Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Colors Flatter All Others

There's more...

I'm trying to be fiscally and tactically responsible and actually have designs for a holiday ready for the holiday THIS year. And yes, I just noticed it was almost time for the 4th.

And when it comes to patriotism and it's proper place, I have a few things to say about what it is, and what it ain't. This design is about what it is.

And this design, via Zazzle (never mind where) is what it is not.

This shirt may set a new record for most fallacious statements in the fewest number of words. (See how many you can find, kids!)

I'd really hoped that I'd seen the last of red-baiting fluoride-bashing foolishness, but it's still there, lurking within the traitor parks of uhmurika where there are actually people dumb enough to think wearing such a shirt makes you look smart.

Not that I'm trying to make this silly person shut up. I even approve of her selling shirts to the like minded. I LIKE knowing when I'm dealing with dangerous idiots.

You see, words like "communist" and "socialist" and "democrat" and "republican" and "fascist" and "neocon" mean pretty specific things. If you use them as if you were just reaching about for a handful of crap to fling at someone you don't like, it's pretty clear to everyone else that you don't have your shit together.

For myself, I choose a positive patriotism. I don't wish to point out the wrongs of others - especially as my views are indeed just that, my views. Rather, I wish to point out the things I feel strongly and positively to be GOOD things.

I've never seen anything wrong with communism as a philosophy. Or fluoride as a means of preventing tooth decay. Both have their place. Personally, I'd very much prefer that neither were imposed upon me. Both Communism and Flouride work best when applied directly to the relevant situation.

For me, patriotism can only be meaningful if it's pride in real achievements, rather than being of the "I'm an uhmurikin and you are not!" variety. I don't believe in building fences or picking fights to prove what a manlyman I am. That's neither manly nor patriotic - it's boorish and an invitation for a righteous crotch-kicking.

I've a perfect personal record, I humbly suggest, of never having justly deserved a crotch-kicking. But then, I wonder, how hard is it to choose to NOT be a total asshole?

As illustrated above - apparently harder than I would have thought.

Though I love my country, I cannot say that about us as a whole. Indeed, due to my love of her best at her best, I have been first in line with a grandmotherly shit-kicking from time to time. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

The Project for a New American Peonage

It seems a bit narcissistic to reference my own words, but 'twas a long post and this point may have gotten lost in the underbrush.
Graphictruth: My Muted Obamamania: "Reality is not optional in Politics. We have had far too much post-modern bullshit, and quite frankly, it's making ME want to cling to the hard cold reality that a handgun represents. A gun is simple, understandable and comforting in times of trouble - even when it's an utterly useless comfort. Even when you know perfectly well that your troubles are not ones that can be dismissed with 'a whiff of grape-shot' or rightfully blamed on the symptoms of malfeasance and greed, such as outsourcing and illegal immigration.

We have the right to expect leaders who understand that it's their job to keep things from getting to such a point where we start to think wistfully about deploying Occam's Machine-Gun."

And there's another point in there that I wanted to sharpen a bit more.

We do have a right to be bitter about the results of being exploited and pandered to for political gain as a substitute for actual competent, compassionate and intelligently conservative management of our interests on our behalf. Hell, conservative voters have completely given up on the idea of government or their taxes bringing them any benefit - so long as it benefits nobody else, and so long as their frustrations are expressed in making the rubble jump somewhere far away.

But it's not enough, and it's certainly not worth three four dollar gasoline and milk at $3.50 when your wages have been stagnant for a decade or two.

"You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." I think P.T. Barnum said that, and such philosophies were the root of an amazing and improbable fortune.

Now, let me conflate this with something I learned at my father's knee - he being a traveling salesman - was that the only way to sell was to totally convince yourself that what you were saying was true. The more dubious the proposition, the more skill it took to do that.

Of course, an honest person would look at this and think, "well, that's easy enough, don't sell things people won't want and don't need."

But look around you. Or just turn to the Home Shopping Network for a minute or two, and you will realize that they are not selling you the crappy cheap bauble or appliance of dubious utility, but rather a "lifestyle," a sense of security, of prosperity, of entitlement; of belonging to an "in group."

Do not think for a moment that those feelings deliberately raised in your hind-brain and attached to your choices in shopping, fashion, entertainment or politics are in any way genuine. It's a scam, and I can tell you that, because as I said, I learned to do this at my father's knee.

Now, the beauty of this from the viewpoint of our supposed Lords and Masters is that if we are indebting ourselves for a sense of false community with an an illusion prosperity and security, we will never actually build real communities that can provide real prosperity and security.

For instance - five families can individually go broke trying to maintain a cardboard McMansion apiece - or they could pool their skills, labor and buying power to build five real solid houses that would be more suited to each and far more valuable in the long run. If you want to learn all you need to know to do this - spend some time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

A substantial something - a solid home, a paid-off vehicle, a meaningful job doing what you would do anyway - is a far valuable than any appearance of prosperity built on debt, even if it seems like you are "less prosperous." And when this choice puts money in the bank at interest, you have options that no wage-slave can even imagine.

This is so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning, and yet somehow we trip over something that is even more basic. Our need for community is such a powerful thing that it can completely override our self interest and make us fools for slavers and demagogues.

Even unreasonably well-paying jobs and tremendously important and meaningful careers may have a huge downside. If it places great stress on you either because of it's nature or because you absolutely hate doing it, you are actually converting your health into money - at a net loss. The same is true for jobs that have unavoidable health consequences or irreducible risks. If you are investing your future well-being into maintaining a paycheck-to-paycheck "lifestyle," you are freakin' hosed.

That is the mass delusion we have bought into - that it's better to go into debt to have new shiny crap than something that does what you need with total reliability, and that it is sensible to buy into a community on the condition that you continue to pay into it month by month with either money or labor.

A real community gives an unconditional crap about you; will take care of you if you are ill and raise your children if you die. A real community will not need to refer to a contract to do the right thing in either case because at the most basic, a community is an extended family, composed of individuals who depend upon one another and who know precisely to what degree, in what ways and with what resources each other individual may be presumed upon at need.

These ARE "Traditional Family Values." It has nothing to do with gay marriage, patriarchal structures, religious choice or morality. It's all about shared trust and mutual self-interest; whatever works to that end is Good, and whatever gets in the way of that is Bad.

Right now, there's an awful lot of Bad getting in the way of applying those values to practical outcomes.

It would be tragic enough if our fixation upon shiny trinkets and false profits (pun intended) were merely a common delusion of individuals - but in fact it's infested our government and our entire leadership class. Indeed, I rather imagine that there are quite a few people living "the good life" in "hunt country" with all the trappings of old money that are in fact leveraged to the eyeballs, to the point where any questions raised about ethical choices merely provokes bitter laughter.

Far too many of us have found that we are in situations where, seemingly, we have lost the option of even WISHING to be ethical people living blameless and productive lives. Even our religions have become mechanisms for shifting blame; if they had to rely on the good will of honest people, they would certainly be unable to support their institutional selves at the level of luxury and influence to which they have become accustomed.

But it's never too late to make a choice. The answer to all councils of despair and accommodation is this; YOU may not be able to "make a difference" if that effort depends on other people changing their lives and making choices you think they should make. If you wish to bring about a positive change in your life and the lives around you, change your life. Don't try to force others to change for your benefit - it's rude and it never works.

Enticements succeed where even naked force will fail, which is why capitalism and the free market is such a powerful idea - one that persists in spite of all attempts to co-opt it's power for the benefit of plutocrats and Party Members.

This is where I return to the example of five families building five homes, or five businesses, or five cars - or any such obviously mutually beneficial thing. Am I advocating socialism or some sort of Commune? Hell, no! It's pure Capitalism with direct conversion of sweat into equity.

Realize that it's always most profitable to get a direct benefit from your own effort. The use of money to pay for labor always translates into doing more work than you would have had to do. Ideally, you wish to trade labor for labor, not labor for money. But in order to do that effectively, there must be a large enough talent pool. Money is only a means to that end, as is credit. This is the point that both doctrinaire Capitalists and Communists miss to the point that they make practical forms of economic co-operation with either emphasis impossible in practice.

Money is simply stored labor. Labor is a form of capital, then. The more skilled the labor, the more valuable it is - but only if it can be applied to create real and persistent assets. Some types of labor do not produce "real" assets that are of direct value, they are "intangibles," such as art, music, literature, but they are also the things that make our lives livable and keep us entertained while our hands are busy.

Both are tools that you need, but should try to avoid using to avoid minor inconveniences and slight frustrations.

The real key here is when you work at a job in our current economy while using the proceeds of that job to service debt and "maintain a lifestyle," you are not free. You are a serf - tied to a job by means of debt. This is all the more true if your medical coverage depends upon that job.

This is a very damn expensive way to provide medical care, since it divides the risk pool into many shallow puddles, and indeed, quite a few corporations are whining about the huge expense and the need for universal health care.

But in fact, the price is rather low, compared to the thugs, dogs and fences that would otherwise be required to maintain a captive work-force.

So, here's my question: "Who are you working for?" Look at your budget, look at your real assets - the ones that you truly own. Look at your savings and future security. Look at your access to health care.

Are you, in fact free? Run the numbers. If you cannot afford to just say "shove it" and walk away from your job, you are not free and you cannot meaningfully call yourself a free citizen.

The most fundamental reason why the Franchise was first limited to free white property owners is that Free White Property owners were the only people economically independant enough to be contrary as a matter of principle.

The ideal of a proper government is to expand the meaningful franchise - which means expanding that degree of liberty as widely as possible.

Right now, the average person cannot afford principles. You probably cannot say "no" to outrageous presumptions, whether it be uncompensated overtime, sexual harassment or committing acts you know to be immoral, illegal or just plain stupid. You cannot insist on either doing the job right, or not at all. And these days, it's becoming iffy as to whether or not you even have the "right" to insist on being paid.

Let's go back to those five families. Consider all the capital they would build up by working together to provide comfortable homes for themselves. At some point, about the time college comes around, they have solidly feathered physical nests and money in the bank. One or more of those children is probably well-suited for a career in medicine. Doesn't it make sense to pool together to put one or two through medical school in return for a promise from that person to provide primary care to all five families? Hm. And a business degree or two might come in handy...

Of course the shiny new professionals will need things to do and places to do them ... so while those kids are in school, the families literally build a practice, and now, from the start of bare earth and sweat, we are on our way to building real wealth, because again, rent is simply money down the drain. If rent is to be paid, it should be paid TO the enterprise, not come out of it.

These are real old-fashioned family values. Me first, family second, clan third and country last - because each of those things depends on all needs of the more basic unit being fulfilled fully and first. Anything less than that is, in fact, a hidden debt or a concealed tax.

If you are sacrificing yourself for your family, your job, your cause or your nation, you literally have the cart before the horse, for none of those things will do all that well if the foundation of them - the individuals such as you - are not properly rewarded and fulfilled in doing so.

Real freedom requires that we invest in the freedom of others.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The fourth is coming up...

And I suppose I should create a template for stories about it.

On the other hand, this zazzle bumpersticker kinda sums it up for me. I mean, sometimes it really does all fit on a bumpersticker. I did a nice version for Cafepress too.

Anyway, I think we need to provoke more thinking on the human cost of warfare for political gain. We need to ask a few questions, such as, well, has a war of choice ever come out with a net gain?


But sure as hell and napalm, this ain't one of 'em.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Free Porn to end in 2012!?! Bare Boobs Bust Net Neutrality WIDE open!

This is the video that rocked the world of apathetic, porn-consuming, uninvolved teen-agers the world over, and just incidentally reveals exactly why "Belgum" became a swear-word in the mouths of the distant ancestors of Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Now hundreds of thousands, if not literally millions of people have become aware of what they probably thought was a boring technical issue that was too inherently complicated to care about.

Well, whatever you think of Athena - and to be honest, I haven't figured out what to think myself - they bring forward two good reasons why anyone with a pulse and functional hormones should care. And they also have put down some supporting sweat equity, starting up a new social network site called I Power. What the hell... I signed up. Google, Yahoo and Teh Intertubes themselves were created by boob-obsessed dorks just such as these. The .gif protocol was invented so geeks just such as these could look at porn. And OH, the problems that they solved in order to work out how to create mechanisms to transmit kilobytes and kilobytes of grainy porn over 1200 baud modems...

Yep. Stuff Bill Gates and Steve Jobs wanked to back in the day. NEVER underestimate the power of horny net geeks. It took a decade or so to figure out that all this clandestine conversation could be made profitable, and the geeks practically had to jump up and down to get the attention of people with real money.

Like, say, Playboy Magazine, Hustler, etc. Yep. E-Commerce was developed by pornographers in order to bring us all better and more abundant porn.

And now, of course, that time is past, we all have to be adults - and therefore restrict our internet consumption to things that make money for the people that matter telling us the things they want us to know for the sake of their bottom lines and bonus packages.

Now, of course, that all the heavy lifting seems to have been done.

You will find lots of people trying to suggest that it's not even technically possible to usefully proved tiered access. Wrong. It's been done by Rogers Cable in Canada for years - simply by running their access to the unregulated, wild Internet with, if I remember correctly, a shared T1 access from their servers to Mae West. (this may have changed since I unplugged to move south.) This meant they had a captive audience for all their Intense Multimedia Content - All of it both Family Friendly and Intensely Lame, I might add.

It's not a particularly sophisticated solution, and you could literally network around them - if you had some combination of arcane knowledge and money. Or you could just accept that some of a t-one was better than dial-up. But I didn't even bother with their "interface," any more than I bother with Charter's. If I want to know what they have, I can get it at their website. I've never felt the need to even bother - and that, of course, is exactly why your cable provider would love to be able to narrow your range of choices.

Here's the problem. The suits are in this to keep control of "their" markets, their ability to influence your buying decisions and "lifestyle choices." You know, like whether or not to watch "Survivor" or "Something Else." They want to dynamically target advertisments at you based on their server records - and not have to scramble all over and pay money for independently collected data.

The last thing they want is for you to actually communicate to other people on your own and discover that actual duplex communication is empowering, interesting and useful. They would probably loved to have strangled eBay and Amazon at birth, had they even understood what they were looking at.

These are entirely new markets. And the suits are finding out that they are very profitable, and think they can make even more profitable markets if they can "control them."

But neither service would or could work that way. They work because people come to the market voluntarily with things that come from sources no central provider would ever think of providing. And along with the commerce, parallel with it, or utterly entangled with it, is communications, independant trust networks, entire new ideas and products and associations and co-operations, all of it making it possible for me to have fun and or do business with you or anyone else I want without any need for centralized bullshit, permissions, approvals, meetings or much else that is beloved by control freaks and Central Planners.

It's anarchy! Sheer anarchy! People are exchanging information (and of course, music, pictures, video and, God forbid, Ideas) on peer-to-peer networks!

Hell, you might actually discover an issue that matters to you and connect to some other people and cause real problems. You know, like that whole Ron Paul embarrassment.

Oh, yes, if you are reading this, I'm sure you can think of other examples.

Now think back to how things were before you got online. What did you know to be true then that you have come to realize was not exactly true, or even exactly not true? How much have you personally profited by having the internet instead of the means of communication we had before? How many things have you done that no amount of wealth would have made practical?

Oh, yes, life was simpler then. Well, no, not really. We just had the luxury of thinking that it was. Oh, and that Commies were out to kill us in our sleep, blissfully unaware that those so-called commies thought the same about us.

Now the same scam is being run upon us - but this time we can, if we want, actually fact check it, and while most will not, enough will that such schemes just don't work as well. Of course, this is the underlying motive for the whole unholy alliance between the Republicans and the Social Conservatives. Both long for the day when we actually did sit down, shut up, got a haircut and did as we were told.

Well, most of us. Some of us would not, could not do as we were told. Betcha at fifty I have outlived a disturbing number of people who thought that going along was the way to get along, though. Heart attacks, alcoholism, suicide, overwork - just plain stress as every implied promise was repudiated and we all took a decades long plunge into our current near-peonage and debt-slavery.

The people that want to "own" the internet are perfectly sincere in trying to do it, and it would not be an issue being seriously discussed if they thought they could not achieve their goal. It's been tried before. Hell, it's no different than building a castle beside a river so you can charge a "passage fee."

Is it fair? Yeah, if you keep the channels dredged and free of pirates. But if you do it so that you can make sure no competing traders can use the river... not so much.

And when you do that you just started a bull market in camel caravan futures.


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