and late into the night trying to figure out some way to sync things to Outlook. I even upgraded Gynscit and have ended up just e-mailing their support to see if they can add a feature to add a feature to sync with Google reminders. We'll see if that works.

I don't even know how well the phone Reminder app will sync with Google Calendar. With so many podcasts on my phone, I don't have enough space on it to do normal sync functions. Guess I'll just have to go on another podcast binge listen to make space and see if at least that part of the syncing works.

If anyone knows how to sync between Outlook 2010 and the Google Calendar Reminders (not the task list), please let me know. I really like having an offline mailing list on my laptop, so I don't have to be so dependent on the Internet and also because using an actual big keyboard makes for an easier time compared to typing on a touch screen (with this whole hang up and the physical keyboard, I find myself missing the old Blackberry).

It's been practically another day since I wrote this section. No good solution has been found. If anything, I've discovered that the Google Reminders on Google Calendar doesn't sync with anything, so there's no useful syncing happening. Who knows if that will ever happen.

Instead I've come to use a horrible workaround: Samsung SideSync. It projects the mobile phone view to my laptop and allows me navigate using the laptop. It doesn't allow for the ease of syncing and makes data in the task app vulnerable since there's no backup, but it's better than nothing. Next step: Finding a program to backup data onto the laptop.

I hate workarounds. Though I guess on positive flipside, can do texts from the laptop instead of having to flip between laptop and mobile. At least there's a bright side.

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The GOP Doesn't Mind Hurting Citizens because Citizens Haven't Been Voting

Last week a friend asked the social mind on Facebook how the GOP could get away with taking the teeth out of the ACA Individual Mandate in 2019. Doing so will increase rates because insurance companies won't expect as many health people to enroll. They have to make up for lost premiums somehow.1)

I initially responded with my standard line about they're following a perverted morality that comes to them through history from the Stoics and other influences, which has no problem for blaming the victims for their misfortunes since they follow their passions too much (don't even ask me why that means people stricken with something from birth or someone who hasn't done anything wrong has to suffer. . .). My list of explanations went on and on, some of them unjustifiable like the one above and others a little more justifiable, like how some people who don't have much money need make tough decisions about their budget and what they'll spend their money on. For example, between someone needing a car to go to work or paying their health insurance, I think they'll choose the car. After all, how will they pay for the health insurance if they can't make the money for it in the first place?

Today I had an alternative hypothesis come to mind: The GOP feels brazen enough to push through this Tax Reform Bill that takes the teeth out of the Individual Mandate (after failing at repealing the Affordable Care Act) because they don't fear the citizens that their agenda harms because until recently, they really don't vote much.

After reading and hearing enough news and rumors about some of them not running again, my argument could have some holes. Seeing no backlash to putting something through that could hurt their consituents since they know that they're leaving, they could just be pushing through something they've always wanted. At least for Paul Ryan, the Tax Bill is his wet dream and his biggest goal to becoming a Federal Representative in the House.

Please hear me out, though. Despite some signs of hope this year, The Liberal Resistance IS NOT a sure thing. Understanding our enemy of citizen/voter disenchantment and/or apathy will help us in the good fight.

The epiphany for this hypothesis came about while listening to Friday's APM Marketplace. It had an interesting piece about how the Tax Reform Bill that the GOP and [45] put through will exact a big back payment of taxes from multi-national companies that will provide a big initial boost to paying off the deficit and help some government.

These same multi-nationals, however, will get a sweeter deal over the long term. Their tax bills will end up being a lot less after awhile. I think [45] referred to this part about the Tax Bill "hurting him" because he has some multi-national business, and I have no doubt he kept money out of the country to avoid taxes. Nonetheless, this Tax Bill still doesn't lift much tax burden from the middle and upper lower classes as it does for the more upper classes and corporations.

The Tax Bill gives a trade off to these corporations: big bill now for lower costs later. These corporations, the higher ups in these corporations, and other high asset, high capital, and high income people are the donors of the GOP. These are the people who want the GOP in office and to stay in office. They pay money to keep them in and will vote to keep them in. This part I knew, but having this realization come to me in this context along with some other research I did over the past week really struck to the heart for me that the GOP doesn't care about lower income people so much because they don't fear their voting behavior.

The research earlier this week was about taxes in Wisconsin. An article about either the 10 best or 10 worst states to retire in put me down this road. I won't link to that particular article because it's behind a subscription wall (got access to it through work), but it said that Wisconsin has some of the most onerous taxes for retirees in the country. This article has the tax stats that I think the earlier article probably referred to. Considering that the first article talked about high tax burdens in Wisconsin, I thought it might have explained Paul Ryan's obsession with lowering taxes -- his state puts a big burden on his constituents, so he had better get the Federal government off their backs.

I read some other articles about taxes in Wisconsin, but the most prevalent opinion of the people came to the top: their biggest complaint about taxes comes down to the high property taxes (though they seem to quiet down when they get reminded that these taxes go to pay for a concrete service that they appreciate: their local schools).

The interesting part about all the complaining about property taxes and other taxes generally being low (though the taxing of retirement income when other states don't sucks): property owners pay taxes and generally it's higher income people and corporations who pay property taxes. Sure, middle class people and some lower class people pay them, too, especially indirectly since it gets factored into rent, but people who have more income generally have more property (include more expensive cars, which often get taxed, too).

Interesting might overstate the fact of the matter, but consider the matter more in depth and with more history.2 Back at the beginning of the United States, most states only allowed landed, real property owning men to vote. Supposedly they had a stake in the fate of town, country, state, or country because they owned a part of it.

Massachusetts, at least (I'm not too familiar with other states, but I guess New York fits here, too), extended suffrage to non-landowning men who could pay toll tax in 1821. The reason: they needed the working people AND they also needed the seats in the Federal House of Representatives and Electoral Votes to stand up against the South on the federal level.

The frontier had opened up, and it provided a lot more opportunity for wealth, land, and empowerment, even though it also held a lot of danger and may not having had voting rights on the federal level (but at least they would possibly be in a better situation). The best lure to keep the working people around was to give them the vote, as it gave them more say in the fate of their town, state, and possibly country.

Anyone without voting rights pretty much only had the power to petition elected leaders through those who might have voting rights. The only recourse they had if elected officials didn't get them what they wanted: to go off or convince their family to go off to the Frontier. Non-white freed people probably didn't have much opportunity to go that way because they would likely face bigotry, violence, and before the Civil War, capture and drafted into the enslavement of some Southern slaveowner. So the option of heading out to the Frontier didn't have much teeth for a good portion of the population.

Basically I'm pointing to the brass tacks that the GOP, at least, motivates their constituency to vote, donate, and volunteer by delivering concrete results for taxes or by trying to cut down on the impact to their wallets and pocketbooks. They also have the traditional values voters on their side, too, but it's not difficult to conflate those values into saving money, putting down the voices that really need assistance, and building up a unitary cultural story (often of bigotry) that justifies the current state of things and the victim blaming for other populations getting stuck in their ruts ("It's their fault." "If only they just. . ." "They should know better." "It's common sense." "If they were only rational.").

In other words, the GOP does a good job of getting their base to vote and vote for the GOP by convincing them that they have a stake in their country. They have something to gain and maintain, and if they don't work to keep it, they will lose that stake, that property, those values, that culture. Notice how much the GOP focuses so much on law & order, wars on this and that, and what they're consitutients have to lose (and the other side to win) if they don't support the GOP polticians.

This point doesn't have much significance, though. No one has to try hard to see these facts. They accomplished this scary task in 2016 and have many times in the past by not only pumping up their base, but by also disenfranchising those who don't fit into their base and convincable and by taking advantage and the lack of unity on the other side. Arguably similar things happen when they get full of themselves while in power and cause things to go boom without having any way to fix it.3 Historians and political commentators like to dwell on our politics following this cycle back and forth between the two parties, that essentially their ideologies and practices stay the same while the constituencies bounce between them because of the ping ponging of the constituents' everyday lives. . .at least the everyday lives of those who vote, and the fickle constituency will vote according their state as it is at the time of the election.

But the utter disregard that the GOP and [45] has shown the Left, the Middle Class, the Lower Classes, and the marginalized has gone too far. The rising anti-GOP sentiment throughout 2017, as the anti-GOP has demonstrated through the spate of Left-leaning elections in November then the Alabama Special Election that put Doug Jones into the Senate. The truly amazing thing that has occurred during the normally scheduled elections: People of Color [and Marginalization] Struck Back! Then it happened for the Alabama Special Election! These huge shifts to the Left over the last 4+ months could not have happened without marginalized people jumping in to take part in politics, not just voting but also campaigning for candidates.

And throw on top there the Women's March Movement, the Me Too Movement, and all the other women organizing out there. LIttle did I know, but a lot of the women in Federal politics, like Senator Gillibrand, are there now because they saw Anita Hill get dragged through the dirt during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings back in the '90s. In addition, women, especially black women, have done a lot of organizing and demonstrating since at least [45]'s inauguration. This organizing and demonstrating deserves commendation, too.

[45] has definitely woken up those of us on the Left and those with sense in the Center, especially those who had voted for him and thought he would do some good with the government. NOPE! I won't say that I'm happy that [45] got into office and got these sides of the country moving. The catalyst to get us moving isn't worth the damage it will do to the country. It's like saying that getting a sickness that nearly kills you to get you to adopt more healthy behaviors was worth getting.

We should have known better, especially privileged white people like me who care (though I like to think I've known better). I won't point at marginalized people and criticize them for not voting and not participating. Frankly, I will point at privileged white people like me and ask

  • Why did we try stopping them from voting?
  • Why did we discourage them from voting?
  • Wwhy don't we treat them as fellow human beings?
  • Why do we blame them when they are the victims?
  • Why don't we reach out to them in non-patronizing ways?
  • Why do we appropriate their culture? Why do we demean their culture? Why do we expect them to assimilate to our culture while disrespecting theirs? Why can't we work to appreciate their cultures?
  • Why do we allow our police to shoot them down with little provocation?
  • Why do we tolerate hate groups?
  • Why do we allow bigotry and discrimination?
  • Why have we tolerated sexual harassment and assault?
The privileged white upper class has backed marginalized populations into a corner, and now they're fighting back in the political arena. As I've said repeatedly, back in 2016, I argued that no one on the Left could win without understanding and reaching out to marginalized populations. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton proved me right that they couldn't win. 2017 showed me that by reaching out and forming coalitions with marginalized populations, letting them know we can benefit them, the forces of Equal Rights, Civil Liberties, Love, Kindness, Appreciation, Compassion, and Progress can win.

Throughout 2017, political commentators, politicians, and Progressives argued that since the GOP won by reaching out to the White Working Class throughout the country, Democrats or some other party will win the future by reaching out to that class. I have and continue to argue that you win by reaching out to the economic and financial concerns of the White Working Class and all the other classes of people.

We all have the same concerns when it comes to economics and finances: We want to have money to put a roof over our heads, food on the table, get to our jobs where we can get money, take care of ourselves if anything occurs health-wise, environment-wise, and eventually when we retire.

Discussing those issue doesn't exclude non-White Working Class people, but marginalized people have concerns that White Working Class people don't. Just focusing on the importance of economics and finances excludes marginalized people. Providing tax deductions, grants, and other means for government funded initiatives won't fix the plights of marginalized people. The risks they face every day are different from any White Straight Cis-Male, and discussing them will only exclude white people if those white people cause those risks to arise, and those types of risks come bigotry and prejudice. In the long run, making the lives of marginalized people better will make everyone's lives better, if just for the simple fact that tensions will go down.

When Bannon was fired from the White House, he argued that if the Left kept pushing Identity Politics, [45] and the Alt-Right would win again and keep winning. If this 2017 is any indication, pushing Identity Politics will help the Left win! It can't just be talking about Identity Politics or arguing for them, though, it has be fighting for marginalized people, understanding marginalized people, appreciating marginalized people (not just tolerating them), and working to help them be a serious part of the Nation, not just additional demographics or a voting bloc. With their help, we can make the country a better place in 2018 and in 2020 (and part of me wants to do a Howard Dean yell right now). Or maybe by white men humbling ourselves, we can make the country a better place.

I want to quote a couple social media posts I've made in the last six months or so (don't remember when I made the first one, and it's cribbed):

Privilege is those who get the most pay the least for it.

I will not criticized the marginalized for not rising up enough, but I will criticize the privileged for not humbling themselves to meet their duty to the unprivileged, the marginalized, the truly needy, for helping to pull them up. To me, the the marginalized have been demoralized, punched from above, and push down to think that they can reap better benefits by working against society (which sometimes they can) because society is against them and doesn't want them. Why should they work for society when it pounds down on them every time they try to rise up and make something of themselves. . .and, even possibly, that they have to sacrifice connections to their community to rise as an individual. People, we truly rise together, or the top will become heavy and fall down on those underneath them (just look at how income inquality is crushing everyone below, how environmental change destroys the world for us all, and more than I can get into here).

And if in the next couple years, the GOP and [45] get booted out of office, the privileged on the Left and Center need to remember that marginalized people helped us out of this mess. We need to work hard to make them vital parts of our society and to enjoy being part of our society (not assimilate them).

This article gets a little into some empirical conclusions made by study about what encourages and discourages people to vote. It doesn't necessarily get into more concrete things like people being treated seriously by society, but it's a worthwhile start to reading about some ways to get a more participatory civic society going. I had hoped to get into some thoughts into this topic, which I believe that I have.

Nonetheless, I think I'll leave this entry more with feeling good about marginalized people rising up and making a difference in the latest electiosn and that they can't help bring this nation out of these dark times. Hopefully in the future I can on some more sober examination of how to promote more civic participation of citizens. Feel free to provide some ideas of your own in the comments.

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1Health Insurance ACA/Tax/Law Nerdery: the Individual Mandate will still be in place in 2019. There's just no actual penalty for violating it. Nonetheless, Large employers with a monthly average of 50+ employees in the previous calendar year will still have to offer Affordable Essential Health Benefits to all their employees working 30 hours per week after a waiting period for employees scheduled consistently or an average of 30 hours per week over a set measurement period of 3-12 months for variable hourly workers that don't necessarily work 30 hours every week. Large employers still must also submit reports of who they offer coverage to the IRS after each calendar year and forms to the employees that they have offered coverage to. Insurance companies who insure people also have to submit reports and send paperwork to insureds. must do the same for people who purchase their health insurance to them, too. The only difference is that individual people who don't get health insurance in 2019 won't be penalized for it. Return to main text

2 I want to take this opportunity to apologize, in advance, for any point where I put my foot into my mouth. Coming from my place of privilege, I might not have the best concepts and language in my understanding of things to properly express reality. Please don't hesitate to rebut me over these parts if I haven't checked my privilege on any particular topic. Intention doesn't excuse Impact, but sometimes I have to inch out there with them to have my conceptions and language corrected. Return to main text

3I'm thinking of the financial crisis at the end of George W Bush's time then Obama got to fix it, though arguably the same thing happened at the end of Bill Clinton's time, but he had just as a difficult time with the GOP dominated Congress at that time). Return to main text

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