Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Let's Gush More Over Miss Manning

Why are you gushing over Chelsea Manning's (nee Bradley) daring exploits? I'll tell you why--because he's a WASPy white male American soldier.

For nine years before Manning released her stuff, the evidence was already there. God knows, it was there for a hundred years, but focusing just on Afghanistan, or maybe even just on Iraq, or whichever conflict you choose, all of the dirty brown dead people had been confirming that:

1) They were being massacred by bombs from afar for no good reason;

2) They were being shot and raped in person by cackling U.S. soldiers for no good reason;

3) etc.; and,

4) The said U.S. soldiers were sending each other messages in which they cackled maliciously about their actions, and/or planned to carry out even more.

What kind of stupenderifous wonderproof did you not have, and had you not had for years, before Manning released yet another chunk of data showing that cackling Americans were butchering Africans and southeast Asians, while simultaneously, secretly and selfishly gobbling up resources and spying on people at the expense of America's lofty ideals? You didn't lack for any of it.

When this particular WASP soldier held up a chunk of it, naturally, the media was as flabbergasted as if this was new and shocking, shocking I tell you, evidence. But why were you? Why were you more excited by Manning's revelations, giving them several individual articles' worth of attention, whereas the latest two dozen Afghan kids to get blown apart by a helicopter only formed a background citation in a single different article?

Maybe it's not your fault, since you can't interview every, or any, given bystander in Iraqistan. But then, you can't interview Manning either--so why the focus on him? Answer: because that's who the teevee told you to focus on. The racism, nationalism, classism, etc. incumbent in focusing so very much radical attention on Manning is obvious. American radicals got particularly excited about this chick because she was a white guy (at the start, or maybe still now, or who knows?). So, for all their ethnic blindness, the eighteen latest hand-wringing articles about Manning's heroism and/or sentence completely drowned out the attention available for the latest pillaged neighborhood in the Sudan.

In that, you were just like the news. You allowed the deaths of so many little brown people to fade into the background. There are so many slaughtered Pakistani tribeswomen, after all, that who can focus on them? But there's only one Chelsea Manning.

Controlled by the news, people. They made such a fuss over Manning and Snowden to plant them in the history textbooks. This is the long con--in thirty years, Americans will be able to read about the heroism of Manning and Snowden, and see pictures of safe-looking white people who played "pivotal roles in resisting the many post-colonial conflicts of the period." By raising awareness. Among other white people. In America. In 2013.

Do you have any articles up defending enlisted officer-fraggers in Vietnam? Have you left your tablet behind to enact actual change in the political process? Nope. We're all still here, aren't we? And yet, for all of our racial neutrality and selfless interest in the plight of the benighted targets of postcolonial wrath, we're so very enchanted with our clean-cut, uniformed white soldiers, aren't we?

If we were really as objective and humane as we pretend to be when we cheer about Manning and Snowden, we would've given exactly as much attention to every single Iraqi interviewed in Al Jazeera, or even by the frickin' Guardian's pasty-hindquartered staff, who reported on how his family had been shot down. We would've topped our blogs for weeks with the one grainy picture we had of said Iraqi, put up Wikipedia articles about him, held candlelight vigils, and talked about how Obama clearly had a personal vendetta against that Iraqi and his family, and about all the torture that Iraqi had to go through (when he was shot by an Apache in July of 2013, perhaps, and left paralyzed for life, with a possibility of some recovery of movement in 8 years).

But we didn't. Which proves that we're exactly as gullible as Obomba wants us to be. And exactly as susceptible to being led around by the news, and told what to find shocking and what to focus our attention on. All the attention we've paid to Manning, who dropped her revelations several years late, only proves how bigoted we were toward the original Arabs screaming for justice a decade ago.

Manning herself has an excuse--maybe she was so wrapped up in youth and military culture that she actually didn't know that it had been an open secret for forever that the U.S. was raping the world for resources while being both cruel and fully aware that what it was doing was bad. Maybe she actually thought she was offering a revelation. But all of you experienced, hard-hitting political bloggers, alt-news devourers, and expat journalists? You got nothing.

The reaction here shows how easy it will be to play us in the next phase. By allowing the media to determine where we focus our negative attention, our anger is predicted, and accounted for, years in advance. Announcements, trials, waiting periods, and sentences are timed to hit target populations. Obama really is playing eleven dimensional chess--not just to fool liberals into self-loathingly supporting him, but to keep potential threats distracted with inactive mini-rebellions like this one. Yes, he is a terrible murderer, but he's not petty. He is a half-elf shark-wizard level ninety-nine who eats your hopes and can make you excited about something merely by farting bubbles and waving his magic wand. That's why he deserves to be where he is, building up reserves in preparation for his kids jumping ship to surviving Europe, and why we deserve to be stuck down here, grabbing for dematerializing dollars as we prepare for a few brief months of Mad Max before we start competing for jobs serving as customer support specialists in telephone warehouses in the Colorado foothills.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dying in a Cave

Dmitry Orlov hopes for the death of most of humanity in a different way than most--by blaming a lot of the right people. I.e., Orlov doesn't like war, bankers, politicians, et cetera. Luckily for them, he does everything they wanted him to, singing a lustful, anticipatory dirge in the usual way: "Everyone I don't like dies, sparing a chosen few who remake the world in my image."

The sickness hits us at "both" "sides." The lazy, uncreative fantasies of the Outer Party lead to as dark a place as the bitter, frightened fantasies of the Inner Party. The dreams of the anti-civilizationists are really the same as those of the industrialists: the extermination of most of humanity, followed by a few people surviving in a way proscribed by the environment. In the case of technocrats, a few immortal transhuman cyborgs are all that make it; in the case of weepy artists, a few organically-farming communards. The sickness is the same--a hatred of humanity causes the desire for its extermination. This one isn't exaggerating; Orlov literally wants most people to die, because he thinks it will "help the environment." At what price, salvation? 5.8 billion people, Orlov?

And on the other side of the asylum, this article isn't very different than many others being disseminated now; it's the standard, "Due to the worthlessness of most people, most people will become a permanent underclass," telegraphing plans for a mass die-off. The plump asshole in question, Cowen, seems to be diametrically opposed to Orlov, because he wants society to continue in its extractive way, but really, to the same end--the elimination of most people, whose lives will be replaced by not organic farming, but software labor.
"Our future will bring more wealthy people than ever before, but also more poor people...Rather than balancing our budget with higher taxes or lower benefits, we will allow the real wages of many workers to fall - and thus we will allow the creation of a new underclass..." Cowen foresees a future in which employers constantly measure individual workers' performance "with oppressive precision," the better to weed out underperformers quickly; a future in which retirees, their savings exhausted, move to newly built shantytowns (like "the better dwellings you might find in a Rio de Janeiro favela") in low-cost states like Texas; a future in which the new underclass, instead of rebelling against the elite, consoles itself with online entertainment and scientifically improved narcotics to make life palatable...But inequality will increase. And maybe that's OK, Cowen says. "I don't think we know the causal relationship between inequality and happiness," he told me. If people have decent low-cost housing, food and healthcare, they might even be happier in a middle-classless future, he speculates.

This is, of course, the Market talking about itself. It's the technological dystopia we've all known was coming ever since that brief period after the Dark Ages; the world of floating pleasure yachts equipped with automatic defense systems to cut down the irradiated gypsies still living on the scarred surface. It scares the hell out of Orlov, who would rather everyone die (except for a few organic farmers operating under a system of interpersonal relationships) than everyone become zombie slaves in tomorrow's sunless undercity, working in the recycling plant that transmogrifies century-old cattle slurry into imitation caviar for Affleck Brownstein's dinner parties.

Procedural Aside

Like the lion lies discussed last time, the "inevitable" future the master race plans for itself is a lie. Our trajectory toward extinction is built on our acceptance of clever fantasies about the animal kingdom; in this case, humans. Inequality is not the result of "skills" or "education" or even "employment." Dr. Dawson makes brief mention on the education scam here, and here's a Tim Maly with more on education.

The lie that wealth correlates to worth is the same lie that individual survival depends on individual merit--it's just more eugenic evolutionary theory. Wealth comes primarily from inheritance, not from "income," which is why tools like Cowen and Obama continuously harp on "jobs" and "income" and "skills" as the source of wealth. But it's not; wealth is wealth, not income. The perversion of language, in which words cease to mean what they mean and become instead something else ("wealth" meaning "yearly gross salary viewed in isolation from all other factors," instead of "assets"), and the Dubya-esque fuzzifying of falsifiability requirements in the deepest foundations of our worldviews, has built these insanities.

Like Reagan, mouthpiece Cowen also discusses how employers will even more closely monitor worker "output," allowing better workers to elevate themselves to the upper class. This from a tenured economist, as though he's unaware of decades of studies showing worker pay lowering even as productivity rises. Yawn, right? Why even bother trying to tell a lie that's consistent beyond the hearing of it? The collective memory is so low that, even with instant Google, Cowen knows he can count on both the reporter and the reader to not question him. Employers using standardized testing and timesheets to micromanage workers is a depressor to productivity, something that they (and educational businesses) have known for decades, and keep doing. Dampening Field, remember? They're trying, actively trying, to bring about the apocalypse. They know that teaching kids to pass standardized tests reduces overall intelligence, job skills, and the economic health of the nation/world, but they do it anyway. Why? Yes, they make a few billion selling test equipment, but more importantly, they dumb down generations and still the future.

Skeleton Marriage

The dystopian period is coming, of course. The good news for Orlov and Cowen is that they will both get their wishes. Elites will continue washing out "middle" and "lower" economic classes, diluting the potential for merit having any part in the system. That's what Market-Style Evolution was, of course--a way of industrialists to explain to the working poor, and the colonized natives, just why they were so weak and miserable. They never actually believed it. They are fucking terrified of what might happen if people started working, inventing, building, and playing without their guidance.

How will Orlov and Cowen both get what they want? The picture of the future that they both portray is accurate. Most people will be shuffled into underclass tenements, then allowed to sicken, fight, and starve off. To recover from this disaster, elites will "go back to the land," combining high technology with fantasy communal resorts where they manage the robots that nurture and harvest their organic vegetables. The die-off will happen, and local produce will make a big comeback. Granted, the elites will have spaceships and ageless cyberbodies, but they'll still be able to convince themselves they're "rugged."

Best of all? Worst of all? When they do this, they'll tell themselves the very things that Orlov is: "The deaths of all those people happened because they had to. The Earth was simply getting overpopulated. All those extra people had to die because they had polluted the environment, but I am carrying on humanity's torch and protecting the planet from their ravages."

The kicker is, the people saying that will be the children of today's elites. Just like the great grandchildren of slaveowners and wife-beaters are murdering so many Africans to "protect human rights," while white people are the greatest fans of "country music" and "cowboy lifestyles," later generations of rich--the sole survivors of the die-offs--will congratulate themselves on being the ones who really understood it all.

They're doing it now, of course. The congressional cafeteria serves organic food; the middle class drives Priuses, and the upper class saves the planet even more with the plug in "icon of progress," the BMW i8, for only about $140K. The "back to nature" fantasies of the genocide-advocates spring from the same psialtic abscesses that cause economists to want to pull the plug on the underperforming.

The ones who survive will be the ones responsible for the "failure" of society, and in the new world to come, forget their own culpability, spawning new generations and new histories that explain how the survivors were actually the downtrodden ones. But don't feel too bad for us--we're the children of the winners from the last time around. We're only getting, in a cosmic sense, our just desserts. Our failure to take them on in a real, physical way is our consent to repeating this whole thing...which is why it's so popular, from the most extreme conformists to the most critical radicals, to call for the cataclysm we all secretly desire. Chalking it up to "the unskilled masses" (who wipe down our bedsores, make our food, and pave our streets) is as hypocritically stupid as chalking it up to "the inability of Earth to sustain 11 billion" (which planet made all of our toys with less than a percent of its upper crust plus some of its tertiary oozings).

Sing a song of shantydown death to me, baby. Whisper it deep into my rotting ear.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

You'd Better Run ~ Hope, Part 8

Succeeding Hope 7 (& 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, & 1)



Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

The Pride of Being Wrong

The relatively famous business quote above has a colorful history of being misattributed to different people, in much the way that inspirational crap about high school graduation is regularly misattributed to Bill Gates. It has been more reliably tracked to Reagan-era stockbroker Dan Montano. And, in many fundamental ways, it exemplifies the fundamental connection between Market-Style Evolution and capitalism.

How? Firstly, by being verifiably dead-wrong and pig-ignorant in the first paragraph. Read the business about the lion and the gazelle again. Now, consider:

1) Female lions do the bulk of the hunting, but the lala-land quote is almost always paired with the photogenic masculinity of the male lion's mane.

2) Lions almost always hunt in groups, their pride being designed to allow the best hunters to keep everyone fed.

3) Slow lions, including older males, growing young, the sick or wounded, get to shuffle up and join the other lions when a kill is brought down. Later on, when they get well or grown, they may join the hunt--or they may be too slow to catch gazelle, but great at fighting off intruders (which may apply to most male lions).

4) Lions almost always hunt at night, not "when the sun comes up." Film crews making documentaries find it easier to film them during the day because of the free light, focusing on rare and dramatic migration- and watering-hole hunts.

5) The bulk of lion caloric intake comes not from hunting, but from scavenging dead animals, or mercifully finishing off dying animals who wander away from protective herds for lion-assisted suicide. Lions are big, fast, and strong not only because it makes them good hunters, but because it lets them fight off smaller scavengers to have first pick at decomposing carcasses. Lions prefer scavenging to hunting because hunting is dangerous, and water buffalo can easily kick lions to death.

6) Lions regularly go days without feeding. They gorge when meat is available, so that they don't "starve to death" the first day they're too slow, or the first time they take a day off to play around a watering hole--which they do often.

The paragraph gets a lot wrong about gazelles, too, but that's enough for now.

Despite its many flagrant errors about one of the most easily-researched big African predators, this stockbroker's "fable" resonates powerfully with people in Earth's numerically largest economies, who have been inculcated with the Hobbesian fantasy of a natural world that is a terrible, murderous, dog-eat-dog competition. If you're not up on Hobbes, he's the rich Englishman who said that life in nature is, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." The motivational poster above was merely Dan Montano's reblogging of Hobbes' own inspirational quote, which is yet another philosophical basis for western monarchism and liberalism.

Hobbes was just as wrong as Montano. At the time he made his quote, Hobbes' furious King was discovering how many other civilizations were living happily without princes, cummerbunds, knee socks, or tea sets--and, accordingly, exterminating them. As Reagan murdered the South Americans who tried to live without his stockbrokers, the British Crown murdered the North Americans who tried to live without his philosophers. There, in truth, was the "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" life: a world created by men who projected "solitary" onto the world.

Changing the superficial aspects of the motivational poster, though, would not remedy the situation. The make-believe image of the rugged male lion is easily replaceable by a female lion, or the lone lion by a picture of a pride competing together to starve other prides; motivational companies will not shy from eventually producing posters where a yellow lion, a black lion, a lion in a wheelchair, and a transgender lion all work together to kill the gazelles, as long as the ultimate message is that of the world as hell, and the lion pride that competes with death for its meat. That state is not the state of African lions, nor anyone else, until it has first been imposed by Market-Style Evolutionists.

The malignant crony capitalisms, terror wars, cancer wars, and other solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short lives we create across the globe are natural, necessary expressions of the way we believe evolution happens.

Planet Graveyard

Market-Style Evolution is unproven, which its proponents admit, and mathematically impossible, which is covered in Hope 3 and Evolution Responses. This portion of the series will focus on the social utility of this random, morbid theory of evolution.

Market-Style Evolution is a zero sum game. Market-Style Evolution requires failure in order to work. In order for one good organism to "advance," many, many more need to die. They do not die nobly, but as discarded failures, who failed to "catch the gazelle." The Market mindset encourages focus on mass extinction, suggesting the inevitability of wiping life out in order to improve the chosen.

If many "unfit" organisms are born in order that "more fit" organisms survive--a central tenet of the Market outlook--then it is natural that, in society, many unfit people will be born, and need to be discarded, in order for fitter, better people to survive. This is modern crony capitalism; it is Ayn Rand; it is corporate welfare and humanitarian intervention and burning villages.

You just can't get around it: if, since the birth of the universe, life has only improved by killing off lesser creatures in order for greater ones to thrive, then it is mandatory and inevitable that societies kill off the unfit majority in order to allow the chosen to grow.

Naturally, in the Market world, what the world's rich do is hoard resources, enjoy extravagance, and remain utterly unmoved when millions of children starve in rural Africa and Asia. They do this because Market Evolution tells them that when they do so, they are part of progress. Letting however many million little Hindi brats starve, or melting however many million Arab women, is no more inhumane than letting the dinosaurs go--it's necessary to keep faster, stronger, smarter organisms evolving.

Working Chinese seven-year-olds to death in iPhone factories is ordained by the laws of the natural world: the weak die off and the strong prosper. To pop evolution, the American Indian Wars were not a horrible genocide, but merely the replacement of a weaker set of organisms with stronger ones. It not only had to happen, to pop evolution; it was right that the stronger Europeans exterminated the weaker, less technologically-advanced Americans, because to leave the Indians living there would have left the place scattered with inferior phenotypes in need of being naturally selected out of existence.

In the Market mindset, the natural world is a hostile place. To Market Evolutionists, the natural world is the bane of living organisms. Market Earth is a cold, impartial environment that offers helpful feedback in the form of pain and death, robotically guiding its children toward future perfection. Earth, then, is to be fought and resisted.

The environmental pollution of industrialism comes as no surprise. Whether you're a chubby-assed rich British philosopher, or a treadmill-trim rich American scientist, it is inefficient to parlay with the make-believe "caveman history" you think you came from. Every animal is your enemy unless it (1) looks pretty in a zoo, (2) secretes a useful product, or (3) makes your customers believe that you're "green" and contributing to a "biosphere." Ergo hundreds of years of pissing in rivers, exterminating species, and clear-cutting forests.

The "endangered species lists" were needed because all of the little Market Evolutionists believed that murdering the weak was ordained by God/Nature, so they saw no problem in wiping out species or ecosystems. Success is proof of merit--the Market mindset says that the ends justify the means. Market Evolution says that, if you survived this far, you were thousands and thousands of years better than everything that came before. Murdering the neanderthals to the last child was good, because it proved they were unfit. It's not personal. It's not that you're a bad person, if you wipe out a species--actually, you're carrying out the will of the universe since its inception. Those who kill others and thrive at their expense are superior, to Market-Style Evolution.

Liberals don't like the idea that Obama kills people, but it has to be done. The weak have to die so that the strong survive. The teachings of Market-Style Evolution are a significant factor in making "antiwar liberals" go to bed every night feeling, deep down, that the conflict is inevitable. Sure, they hate thinking about it, but that's why they have leaders.

If you are continuously flummoxed by how so many people can be otherwise decent, yet condone murder, Market-Style Evolution is your answer. At our most fundamental level, we've learned that life exists only because the strong kill the weak. Ergo the strong kill the weak. The weak die. Duh. So screamingly obvious, this connection between popular science and mass politics, but the sacred cow of "evolution" makes people unwilling to see the connection. Modern genocide, and letting the unfit poor starve, are necessary conclusions of the Market outlook. You literally cannot make an omelet without breaking a lot of eggs--Darwin says so, and however nice we think of ourselves, we know from our biology textbooks that we're living in a graveyard, and our only chance at survival is to keep the majority of other organisms dying off.

So it has to happen. In the marketplace, we have to gobble money. In the marketplace of the world, we have to gobble resources. We have to band together against the ephemeral concept of al Qaeda, because deep down, we suspect they would do the same thing to us if they were the hegemon. They would have to; it's the way of the world. It's how things have always been, from the prion to the coffee maker.

The Lion

Market-Style Evolution is wrong. Not only is it unproven by the fossil record, and mathematically impossible, it is morally wrong--for whatever that matters.

Oh, but it does matter. If you're a random burp of cells here only because your predecessors successfully wiped out everything that came before, constantly threatened with death by a planet that is only here because it choked other gravitational formations of space-dust out of existence, then it is your right and prerogative to fight like hell. Gobble, hoard, exterminate, and gorge--there is nothing else.

Like the bullshit lion poster at the beginning, though, the "Market" fantasy is just a lie used by thieves to justify why you have to be afraid. Thieves tell you, "fear the world, because it doesn't care about you." But it does--lions, gazelles, and the rest of the African savanna existed in harmony for thousands of years before the particular sickness of some early humans appeared. Lions are the first rung of decomposition, and provide fast exits for the terminally ill, like Dr. Kervorkian combined with the popular image of hyenas (Americans like to believe that handsome lions solely hunt, while mangy hyenas mainly scavenge, when in fact they both do both, with scavenging providing the bulk of calories, even for the prettier, larger, more photogenic creatures). There are a lot of glorious chases, to be sure, but the "great white hunter" image of the African lion is more suited to the cherry-picked highlights of patronizing western film crews than it is to thousands of years of reality. Africa's biomass is part of a cycle that takes into account the entire continent--weather, grass, birth, decay, and all the other crap you can see a lot of if you rent the right kind of DVDs.

Even as the underpinnings of the modern eugenic/capitalist fantasy are cut away by field biologists, the fantasy of Market Evolution remains, too integral to the world war economy to go. Sure, our greatest scientists spent the past several hundred years lying about the noble lion and the habits of people like the !Kung that they wiped out before we could check, but we can definitely trust them now about the missing pieces in the fossil record.

(If you're unfamiliar with the references, pop biologists used to claim that male lions were the hunters and providers for their herds--the "kings of the jungle" [not the stewards of the savanna, snicker snicker; the lying bastards knew that "jungle" sounded more exciting], and that African tribal societies were ruled by king-like chiefs who administered western-style economies. Modern lion observations, and anthropological study of the few un-murdered tribes like the !Kung, have taught us all the stuff about lions that I mentioned above, and have also shown that humans fit neatly into that ecosystem before the advent of kings and their priests/scientists.)

Let's close here by taking note of a few strawmen. Is technology bad? No. Is all modern society bad? No. Are white people bad? No. The advances humans have made have been made in spite of constant attempts by monarchs, churches, and academies to stifle them. The church did not want people to look through telescopes and understand that the Earth revolved around the sun, instead of being the rugged, manly, independent center of the universe. Similarly, today's academy does not want people to look at the ground under their feet, and see that evolution is a conjunctive process where different parts of biomass interact with each other. Higher science, greater technology, a cleaner environment, and less genocide await the species that can work with, rather than against, the biomass through which all its cells and processes are being cycled.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Confessions

Do you have to confess to having once been a secret misandrist before anyone will ever take you seriously when you say you think men are just swell? What if you happen to have had a good relationship with Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior before you were born? The best conclaves are full of the loudest sinners, which is why you know they feel the most genuine guilt and are also beyond everything they have done wrong which they have put in the past because they are telling you about it and you won't understand it until you've also put it in the past by telling them about it, but what if it's not there because it was never there to begin with nor was inclined to be there?

I discarded all my worldly possessions, but more keep accumulating to my corporeal self despite my best efforts at keeping them away, because my corporeal self got covered in velcro during an unfortunate event at a trade show sometime shortly before or after the Korean War. My inner humbleness is so powerful that I can wallpaper the spare bathroom in iPhone 5s boxes I purchased myself, not dug out of the dumpster behind the genius bar, just to prove that they're not a hindrance to my reaching the nirvana of my every moment. I neither hide from nor fear possessions, and I engage in displays of recursively ironic grandiosity not because I want to, but because someone needs to give hope to the masses that they too can live without fear of selecting the right color and grain on the interiors of their new F-TYPEs, and that person happens to be me when I am not not available due to meditation.

Google spellchecks misandrist but not misogynist, which indicates that Google has come to terms with its feminine side but not its masculine side, or perhaps the opposite, but we'll never know until it confesses something separate about its relationship with Old English, Middle English, and the good and modern folks at Webster's, which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hillshire Farms according to a nightmare I had last year when I gave up eating animal-derived products for nearly three days. Whatever the case may be, a friend of mine at a recent revival reunion remarked that it seemed everyone there had a story of turning over a new leaf, which raised the question that it might not be possible to be truly saved unless you had first been the bad example justifying your unique preplanned path to the salvation of yourself, so maybe it was actually us who had been the only sinners, and everyone else without so many transgressions to confess had been doing just fine without our particular set of rules which we found particularly applicable for the purposes of taming our own customized demons, which might in truth only be our demons and not belong to everyone else we find ourselves looking askance at when not inside the revival tent that exists in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us. So I ask you, sisters and brothers, I ask you truly, how far does the apple fall from the tree?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Concreation

The march of Market Evolution hits the postindustrial nation where it counts: in the pants. Specifically, designing economies that punish biological integration and encourage deathly ballads like individuation and speciation encourage, necessarily, short-term self-centered behavior. Not only for petty delights, the latter, but for survival. Societies that shift the costs of a species (or planet) onto individuals, rather than groups, classify, isolate, and dampen their productivity, resulting in predictable death.

Aging boomers "befuddle" marketers, so long as "befuddle" means "excite." Article summary: the baby boomers plan to spend (quite literally) the next few decades dropping $15 trillion in disposable income, purchasing larger retirement homes in communities with higher gates, faster tablet computers to check the market from the beach, and roomier cars to ride through the crumbling neighborhoods where their offspring live. While new invasions are contemplated and national parks shut down, legions of twentysomething marketing majors struggle to pay off their student loans by coming up with ways to trick the boomers into spending on higher-margin yoga classes and flashier sudoku apps.

The generations created by the architects of the Science Wars went forth into the world to hoard resources playing with toys. As the last traces of social responsibility began to vanish, they congratulated themselves on ending racism--the very racism that had provided them with the IRAs they're not intending to pay back--freezing prions into vaguely helix-like shapes, and building 11 grand Starbucks in one country alone.

...and suddenly, they found their childless kids moving back into the basement. Japan is our crucible here (only because white people are more comfortable looking at Japanese far away than at positive examples of black, Hispanic, and Scots-Irish populations on American shores). From the Guardian's patronizingly British review, we see a summary of what no one except Nazis wants to admit they see in the rest of the successful world: middle-class birth rates dropping. Dropping, and dropping so substantially and willingly that the country contemplates its own gradual extinction.

In that particular article, the Brits call it "science fiction," but the Japanese decline is not just predictable, but old news--Singapore has already been facing that fact for decades, watching its population shrink into the beautiful depths of a sterile morgue, as foreign businessmen on temporary residency replace dying generations, because ownership costs and rent are too high to reproduce or, for most, even stay on their own.

Why would you give others the chance at life if life is meaningless molecules, and to pass it on only means less temporary pleasure for you? The suckers who already wasted a third of their lives feeding and raising You, Junior, are like people cleaned out at a casino on mathematically impossible hopes and fiscally empty dreams. Call for security, send them out, and keep yanking the bandit until the power mysteriously goes out, and all the games are over for everyone for ever.

The polarization we're seeing here is inevitable. China and India managed to save themselves from the Anglican Science Death Project, struggling to protect their boundaries and children from endless opium wars and condescending currencies and Christianities. The conquered portions of Asia, though, were the Marshall Plan's testing grounds for using Austria-Hungary's stealth victory in the Science Wars to blitz individualist plutocracy on every eastern island that took so much as a dollar.

The "melting pot" concept has saved America, and Western Europe, a teensy bit. All of those wacky black people and Mexicans, the real (mainland) Chinese, and the ex-workhouse whites, kept having senses of communal duty, and churning out kids who had enough blood to feed to the rich. By targeting better-integrated Asian communities with Marshall dollars, the unintended effect was to advance social destruction. Ironically, the increased sense of communal and familial duty in Japan made the poison go down faster than in me-first Anglo-America; Japan's less stratified society, suddenly converted to selfish hyper-Darwinism at the point of western atomic bombs, had no "out of the loop" poor to save it by maintaining communities and birth rates no matter what the academics, doctors, and city planners said.

Confronted with those damned poor people who keep having kids, America's own Great Thinkers constantly encourage us to fret about prostitutes, porn, independence, careers, and necessary sacrifices. All key topics, these, from the Junior Anti-Sex League's intro pamphlets. The short-term, one-lifetime pursuit of pleasure is antilife. Some may question whether or not that is the intent--whether stilling Earth's mischief is the privately acknowledged purpose--but from the vantage points of money, birth rates, and social endurance, death is the practical effect.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Halfway Portaled ~ Updated

(Complete and utter spoiler warning, full summary, explanation and meaning for Half Life, Half Life 2, Portal, and Portal 2.)

A scientific giant has been slipping through corporate censors since 1998, when Valve, a gaming company, let Half Life out into the wild. As late as April 2011, when Portal 2 came out, the effect was still present. Before the conjoined series are scrubbed over, their worlds are a priceless history, worth attention from those who wouldn't otherwise care about, or care even to be aware of, electronic games. One of the most honest, brutal critiques of western society, from the late 19th century to the future, is hidden inside the storylines, and profoundly enough that historians, astrophysicists, and physicians need a little FPS time. For those who have put it in and are missing the point, they need a little essay time.

A Side Note On Accessibility

Most first-person shooters present a barrier to video gaming similar to that found in studying the original classics: it's hard to learn Latin and Greek, and for many people, particularly of a certain age, it's hard to control a mobile first-person perspective through a keyboard or console. First-person shooters are "first person" because the screen shows you what the main character sees, rather than showing you the character; they're "shooters" because you have to aim a gun. The genre presents the normal difficulties of having to move a character around a three-dimensional modeled world, akin to driving, while avoiding being shot and having to shoot back swiftly and precisely enough to avoid dying and losing the game. Absent the consequences, then, they're a lot like being both the pilot and the gunner, but with more responsive controls. Being that you're usually pretending to be inside the body of some kind of hero, they also offer near-instant braking, so to achieve success, game programmers require highly refined, dynamic, ongoing user responses--minutes after minutes of twisting, turning, aiming, jumping, et cetera. Which is all cool if you're good at it, and pretty quick splatter and quitting if you're not.



(Doom because pictures are expected.)

The Half Life and Portal projects stand out in this regard not only because the plots are so rich, but because the latter of the pair offers extremely high accessibility. In a word, Portal is easy. The requirement of swift movement, rapid aiming, and return fire is all but eliminated, allowing ordinary people the chance to sit down at a computer for their first-ever shooter and just play the game like a book or a long movie: being there for the plot, without any of the small-muscle athletics or dynamically abstract challenges that would otherwise make the attempt possible. Half Life doesn't have that; Half Life is easy for an FPS, but difficult for a normal person's pastime. Luckily, the best of the plot is stuffed into Portal 2, so the portaled side of things can provide easy ingress.

Wait, why are we reading about video games, again? Because they're repositories of plot; they're narratives that can, in different ways than pictures, books, and movies, convey messages. In this case, ones worth the effort.

The Half Life Series

Half Life had a relatively simple story, which was how it slipped through the grand entertainment censoring network. A theoretical physicist named Gordon Freeman took part in an experiment that went awry, opened a portal to another part of spacetime, and through that portal came aliens which took over the lab. Through his rugged use of crowbar and a small arsenal of guns, Gordon shot his way through the aliens, teleported to their home planet, killed their leader, and won the game.

This was quite a formulaic plot, of course. It was highly similar to Doom, where the Union Aerospace Corporation accidentally opened up a portal to Hell in its Martian research facilities, and a single tough soldier used a small arsenal of guns to shoot his way through the demons, kill their leader, and win the game. So what made Half Life different? And what continues to make its successors different than all the other xenophobic drone-training Tom Clancy FPSs out there?

Soldiers. From a literary perspective, in Half Life, Gordon was a hero of individual initiative, who generated his own adventure. In Doom, and almost all other shooters out there, the hero is a soldier sent on a mission. The mission may go wrong, and the soldier may take independent action, but his role is that of the loyal soldier throughout.

Gordon Freeman, though, was just a theoretical physicist, working in the lab, who survived the alien disaster because he was able to define his own subsequent role and become more effective than the other cowering scientists.

And dead soldiers. Far more striking than Gordon's role, though, was the position of U.S. soldiers in Half Life: the enemy. Not long after the disaster that brought aliens into the lab to kill Gordon's co-workers, Gordon discovers a number of things that make his "science fiction" world closer to reality than CNN:

1) The experiment that caused the explosion, releasing radiation throughout the surrounding area and killing the rest of the research team, was forced through in defiance of the science team's safety objections by the laboratory administrator.

2) The laboratory administrator was responding to outside pressure, because the lab was a military subcontractor.

3) Once the explosion (and alien invasion) had happened, the military sent troops in to kill all survivors, bury the site, and write the entire operation off.















The misspelling of Gordon's surname in the graphic above is on purpose, of course; the soldiers in the first Half Life can never seem to get his name right.

As a result, Half Life became the first shooter where the player was battling against American troops, tanks, and helicopters. To escape the facility and save his fellow scientists' lives, Gordon had to kill aliens, American soldiers in uniform, and black ops assassins, while the latter two character models were engaged in shooting down surviving researchers who came running to them for help. Even many American radicals, 15 years later, aren't willing to critique that far; they'll allow that soldiers laugh about shooting Arabs, but not that they'll just as easily clean up white yuppies who "know too much."




(Gordon too late to save a balding physicist.)







Doom, Goldeneye, Crysis, Splinter Cell, and legions of other FPSs have no more meaningful theme to offer than, "the brotherhood of soldiers." Their main characters go into their games as part of a military team, possibly eliminate one traitor inside the squad (who wasn't a "real soldier" anyway), and then show everyone else the American way.

If you're not seeing the cultural significance of this yet, consider that Half Life was amazingly successful. It launched at around $40-50 (in 1998), eventually sold around 10 million copies (recorded western figures, discounting the full used, pirated, and loaner markets), and won awards across the globe. All while players played at shooting American soldiers, who played the unabashed enemies.

Not soldiers "gone AWOL" or off on a rogue vendetta, either: actual U.S. Marines following their orders, with the full knowledge and support of the USG. Imagine a blockbuster movie where the hero has to mow down not one or two, but dozens upon dozens of U.S. troops, all of whom are portrayed as ignorant savages killing civilians just because they were ordered to.

The Opposing Force

You can't, can you? America had a rough time digesting The Rock, where it took an F.B.I. Agent (Nicholas Cage) and a former James Bond, British intelligence agent (Sean Connery) to be permitted to take down a pack of rogue U.S. soldiers on Alcatraz--and the soldiers were portrayed as philosophers with grave reservations, hunted by Cage, Connery, Navy SEALs, and with the full backing of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary. And still, Americans objected to the negative portrayal of U.S. troops.

Half Life had another surprise up its sleeve, though: Opposing Force. The direct sequel to the first game had, as its hero, a Marine corporal who was sent down to the lab where the explosion happened to investigate the disaster, and was saved by a scientist who gave him CPR after his helicopter crashed. When the main character (Cpl. Adrian Shephard) was given the order to kill scientists and pull out, he resisted, and when he saw other soldiers killing scientists, he fought back and put a stop to it. Like Gordon, he ended up dodging through the lab, shooting aliens, and found other soldiers who were just trying to survive and escape. When they failed to obey the order to slaughter the scientists and bury the evidence, black ops came after them, so they ended up having to fight their way out in much the same way Gordon had.

Ultimately, the original Half Life saga ended up being about just that: the shared humanity of both the scientists and the soldiers, trapped in a mess they all had a part in creating, and trying to save each other from it, instead of escaping the wreckage over each others' bloodied bodies. Opposing Force was valuable because it proved, to those unable to discern it from Half Life alone, that it wasn't about being "anti soldier" or "anti America," but rather, "pro human." (Half Life 2 would later demonstrate that it was actually about being "pro all life," but put that aside for now.)

By Technology

The complexity of the counterculture image is what made the breakthrough so striking: the Half Life saga, pre-2000, was able to do, through a few video games played mostly by teenagers, what all other major media forms were not permitted to do. Gutsy journalists, writers, and filmmakers don't have jobs, and if they somehow get them, they're not permitted to do the tenth part of what Half Life did in plain sight. The genre "computer game" was sneaky enough that it passed below the radar, transmitting a message that would be considered illegal in poetry, prose, or on the screen.

Valve's writers got away with it for a lot of little reasons. Firstly, many of them didn't fully understand what they were doing, and those that did knew well enough to keep their mouths shut and let the story speak for itself. The skill of the software engineers in drafting rich graphical environments was able to wow kids enough to get them to play--who doesn't like shooting aliens, at least a little bit? And, the military's tacit encouragement of drone-pilot-training programs--getting America's children to play first-person shooters to prepare them for careers of impersonally slaughtering Arab villages in air-conditioned vaults in California--let innocuous little criticisms like Half Life slip by.

Transcendent Criticism

All that the first block of Half Life games had to say, though, was old news--at least privately--to people who have figured out how the American two party system, and the imperial surveillance/warfare state works. Yes, the military/intelligence apparatus eliminates people whose use has ended. Yawn. We get that, right? If you're in that group, there's nothing to find in Half Life but a good shooter, some old-timey 90s graphics, some really simple logic puzzles, and an affirmation of what you already knew.

Half Life 2 goes several steps further, making it useful in further growth. In the second formal iteration of the story, Gordon Freeman returns to Earth after the alien invasion to find that it has been taken over by the transhuman forces known as the Combine. The aliens who got into Earth during the explosion at Gordon's old lab were revealed to be slaves of the Combine's military empire. Just like watching the soldiers in the 1990s Half Life, to watch the post-2000 version of the Combine is to get a glimpse of the world's governmental trends.

The Combine has Earth in the grip of a full-surveillance dystopia, of course. Soldiers in body armor and face masks patrol the post-invasion cities, beating haggard laborers at random, while hovering security robots and traitorous laborers report on potential dissident activity. That stuff's been easy to track; Orwell had that forecast pretty well already. Half Life 2 has graphics so lush that it approaches the level of digital movies; you can really feel the 1984.



More useful than the typical surveillance state stuff by far are the other characteristics of the "Combine" that suggest it had more of an earthly origin than the alien appearance of the invaders would seem to suggest. The Combine appoints human administrators to conquered areas, the most prominent of whom is the original administrator of the lab in Gordon's first adventure (the one who pushed through the experiment over the objections of the science team). The Combine implements a suppression field to prevent human reproduction, in order to channel scientific energies toward the evolution of the brightest minds. It crushes dissent in the name of progress, of course, discarding excess populations and doing all that other stuff--and its argument is the argument of Market-Style Evolution.

"Would you deny us immortality?" asks the administrator. If you'd like to see a more honest glimpse of Earth's present, check out one of Dr. Breen's genocidal speeches here. (Take note of his use of "collaboration," the more sophisticated way of saying "compromise" or "means to an end" or "lesser evil." If you've got America's two parties figured out, you're already familiar with how those arguments work on each set of citizens.)

Gordon Freeman shoots a lot of Combine soldiers, while discovering that the original alien invasion and cleanup he faced were just part of a long term military-science project meant to evolve humans (and aliens), into "more perfect" creatures. Joss Whedon drew on this theme in Firefly, and got himself canceled right back to vampires; Valve, under the cover of video games, has pushed out two direct sequels to Half Life 2, and has another on the way.



Evil Prime

Onward and upward, right? The evil we're fighting here is complex and simple; it's the idea of improvement through discarding excess people, and the idea that the environment is a tool to be turned toward our ends, rather than part of, and determiner of, our ends. The Combine--like all other accurately-portrayed evil hegemons/wizards/overlords--leaves wastelands in its wake, riding on the back of miserable underclasses, because it aspires to a make-believe, mathematically-impossible evolution that is about "superior" organisms crushing all that they see, and grinding the genetically inferior into death on their ascent to perfection. Denying the role of direct biosphere integration with organisms necessarily means that organisms, to continue advancing, must cast aside biospheres and biomasses. Lay off the other employees in order to get a bigger bonus; kill the least popular person in the bunker so there's more canned food for you tomorrow: it all works out really well until you realize there are no more employees left to produce the products, or you find out the guy you killed was the only survivor who knew how to fix the water-filtering system. Or, alternatively, that the species you wiped out while burning the rainforests secreted the only substance that can cure the latest epidemic.

Market-Style Evolution digs its own graves; indeed, it revels in them, assuring you that all you are is a stepping stone--in a thousand years, you'll be the equivalent of a dinosaur, worthwhile only because you're now gone and replaced by an upgraded model with leathertec© skin and a neural-integrated helmet.

And yet, science--Gordon was a theoretical physicist throughout. When he fought the Combine, he did so with help from the others on the science team who'd escaped the laboratory from the first series. Rather than be co-opted into positions within the military machine, or blindly developing technology for whoever funded their grants, they were scientist-philosophers who chose their own research topics 100%, controlled their own findings 100%, and had, therefore, zero conflicts of interest. It's easy to see conflicts of interest in politics, but harder still for most people to perceive them in science. Scientists who don't have to make "administrators" happy in order to keep their jobs, and who have complete intellectual property rights to their own work product, tend, perhaps ironically, to develop fun and useful things, rather than deathkill toys.

A few of Gordon's buddies were even not embarrassed to talk about spirituality and praying in between teleporting stuff back and forth to different rebel outposts. And that's something that's important to stick with: that science can be science without the blessing of industrial titans, military funding, or degrees, but on its own, and just because it's an observational, falsifiable, duplicate-possible process, which provides its own pudding and its own proof. That should be self-evident in any age (science isn't science unless it's falsifiable, and science should never spring "from authority"), but right now, it's revolutionary for Gordon Freeman to say it at gunpoint.

Portals Inc.

Portal is even more fun to do, because it's easier for most people to understand its critique of the early 20th century. Half Life does the present and future of science, while Portal does the part we have the dirtiest, easiest-to-swallow evidence for--the trajectory that brought it to what Half Life shows us.

If you're not yet inclined to believe that Dawkins is one of the cheerful skeleton pilots maneuvering our train toward oblivion, you can at least appreciate chauvinism, cancer, and all the other nasty pieces of pediculosis pubis that Market-Style Science has now hidden in its pus-soaked underdrawers--because, a hundred years ago, those things were selling points, and the robber barons were flashing us all proudly. The face of today's science is, like Obama, a human mask over quite-literal rotting genocide, so if the mask fools you, a search through that history shall remind and reveal.

We'll give that glance in the next part of this series. (And remember what this one said near the beginning: Portal is also easy and relaxed to play, while in Half Life, American/Combine soldiers can make first-timers give up the idea of FPSs right away.)

Lightspring embrace.

(Update: changed "pussy" to "pus-soaked." No, not "vaginal euphemism"--"indicative of infection".)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Brighter Futures

As I lean over the counter for another drink, gin blossoms scarring my bulbous schnoz, a crumpled eviction notice falls from my back pocket. It blows out the door and strikes the ankle of a passing young man in a gold and blue U. Bumfuck sweater. Hesitating, he pats his car keys, looks over his shoulder, and then, at last, notices the propped swinging doors of the bar on the right.

"Woah, look at her!" he exclaims, nudging his friend. "Isn't that the lady that teaches Intro to Grisham in the old chem building? She's totally wasted!"

"What's that?" asks his buddy. Bending, he finds the fallen paper in an island of red neon that flickers across the pitted sidewalk. "I think she just threw your term paper back at you, yo."

Staggered, the young man grabs for the wizened slip. "No way!"

They fumble for control of the dire missive for but a pair of seconds before the young man gives up.

“Dude!” laughs his friend. “Listen to this, yo--'for your second failure...exercise our option to...by the thirtieth of the month’! She’s getting tossed out on her ass!”

Arm in arm, they guffaw. The paper falls to the sidewalk, catches the wind, and blows north along 12th Avenue, its contours catching, every second, a different shade of neon. Red; white; pink; blue; green; the flickering yellow from the statuette in the bookstore’s front window.

Bitterly, I spill out of the doorway. “Gimme, gimme that,” I order, summoning up my most menacing classroom tone. “You’s the, for what I, cranilort the--!” I catch my ankle in a gap in the cement. With a cry, I fall to my knees. Not just the landing, but the sudden descent itself hurts like hell; I haven’t gotten much exercise in the past twenty years. My purse jumps open, scattering too many pens and three paperbacks across the sidewalk. Head reeling, I begin vomiting, loudly and painfully. Half a liter of the store-brand vodka I snuck in, and two acrid mouthfuls of the tonic water I actually bought from the bar, spills over my patched paisley skirt. “Oh...! Oh, Enya!” I curse, tears filling my eyes.

Stunned, they stare down at me. “Muh, muh,” sputters the second man.

“Muh, Miss Cue?” asks my student. “You...you all right?” He has the decency to let a little pity--just a little, but it’s definitely there--creep into his voice.

Sniffles break from my ruined visage. “Don’t do it!” I choke out, feeling the vomit soak through my pantyhose, and onto my unshaven knees. “You have to not...!” I shook myself. “Brian, right? That’s your name, right? Brian?”

He shook his head. “Uhh, it’s ‘Steve.’”

“I know a Brian,” offered the other guy, but I wave him to silence.

“Don’t do it!” I begged Steve, grabbing him by the thighs of his jeans. “I already lost my car, I’m getting kicked out of my third apartment this year, I blew the Department Head and he still wouldn’t fund my trip to Memphis to do just two weeks of work at the Grisham Memorial Library, and, and all my friends who got real jobs are, are, this one woman married a guy who works at a bank! A real bank!” My voice broke. “And Francie’s teaching English at this school in China that the government pays for, and my best friend from high school is the senior maintenance scheduler at a Toyota dealership, and she has a retirement plan--a retirement plan!” Again, my voice broke. I struggled to recover it. “I told you, I know I told you, on your last paper, that you could write well, and that you should think about, about furthering your education. But don’t--don’t!

“Last paper?” Steve echoed, scratching his head. “Oh, the one about ‘Pelican Brief’?” He gave me a sheepish grin. “I just, uh, just actually sorta copied that from this chick, this girl I met at the rec center. She had you last year, and she seemed kinda smart an’ stuff, so...”

Tears stream down my face. “Kelly Henderson?” I croaked. “Oh, oh God! She went to Duke! She went to Duke!” Racked with guilt and pain, I fall against Steve’s shoes to cry harder. “She went because I told her to!”

Ignoring me, Steve shook his head. “I just, kinda, can’t stand watching old stuff with Julia Roberts. You know?”

“Her mouth!” pronounced the friend who knew a guy named Brian. “It’s so, so frickin’ big, you know? I dunno why anyone ever said she was hot!”

I hurled myself to my feet. “You didn’t write it!” I cheered. Steve winced as my breath passed over him, but I grabbed his sleeves in a death grip, keeping him close. “You didn’t write it!” I couldn’t have been happier. “Don’t go,” I sobbed. “Don’t ever, ever go to graduate school. Never let anyone tell you to!” Shaking my head right in his face, I said, “I mean, he just wrote a few books about someone suing someone else, using about an eighth grade vocabulary, and he’s not even dead yet! Why the hell is my entire department studying him?”

“Whuh?” stammered Steve. “Graduate school? I never--"

Steve’s friend gestured madly. “It’s like, like someone teleported the mouth of a dude who’s 6’6” right onto her face, and she’s all, ‘if I just put lipstick on it, no one’ll notice.’ I mean, she’s frickin’ all outta wack!”

“Just don’t go!” I wailed at Steve. “Promise me you won’t go!”

“I mean, I’d do her,” his friend continued, hands cycling. “It’s not that bad, yo. But she just, just, she don’t deserve to be in movies.”

Finally, Steve pushed me away. “Get off! Miss Cue, I get it, all right! Whatever; I’ll watch the movie and write it over, okay? Go, like...” He studied me. “Go to an AA, or something. They helped my little brother--that's Tommy, you know, he’s going here next fall--they helped him, and he doesn’t even believe in, you know, God, or any o’that, yeah? You know?”

I give a final sniffle as I watch the boys depart, shoving the card for some AA representative into my jacket pocket with the promise that I’ll call the gentleman if Steve turns in a revised paper. They continue down the sidewalk, but me, I head right back into the bar as soon as they’re not watching any longer. I’ll get a nice little table, near the hallway to the bathroom, where the lights are mostly broken. Down there, down in the back, no one can tell I don’t have a home to go to at closing. Over the alcohol and noise, no one’ll be able to tell the scent of vomit and failure is coming from me. If I fold the classifieds up just right inside an old manila folder, no one’ll be able to tell I’m looking for a job. Maybe they’ll think I’m successful. Maybe they’ll think I just stopped in like I might’ve on this same night five years ago, to grade a hundred and thirty-eight papers about The Client. Back when I was naive enough to pretend I had a chance at tenure. Back when I could grade papers on my own strength, without sipping generic vodka from a gatorade bottle and hoping people thought it was one of the clear flavors. Back when being awake didn’t mean thinking about suicide.

I didn’t know why I’d ever decided to become an academic, but one thing was for sure: I wasn’t going to let Steve, or any other young, bright kids like him, head down that path. No longer would I--

/fin

(Just logging for posterity a response to some of this one's many detractors from another blog.)

Sources and Wealth

Sources

Source Code was the most heartwarming DHS training video of the year. Unlike Moon, none of the science worked out--if you're using 8 minutes of memory extracted from an explosion-victim's brain matter to learn things, you can only learn things that the victim knew. Not other things that go beyond the victim's memories, or else you wouldn't need the victim's brain matter at all; just the source code.

Wealth

Northern Trust's "Wealth" magazine advises parents to suggest the following to their children about saving:

"[G]ive them three separate banks for their money: one for saving, one for spending and one for charitable giving, if that's a family priority..."

Nach, not only do these kiddies have money for saving for "long term toys" on top of buying "short term toys," they're also so high on the disposable list that they're giving to charity. Out of the goodness of their little hearts this is not: Mommy and Daddy are getting income tax deductions for funding the "community foundations" that will later give little Jakey B. his springboard job.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Long Term Cap

There's a legitimate argument for capitalism in the sense that it motivates free riders to work or starve. In order to overcome that argument, you have to be able to place faith in people to perform unpleasant tasks when others have already granted them, and promised to continue granting them, basic sustenance.

That's a difficult thing to do. Whatever the sins of industry, they're an improvement over "everyone gradually lays down and dies."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

10 Facts About Relationships

(1) In February of 2008, American voters approved Proposition 9, a constitutional amendment providing for the creation of a nationwide network of state-funded "Family Courts" to regulate "marriage contracts" between any two adults who want to live together and/or have regular sexual intercourse. Billions of federal and state dollars yearly will be redirected from education, prenatal care, food stamps, and social welfare programs in order to pay for judges, wellness counselors, caseworkers, receptionists, security guards, courtrooms, parking spaces, and downtown & suburban building projects to facilitate the sitting of these Family Courts. Government agencies will produce mountain ranges of internal regulations to instruct their employees, and the public at large, how to deal with these "marriage contracts," and all disputes over the nature of these contracts will play out in "Family Courts." Schools, universities, businesses and professional associations will all be required to divert massive funds to respect and nurture these contracts.

(2) The federal government will accord 1,138 benefits and responsibilities to members of the public who enter into "marriage contracts," all 1,138 of which will be carefully monitored and scrutinized by a permanent professional staff of lawyers, managers, accountants, and other regulators. A few of those benefits are unpaid leave to care for an ill spouse, social security survivor benefits and spousal benefits, and the right not to testify against one’s spouse, among others. People who merely "love" each other, are "just dating," or who have "just lived together for 36 years" are not eligible to obtain these benefits, however, they will be required to pay thousands of dollars each year for the benefits received by others.

(3) The District of Columbia and 47 states have anti-hate-crime laws, however 0 states include "not being financially successful" or "not being good-looking" or "makes boring conversation" in their legislation.

(4) As of November 2012, 50 states have made marriage legal. 100% of these states have expended massive tax funds to benefit "married" people. In 100% of these states, incredibly profitable industries exist, spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually "planning marriage contracts," decorating the venues for parties typically held after marriage contracts are signed ("weddings"), negotiating the termination of marriages, effecting the termination of marriages, and planning re- and and re-re- and re-re-re- marriages. At all stages of these events, Family Courts and state registration agencies are involved. In 100% of the states that allow "marriage," non-married people may legally be invited to marriage celebrations, unless they have been jailed for failure to pay for judicial salaries, bailiff uniforms, oak veneer wall plating for divorce courtrooms, or blue-patterned reception kiosks at marriage regulatory agencies.

(5) In April 2015, the Senate approved the Expense Expansion Act, which ensures federal oversight and review of state family courts to guarantee that married people of all races, heights, sexual preferences, employment status, and ages (except the unmentionable autonomy-less cellular masses who are merely seventeen) are being granted equal access to state and federal marital benefits.

(6) The Employment Nondiscrimination Act passed by Congress during the presidency of George W. Bush is the act that prohibits discrimination of sexual orientation in the workplace, specifically during hiring.

(7) In the U.S., 75 percent of students have no state laws to protect them from harassment and discrimination in school based on their relationship status. In public high schools, 97 percent of students report regularly hearing anti-single remarks from their peers.

(8) Of the estimated 1.6 million homeless American youth, between 95 and 100 percent identify as "unmarried." In one study, 93 percent of teens reported pressure from a family member to get legally married at some point during their lives.

(9) In the U.S., zero states have cohabitation arrangements of any kind for relationships involving more than two people. 100% of states have devoted statutory lineage, police power, and court and prison facilities to arrest, detain, and remove the civil rights of anyone who attempts to enter into a marriage contract with more than one other person, regardless of sexual orientation.

(10) A recent poll in Out magazine revealed that 96% of the LGBT community supports making unmarried people of all genders and sexual orientations provide constant, endless access to family courts to both married LGBT and non-LGBT people, while the remaining 4% feel that unmarried people could be successfully reeducated at the new Omega Vow Outreach facility in rural northern Montana, where catering professionals, wedding photographers, divorce attorneys, and domestic caseworkers operate round-the-clock training programs to help inmates understand the social value of marriage.

Do something!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Banality of Zombie Calvin

Bill Watterson came up with his own comic, and so can you.

No matter how heartfelt you think your message is, if you're delivering it through the mouths of unlicensed knockoffs of someone else's departed dream, you're no different than a Chinese ribbon manufacturer churning out twenty thousand versions of some kid taking a piss on the Dallas Cowboys logo.

You're also everything Calvin never was. You're the unseen antagonists who produced the Chewing magazine that he read as a bad example. You're every snotty asshole who tried to get permission to sell Hobbes dolls (which were supposed to be made by little kids in barred warehouses for forty cents/unit, then sold for $19.99 + tax at the local novelty shop) and was refused by Watterson. You're a lip-syncing, song-buying, ass-shaking Miley Cyrus, going through the motions of something you apparently never understood in the first place.

Unsurprisingly, you're also cramming your tiny bootlegs into the space necessary to fit on everyone's mobile screen, giving the shrinkage to your stolen version of Calvin's world that Watterson wouldn't allow newspaper editors to do to the real one. If more people had fought as hard as Watterson to get space for their dailies and Sundays, there would be more opportunities for today's artists; luckily for publishers, there are plenty of brainless fifth columnists willing to bound their thefts at six inches by four, less a few flash banners.

Here's a way to save some more time on the drawing, while still raping the most basic elements of the concepts you've ripped off: switch to playwright fanfic, and churn out a Romeo and Juliet imitation where Romeo falls for Mercutio instead of Juliet. Or go the other way, and do a new Brokeback Mountain where Heath joins Westboro Baptist Church after Jake's death, or maybe a Schindler's List where there is no Holocaust, only puppies.

Go shovel the walk, you little cheaters. You need to build some character.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Dampening Field: Merit, Old Boy, and Death

Office Space. The "Dilbert" cartoons. At the supermarket, checkers with twenty-five years experience, personal connections to half the customers in town, and a deep, genuine commitment to their chain, are ineligible for promotion to management. At the software company, contractors who know the company's entire writing and approval and patenting process, and who have worked and partied with vendors at the same level in the company's industry partners, are passed over for promotion. In each case, corporate brings in some asshole with an MBA, puts them in charge at a higher salary, and lets them implement expensive changes that confuse existing customers, alienate staff, and are thrown out and rewritten a few years later.

Now, I ask you, why? Is it because these professional managers are skilled in some way that their underlings are not? This is the "business skills" or "intelligence" argument, which is a modern form of the merit explanation. E.g., "It is because of merit that things happen."

Experience shows us that the "merit" explanation fails. The managers generally don't even know what the hell they're doing. They don't understand how the product is created, who the people are that create it, and the relationships that get it out the door. They require a staffer or two just to get their e-mail up and running, they don't know where accounting is, they have to be trained in back-ordering and filing (and they forget it a week after they've been "trained" by someone making 1/5 their salary), and worse, their privately-felt recognition that they don't know what the hell is going on makes them insecure, causing them to lash out at people under them to project confidence and enforce their image as a leader.

We all sort of know that, and yet corporate keeps giving leadership positions to people who don't understand the business, waste incredible amounts of money, and piss off everyone else.

Anecdote? Okay, let's hypothesize that the business we're talking about is a "regional power company." Let's call it "Powerco." Powerco's President retired, leaving behind several VPs, directors, and department heads who had been with the business for decades, knew everything about it, and had been doing the President's job for him for the last few years, while his health was failing. Many (all?) of them were overpaid assholes anyway, which made them perfect for the presidency. A new president needed to be appointed swiftly so that the public did not view the lack of a formally-serving president as some sort of problem.

What was Powerco's solution? (If you're in industry, academia, or anything else, you may have a glimmering of pain as you realize where this is going.) Does Powerco's Board:

1) Swiftly hold a series of internal meetings where the most experienced VPs and other execs discuss who should take over as the next president?

2) Poll all employees on the most knowledgeable, effective leaders within the organization, and offer the position to the person with the highest reviews?

3) Announce an application period in the community paper, national papers, and industry journals, then rigorously interview everyone who applies and choose the best candidate?

4) Spend two months considering offers from various Executive Placement Firms, then pay one of them three million dollars to conduct an "executive search" that will forward fifteen candidates to the Board for review after only six months. Reorganize all of the company's divisions into review committees under the dictatorial control of existing VPs to hold several meetings apiece with each candidate, after flying the candidate into town and back again for each meeting, paying for the candidate's suite at a local resort, and wining and dining in between. Ask all the candidates to go home and wait for a few weeks while the Board holds non-binding meetings with employees and members of the community to evaluate the Board's top choices. Fly the top choices back to town again for more meals and meetings. Pay an additional $900,000 to the Executive Placement Firm for the project's time and cost overrun. Then, issue a decision based upon a series of swift internal meetings where the most experienced VPs and other execs discuss who should take over as the next president?

The correct answer, of course, is #4. This kind of crap looks inefficient, to say the least. It's also horrendously expensive, both in terms of direct outlays of organizational funds as well as loss of customer and community credibility, and the instillation of a climate of uncertainty and an expectation of duncery from employees. Yet, it's the popular answer. Even relatively small companies will spend millions more in dollars and thousands more in hours of labor trying to "recruit" executives than NBA teams do in recruiting future players.

The Old Boy Network tends to be looked to as an answer for those who have come to understand that society is not governed by merit. Very naive people, or the miniscule proportion of lucky people who succeeded due to merit, tend to stop right at "merit," assuming that the world is generally fair, or at least "sort of fair, based on luck mixed with skill." If you're too intelligent or experienced for that, you may turn to Old Boy, concluding, "The world works in this awful, stupid way, because people with family, social, or some other kind of connections are trying to trick the rest of us to make money." ("These people" are the elites, of course.)

Old Boy beats the heck out of Merit as an explanation for large-scale human behavior. However, Old Boy is grossly, fundamentally flawed. In order for Old Boy to be accurate, it actually has to be profitable to eliminate the potential gains of human labor by eliminating humans.

Did we catch that? Yes: in order to believe that elites control the global economy and human societies for their own selfish benefit, we have to first conclude that the world actually is a zero sum game where net gains are achieved by death and suffering. Accepting the Old Boy explanation for elite behavior, even in the light most critical of elites, means that we have affirmed the tenets of Old Boy, namely that you have to screw other people over to get stuff.

Wrong, and hosanna if you prefer. Here's how.

The Failure of Old Boy

Say Dick Cheney has $50 million, and is connected to a global network of powerful, influential people who trust him (to be him) and whose actions he can, to some degree, himself influence. Say there are several people like this in a meeting, so that their influence over the outside world is magnified when they achieve consensus.

Now, say that they're deciding how they can enjoy life more--how they can squeeze more pleasure, power, and influence out of the world. More money, more mansions, more luxury cars, more escorts, et cetera. How do they do that?

Well, they could direct the spending of, ultimately, trillions of dollars of world resources toward a series of regional wars and government repressions. At their direction, millions of people would do things like run around with rifles and die; fly in planes and drop single-use bombs that blow up people who turn into corpses that need to be disposed of and buildings that may eventually get rebuilt; discuss more and better ways of running around with guns and flying around with bombs; design and develop and maintain the guns and planes and bombs...et cetera ad paene infinitum.

This would certainly make them a lot of money, right? And it has--by stopping Saddam's potential attempt to trade oil in euros, Anglo-American oil and military companies have made a large return.

The ultimate impact on, say, Dick Cheney? Negligible. He's personally less powerful, because he lost a lot of social capital, even in America, where he has managed to become less popular than before. He's made a lot of money, but in the 24 hours of each day, there are still only so many escorts he can fondle in between trips to the French countryside and meals of the finest food, and he could've bought all those things nonstop before. By carrying out those wars, he slightly increased the risk of foreign blowback that could actually harm him or his genetic kin.

Now, think about this in a business sense. "Opportunity cost"--what's it mean? It means that, by engineering the aforementioned world war, Dick Cheney lost a lot. To Dick Cheney, ten thousand dead Iraqis are worth some oil money that increases his holdings on paper. What about, instead, one thousand live Iraqis researching artificial hearts, four thousand working on the global magnetic train project, three thousand improving integrated network capability, nineteen hundred and eighty landscaping the grounds around the world's ugliest train stations and airports, and the most attractive twenty studying new ways of pleasing aging white men? Choosing the "ten thousand live Iraqis" route, Dick might've produced a tangible benefit to himself. He might live longer and in less pain; he might enjoy the first class suites on a high speed train more than the first class section on an old jetliner; he might be able to use his iPad during the entire trip, instead of having it blank out sometimes in-flight; he'd see nicer shrubbery while someone gathered his luggage; and, he'd have at least one "harem fantasy night" that he enjoyed 1% more than his usual "top me off after a shiatsu" night. Any example works; the point is, the amount of labor the average human can generate always exceeds the amount of resources necessary to sustain that human, which is why we're alive. It's always more selfish and profitable to have more living people instead of fewer.

In the short term, it's profitable to kill people and take their stuff. But in the longer term--even five or ten years--it's far less profitable.

No problem for Old Boy, though, right? Because the taxpayers are footing the bill. Yes, say the Iraq War was a tremendous waste, producing a net loss for the taxpayers and a recession that eventually reduced Dick Cheney's holdings per-share, but the corresponding increase in Exxon and BP gave Dick Cheney (and those like him) a relative gain that made the whole adventure worth it. Right?

Still, no: the gain is illusory. Dick Cheney has spent decades administering the worldwide waste of resources killing people. He was involved in South American slaughter in the 1980s, all the way through to Middle Eastern slaughter in the 21st century. He's maintained his wealth and power at levels where the differences only matter in terms of status-games among a small set of people he hates and fears, at the expense of the legitimate loathing of a much, much larger set of people whom he hates and fears. He's done this at the expense of millions of lives, and the expenditure of an astronomical glut of war dollars that, invested differently, could have spent thirty years remaking the world into a utopia where artificial hearts are as everyday and easy as appendix removal.

If the Pentagon hadn't been burning cash to slaughter so many people and increase the value of Cheney's shares in Wasteland, Inc., the entire world would look different--and different in a way that would benefit Dick Cheney in the most selfish way possible. How many incredible composers, exotic dancers, creative chefs, traffic engineers and city managers did Cheney's rampages kill? How much of his time was spent at the Great Game, instead of lying in pools being fanned by virgins bedecked in coconuts? Far too many, and far too much--Cheney's bullshit was not actually good for him. Whatever his money, he was rather wealthy beforehand, and the waste of human effort that he expended on war over the course of a long life stalled human progress and resources so much that it ensured he would have less leisure time and enjoy less-advanced technological toys than if he'd invested in people, rather than death. Even in the most sadistic way possible--and taking Rumsfeld into the picture--the in-fighting between different military divisions over what technologies to exclusively develop, as part of the zero-sum procurement games fostered by the evolutionarily competitive nature of military lobbying, hampers overall effectiveness, and reduces the quantity and quality of the coolest killing machines whose results Cheney could gloat over via webcam.

Blowback

Over it all looms the potential of blowback actually hurting Cheney. Were he to have spent his money delivering organic food baskets to people, he'd not only be genuinely, saintly popular to billions (instead of ignorantly popular to a few million American conservatives, and vilely popular to a few hundred international elites), he also wouldn't be on the permanent shit list for many, many other Arabs.

No problem, though, because actual terrorists don't succeed, and when they do, they only really hurt the little people. What about nukes? Has Russia had enough? China? Cheney's gamesmanship has made it more likely, not less, that elites in other countries might make the decision to finally stop putting up with America's bullshit, in a way that could actually, literally, affect Dick Cheney's quality of life (say, Russia launching WW3, and Cheney ending up at Nuremberg II on his hundredth birthday, instead of relaxing on the beach).

Stupid Short Term

The savior for Old Boy here is "short term." We can assume, "Dick Cheney, and those like him, are so shortsighted that they're willing to risk these things if it makes them money now. They're aren't willing to think years ahead because they just want money and power right away."

Complete fail, and pretty obviously. The games these people play are games of decades and centuries. PNAC, right? Iraq was a field harvested in 2003 only after decades of no-fly zones, regional wars, proxy coups d'etat, and colonialism. The Old Boy Network managing this trend of history knows full well what it is doing, and it is willing to wait longer than the lifetimes of individual members to accomplish an objective.

Elites act in coordination. The false battles between Obama and Romney, followed by Obama pushing through "Romney's" health care plan, are just one of the more recent indications of the charade; if you're partial to the "elites making money" Old Boy theory, you've probably figured out long ago that elites are coordinating what they do. Obama's presidency was based upon Dubya's; every stupid thing Dubya did was carefully crafted to make Obama's genially murderous conservatism seem palatable to a bunch of loons who call themselves liberal, just as Dubya's golly-gee Christianized blundering only makes sense in light of Slick Willy's blowjob "Don't Ask" lala land. Was the Patriot Act written sometime after the 9/11 plane crashes in surprised response to said crashes, or are elites capable of looking forward?

Of course they're looking forward. Which means that they understand the incredible net loss to their own lives of what they are doing. There is no way to avoid the evidence of the twentieth century, and the elite pattern of directing almost all human effort toward creating superstates of war and misery. The hundreds of millions of people butchered in the twentieth century, and the unbelievable sums of money and capital devoted toward carving up the postcolonial world into new-and-improved security zones, could have built for elites a utopia that far exceeds the pitiful regression of now.

Flying cars, moon hotels, telepathic robot sex slaves, $179.99 handheld cricimal stimulators that need self-limiting because they're so pleasurable most people happily starve instead of turning them off--the paradise elites have destroyed would have been easily attained for far less than half the effort spent killing the world, and they would have gotten to enjoy it first of all.

Our great mistake is concluding that they are benefiting themselves. They are not, and they know it. They are trying to kill us all. Wealth, power, and pleasure are not, and cannot be, their goals.

Death

Office Space, Dilbert, and all the corporate "stupidities," right? So very consistent. Why cost the company so much money just to give the reins to some inexperienced moron with an MBA?

Business does not actually seek profit. Profit is a means to an end. You can't kill everyone by telling them, "We're going to kill you now." Instinct fights against that. Antilife must disguise itself to succeed.

If they announced, "We're going to kill you all," we would finally resist. They don't announce that. They say they're protecting us. We know it's a lie, some of us--some of us know they're just trying to make money. That keeps us calm. Our self-preservation doesn't kick in because we can understand greed.

Greed is good. Intelligent selfishness, in humans, causes the promotion of the species. Being greedy means that you help Abel in the fields, rather than slaying him, because your combined efforts will get you a lot more to eat than just clubbing him to death and eating what he has. Being greedy means that you feed poor children, because when they grow up, they will produce things of value to you, whereas their corpses will only breed illness that may consume you.

Greed and desire are the tools of life, motivating us to have fun and seek pleasure and get cool stuff. The trick of viles is to link greed so closely with death that we come to see greed as all bad--that we equate "greed" with "desire to exclude others from nice things."

That is not real greed. Real greed wants everyone to succeed, because that always gets "you" more. Effort wasted excluding others from things, theoretically to increase the relative value of your own stuff, (1) reduces what you can acquire now, (2) reduces what others can help you acquire later, and (3) increases the likelihood that others will attempt to reduce what you can acquire both now and later. Intelligent selfishness necessarily becomes, from inception, selflessness, while intelligent selflessness becomes selfishness. They're as indistinguishable, in concept, as this one from you.

Which isn't to say, in the tiniest way, that the Ayn Rand crap, or any of the other forms of advocacy for stupid greed, are right. All modern conceptions of greed are wrong: they are zero sum greed, perverting the desire to improve by associating it with the desire to immiserate others. The argument of business is the argument of caste and division, misdirecting greed into anti-greed; leading people to believe that they are helping themselves by hurting themselves. "Getting rich" in a poor world is not selfish; it's actually a counterproductive, self-harming act that limits future investment potential to just what you can come up with, instead of what a whole lot of people can. Starving Chun for your iPad now, in a macro sense, means he won't be able to cure your cancer in twenty years (or just invent your neural home, so you can run the microwave with a thought, rather than pressing the buttons or "even" integrating it with your iPad so you don't have to get off the couch).

...which is why business acts so "stupidly." It is a dampening field, trying to crush human productivity by enforcing rituals that are, in all ways, incredibly stupid and colossally wasteful, yet which appear to make "sense" because those who have more toys appear to be benefiting, in the short term, from all the waste. Despite the dampening field, people keep attempting to be productive, invent things, and acquire cool stuff, because they are driven by the power of life. The task of elites is to redirect those desires in counterproductive ways, making it seem ever more sensible to harm ourselves and limit our technological advancement.

These miseries are caused naturally, by our early grappling with consciousness, and the resultant terror at the idea of losing that consciousness. They are trying to kill themselves, and all of us, in the only way they can--slowly, while raising as little alarm as possible, and by making that death appear to be an inevitable consequence of our desire to improve ourselves. They are sick, sad, frightened minds, and the systematic, scrupulously-designed and meticulously-implemented inanities & insanities of our day-to-day lives, and of world politics, are only explainable by understanding this illness.