Thursday, June 28, 2012

Your Care

So, the health care thing, and what's missing from it.

There's a problem with health care, people begin to notice it so much that something has to appear to be done, and after much lying, back-tracking, shadowboxing and fanfare, the set of laws attributed to Obama appears. It's approved by the Supreme Court, almost everyone complains in some form or other; bloggers mobilize to analyze. Lesser of two evils, yawn, tiny step in the right direction, yawn, bald-faced theft and exploitation, yada yada, stupidest possible way of "attempting" to eliminate the free-rider problem, it's the same thing the Republican Party wanted in 1993, and so forth.

Assuming we're bright enough to realize that (1) elites are using their "state" armies to force people to buy a shoddy product from elite racketeering organizations that control the parceling of approved drugs and treatments from elite-licensed vendors to some people in some situations, perpetuating what we might call a health care nightmare, and that (2) the people who are supporting or tentatively supporting the "act" are ignorant of how they're being played, we can move on. (Assuming we're not getting that, there's always Arthur, or if he's too far too fast, argue with this one in comments.)

What are the fun facts being missed in the standard "we're screwed, isn't it terrible, and here are some details on the how" stuff being tossed around now?

(1) Timing! The Supremes carefully timed this decision to come in late June, so that the worst of the arguing would be past by the time the most active campaigning occurred. By the closing hours of the voting game, the majority Democratic consensus is going to be that Obamacare was an accomplishment, and that it represents one of the many proofs that Obama did something domestic and clever during his time over us. Now we can roll out the assassination of Bin Laden (His Firm Violent Action), which happened, like, way long ago; the LGBT comments (His True Guiding Spirit), which happened, like, after that; the immigrant amnesty thing (His Firm Nonviolent Action); aaaand, perhaps lastly, Obamacare's victory in the Supreme Court (His Ability to Politically Outmaneuver Republicans).

The backdrop looks so pretty that it suggests that the leets are scripting the justifying conditions for the reelection.

(2) Resistance? So now, everyone has to buy insurance. And they absolutely should, and should conform to the law in every respect. Hypothetically, we might see some troublemakers attempting to work their way around this. What happens if one of them set up a quick and dirty business named "Jones Insurance" and sold "You are insured" cards to people for 50 cents each? Are those customers in compliance? No? What if Jones files paperwork listing all the SSNs it has covered, swearing to the guv'mint that it's running its business properly? Who checks up on Jones Insurance to make sure that it is sufficiently capitalized? Who reports when Jones Insurance never pays any bills, and what happens when Jones Insurance goes bankrupt, along with all of its insured?

This is why insurance is "heavily regulated." Elites force people to buy these products (car, health, etc.), then ensure that only elite capital can sell them, by raising the licensing bar high enough to drown lowcomers. But it would be, currently, too obvious if insurance could only be bought from, say, one of six pre-approved elite organizations (even if that's the essential truth on the ground).

Will we see any resistance to this? A lot of "Jones Insurances" popping up out there as a counter-move to the elites' Forced Purchase Act? Ridiculously under-capitalized insurance businesses won't be "real" insurance businesses, but if they tried to, wink-wink, hand out "you are insured" paperwork to enough bankrupt people who are in on the deal, bingo--legal, but ineffective, insurance, at low to no cost. Right back to square one, but without the elites getting that extra cash.

How would the elites fight back? Establish yet another massive new bureaucracy that constantly monitors the financial status of every insurance company? Because they'll have anticipated this counter-move, we'll likely see some quiet restructuring of insurance regulations performed by the big industry players, and more stringent reporting requirements, along with the identity theft concomitant to the increased data centralization. When you drive, you have to carry "proof of insurance." Maybe with your yearly taxes, you'll file proof of health insurance--with one of a limited subset of pre-approved elite vendors? What about those who don't file tax returns, because they're too poor?

What if those poor people innocently buy insurance from "Jones Insurance," and cite ignorance as to whether or not it actually was insurance? In the first year, 16 million proof of insurance forms are returned to citizens by angry Insurance Bureau Agents, along with letters demanding that they obtain coverage from different, licensed companies. Who pays those Agents' salaries? The tax base, nach. But we're already close to that taxing-poor-people breaking point, and the "Jones Insurance" counter-move, if done effectively enough to require constant elite monitoring, might have a chance at shattering the model. Again, the elites are up on this, and they're planning on making the "middle" and "lower upper middle" class cover the costs of enforcement on the proles. Further diminishing it, yada yada. Soon, only two castes remain, if the plan goes right.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pet Fetish

So here's Sasha planning to become a prostitute to earn some cash, in order to keep her dog, and here's Arthur, contemplating street life in order to keep his cats (one of which is, incidentally, named "Sasha").

This is dicey ground. Tough, rugged, white, alternately-sexualized Americans frequently have a violent reaction to the suggestion that entrapping, housing, and feeding their eugenic fantasies is not either a morally or fiscally sound decision.

Economics

How expensive is it? From the American Pet Products Association, we learn that Americans drop in the vicinity of $50 billion a year on pets, or around $58 weekly, per pet. The $50 billion is not, of course, paid wholly by the desperate poor, but the sum accounts for primarily the costs of feeding and providing medical care to the pets: only about $4 billion out of that $50 billion, or less than 10% of the total, is spent on "grooming."

It's popular to vilify, say, Paris Hilton, for skewing the statistics with, say, dog sweaters. These aberrations, though, have very little impact on the whole. Somewhere between 60-70% of American households own pets, and that whole "1%" thing is not what is keeping Petsmart in business. It's the food and the shots that everyone is buying, and let's not forget the bits of "human food" that get shared around. And the very large and necessary medical bills, including euthanasia costs, that attend the end of domesticated animal life.

(On a related note, a significant slice of that deforestation and animal by-product stuff that gets moral vegans screaming is in the production of meat-based pet feed and treats for domesticated western comfort animals.)

More Sasha:
We’re treating [one of our dogs] with nutrition, herbs, and other supplements rather than “conventional” cancer therapy. Even if we could afford surgery and chemo, which we can’t, I’d have difficulty subjecting him to painful, debilitating treatments at his age...He was fading badly in December but has regained some of his strength thanks to the treatment your donations help make possible.

Morals

Aside from the individually- and group-stupid economics of the pet situation, it's not a nice thing overall. In the isolationist culture of America, individuals love to be "free" and "independent," eschew familial and social connections and responsibilities, and make up for the resulting voids in their lives by purchasing specially-bred servant animals who exist to satisfy their desires for company.  Eugenics plays in, here, not as a metaphor, but as a direct definition of how our pet species were created for exploitation.  A history of centuries has created the "pet" underclass of servant animals we now have to play with and spend money on.

Brutal breeder-owners, like slave traders, identified desired characteristics, and used sexual mutilation and enforced rape to impregnate choice mothers by choice studs.  When the female is in heat, you throw her in with the desired father, and she not only takes it whether or not she wants to, she bears the offspring.  If she doesn't do it well enough, she gets killed.

Once the offspring are out, you kill off the ones without the right characteristics, until enough strains have produced what you want.  Cute and little?  Cuddly and colorful?  These animals have been bred to work for humans, stand guard for humans, fight for humans, and be domestically comfortable for humans, for centuries.  There is a terrible, hypocritical, brutally repressed irony in the progressive humanist's love of comfort pets.

"Purebreds" are still around, but even the muttiest of mutts out there is merely a mixing of older purebreds from a hundred or more generations back.  A "mixed breed" remains a derivation of the slave animal caste, its genes grown to be subject to man for comfort or work.

The Slaves Enjoy It

After the Civil War, of course, we know that many slaves were quoted as saying that they loved their masters, their masters cared for them, they were better off with their masters, etc.  So too with domestic comfort animals, who--surprise, surprise--will cuddle up to and purr and fawn over the ones who provide their bed and food.  It's so vindicating, it's almost like the children you never had (or who have grown up and left you alone).  Except that these children can't defy you.  You hold all the power.  You are the human, with the keys to the door, the ability to buy food at the store, and the power to provision shelter inside of which your eunuchs are free from roving teams of animal executioners.

(You only cut out their reproductive organs because you had to.  To protect them.  From making a mistake that would upset your lifestyle, and the lifestyles of your fellow owners.)

And it proves that you're doing a good thing, when the cat wants to sit in your lap. Just like, when one of the employees in the department you manage tells you that you have on a nice tie, they really mean it.  They like the tie.  And they like your haircut and your new Loss Prevention Plan, too.

Updated with a quote from Baudrillard article provided by seyrah in the comments:

In particular, our sentimentality toward animals is a sure sign of the disdain in which we hold them. It is proportional to this disdain. It is in proportion to being relegated to irresponsibility, to the inhuman, that the animal becomes worthy of the human ritual of affection and protection, just as the child does in direct proportion to being relegated to a status of innocence and childishness. Sentimentality is nothing but the infinitely degraded form of bestiality, the racist commiseration, in which we ridiculously cloak animals to the point of rendering them sentimental themselves...

Those who used to sacrifice animals did not take them for beasts. And even the Middle Ages, which condemned and punished them in due form, was in this way much closer to them than we are, we who are filled with horror at this practice. They held them to be guilty: which was a way of honoring them. We take them for nothing, and it is on this basis that we are "human" with them. We no longer sacrifice them, we no longer punish them, and we are proud of it, but it is simply that we have domesticated them, worse: that we have made of them a racially inferior world, no longer even worthy of our justice, but only of our affection and social charity...

Okay To Have Pets

So, is it okay to have a pet, or to use an iPhone made by a 6 year old Chinese girl who was beaten to get her to finish her fourteen hour shift at 20 cents an hour?  Maybe.  Maybe it's the only desperate choice to make now that we've passed the centuries of eugenics and Orientalism.  Maybe you're not guilty.  You play the hand as it lies.  Maybe it's not your fault, how the dog got there, and you're really a glorious, giving person for saving it from the shelter. Just like if you bought a slave at a slave market in 1820s Georgia, to protect it from the ownership of a more brutal plantation, with a foreman who just didn't treat them right.

Continued in PETA for JM and More Pets.

The Unbearable Badness of George Lucas

The Bill Gates of science fiction runs rampant through children's merchandising.  The great orientalist plagiarizer continues his reign of terror with his Clone Wars, in which "heroes on both sides" encourage a new generation of children to believe in the cleansing purity of constant war.  In innumerable ways, George Lucas exemplifies the soulless turn of "art."  For comparative purposes, let's start with a short form of the Microsoft story, before turning to how George Lucas has duplicated it in "art" form:

Microsoft


Many different thinkers over the course of decades (centuries? millenia?) come up with the idea of computing machines.

Computers grow more advanced.  Programming languages developed.

Computer components grow more common and cheap.  People begin to want computers outside of the office/military.

Lower-tiered Xerox employees come up with the idea of a graphical user interface, to allow non-programmers to more easily use computers.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs witness an early presentation of this technology.

Bill Gates buys out a similar program from a different set of innovators, gives it to other salaried technical people, then sells it under his own name.  Delightfully convenient government contracts, nationwide advertising campaigns, and the most devious market saturation and competition-stifling elements Lenin could imagine ensure that Gates crushes all other potentially-competitive software, no matter how much higher in quality.  International computer makers and Gates enter into monopoly alliances where they refuse to do business with different brands/technologies, and use their government and industry standards to control the market.

Bill Gates is heralded as a "nerd," a "computer genius," and the "brilliant visionary" behind the P.C.  Most of humanity comes to know him this way, rather than seeing him as a well-connected businessman with good parents and good friends who muscled one version of a product away from others, then got an iron grip on the market.

As the whole "monopoly" thing got too rough for the upper middle class to deal with, another well-connected businessman was allowed to become the Democratic Party to Bill Gates' Republican Party.  Steve Jobs re-entered the scene with the "Mac," or the "less buggy Windows."  Just as the corporate media made Gates out to be the hero of the GUI, Jobs got to be the hero of the "even more better, for the well-heeled liberal" GUI.  As everyone knows, Jobs is brilliant and good despite the child labor, because no one else had ever, or could have ever, thought of putting computers in nicer-colored boxes, before.

So, by now, Xerox, Inc. has capitalized the ideas of some of its engineering team and their industry colleagues, which were then bought out by the Microsoft/Apple parties, which went on to be "great competitors" in the nature of the DLC and the GOP.  (And from a minute perspective, there were, and there remain, great differences between, say, Mac and PC, or Obama and Romney, etc.)

Is Bill Gates a great businessman?  Yes, inasmuch as he may have been personally responsible for the business moves he made.  But then, if you start off as an upper class white person in California, with massive familial and social connections to powerful people, and a lot of financial backing, you have a much better chance of getting your product out there. And if you use those connections to monopolize an essential industry, requiring that all software and hardware come through you, you're a guaranteed success. If, say, High Arka got all grain producers to produce and sell only High Arka Grain (TM), would High Arka be a brilliant businesswoman when the entire world bought her branded grain?  Possibly.  But could High Arka have done this with the idea alone?  No; it required some elite cash, and the connections to put that cash into play.  The phenomenon known as "Bill Gates" is the public face of the Southern CA venture capital that locked up personal computing technology in the hands of old money.

Do all great ideas rely on a history of past great ideas?  Yes, and what has made Microsoft so repulsive is that, like most capitalistic monopolies, it has maintained its hold on power by repressing innovation. It is not through any element of free choice that consumers purchase Windows, vendors develop products for Windows only, or all hardware manufacturers design their machines for Windows; it is because the market is monopolized to prevent any other such occurrences.

Star Wars

What Lucas did with Star Wars is essentially what Gates did with the personal computer.  Cobbling together (1) big money, (2) Hollywood connections, (3) a mismash of Orientalist philosophies, primarily borrowed from Joseph Campbell, (4) some old Buck Rogers western stuff, and (5) America's growing interest in battling evil empires and developing super powerful space weapons, Lucas put together a story and got it produced and sold.  The formal monopolies in entertainment products are harder to see; many people essentially understand that studios are less willing to "risk" multiple sci-fi/fantasy stories in any given year, but it becomes hard for many to equate those policies with the end results at the box office (or, inside the personal computer box).  The normal nation-worldwide marketing of a product destined for success was there for Star Wars and its sequels, and like Bill Gates, George Lucas was just the kind of pseudo-rugged, hairy, weird-looking, techie-type California guy to channel America's improved-hippie sentiments into big capitalism.  Because, like, California is innovative and completely different from Carnegie and Rockefeller.  So, during the 70s, you can always trust hairy techie guys from southern CA.  They're rebels.  Get it?

Star Wars was a nice little children's adventure, and aside from its various small bigotries and plagiarizations, could have been a relatively cute movie without what it was forced to do by its manager.  Star Wars in and of itself is not the problem. After all, a typewritten story in which a chubby housewife fantasizes about seventeen-year-old high school vampire boys would not be a great tragedy if it were sitting only on the coffee tables of a few members of the Central Utah Book Club. Just like Windows could've been an interesting old computer program that got phased out, Star Wars would have been a shoddy, thrown-together product that, in a different (free-er) version of a "free market," would've amused a lot of people, and made for funny anecdotes in later years.

What made Star Wars different, though, was that--like Windows--it was crafted and pressed as a smashing worldwide success.  It was pushed, and pushed hard, across the entire country, then world.  More importantly, it honed and exploited to an unforeseen degree the new kinds of marketing capabilities becoming available to art.  People didn't just see Star Wars because they went to the movies and the poster looked interesting; they went because it was splashed across the corporate papers and billboards in ways you couldn't miss.  It became a television and radio phenomenon to go see this particular movie; it became a handheld toy on every street corner.  After seeing the ten thousandth Chinese-made Obiwan figure in the drugstore window, you just might check out that film to see what all the fuss is about.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Rather like one might contemplate whether it was Paris Hilton's looks and business savvy alone that hurled her to the covers of magazines, one might contemplate whether the copy of Star Wars was just so irrepressibly good that it simply had to spawn generations of McDonald's toys, multiple store toy aisles, and every other imaginable product, including sub-sub-delegated spinoff derivations of derivations. Windows is the Star Wars of computers; Garfield is the Star Wars of the newspaper comics page, where strips are produced years in advance by a team of underling artists, to ensure that editors in a large distribution network never have to trouble with deadlines.

(For reasons entirely unrelated to marketing his own books to nerds upset at the popular appeal of a space-based show, David Brin offered a lengthy critique of Star Wars, which culminated in the conclusion that, in Return of the Jedi, nothing the main character did mattered, because the rebels blew up the second Death Star anyway (ergo Luke's lightsaber duel with dad didn't accomplish anything).  These used to be on salon.com, but have since been disappeared down the memory hole (old link 1, old link 2) and redirected to more profitable, flash-based venues.  At this link may be found some people arguing in brief about those old critiques.

For a walking, talking, second-gen logic processor like David Brin, the critique is accurate--why should David Brin care if Vader is saved, at the end?  This is a man who wants results, dammit!  Verifiable, scientifically proven results!  The middle manager of the space universe doesn't need to care about things which cannot be proven on paper, like consciousness and being.  In his vague copying of Joseph Campbell's Orientalist transmittal of Amalgamated Eastern Philosophies (AEP, TM), George Lucas was at least part of accidentally portraying something a step beyond that.)


The Badness

So what?  He really pushed the movie.  What makes Star Wars so bad?  Ah, but this isn't about Star Wars; it's about George Lucas.  Yes, like Windows, Star Wars is bug-ridden.  It's copy on top of copy.  It has some nice stuff, like Minesweeper and lightsabers, but it's not what you'd pick if you had a choice.

George Lucas delegated his story functions to others.  The characters in Star Wars have no constancy.  They are, like political candidates or Gatorade reps, whatever the customer wants them to be (no surprise that George Lucas considers Obama a hero). Collaborative projects can be a good thing or a bad thing, and they become the worst under the Lucas administration. How? Unknown to many, Lucas licensed the product universe and characters to legions of "expanded universe" artists and writers, whose job was to write all the spinoffs that even Lucas' original "creative team" couldn't handle ("we have notes!"). Vast swathes of new science fiction and fantasy projects were drained of resources, which were instead directed to the guaranteed success of things that had the "Star Wars" label slapped on them. The plucky young and/or maturing heroes of dozens of new novels, who were entirely unlike the film versions of Luke Skywalker, were re-named "Luke Skywalker," and instead of battling new kinds of alien warlords in distant galaxies, they were moved to the Star Wars galaxy in order to battle ex-Imperial Governor Alien Warlords. Older, troubled heroes were renamed Han Solo/Indiana Jones, and net profits and ultimate credit were directed to Lucasfilm.

For the uninitiated, these things were and are not small-time spinoffs, but multiple-year massive bestsellers (dozens and dozens of them, SRSLY; you have no idea how low this whore can go) that spawn their own separate trading card games, toy lines, video games, toy-line-based-video-games (note the Microsoft connection!  On XboX!), and other product derivations. These works are all subject to the oversight of Lucasfilm functionaries, who ensure that story arcs and character development do not conflict too much with future storyboards laid out by other people in-house. The creativity of writers and artists is limited by the bounds Lucas' long-term strategists have laid out.

(A bit on Lucas and racism/sexism found in O.N. Part 2.)

Who can compete with Star Wars?  Who can compete with Windows?  Soulless prostitution and heartless marketing are ftw in the sense of dollars and market reach.  Whenever the Star Wars universe gets too little attention, or long-term profits threaten to drop, legions of Lucasfilm functionaries--who might otherwise have developed into creative people in their own rights--are ready to plan out the use of the brand.  Star Wars can franchise itself into anything, and absorb any new creative idea into something that happened somewhere in the Star Wars universe, with Luke stopping by at the end to offer a moral.

No new work available for independent directors, authors, screenwriters, or actors.  No new wonders for child audiences.  Instead, Lucasfilm subdelegates the episodic details of "Clone Wars" stories to a large, salaried understaff, where all plot and design points are subject to managerial control.

This is the future of all art under the corporate umbrella.  Even the supposed creator is divorced from the product he has "created," though that severance would be more dramatic had Lucas actually "created" Star Wars.  Don't forget the plagiarism--this cannot be harped on enough.  That scene, in Empire Strikes Back, where Han Solo tells Leia that she likes him because he's a scoundrel?  That's an almost word-for-word copy of Rhett Butler to Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.  George Lucas stole these lines from a dead woman, and offered them, directly copying, without attribution, in order to take whole credit for the sentiment from a new generation of fans, who may have once glimpsed part of the movie Gone With..., but who probably never read the book.  The gravest sin of the artist is laid at the feet of that repulsive corporate kingpin, who steals and monopolizes code, then calls himself a creator.  It's not strange that Lucas has "stepped back" from Star Wars and turned it over to legions of delegates; it's what he always did.  He is a Dilbertian pointy-haired boss; a foreman and overseer, who "wrote" by copying only when he was forced to do so in order to have pieces of a screenplay to guide the first big flow of money.  Once he got successful enough, he could recede even further from anything resembling art, and sell off the images, dialogue, and illusory souls of his "characters" to Burger King/Lego/et al.  You don't have to plagiarize once you can simply hire artists to do the work for you.

It's a Company town, pplz.  There aren't any new shops out there.  Tumbleweed blows across the front of the old general store, as six fat, bearded guys in black Lucasfilm t-shirts nail a "Star Wars" sign in place.  And every coffee shop is a Starbucks, and every country is the American Earth Union.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Death of Art

(Potentially succeeding Inclosure and Classification.)

500 years from now, the last survivors of the Radivaac gather their children around the popping d.u. in excitement.  Grandmother--that's what everyone calls her--still remembers that song from her childhood.  That song.  The one that meant so much to her.  And she found, earlier that day, one of the old rolled tablets that she'd used to listen through her collection before the Last War.  "It was so beautiful, I cried," she said.  "Just voices, that's all.  Well, a little music...I've never played anything, you know, but it seems to me, it was just so beautiful.  I want you all to have a chance to hear some of the old music, like I did, before I'm gone."

Grandmother draws a long breath.  "You'll all make new music, after this is cleaned up, but there's nothing wrong with listening to this one.  It might inspire you."

Stan chuckles.  "If it makes you happy, it must be good!  Turn the thing on."

Three dozen wide eyes watch in the near-darkness as Grandmother unrolls the computer and presses it alight.  Wonder of wonders--it not only works, but works just as she remembers it.  Her fingers turn to a blur.  She finds the familiar icon, and accesses it, only seconds away from transmitting that old melody, and thousands more, to the speakers the families have set up, here in this place under the remains of the crumbled bridge.  The computer prompts her:

Please enter your iListen username and password.

Grandmother's eyes now, too, widen.

"Anything wrong?" asks Stan, stepping forward.  He reaches for his pocket, worried.

She brushes him back.  "I can remember it, I can remember it."

"'Password,'" he reads.  "...interesting."

Delight spreads across her face.  "I...!"  Her fingers move.  The old information channels through her to the screen as swiftly as it returns to her mind.  But once it's put in, and the computer has transmitted...

We're sorry!  Connection problem at host server.  Please try again later.  

Dismay grips the hearts of the children; the adults grow long-faced.  Grandmother, with practiced frustration, checks the "network."  She tries different passwords and different usernames; one, from a friend long ago, actually works, but when she gets into the system using that information, it tells her only...

We're sorry!  Connection problem at host server.  Please try again later.  


Stan puts a hand on her shoulder.  Popping blue d.u. specks trace the coarse hairs mottling his stony chin.  "Whatever it was, it was in America, Grandma.  You know that's sunk."

"Maybe one of the backups...there has to be something..."  Frustration turns to panic as Grandmother tries, again and again, to get at it.  One of the children, a whiz with old computers, leaps to the task.  Fingers flying over the keyboard, she determines that, "It's nothing wrong with this one.  It's the one at 'iListen.'  The server's completely down."

"But it was on my computer!" Grandmother insists.  "It was!  I listened to it a thousand times!  I paid money for it!"

We're sorry!  Connection problem at host server.  Please try again later.  

In tears, she lets the child keep the empty, worthless access point.  It is all she can do to not smash it against the ground.

They turn to Grandmother for a story, instead.  Voice breaking, she forces one out.  It is a wonderful story--eldritch; unconfined--and everyone goes to sleep generally happy, wondering what that song was, and what "old music" was like.

*   *   *

We're seeing the metastasis of this now.  The mass of human creative information stored in movies, books, video games, and music, is being tied to central servers, dependent on massive networks of centralized power delivery and command authority for access.

Once, you would buy a book, and it would be your book.  The powers that be came up with "licensing," where instead of owning the book, you owned a license to read the book.  Maybe you were allowed to share it with one person at a time.  Records, tapes, CDs, DVDs, hard drives--you could, in some sense, walk away with the information stored thereupon, and use it later.  Use it by battery, for a brief recollection a hundred years later, perhaps.

Now we enclose life.  Like terminator seeds, intellectual property protections swarm about the approved creativity.  Almost nothing which does not sell itself to license-holders and tithe-taking middlemen sees the light of day.

Video games.  1999 saw Unreal Tournament, the Game of the Year, on a CD where it could be installed on a computer and used.  Less than a decade later, in 2008, Unreal Tournament 3 becomes available only through the creation of a unique account, linked by CD code and e-mail address, to one individual's use.  Similarly, prior to 2000, Half Life sells on a CD, relying on the input of a CD code during any installation to guarantee that one CD can't be shared by forty friends to all play the game (single-player, at least).  2004, Half Life 2 comes out, playable only through Valve Corporation's Steam gaming engine.

Internet down?  You're not playing the games.  A dispute with your internet provider, or an interruption in their service, doesn't only mean that you don't get on the internet, now; it means that you can't privately use the product you purchased.  If Valve Corporation or Epic Games go bankrupt, get hacked, or just decide to cut their server availability at random times, you aren't able to use their product.  Access to the experience comes only through connection to the corporation--they control all the gates and hold all the keys, with all the concomitant potential for a singular cascade wiping out several million daisy-chained independent users.

If "Monopoly" ran this way, you wouldn't be able to open the game-box unless Parker Bros.' customer service center were open then.  Power out, playing in the rain by candle?  No way!  Or by in-house power generator?  Nope.  You gotta connect to the feds to get permission to do anything.

Music.  Movies.  iTunes links usage rights to its locked mp3s to an "Apple ID," then places limits on how many devices you can experience that art on.  If four iPods break and you spend $299 on a fifth, you might not be able to transfer your music collection over.  Everything you listen to passes out to you only through the permission of Apple, onto approved devices.  It's a brilliant plan, and like Walmart, Borders, and Hollywood, enough investment has given Apple enough clout to restrict certain album releases to iTunes only, so that the only way you can ever experience some art is by foreswearing its use to the Apple experience.  All your base are belong to Apple.  You can't buy these albums "free and clear" for even $200 each, because Apple knows that it's worth far more money to control the industry in the long run than it is to turn even an exorbitant profit per-unit right now.

Sony and other companies are getting into this, now, with the PlayStation Network, where music, movies and games are linked to accounts.  Violate terms of service, watch the company get bought out, go into bankruptcy, or have tech. changes that they don't want to spend the money to grandfather in forty years later, and all your "usage rights" get cut.  You have no interest in anything except to partake in what the company allows you, as of that moment, to partake in.

In DVDs, we see the ability of distributors to require the viewing of previews and other advertisements before the viewing of the "main feature," despite the misguided notion that you paid only to watch the feature.  This will eventually transition into similar models to those discussed above, where movies, like music and games, are accessed through membership, and older or less popular titles can be shuffled out or lost in a mega bureaucracy where the only allowable backup copies are held by the company.

The examples above are neither coincidental nor unique; corporate art is moving, in unison, in the direction of licensing and centralized (too-fallible; singularly destroyable) control. Long after movie theaters lost the right to buy films and be able to show them whenever and however they liked, we've become so advanced we can buy music licenses for the purposes of only a few listens of the underlying data.  Every support of these institutions is a vote for their increasing destruction of what we might share with each other.  Books are moving to Kindle and e-readers, where usage rights can see continued and increasing restrictions, similar to, then worse than, what we already see in other mediums. Even words will soon feel the deeper repression that bits and bytes and films now know.

How long before they come for the pictures, too?  This is not a call to "paper only," for paper, too, can be turned to the service of restriction and evil.  The demons of avarice will ever lead to the placing of tithes on every aspect of life, from breathing to eating to seeing the doctor to listening to an album you paid $21.99 for ten years ago.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bunnies & Bono

In opening, a paean to artistic hopelessness, style over substance, and empty grace, from the mouth of Silverweed, via Adams:

The wind is blowing, blowing over the grass.
It shakes the willow catkins; the leaves shine silver.
Where are you going, wind? Far, far away
Over the hills, over the edge of the world.
Take me with you, wind, high over the sky.
I will go with you, I will be rabbit-of-the-wind,
Into the sky, the feathery sky and the rabbit.

The stream is running, running over the gravel,
Through the brooklime, the kingcups, the blue and gold of spring.
Where are you going, stream? Far, far away
Beyond the heather, sliding away all night.
Take me with you, stream, away in the starlight.
I will go with you, I will be rabbit-of-the-stream,
Down through the water, the green water and the rabbit.

In autumn the leaves come blowing, yellow and brown.
They rustle in the ditches, they tug and hang on the hedge.
Where are you going, leaves? Far, far away
Into the earth we go, with the rain and the berries.
Take me, leaves, O take me on your dark journey.
I will go with you, I will be rabbit-of-the-leaves,
In the deep places of the earth, the earth and the rabbit.

Frith lies in the evening sky. The clouds are red about him.
I am here, Lord Frith, I am running through the long grass.
O take me with you, dropping behind the woods,
Far away, to the heart of light, the silence.
For I am ready to give you my breath, my life,
The shining circle of the sun, the sun and the rabbit.

And in closing, The Twat in the Hat, an old delight from Chumbawamba.  Such rhythmic recitations upon the subject of Bono rarely happen.  Selection:

Let’s start at the start, where most tales often do
With a baby, a boy who like most babies – grew
But whose growing was out of proportion, you see,
For his body:head ratio was at least 1:3
Like a weeble he wobbled but sometimes fell down
For his legs couldn’t carry his noggin around.
And his eyes, look, see! Far too big for their sockets
Like snooker balls heading for opposite pockets.

But big heads, small bodies, while strange in a boy
Are common in rock stars. So imagine his joy
When he found his strange shape had some use, after all:
And this way they’d love him.
Though bug-eyed.
Though small.

So the first thing he did was come up with a name
That would dovetail just so with his imminent fame.
“My real name – Paul – just won’t do. Oh no.
From now on (such trumpets will sound!) I am Bono.
In truth, Bono Vox. Let the minions rejoice!”
(Translated, it means in bad Latin, ‘good voice’.)

Then he gathered around him a tight little band:
A bassist so drunk he could just about stand
A good-looking drummer who couldn’t quite play
And a balding guitarist with a pedal delay
With a pedal delay with a pedal delay.
They named the band U2.
With a pedal delay.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Highest Heavens (Chris Floyd response)

(Backstory: Chris Floyd, or at least a good approximation of him, responded to this one's Triptych post via e-mail, as Blogger disallowed the use of regular Google accounts for such purpose.  Settings are now altered, but at request, his comment was parted out into three sections, and attributed to "anonymous."  Responses follow, bracketed quotes being the said Floyd's.)

Goodness, lounge singers aren't sleazy, or perhaps they all aren't, or perhaps very few are, in a pejorative way.  If only the world had more lounge singers; if only more people were even interested in that, it would be a sign of a better time.

...a "triptych" refers to a three-paneled artwork. As far as I can see, you attack only me and Silber. So who is the third "internet complainer" in your triptych?

In this particular work, High Arka, of course.

You have apparently chosen one particular theory of the formation of consciousness by neural networks (apparently unaware of some vastly different views of many neuroscientists on this issue)

The veiled citation to authority--i.e., socially respected people with university degrees--is unimpressive.  As to, say, brain-studiers in particular, this one suggests a review of Salinger's Teddy, but the following example may suffice on its own:

"You, Mr. Floyd, have apparently chosen one particular theory of international relations, apparently unaware of some vastly different views of all of the world's leading political, financial, economic, and military scholars, leaders, think tanks, and respected public figures."

See?  By and large, they're wrong and you're right on any realpolitik matter you discuss.  A citation to expertise is nice, but doesn't stand alone, and using it as a sly hint of "you're wrong"-ness is inappropriate, coming from one so thoroughly ousted by established, respectable, serious, advanced thinkers.  Philosophers and their rhetorical questions can, through the evil demon scenario alone, obliterate, to the tiniest percentile of potential doubt, any science based on perception; taking perception as a given, evaluations of hyperspace, ascending dimensions, and time perception make all science--and all corresponding cause-and-effect-based data supporting it--theory.  Nice theory = great; arrogant theory = mean.  And as misguided as, say, evangelical brimstone Protestantism.

Much of the science is a lot of fun, and many of the scientists are probably right about many things, inasmuch as right can be right, but if we stop there, we're left with only nuclear bombs, high def TV, David Brin, and terminator seeds.

Watership, ye's downed.  Exalt our perceptions, and we'll more likely miss something important.

...your 'revelations' of the "Fourth Stage" are perhaps not as original and difficult to comprehend as you seem to think they are. Such as the fact that the "elites" deserve pity not only for degrading their own humanity through their actions but also because they are caught up and driven by the same painful sense of mortality and ending of consciousness as the rest of us -- this seems very true to me, that they are "our suffering kin."  (That's a very nice image.) And of course, I have written along these lines at several points in my "career" and my "mini-career", as have thousands of others, including Silber. I would think such a belief would be a given for any thinking person...

Yes, but we'd also like to think that any thinking person could understand the tenets of Stop Me Before I Vote Again or VastLeft--and they clearly don't, unless those are all actors going into the voting booths and posting at Kos.

These things, however easy they may be for you, need to be said.  Over the years, this one has noticed Arthur paying only very, very rare, brief lip service to the fact that elites may also be human; so rarely that this one wouldn't even stake a dollar on it.  If you have the citations, go ahead, but a couple blurbs from him are irrelevant against the whole.  He has spoken of a nauseating, detestable culture that deserves to die; his thesis re: Americans is one of complete loathing, excepting those who pay his rent.  Even as he accepts Paypal donations from, say, retired Army colonels to feed and shelter his cats in cities where human beings go hungry, he viciously insults young humans who join the military out of desperation to receive medical care, food and bed.  (He does, occasionally, mention that he enjoys some older opera, and good for him.)

(Incidentally, as to you+Arthur insinuations, there's nothing wrong with sex, and this one's metaphor, however blunt, speaks to a decided tendency of yours to point your audience toward Silber's most cursingest [sic] prose.  As though any of them hadn't yet heard, or weren't already reading, Silber's version of quite how naughty the elites were that day.  As to internet radicals, Silber has a giant reputation, backed by his own personal fame--like many/most/all? of the more noteable internet places, who have inherited, in such lordly fashion, the career momentum of their physical forebears.  That's where the metaphor came from.  For you to call upon radicals to read Silber is as dicey a proposition as for a Republican candidate to say "I love America and support our troops!" during an appearance at a USO show.)

You, Chris, do rarely--but certainly more often than Arthur--mention how awful it is that a leader is reduced to this or that action, but the vast bulk of your material is a re-presentation of the news.  Your readership already knows how to read the news, and knows what is being omitted.  That's why they read you.  Everyone who wants to get that stuff can go to you and get it, and be validated among a community of those who agree with them.  You also often highlight stuff about African proxy wars that otherwise completely slips the American mind, so your relative fame allows you to point people toward news that they'd otherwise miss.

If that's what you're in it for, great.  Chris Floyd the person lives a life; posts some elite critiques; great.  The phenomenon "Chris Floyd, website" or "Chris Floyd, ideology," however, is the fetishism of war-details.  The high point this one will mention is your occasional presentation of your art.  Read the critique of "Chris Floyd" more as a critique of the conscious movement of "Chris Floyd website aura" than of "Chris Floyd's personal habits," and you'll be closer to something good.

How do we know, for example, that upon being chosen to be president in 2008 many years before, Obama wasn't corralled by security forces and trapped in the body of a killer android?  Maybe the real person Obama really is as sweet and wonderful as the parodies of him in VastLeft suggest.  Most likely not the case, nach, but whether it's true or not, we can talk about "Obama," or even "the Obama administration," and really be talking about "the nigh-infinite set of variables, actions and states of mind which constitute what we all know we're talking about when we're talking about Obama."

We can evaluate, and analyze, the effects of "the thing we all know we're talking about when we're talking about Obama" in terms of the presentation of "Obama" that we all know, and what that Obama "does" and "accomplishes."  And those things are terrible--the things themselves, as well as the rationalizations of those things, and perhaps even worse, the vast, powerful, and deadly culture associated with them.  You may not see it, looking upon your readers with the eyes of a loving parent, perhaps, but the culture of "Chris Floyd's website" is a scary, clannish thing, as obsessed with recounting the details of imperial murder as the intimate fans of Gacy, Manson, or Jack.

You're not necessarily wholly responsible for it--you could just be a nice musician who doesn't like war and hopes that writing some gory articles will stir people to awareness.  However, in a way similar to the guys who wrote The Hangover, or the producers of any of the terribly popular American murder mystery series, you are contributing--perhaps innocently--to something bigger and badder than yourself.  Going onto radical blogs and fetishizing the details of the imperial project, while paying taxes and saying that "something ought to be done, like voting for a third-party candidate, or marching for lower tuition and no evictions," is as much a part of that project as joining the military so you can send your girlfriend $28,000 a year and get your legs blown into confetti and drool away the rest of your years.

If "Third Stage" writing is valuable -- and you say it is -- then what exactly is the problem if someone concentrates largely on that, in a single venue which is not at all the only venue or only focus of his thinking and writing?

See above, re: associated culture.  When you create a movement, and still have some (all?) power over it, there's always the option of disavowing responsibility for what its adherents may do; you might similarly dig a deep hole near a preschool and trust in the gates or attendants.  Not all ideas can be rounded out, but at a certain point, we might ask, "Have we birthed here a creature that needs attendance, lest it become a monster"?  And maybe, philosophically speaking, it's not really your responsibility at all.  You've become part of a large mind interconnected by computer; if all you wish for the bulk of your part is a re-presentation of major news reports, it's certainly your choice.

If you would truly change the world, forget not that old "Martin Timothy."  If you maintain a house of charity, and hold regular lunches for your donors, and one day, a hungry man stumbles in, and you throw him out, what, then, of the house?  You had there some holocaust-denying nut.  Yes, there was a 99% chance he would've gotten nothing from you that you would've been able to tell immediately.  Maybe it's a fail, but not only did you not try, you didn't let anyone try.

High Arka, in many forms, is thoroughly unpopular in countless venues; only recently among the pseudo-anarchist and anti-two-party set.  Is it all for nothing?  Perhaps.  But in the form of Martin Timothy, you had before you an advocate of genocide--a real live one, who wanted to say something, and to argue.  In what more real way could you have made your stand against evil, than by trying to help him?  If you're only interested in chronicling the genocides of the great leaders--who are, shall we say, much less likely to listen than even Martin Timothy--is the desire for expression only an exercise of futility?  The pudding for the proof was right there--a person who actually admitted to what he wanted to do (according to you; his words were vanished before they could be held up as evidence).  Who better, and easier to practice on?  When are you going to get such a good chance to help someone?  If Obama posted his plans for an attack on, say, Syria, would you attempt to dissuade him?  Or would you ban him for advocating genocide?

In this one's futility, the goal is, at least, the highest heavens.  Not pulling out of Iraq gradually; not retaining only "military advisers"; not only attacking one Middle Eastern country per ten years; but rather, the entirely unrealistic step of joy and wonder for all.  It's a laughable, oft-mocked hope, and though likely doomed to failure, at least it still lives here.  Compromise for less, if you will, but this one will ever believe you could, at any moment in all of times, wish for and be everything more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Triptych of Internet Complainers

In much the same way that it long ago became clear that hegemon "America" was dominating the globe through imperial wars, both proxy and direct, it long ago became clear that the fiercest critics, and deepest understanders, of these policies, were generally flummoxed and hopeless about them.  Arthur Silber and Chris Floyd have both made mini-careers--though, in the former case, surely not a glamorous or lucrative one--out of re-presenting corporate news in an unflattering (more true?) fashion, Silber using the public television model of soliciting donations, and Floyd more indirectly selling his books, music, and journalistic career.  In the incestuous helix of internet complaining, they are giants; they can be counted upon to, after any given state event--America's State of the Union; Memorial Day; Congress showing up to vote for something--make the loudest cries of "irony, hypocrisy, forever!"  When a major publication releases reports of attacks, battles or wars, they are there to link the article, discuss in more graphic detail the things it omitted (with outside sources or reasonable assumptions) and remind everyone of just how naughty the United States Government and/or culture is for committing/supporting/ignoring said acts.  Here's Silber doing that; here's Floyd.  As Floyd puts it, in a paean to hopelessness, "Read it, and tremble for the horror we have, and the horror that's yet to come."

To what end, this?  A number of things, as mentioned above, are already stunningly clear:

1) The USG is, for better or for worse, engaged in a project of direct imperial occupation, financially screwing over the world, and spawning and maintaining proxy wars that kill millions;

2) The information demonstrating such is readily available to most (all?) U.S. adult citizens, including enactors of USG policy;

3) Attempts to present this information to those who haven't already drawn Floyd's and Silber's conclusions (or are otherwise similarly anti-imperialist in belief) are met with lesser-of-two-evils arguments, or hopeless indifference.

Nearly all (all?) of Silber's and Floyd's readers get this.  Would there be any moral surprise if, tomorrow, Floyd wrote an article discussing Obama's proxy war against the native inhabitants of the moon?

What is not so easy for many of them to grasp is that these things have been stunningly clear since, oh, let's just be really temporally limited and say "since the USG existed."  For example, USG and its associated society existed quite happily alongside active slavery for many years.  It did just fine with the invasion and conquest of Mexico; the genocide of the aboriginal peoples living within the boundaries of "America"; the various slaughters and invasions of the far East; et cetera.  This is not "news."  This is "constant."  What is also constant, though, is that the presentation and recording of this information, however valuable, is not anything remotely like change.  It is a spectator sport; it is masturbation; it is, to these radicals, what has been called on many occasions "preaching to the choir."  And it is, also, a strong calmative that helps keep the show running.

Challenge is not something these communities thrive on, or could endure.  Silber hides in his hole, barring comments on his site and never venturing out; Chris allows comments from those agreeable to his point of view, and in the face of those who disagree, he deletes things and says he's there to "bear witness," but not to argue with people (i.e., he will preach to the choir, but trying to help non-fans learn what he knows is too much work for him).  Silber found his niche in using culturally-applicable "bad words," while Chris uses his journalistic background to offer a "mature presentation" of the hard-hitting facts, like the Ted Koppel of the internet radical.  Neither, anymore, has the bravery to go where they're not among worshippers.  (It's not fun to be temporarily unpopular, granted.  It makes it much more likely that you'll be memory-holed.)  They're revered in their own ways, and comfortable with it, so their careers have become little more than regular performances of old favorites at the Wednesday Evening Early Show in Atlantic City.  To rousing applause from all the fans back that year.

Recording an outsider take on the proxy wars and public response thereto does have an archival value.  However, like societies of British Ladies Concerned About Indian Children during the time of a different hegemon, they offer to the currently living only fetishized complaints.  Silber and Floyd link to each other; talk about each other; encourage their fans to give a listen to the other.  Here's Floyd verbally fellating Silber regarding some recent angry articles.

What they're not able to do--over and over again--is move beyond a Stage Third analysis of the problems they lament.  They don't organize "movements," but this is not the problem, and is of little systematic effect anyway.  The problem is that they do nothing more than harp about the details, getting off on the shock value of viscera--which, again, should be done at some points, but it should not be the terminal analysis of the international situation.  Everything is not reducible to "naughty elites."  The elites have a vital role in this, but so too does a compliant international public.

Sort of like an American high school athlete may think they've found the most radical, different, unusual sport ever by declaring their favorite "soccer" (which is so Euro!), many people find their ultimate political outlooks shaped by Floyd or Silber.  The obscurity of voices like Floyd's or Silber's in the "mainstream" media, combined with the outsider manner of those two, makes it seem like, "This is the edge, man!  These dudes are radical, man!"  *click*   *click*  "No way, man!"  What if they really weren't that radical, though, and that's where you stopped?  That's where they've consistently stopped themselves.  Their understanding does not grow or develop; they simply recycle, ad infinitum, just how very, very horrified they are by [latest USG action].  And maybe they should be horrified at some point, but horror and hopelessness is their conclusion.  It's where their intellectual journey stops.

Their analysis is based upon news they get from the same major national/international publishers that are run by the elites they decry.  The "scandalous" information they discuss may be ignored by the better part of the American public, but it's still information that the elites have gladly and openly let out of the war zone.  In relying on The Guardian and The Independent and other such sources for their fodder, Floyd and Silber are relying on the same essential info-sources as the people who write editorials for the Wall Street Journal after picking up a report from AP on "what's happening out there."

A living understanding of the world moves beyond this.  Shackling all discourse to the hints and assumptions of the big corporate players--even the hints and assumptions that are "unflattering" to them--is as much a part of continuing the imperial game as watching Wheel of Fortune instead of Hidden Wars of Desert Storm.

This is part of the reason why they are always missing the real point.  The best answer they have to the question "Why?" is "The American/western elites have a bestial culture and want to be rich and powerful."  This is inaccurate; see Stage Fourth or Plot Summary for discussion.  Silber and Floyd are, at their worst, tabloids, squealing in horrified delight every time Bennifer has a fight with itself in Dan Tana's.  And their readers love it.  Again and again, they collect on a sizeable traffic of malcontents.  Maybe Bennifer did have a fight; maybe there is a war in Rwanda.  And the latter thing is massively important.  But is there a deeper answer to why they happen, and a better way to make things improve, than to read, like a BSDM novel, just how very naughty Floydilber thinks the Obama administration was/is?

The real game is life v. antilife (again, consider Plot Summary, or start at Life And Evil).  As long as we reject a deeper meaning to the world's struggles, and seek only to lash out at the elites who have hurt us, we will only be singing a different part in the same fugue that drives them.  Their music is our music.  It is our responsibility to help them learn and improve, as well as ourselves and the others.  We are our sisters' keepers; we are our brothers' keepers.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Buy Local

Daisy discusses here the future of small blogs, like so:

Small-blog traffic is down across the board, even as the 'big blogs' get more readers. It is increasingly obvious that blog traffic is like income: the 1% get it all, and us 99% puttering along down here at the bottom, are lucky to get any at all.
...
Today, whilst interacting on a rather fiery, opinionated blog, it occurred to me. On this blog, where I have previously interacted with lots of people who disagree with me, I was suddenly called a concern troll and instructed to stop commenting. Wow, I thought. What the hell happened? Are people not allowed to simply disagree any more?

No.

Everyone must be FRIENDS, like on Facebook. You can't categorically disagree with the majority any more, or they will just tell you to shut up. Facebook has changed the terms of debate and what sort of discourse is acceptable. Thus, when you step "out of line" or express an unpopular opinion--you are dealt with much more harshly.

By contrast, Facebook threads are self-contained, for the most part. Nobody is totally "anonymous" and there can be no sock-puppets. Many of the participants in any given thread, will already agree with each other since they are from the same social circles, age-grouping and class. However, some of us have a LARGE and DIVERSE number of friends--which is far more likely if you are older (or have lived and worked in a variety of environments, as most older people have). People who hate each other and/or disagree on every single issue in the world, can suddenly and unexpectedly collide on the same thread. And predictably, all fired-up with "likes" (votes from people who agree with any given comment)-- they come out guns-a-blazing. Many Facebook people may not have any other online experience and it is entirely possible they have never before argued with people who disagree with them; thus, they promptly go into ideological apoplexy. This is marked by a lot of "you're crazy!" and "you can't be serious!" because they really do believe this. It's not rhetorical. You can tell they have not been exposed to real life ______ (fill in the blank). Atheists, anarchists, libertarians, Ayn Randians, communists, animal rights activists, whoever. They have heard of them, sure, but they've never met them before ... and they often respond by hitting the proverbial roof, flipping out and calling names.

For this reason (ideological apoplexy), you can easily "block" people on Facebook, so you don't have to SEE their awful opinions and be annoyed by them. This is diametrically opposite to blogular life, where you can't NOT SEE what you don't want to see, unless you are the owner of the blog in question.
And so, Facebook has tamed Blogdonia, made it more homogenous. In so many ways, cyberspace bullies made this happen, just like real-life bullies gave birth to gun control. Just when online culture seemed to be teetering on the edge of a free-for-all, suddenly, Facebook and similar social media promise ORDER FROM CHAOS.
Internet Inclosure

There's an unfortunate point Daisy misses there about Facebook "taming" Blogdonia.  Blog owners, succeeding moderators from boards and listservs, were and are able to exercise dictatorial control over their owned spaces.  This can be done in a number of effective ways, in descending orders of harshness, but to the same ultimate effect:

1) Requiring registration by a "real name" e-mail, with the understanding that any future "objectionable" material can be sent by an administrator to an employer or family member (see, e.g., the old (new?) partisan operatives at democratic underground);

2) Immediately deleting or banning objectionable material (e.g., the DLC-fawning, high income, iPhone-gushing, graduate-schooled and very modest about it Bitch PhD, which happened to crash and burn a couple months after trying this method out on certain parties);

3) Group insults, the blunt ignoring of objectionable material, and the occasional new post delivered from the mountain of an inaccessible celebrity leader, carefully timed to adjust the course of a discussion which has threatened to go out of control, and re-direct prime-time attention to the new substance-less topic in order to re-introduce stabilization.  Old discussions with unpopular trends fade away in the face of the new.  By contrast, when the discussion under a primer post goes quiet and safe, new posts from on high may take days 'n' days to pop up.  This often requires an old kinship model to back it up: where people are friends IRL or from other places, to increase the likelihood of dogpiling a deviant.  And remember: it's entirely, entirely different than actually deleting posts.  But it is more sustainable, in the long run, just like calling a "plutocracy" a "democracy."  Ergo we have IOZ.

The creation of a community hostile to disagreers isn't all that drives this more complex model; the carrot is used as well, in the form of communal linking, traffic exchange, and even the occasional appearance by the headmaster.  Check, e.g.:

Justin said...
Can I get back on the blogroll?4:36 PM

Like war of liberation v. war of aggression, the end result is the same, but the rhetoric is much nicer and the leaders smiling a lot more often.

The net result of all of these methods is that people learn to keep their behavior in line.  The strongest guy in the schoolyard can actually punch you, threaten to punch you, or just inspire everyone else to punch you, and order is maintained.  What has defined many of the larger internet blogs is what has defined many of the most successful American gated communities: the offer of protection from those who are different.  Whatever people might say about freedom and open-mindedness, when they vote with their internet feet, it seems that they actually want to be dominated, in exchange for protection from deviant thought.

Blues in the Net

One of the original internet "places" was the unmoderated chatroom, to which people initially flocked for its very un-moderated-ness.  That was what made the internet.  There, you really could have a chance at reaching people free of many social constraints, and sparking a thought that, ten years later, could actually motivate them to change something about their behavior or outlook.

The only way that someone could stop others from realizing that you were winning an argument was to flood the screen with paragraphs of random characters (or great pictures), or to leave the chatroom.  Shouting was permitted; calling the vilest of names was permitted.  Bullies and the small minded were instantly able to expose themselves by running away or lashing into all-caps attacks.  Chatrooms could be organized by general theme, so that on an old YAHOO! chat, you could go into any one of hundreds of "POLITICAL" rooms, and run into lots and lots of people who:

1) Disagreed with you.
2) Hadn't heard of your ideas before.

Being chaotic and unorganized, this resulted in a lot of people using all-caps obscenities, and other people pulling a Mrs. Lovejoy and leaving.  Social controls were--and are--primarily internal models run by the individuals whom they were protecting, so the chatroom didn't suddenly usher in an era of world understanding.  It did, though, threaten to.

In the same way that capitalism relies on the element of truth in the "free rider" (or "welfare queen") parable to justify its regimented exploitation, or the dictator relies on the boogeyman to justify war and the removal of civil liberties, the calamity of angry bullies or the spamming of annoying salesmen is used to justify the first stage of censorship.  Are we really better off exchanging the freedom of flowing information for moderator-regulated information, so long as it protects us from the occasional "f-" or "n-" or "s-"?  Daisy touches on the bully aspect above.

Clearly, most of us think so.  Makes you wonder how responsible "the elites" really are for the perpetuation of, say, exploitative imperial capitalism. The trend of the more popular internet communities being formed around censorship, declared or undeclared, suggests that the vast majority of us prefer it that way.  The outer world isn't an aberration caused solely by greedy elites, but is actually what most people, deep down, want--a reassuring sense of community instead of the irksome exposure to new stuffs.  In physical space, corporate "buy local!" movements have proven able to absorb peoples' desires for a different type of economy, buy them out, and easily misdirect them. How, then, might we resist this trend of standardization?

As Adam Smith copied from the Persians, many of  these trends may be inevitable, given the current processing skills of much of the human population.  People have chosen not just the smaller sites listed above, but in even bigger numbers, the consolidated, more heavily controlled sites: Salon, Arianna's vanity site, the NYT, etc.  Even on the "smaller" blogs, though, governments have aped their biggers, and citizens have done much the same.  Intolerance of extended discussion as boring, inappropriate, wrongly-venued, et cetera, is found in most (all?) remaining internet environments.  The attention span of internet (and real-life) arguers now matches that allowed at the American presidential debates.  Who can be expected to maintain a detailed discussion that takes pages of text, citations to sources, and stays consistently on the subject rather than becoming about the identities and personal habits of the posters ("ad hominem")?

It's far easier--and safer--to instead chirp agreement with the website owner(s) about how great her/his/their viewpoints are, how the theme of the site really goes along well with the viewpoints as expressed in the most recent essay, and then deride anyone who says differently.  Bonuses for everyone on the Board; intellectual congratulations for all who are in agreement.

We'll first need to start with better humans.  A healthy, insightful, secure human should be instantly aware of an environment that thrives on censorship and/or groupthink, is hostile to outsiders, and is unable to deal with informational challenges.  The presence of deletions, or a dogpile on anything, serves as a cue that there is a dangerous problem with that society.  Like the effect of posters warning you not to buy from a certain type of shopkeeper, stormtroopers making people vanish suddenly in the night, or angry, populist witch/book burnings, a healthier person would witness any of these aspects of a society, and flee them.  Or, at least, begin to suggest to others there that something is wrong.  And not just suggest, but continue trying to do something.  Helping people learn this is done through deep storytelling--deep reading and deep writing--more later, but something that almost all people have dropped, unable to bother processing material which is not easy, simple, and which does not have an instant support group of other fans.

Quite frequently, on this one's long interhistory of banned-ness and unpopularity, there have been those moments.  Those moments when a little slice of humanity's best shines through.  Those are often deleted by security forces in the purges that remove the record of this one, but occasionally, short-sighted admins don't realize just how bad the historical record looks when you remove only the "actually troubling" element, and leave behind the record of healthier humans who reacted to it.  Here to close out are several different posts from a rare wonder:


  1. Mujerylegs
    Wait, High Arka said what?
    I thought those were good points. The rebuttals are good too. I learn from reading the comments here and would be sad if some instructive dialogue were censored because the majority is so sure its lesson is the right one to take from the exchange.
    ...
    I think the second comment especially reflects a high degree of sensitivity about the social construction of racial and other categories. White is made-up and heterogeneous. Like black. Like American Indian. Like (gasp!) female. Rejecting biological determinism is a feminist position.
    ...
    Getcher ad hominem outta my inneresting debate. Some of us don’t even know what race we are, or it changes depending on the company we keep.

Cowards to Killers to Winners

(Inspired by Pied Cow, here.)

The latest PC gang member suggests:

And what about me, am I a coward? Of course I am; I'm human. But what I do with my cowardice is the point. I try, and sometimes fail, to overcome it when appropriate.

We reach now the difficult point for many to accept--the cowardice and its effects.  Arthur Silber pleads with everyone to become cowards, and so, as a coward, he blogs slowly to death, while others blog rapidly through life.  Our cowardly pacifism keeps us with only ineffectual complaints; attempts to avoid this lead to sad infighting, where the more profane aspects of cowardice have a chance to express themselves.  A guilt of all: Europe is a coward for not telling us to knock it off; China is a coward for not beating us out of the game; we're cowards for not stopping it.  The compliant occupieds are cowards for not dying in a futile resistance to us.

If at one moment, we all ceased to be cowards, under this definition, that would be it for, shall we say, "the system."  (Mr. Crow is currently breaking the law in a most inappropriate fashion by flirting with this Unabomber fantasy.)

All the brave who are left seem to be on the field, fighting and dying.  Who's to argue with the truth of that?  However wrong or terrible they might be, they've made a choice and they're risking their lives for it.  Is there an honor there?  Does it matter if there's not?

What if we move to the next stage, where the answer is even darker?  What if we look deeper inside ourselves and see not the cowards we've secretly hoped we are, but instead cold, calculating serpents, who are playing the game at an even deeper level?

Consider how meaningless physical strength, or any individual or small group combat ability, is.  The most powerful creatures in the world are doddering old women and men who can, largely invisibly, manipulate the policies that convince the strong to feel they have no other choice but to act a certain way.  That is the greater power within this deceptively physical game.  And in this structure, what so many of us are doing is feigning at being "cowards," while we make the most selfish possible plays we can with the hands that were dealt us.  We complain a little, seeking to move from Outer Party to Inner Party, and promising that we'd be better for the proles--which gives us a sense or image of increased morals--but very few of us ever risk the statuses that we have, however inadequate they are compared to the bigger winners, who are themselves still competing on a different scale.

Does the epiphany offer any freedom?  It explains a lot about the contradiction between one's supposed beliefs of morality, one's beliefs as to the logic of how the world might be changed, and one's actions.  It explains the righteous indignation of so many when, in various forms, their discontented bourgeois salon-style (lightspring save us from white middle class Enlightenment university term fetishism, and the internet wankers who live on it) murmuring of the follies of the nobility are questioned.

The few who do make it closer to the top, and keep true to their once-promises of prolidarity, have tragic, unforeseen accidents in MLK or Wellstone style.  And so, the game goes on.

Admitting it simply isn't done; it's a great breach of the rules to acknowledge that more than just the winners are playing dirty: many others do it merely by remaining compliant with, but verbally disapproving of, stuff like imperial war.  That's the coded language of, "We're cowards," of which you may be aware.

Perhaps, buried in this witting or unwitting deception, is something that comes closer to an answer: an honest, frank, mostly-worldwide admission of the game.  Let us have a Sportscenter that runs like a high-tech Risk map, for chronicling which country controls which resources, which individuals control which country, et cetera.  Bring the vulgar out into the open, and naively cheer it on, and you will become less alone in appreciating its vulgarity.  Our politeness of the hidden blood--our "cowardly" (tee-hee) chats about something we all are really aware of--is the greatest of the engines behind those horrors.

One of the more effective tools for ending the empire would be to use its own sword.  Begin furiously, patriotically demanding higher salaries for all soldiers.  Double military enlisted salaries; triple the combat pay bonus.  More tennis courts and private theaters for all on-base recreation areas; only organic food served in any American military installation to keep our troops their healthiest, and an American-made entry-level luxury car for each honorable discharge.  Call their bluff: join with the most ignorant of the proles and exalt everything that they've been telling us all along should be exalted.  Crash off one side of the bathtub and ride the wave over the top, while Buffet snoozes and farts into the water.

Take every pseudo-patriotic idea, and refuse to let it be tempered by liberal pragmatism.  Nationally mandated higher salaries, lower guard-to-prisoner ratios, and 15 min./hour-on-the-clock rest time for our nation's brave prison guards.  Two new snowplows and a backup helicopter for every cold weather police precinct to respond more swiftly to terrorist incidents in winter seasons.  Television clips of George Clooney smirking and driving by in a Mercedes, followed by a wounded soldier checking under the hood of his mother's old Chrysler minivan.  A voice overtones, "Who's done more for his country?"

These are things that might slip by the news censors: things that are so patriotic, according to civics lessons funded for years by the elites, that they might have a chance.  Live by the sword, die by the sword; live by the soldier, fall by the soldier.

What really stops most people from trying to do something effective?  Secretly, they enjoy the safety of the system.  The comforting reassurance that, however bad the bad guys get, they're our bad guys, sort of, and it's probably better than living under, like, Shari'a or some shit.  Snicker, snicker, snicker, aren't Republicans stupid?  Aren't Democrats?  Aren't too-radical radicals?  Of course I know blogging won't change anything!  World's going to hell!  How my heart bleeds for you poor folk.

Oops, did we give away the game?  This is how we like it.  We feel a little guilty, now and then--perhaps even a lot guilty--but we play because we think this side of the table is better.

Friday, June 8, 2012

"The Valley" parable

We met each other for the first time in that valley.  A strange sighting, though it should not have been so, but one that endured.  Of all the trees, surrounding rocks and distant booms, and the terrible silence that came after, we were of all things the two most alike.  Memories found a vantage and a home; a point of departure and of joining.  

For so long, however long, we turned together and away.  First for utility, to use as a means of survival.  We shared watches; we exchanged tasks; we recalled and remembered and pleaded and cursed.  Your words were so strange; your manner so boorish.  I was a perfection dimmed only by yours.  

How I remember the struggles: petty, and even great!  The time I would not speak to you for three months, and the time you set down the jagged rock by my litter, at the last second before I awoke, and confessed it to me only days later.  

It all fell away in eventuality, as the months, then years, crept by.  Every crushing difference shifted, in its essence, to a funny quirk; every nuance of an oft-recited memory became the most droll amusement of a relaxing night.  No other presence would give comfort; no other counsel would be sufficient.  We were as one and all, in the truest sense.  Come then the fading of the shell, when we looked back and realized it had been so deep, and so true, that we could not wholly regret what had passed.  Everything was forgiven and accepted.  Every trouble became grace.  

In the last moments of parting we spoke to each other.  We spoke of whether there were other valleys, and others alone or caught, and if those caught had learned the same lesson.  When it became dark before light so brilliant, we each blinked at the next person we saw, for the first time in a lifetime or ever.  We knew then that for each of them, somehow, lurked what we had found in each other, and we could never again look on anyone, anywhere, as someone who could not, in the valley, be all of those things for either of us or anyone at all.

(c) 2011, Terese Cue; Nazarene v. 1.9

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cognitive Break, Part 1

(updated below as to formatting)

Developing Standalone Operating Routines

The fearful mind constructs and maintains frameworks to protect itself.  In a metaphorical sense, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, or the marketing department doesn't know what the engineering department is doing.  Much of what you interact with when you interact with another person is subroutines designed, not for maximum efficacy in understanding or exploring the outside world, but to maintain, before the observer that really matters, the image of self that the person covets.

Most people enjoy being rational beings, whose feelings and beliefs are a result of deliberate decision-making that changes based upon evidence.  They very much dislike the idea, then, that they are not controlling, like a master puppeteer, the things that they think and do; accordingly, all regular routines must shelter this tender chick from seeing anything else.

To achieve efficiency, these programs often are developed in conjunction with lifestyle.  As Mannheim noted, for example, people tend to develop outlooks which favor, in some way, their own role within a society.

Most militaries know this, and once someone ends up in a military, doses of things like patriotism and selfless pride guide the standalone development of internalization, whereby the individual separately and uniquely justifies what and why it is that she or he is doing there.  Companies and universities know this, so in addition to expectations and paychecks or credits, they often provide something to instill a form of pride in the company or university, as part of orientations structured around history, competitiveness, social outreach, et cetera.

For more specific examples, police dispatchers may come to view their social role as essential, good and productive, even despite the occasional error or unfortunate happenstance.  Professors tend to support universities and their mission; the professors are agents for slightly positive change; firefighters are; marriage counselors are; voters are; docile protesters are.

Anarchists and other mild intellectual dissidents do the same; they tend to rationalize complicity and complacency not as "selling out," but as the "only realistic action to take" (by "raising awareness" or "bearing witness") in service of a better world, just like the voters and cops and pundits they despise.  The net effect of all these actions is the same, and the justifications at each level as self-righteous and, structurally, highly similar.

Fantasies of a greater level of mind control ("lobotomies for all dissidents") persist in the annals of imagination.  However, significantly more efficient and endurable models of "mind control" are the ones specially developed by each individual, customized for that individual's particular station.  This ensures social stabilities of varying levels of success, by reducing the chances of a cascading dissonance based on a tsunami of repeating flaw(s) from a smaller number of (the least efficient being a single number of...) widely-disseminated models.  Organizations (including corporate, national, or "single-human") which base themselves wholly around a single person, or less flexible ideology, will be more vulnerable to these.

Implementing Routines

What do these routines look like?  Here's a more common set:

(1) I am a rational, open-minded being who makes decisions after thinking things through and weighing the evidence.

(2) I am not an erratic, unfair, subjective being who makes decisions based on preconceived notions that overrule my rational evaluation of the evidence at hand.

By themselves, these positions cannot be maintained in conjunction with bigotry, i.e., the pre-judging of others based on surface characteristics (appearance, dialect, face, hair, clothes, et cetera).  They require infusions of evidence that can satisfy the conscious mind's desire for having made rational, case-based evaluations, but it must be evidence of significance to the individual, so that calling upon it has a totemic, reassuring effect.

Let's use a Ku Klux Klan member as an easy, widely-agreed-upon-and-rightly-so-as-stupid, target for illustration.

Klansman Routines Example

[KSELF1] I am a rational, open-minded being who makes decisions after thinking things through and weighing the evidence.  

[KSELF2] I am not an erratic, unfair, subjective being who makes decisions based on preconceived notions that overrule my rational evaluation of the evidence at hand.  

[KFACT1] The book The Bell Curve provides some evidence that blacks are less intelligent than whites, in general.  

Setting: a coffee shop.  A black man enters.  Klansman observes this entry and thinks, "Idiot.  Heh heh!"

On its own, [KFACT1] cannot jive with [KSELF1], ergo the need for [KFACT2], below.

[KFACT2] The conclusions in The Bell Curve are so profound, true, and thoroughly tested in all scientific ways possible that it is not only irrational to debate it, but wasteful and an affront to good thinking.

[KFACT2] is where the Klansman, without any external influences, will run into trouble.  Frequently accessing this piece of data--or accessing it at all--risks producing a painful dissonance when it is run through the mill of [KSELF1] and [KSELF2], which routines are employed during almost all moments of conscious operation as part of the construction of Klansman's self.  The Bell Curve can be easily demonstrated to contain statistical manipulations and inappropriate use of data, so Klansman must not allow such a conversation to happen.

To reconcile the desired FACT with the desired SELF, we can call upon some long-ago programs from Klansman's childhood:

[KSELF909.A] Once you have learned something to satisfaction, it's inefficient to keep checking up on all the details of it every time you need to take an action it depends on.  

And, 909.B, which reads:

[KSELF909.B] IF condition [KSELF909.A] THEN data stored IN [KSELF1] THROUGH [KSELF100000] is true.  

These last two are good, necessary programs.  Once you know how to move your arm, or maintain balance, you put that stuff on autopilot.  Otherwise, you never get down "running" or "biking" or "driving the car" or "flying the plane."  It's an abuse of power to use those routines to shift to the "uncontested" pile, since is not a basic process involving use of the body, but a more complex process involving advanced conclusions about complicated entities met in the outside world: but it works.  

(The IF/THEN internal-reliance of the system is what gets attacked during Alzheimer's, dementia, or other forms of brain damage.  If disease happens to eat up the drive where [KSELF909.A] was stored, and Klansman then tries to access it during the use of [KSELF909.B], the process crashes, and he ends up staring at the wall, drooling, unless he can reboot or run a backup process to get things online.)

Let's challenge them with some hypothetical, plausible facts.

Klansman Challenge

Klansman sits in coffee shop, running [KSELF1] and [KSELF2].  His fellow citizen White Citizen enters, orders coffee, and sits down.  They begin to chat; the subject of race comes up.  White Citizen attests that blacks are just as smart as whites.  Klansman chuckles and says no, you're wrong.

Klansman: Everyone knows n*****s are stupider.

White Citizen: They just released some new study that more blacks are getting PhDs than whites.

Here, Klansman has a problem: this bit of information from the outside world conflicts with one of his datum:

[KFACT472] Them university degrees got somethin' to do with bein' smart.

Let's assume that this fact, due to Klansman's having thought little on it, has not been filed under SELF.  Klansman has an easy response.

Klansman: Goddamn liberal universities!  Handin' out degrees to them n*****s just for politics.

Klansman was able to recover by adjusting his un-treasured set of data.  He did this by scripting the following new FACT to replace [KFACT472]: 

[KFACT 533] Them university degrees is givin' to anyone who do what the lib'ruls like.  They got nothin' to do with real smarts.  

But more trouble is on the horizon.

White Citizen: I also read here that a ten year study of the population in the continental U.S. shows that blacks are outperforming whites on all standardized tests.

Klansman, snorting: Is that that New York paper?  You're kidding me!

(We're not to the problem yet.  This one is easily dismissed.  Klansman calls up: [KFACT96] The NYT is run by pussy lib'ruls and is full of communist lies!  But then...)

White Citizen: No, this is from David Duke's newsletter.

Klansman, tipping over the table: I knew you were secretly a n***** lover!    

White Citizen has run afoul of another couple pieces of Klansman's data, but this time, ones archived deeply within the register and tied closely to all of Klansman's constant conscious routines.  Unlike [KFACT472] (re: university degrees correlating with intelligence) above, these other data cannot be easily revised:

[KFACT83] All people who say crazy things about n*****s being good are n***** lovers.  

[KFACT84] All n***** lovers are so stupid, and have been proven so consistently, reliably wrong, that to argue with them is not only insulting, but wasteful and boring.  

To maintain the integrity of the system SELF, Klansman cannot continue to listen to White Citizen.  [KFACT83] and [KFACT84] exist to reassure Klansman that any divergence from his views comes from a place he has already understood, analyzed, and mastered--ergo it is a waste of time, and irrational, to consider anything coming from that source.  SELF is protected.  The result is a willfully ignorant Klansman, but one who can weather the storm of any number of contradictory pieces of information.  A violent reaction--leaving the restaurant; burning books; banning or deleting posts; jailing reporters and dissidents; raising the voice; name-calling; fighting; sending in the troops--is necessary so that the resulting emotions and chemicals cloud out any logical "what ifs" from the subconscious that could cause a reevaluation of SELF.  SELF will defend itself.

Moving On

And that's just with external facts.  It gets a lot more fun when different parts of SELF are pulled out of the individual's subroutines and exposed, under the individual's conscious attentions, as self-contradicting.

More importantly, and where this is all ending up, is the question, "How to break through cognitive dissonance?"  Going up against lifetimes' worth of routines in someone who does not want to adjust them or think about them, is there any hope for adjusting old facts or selves?

Continued in Cognitive Break, Part 2.