Friday, June 2, 2023

#153 / It's A Nice Day! (Global Warming Edition)

 

Look at my headline, then look at that picture. Makes you think I need to define what sort of a "day" I am talking about, doesn't it? That picture doesn't seem like a very "nice day" depiction, does it?
 
In fact, the day on which I am writing this blog posting really is a nice day in Santa Cruz, California, but that day is not Friday, June 2nd, which is the day that you may be reading this. I am writing this blog posting on Friday, March 24, 2023, and I am quite a bit ahead of myself, as you can tell, since the day you will be reading this (if you are reading this) is scheduled to be a date in early June, more than a month from the date that I am writing down these thoughts. I am hoping it's a nice day for you, too, on that future day at the start of June!
 
The above picture is from a newspaper article published on March 23rd (the day before the day I actually wrote this posting). The article that goes along with the picture, documenting the terrible weather we had just experienced, predicted that there was more bad weather to come, with another "atmospheric river" headed our way. Again, I am writing this posting on March 24th. I am hoping that whatever hits us in the next few days (predicted to be bad) will all be gone by the date you read this. 
 
I fear, though, that it's not going to be a good day in Pajaro (a little community just across the Santa Cruz County line, in Monterey County), even a month from now. Below is a picture of the flooding that Pajaro has just experienced, and what they are looking to try to clean up. The day I am writing this, March 24th, is the first day that residents evacuated from Pajaro have been permitted back into their homes, after flooding that occurred on March 14th and 15th.

 
It is Mark Twain, I guess, who gets credit for this famous aphorism, whether that credit is justifiable or not: 

Everybody Talks About The Weather But Nobody Does Anything About It
 
 
In fact, if we are honest with ourselves (and there are lots of reasons to try to escape confronting the realities), this famous saying is no longer true. 

We are doing something about the weather. We are making our weather worse, whether we think about floods, or droughts, or melting icebergs, or birds dying from extreme heat and falling out of the sky, dead, in India.
 
Global warming, which is the cause of the "Climate Change" that is the genteel way we have chosen to describe our worldwide crisis, won't be reversed in a "day," and not in a "month," and not in a decade, either. 
 
But every day that we find some reason to continue burning hydrocarbon fuels is one more "nice day" that leads, inevitably, to more misery and death.
 
Those who are poor, in Pajaro and India, are those who tend to be affected first, but don't think we aren't all "in this together." 
 
We are! And don't let some nice weather on June 2, 2023, fool you. If June 2nd does turn out to be a "nice day," where you are living, don't take too much comfort from that. We are all living on borrowed time. 

That's the truth of all these "nice days" we may be having - from here on out!
 
 
Image Credits: 
(1) - https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/california-drought-storms-tornado-weather-rcna76410
(2) - https://lookout.co/santacruz/weather/story/2023-03-11/hundreds-ordered-to-evacuate-as-pajaro-river-levee-breached-in-monterey-county
 
 

Thursday, June 1, 2023

#152 / That Seismological Needle

 

A month or so ago, as I confronted my morning newspapers, a question presented itself. Had I, or had I not, ever read anything by Max Frisch, a Swiss playwright and novelist? Frisch's picture appears above. 
 
I tended to think that I had read something by Frisch, but I couldn't actually remember. Unfortunately (and I do believe that this is unfortunate), my mind is such that I often lose contact with the past events of my own life, both big and small. My books (where books are involved with those past events) almost always contain underlines and notations, made in my own hand, and so I restore my memory of what I have read by finding a book that proves to me that I actually did read it. Seeing those annotations is what always restores my contact with the books of my past - or I probably should say, "my youth," given my current age and how long I have kept those books of mine around.

At any rate, I was able to find I'm Not Stiller, one of Frisch's most famous novels, securely wedged into one of my bookshelves. My underlinings and comments demonstrated, definitively as far as I am concerned, my past interaction with Max Frisch. 
 
My successful effort to reacquaint myself with Frisch was stimulated by a book review published in the May 20 - 21, 2023, edition of The Wall Street Journal. That review, by Max Norman, was titled, "Life and Other Two-Pipe Problems." That is, of course, the "hard copy" version of the headline on the review. If no paywall prevents you, you can click the link I have provided to find another headline completely: "Review: The Sketchbooks of Max Frisch." 
 
According to the Max Norman review, the "sketchbooks" (there are three of them) "are an act of creative self-observation." I am conveying one of Frisch's self-observations, below, this particular observation being what has inspired me to make the blog posting that you are reading right now: 

"We hold out the pen like a needle in a seismological observatory and we are not actually the ones doing the writing: we are written."
 
Doesn't that strike you as exactly right? The words that come from us, as we write them down (or as we speak them out), are how we learn who we are, and what we think. 

That's the way it seems to me, at any rate, and so I write these blog postings, one for every day, to learn what I know, and to find out the things of which I am capable of knowing. 

Frisch, in an earlier time, did it with his "sketchbooks." Keeping a "sketchbook," or a "journal," is a practice well worth pursuing! 

Frisch's thought is a thought worth having. 

We are written!
 
 
Image Credit:
https://www.wsj.com/articles/review-the-sketchbooks-of-max-frisch-1393df4d

 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

#151 / The Players, Or The Team?

 

Tania Ganguli writes about sports for The New York Times. She has reported on the N.B.A. and the Los Angeles Lakers since 2016. 
 
In a column that ran in The Times on Saturday, May 27, 2023, Ganguli reminded readers about how the Lakers lost four straight N.B.A. playoff games to the Denver Nuggets, thus leading to the Lakers' elimination from the playoffs. Those playoffs are now moving into the finals, in which the Nuggets will face the Miami Heat. This signal failure by the Lakers occurred after the Lakers had eliminated the Golden State Warriors, and was a rather rude awakening for those who expected more from the Lakers. 
 
Ganguli told readers that the Lakers' star player, LeBron James (pictured above), is "asking for a quick fix." Her headline said, though, that quick fixes "often fail." Actually, as I often do, I am quoting from the hard copy version of Ganguli's headline. The online version of this headline differs. 
 
I am not, really, a big sports fan, though I did become enamored, about eight years ago, with the Warriors. I find, searching my archives, that I have written about the Warriors on numerous occasions: 

As you can undoubtedly tell from this listing (more extensive than I remembered, and it's not a complete list, either), I have found that the kind of basketball played by the Golden State Warriors has provided lessons that go considerably beyond the realm of basketball alone. How to make democracy work, for instance, is something we can learn from the Golden State Warriors - and from watching what it means to play "Warriors' ball." 

The Ganguli column on LeBron James and his demand for a "quick fix" to the Lakers losing in the playoffs, is one more reminder (as provided by basketball but applicable elsewhere) that we are both individuals and part of a greater whole. We are "in this together." Individuals, alone, however great, do not, in and of themselves, make up a winning team, or ensure a winning season.
 
Understanding how important individuals are is critically important. They're important! A championship team must have some really great players. Every human endeavor (democracy and everything else) begins with and must include individual persons demonstrating individual and personal greatness. LeBron James, for instance, is an example of how important individual players can be. Steph Curry, who plays for the Warriors, is another example. Everything, in fact, begins with some one individual, somewhere. Individuals are where possibility is first manifested. 

In the end, though, basketball is a "team sport." So, too, is "democracy." So, too, are virtually all our human endeavors. We are "in this together." 
 
Thinking that one person can provide the "quick fix" for what is lacking is almost invariably a misguided notion. This is, basically, what Ganguli tells us with respect to what will make the Lakers into a championship team. The Denver Nuggets, quite likely the team that will win the N.B.A. playoffs this year, didn't look for a "quick fix." That's Ganguli's point:

The Nuggets have spent years constructing this team.

They waited while their point guard Jamal Murray tackled the long recovery that comes with an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Murray’s injury came in April 2021, after the Nuggets had built a roster that seemed capable of winning a championship. His recovery has delayed that timeline.

The reward for their patience is a team that has looked serene in challenging moments, whose players mesh with each other completely. This season’s newcomers understood the culture right away.
 
Outside the world of basketball, this same lesson applies. We can never achieve successful self-government unless we are willing, individually, to get involved ourselves. But... (and we should not forget this) self-government is, in fact, a "team sport." Impatience and "quick fixes" are unlikely to work. Long term personal commitments to political involvement will. 

 
 
Image Credit:
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/26/sports/basketball/los-angeles-lakers-lebron-james-retire.html

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

#150 / 200 Miles A Day

 

The picture is of Michael Collier (1957-2023), former newspaper editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was responsible for editing political news. According to the obituary printed in the Chronicle's March 5, 2023, edition, Collier was a "journalist's journalist." He died young - untimely young - in an automobile accident in Oregon. 

I was struck by the following statement in the obituary:

Kristin Bender, a news writer at KTVU, met him through a mutual friend 25 years ago and bicycled countless miles with him as he grew from a novice to a USA Cycling certified coach who liked to pedal 200 miles in a day. “He just really went for it and kept getting better and better,” Bender said. “He absolutely loved cycling and the outdoors.”
 
200 miles a day! I just thought I should make mention of that. That struck me. We should never underestimate our own abilities. That's what struck me in the obituary. I think Collier was on to an important life lesson. 
 
When I read the obituary, I thought about the blog posting I had just published that day. What Collier did was "Awesome," don't you think? Collier "just really went for it."
 
So might we all (in all sorts of different ways)!
 
 
Image Credit:
https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/article/michael-collier-dies-car-crash-17799894.php

Monday, May 29, 2023

#149 / Democracy Defined

 

Columnist Joe Mathews has some comments on Gavin Newsom's "Campaign for Democracy." Mathews more or less copies what Gandhi said about "Western Civilization." Gandhi is reported to have said, when asked about "Western Civilization," that he thought it would be a good idea

Mathews, similarly, claims that "Gov. Gavin Newsom is doing a good thing by launching 'Campaign for Democracy.'" The only problem, Mathews says, is that "what he's campaigning for is not democracy." 

Mathews defines democracy as follows: 

"Democracy is everyday people governing themselves."
 
If you click this link (Mercury News), or this one (San Francisco Chronicle), it may be that one of those newspapers' protective paywalls will let you slip by to read the entirety of what Mathews has to say. Let me just provide you with the essence of Mathews' commentary: 

Newsom’s campaign has little to do with the vital business of getting together with your neighbors to practice self-government. The governor instead is leading a large national media campaign to confront the sins of politicians with whom he disagrees... If Newsom wanted an effort worthy of the name “Campaign for Democracy,” he’d pursue a new constitution that provides universal suffrage and restores the power of local communities to determine their own fates (emphasis added).
 
I'm with Gandhi (and Mathews), but let me say that "democracy" is not something that a Governor (or a government) can "give you." 
 
If you want "democracy," if you want ordinary people to "govern themselves," if you really believe in "self-government," then ordinary people will have to take the power of government away from those who currently claim it (including Governor Newsom).
 
If you want "self-government," you will just have to get involved yourself!
 
 
https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/04/22/mathews-newsoms-campaign-for-democracy-should-start-in-california/
 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

#148 / Everyone Is A Created Being Of Their Own



Elliot Kukla is a rabbi who provides spiritual care to those who are grieving, dying, ill, or disabled. In a column in The New York Times, Rabbi Kukla noted that "over the past few years there have been countless stories in the news of trans and nonbinary young people's deaths by suicide." This doesn't have to happen, Kukla says - and Kukla tells us how to prevent it.

Citing to a 2021 study published by The Journal of Adolescent Health, Kukla notes that the odds of people younger than 18 attempting suicide is reduced by almost forty percent if they receive gender-affirming hormone therapy. In other words, when society recognizes and accepts transgender and non-binary persons for who they actually are, and supports them, the chances that persons who are so recognized might attempt suicide is radically diminished. 
 
Rabbi Kukla, who is transgender and non-binary, told me something I didn't know. I hope those who are reading this blog posting will consider what Kukla says. Online, Rabbi Kukla's column is titled, "Ancient Judaism Recognized a Range of Genders. It’s Time We Did, Too."
 
This year, more than 450 bills have been introduced in 44 states, according to the Trans Legislation Tracker, that make it harder for transgender and nonbinary youth to get the support, respect and health care they need to survive.

Within days of each other, Mississippi and Tennessee enacted bans on gender-affirming health care for young people. Arizona moved forward one bill that would ban from schools any books that promote “gender or pronouns” and another that would prohibit teachers from using pronouns for young people that differ from their biological sex, without a parent’s written consent. A bill in Florida could allow a parent to remove children from a supportive home with their custodial parent and take them across state lines to keep them from receiving gender-affirming health care — even if those children are simply “at risk” of getting that care.

This legislative attack is often framed as a battle between traditional religious values and modern ideas about gender. But we are real people, not ideas, and we have always existed, including within age-old religions. In my own tradition, Judaism, our most sacred texts reflect a multiplicity of gender. This part of Judaism has mostly been obscured by the modern binary world until very recently.

There are four genders beyond male or female that appear in ancient Jewish holy texts hundreds of times. They are considered during discussions about childbirth, marriage, inheritance, holidays, ritual leadership and much more. We were always hiding in plain sight, but recently the research of Jewish studies scholars like Max Strassfeld has demonstrated how nonbinary gender is central to understanding Jewish law and literature as a whole.
When a child was born in the ancient Jewish world it could be designated as a boy, a girl, a “tumtum” (who is neither clearly male nor female), or an “androgynos” (who has both male and female characteristics) based on physical features. There are two more gender designations that form later in life. The “aylonit” is considered female at birth, but develops in an atypical direction. The “saris” is designated male at birth, but later becomes a eunuch.

There is not an exact equivalence between these ancient categories and modern gender identities. Some of these designations are based on biology, some on a person’s role in society. But they show us that people who are more than binary have always been recognized by my religion. We are not a fad (emphasis added).
 
In the hard copy edition of the paper, Rabbi Kukla's column has a different title from the online title I have quoted above. In the copy I read, getting ink on my fingers, the title of Rabbi Kukla's column is the title I have placed on this blog posting - a statement that is profoundly true. 
 
May we, God willing, remember this: 

Everyone is a created being of their own.

 
 
Image Credit:
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/18/opinion/trans-teen-suicide-judaism.html

Saturday, May 27, 2023

#147 / Now, I'm Liberal......

 
 
Now, I'm liberal but to a degree
I want ev’rybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I’m crazy!
I wouldn’t let him do it for all the farms in Cuba*
 
City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute, is a rather conservative online source of news and comment - mostly comment. The picture above accompanied an article that appeared in City Journal, and that I plan to write about in this blog posting. The Bible and the flag properly indicate where City Journal is mostly coming from. I subscribe to its email bulletins, and a recent bulletin was titled, "The 'Liberal' In All Of Us." The article so headlined was, in fact, a review of a recent book, The Struggle for a Decent Politics: On “Liberal” as an Adjective. Michael Walzer is the author of the book. Fred Bauer wrote the review for City Journal

Walzer is identified by Bauer and City Journal as the "longtime editor of the democratic-socialist magazine Dissent." The magazine itself (click the link to the title) doesn't mention the "socialist" part of Bauer's characterization. Dissent calls itself, "a mainstay of the democratic left," and it lists the following contributors: "Hannah Arendt, Richard Wright, Norman Mailer, A. Philip Randolph, Michael Harrington, Dorothy Day, Bayard Rustin, Czesław Miłosz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Chinua Achebe, Ellen Willis, Octavio Paz, Martha Nussbaum, Roxane Gay, and many others." If you don't recognize a name, feel free to look that person up, to see how many of them call themselves "democratic-socialists." 
 
I am beginning this blog posting, as you can see, by attempting to throw just a little bit of shade on City Journal, for trying to prejudice its readers against Walzer and his claims on behalf of "liberalism." At least, that's how I would characterize what City Journal is trying to do. I, personally, don't have any great familiarity with Walzer, and I don't have any problem with that "democratic-socialist" label, either. I am betting, however, that most readers of City Journal don't much cotton to anything that has any taint of "socialism" about it. 
 
Why have Bauer and City Journal injected that "socialist" word, if not to use it as a warning to readers? Wikipedia, to the degree we think that it formulates its comments in a rather "neutral" manner, doesn't mention that Walzer has any "socialist" connections, but Wikipedia does tell us that Walzer has "written over twenty-seven books, to date, and has published over 300 articles, essays, and book reviews in Dissent, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harpers, and many philosophical and political science journals." Wikipedia calls Walzer a "public intellectual." I suggest that we dismiss Bauer's implicit warning about Walzer's supposed "socialism." What about his latest book?
 
Actually, I think Bauer kind of likes Walzer's book. Bauer concludes his review with this statement: 
 
While Walzer is forthrightly a man of the Left, his account of the “liberal” in The Struggle for a Decent Politics contains insights that might be valuable to people with other perspectives. Walzer reminds us that a spirit of temperance and openness can be in harmony with other commitments—and that maintaining those commitments to others may be an important part of preserving the “liberal,” broadly understood (emphasis added).
 
Since I haven't read Walzer's book, only the Bauer review, I don't know how well Bauer captured what Walzer is trying to say. What I have focused on is the title Walzer chose for his book. Walzer's title emphasizes that he is in search of a "decent politics." In fact, a "decent" politics must always give credit for good faith to those with whom one might disagree, politically. A "decent" politics must always recognize that our inevitable disagreements about what we should collectively do are not a reason either to attempt to marginalize those with whom we disagree on the issues, or (even worse) to extirpate them. Bauer seems to say that Walzer does call for a "spirit of temperance and openness" towards those with whom we may well disagree.

In politics, as in life, we are "in it together" - and that means that we are in it together with all our disagreements. Those disagreements define the "plurality" that Hannah Arendt has made the touchstone of her political writings. A glad acceptance of and recognition of our plurality, instead of a demand that our own views be accepted, and imposed, is where a "decent" politics begins. That kind of politics doesn't require that we "agree." It doesn't mean that "one side" has to prevail, and the other side "lose." Decency demands that we live together, and find a way to get along, despite our disagreements. Look at Bauer's closing statement again, and the highlighted text. That is what a "decent" politics requires, and it seems that this is what Walzer is saying in his book.
 
"Getting along, despite our disagreements," is not the same thing as capitulating to something you just don't think is right. As Bob Dylan has recognized (see the epigraph), our need is to live together - but we always do that only "to a degree." A "decent" politics won't try to make me let "Barry Goldwater" move in next door, and marry my daughter.

And I am not going to let that happen, either!
 
 
https://www.city-journal.org/article/the-liberal-in-all-of-us?wallit_nosession=1 

 

Friday, May 26, 2023

#146 / My Advice: Don't Bite

 
 
It appears, from a New York Times' article in the March 21, 2023, edition, that "Crypto Seeks A Fresh Start":
 
At a cryptocurrency conference in Denver this month, a group of singers clad in bright orange onesies took the stage to perform what one industry website later described as an anthem for the crypto faithful, a “blockchain ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’”

The chorus was a list of crypto’s most notorious villains, from the trash-talking entrepreneur Do Kwon to the disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, punctuated by four-letter expletives.

“In the next bull market, we promise not to use,” the song continued, “centralized exchanges run by these toxic dudes.” 
 
So, now the "Crypto Gurus" are referencing Bob Dylan. Well, I have previously commented on "Crypto" quite a bit.  Here is a list of some of my past pronouncements, with links. My past pronouncements have also referenced Mr. Dyan, and specifically his song, "Maybe Someday," with that line I find so congruent with with "crypto" is all about: "Maybe, someday, you will understand; something for nothing is everybody's plan!"
 
If you'd like to see my thoughts on cryptocurrency, please pick a link!
 

I have, as demonstrated above, laid down a lot of words on cryptocurrency. However, you don't need to read all my past blog postings to understand my basic message about cryptocurrency. In fact, I can sum up my thoughts in just TWO words, the same words I have used above, in my headline: 

Don't Bite!
 
 
 
Image Credit:
https://unclejimswormfarm.com/best-way-to-hook-a-worm/
 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

#145 / Let's Talk About Totalitarian Dystopia

 

That is Caitlin Johnstone, pictured.  One of her recent postings claims that "The Totalitarian Dystopia Is Already Here." Here is an explanation, from the column I have linked:

People imagine totalitarian dystopia as some dark threat looming in the future because they don’t understand how profoundly unfree we already are right now. They think we’re free because we can choose what to buy at the supermarket and call the president “Brandon,” but we’re not. They imagine that our rulers have some grand conspiracy to create a dystopia where they can force us all to do as they wish, not realizing that we’re already in a dystopia where we are doing exactly as they wish. It really can’t be improved upon. They’re just locking it in.
Seriously, think about it: what could the rulers of western society possibly extract from us that they’re not already getting? There’s no meaningful political opposition, no antiwar movement, no anti-capitalist movement, very little critical thought — they’ve got total control. Everything we do in this dystopia is designed to funnel profit into the coffers of the oligarchs and power into the hands of the imperialists, and all efforts to resist and change these funneling systems have been successfully quashed by mass-scale psychological manipulation.
This totalitarian dystopia looks like freedom because they let us more or less do what we want, while controlling what it is that we want to do (emphasis added).
 
Now, I think Johnstone is right that our current public policies pretty much reflect the interests of the "oligarchs," the large corporations and wealthy individuals that have such a disproportionate impact on how our politics, economics, and society operate. I absolutely agree that we need a politics that advances an antiwar agenda, and that puts a target on the back of racial and economic inequality. 
 
My reaction to our politics, however, is not to tell everyone that "our rulers" have "total and complete control." I don't think that is very motivating. In fact, I think it is profoundly discouraging. If anyone were to believe Johnstone's statements to the effect that we are under the "total and complete control" of an oligarchy, then we might as well just give up, right?
 
Instead of telling people that "our rulers" are in control, I prefer to remind everyone that we have a system of government that will permit ordinary people to "rule" themselves. "Self-government," however, only works for "the governed," when "the governed" get involved themselves. 
 
I would like to hope that everyone can see that "self-government" is, at least "theoretically," possible. Johnstone seems to say it's not. I say, let's take back control of the country ourselves - instead of telling ourselves that we can't do that. 
 
Taking control over our own affairs is actually what "self-government" is all about. Nobody else is going to do it for us, so we need to reallocate the way we spend our time - and a lot of us have to start making "self-government" our highest priority. If we were to do that - if even 15% of us were to do that - then I am convinced that we could actually achieve the kind of world we want. 

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Image Credit:
https://www.newartexaminer.net/tag/caitlin-johnstone/


Wednesday, May 24, 2023

#144 / A Revealing Little Phrase

 

Pictured is Roseanne Barr,  who is described as follows by Wikipedia:
 
Roseanne Cherrie Barr (born November 3, 1952) is an American actress, comedian, writer and producer. Barr began her career in stand-up comedy before gaining acclaim in the television sitcom Roseanne (1988–1997; 2018). She won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work on the show.

Barr became a stand-up comedian in 1980. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she gained fame through her role in Roseanne and other performances. Barr sparked controversy when performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a nationally aired baseball game on July 25, 1990. After singing the anthem in what many perceived to be a deliberately disrespectful manner, Barr grabbed her groin and spat. This performance was met with condemnation from baseball fans and sportswriters, and was called "disgraceful" by then-President George H. W. Bush.
 
Roseanne was recently mentioned in a brief little article in The New York Times, "Intricate, Eccentric, and Enraged." As is often the case, one little phrase in the article stood out for me, which led me to this quick commentary. Here is the final paragraph of the article, with that phrase highlighted:

Watch Barr’s early sets and you will find not only a quick comic mind, but also tightly written jokes. Neither appear here. Of course, it’s not just Barr who has changed. Comedy has, too. The scene is more political, polarized, desperate for outrage. Jim Jeffries prefaces the trans jokes in his new Netflix special by saying he’s doing them because he wants the press that Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais received. I’m sure he’d say it’s a joke, but I believe it. When Barr trots out a stale gag about gender, riffing on the question “What is a woman?” she gets a predictable roar. It’s a reminder that Barr once ran for president, and how much comedy and politics have blurred. Cheap nostalgia can be powerful in both arenas. At one point, Barr jokes, “The world has changed a lot since I was alive (emphasis added).”
 
"Politics" may have changed a lot, too. Our politics, today, does, at least to me, seem "desperate for outrage." I think that is a revealing little phrase.

It is my belief that a politics "desperate for outrage," a politics that wants to uncover everything that is tarnished, wrong, and despicable about our sometimes less than admirable efforts at self-government, is a politics doomed to send us all in the wrong direction. As most of us realize, "comedy" is often a good route to insight; it's a way to talk about truths that are hard to discuss in neutral terms. More and more "outrage" is what lots of people think is the "real story" about our government. 

That's not, really, the "truth" about politics - at least, not the way I see it - and if we keep looking for "outrage," as we contemplate our political world, we are walking away from - not walking towards - an opportunity to make our efforts at self-government succeed.

 
 
Image Credit:
https://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/roseanne-barr-transphobia-special

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

#143 / Time Is Money: Right?



I think about "time" quite frequently, and some of my reflections have appeared in this blog - often with a reference to the founder of Quakerism, George Fox, and/or with a reference to Hannah Arendt and her book, Between Past And Future. Try my blog posting titled, "Trucker Time," if you would like to know the general drift of my thoughts - and if you'd like to see what Fox said.
 
In The New York Times newspaper dated Sunday, April 16, 2023, there were some very interesting articles bearing on "time." The image above appeared on the cover of The Times Book Review, and almost the entirety of The New York Times Magazine, that day, referenced the subject of "time."
 
In "What Do People Do, All Day," as this article appeared online, you will get quick vignettes of different people, doing different things. You will get even more photos if you can access the printed edition. 
 
In "You Call This ‘Flexible Work’?", The Times Magazine not only has some great cartoon depictions, it raises the spectre of a "workplace" totally monitored and controlled, even though that "workplace" is in our own home. In essence, The Times is suggesting, the "Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938" is being undermined: 


The article that made the most immediate impression on me was a book review, by Tatiana Schlossberg, outlining what Jenny Odell has written in her recent book, Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond The Clock. The article attracted my attention largely because Schlossberg begins her review with the following statement: "Climate change is doing strange things to time."

That is a pretty intriguing statement, don't you think?
 
Schlossberg goes on to tell us, in her review, that "it is in the gap between present and future, where outcomes are not yet determined, that Jenny Odell enters with her paradigm-destroying new book." This statement is an allusion to Hannah Arendt's book, mentioned above, though Schlossberg slightly misses the point. In fact, as Arendt says, we live, inevitably, in "the present," and it is "the present" that is the gap just mentioned - that gap between "past" and "future" where we have the ability to take action and to create a whole new order in reality.

At any rate, I have sent away for Odell's book, and to persuade you that you might want to do the same, consider this, another statement from Schlossberg's review:

Odell often describes human time as “time pressure,” by which she means the fungibility of time that makes it interchangeable with “stuff,” thereby giving it a price — which is to say wage labor.) These two timelines are so mismatched, she writes, as to inspire feelings of “lonely absurdity.”

The phenomena of “individual time pressure and climate dread,” Odell writes, “share a set of deep roots, and they have more in common than just fear.” European colonialism, she argues, let loose upon the world an economy of extraction, both of human labor and of natural resources. Our problems stem from the economic model that makes “stuff” and assigns a monetary value to that which is priceless: our lives, the miracles of physics and coincidences and evolution that have given rise to everything on this planet, and our continued ability to live here (emphasis added).
Time is Money? Maybe not. It could be that we have just been tricked into thinking that it is!

 
Image Credits:
(1) - https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/07/books/review/jenny-odell-saving-time.html
(2) - https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/12/magazine/flexible-work-home.html

Monday, May 22, 2023

#142 / Paid $2 Million!

 

I obtained the image above from the online publication, Entrepreneur, which reported on how a ghostwriter made $200,000 during 2022, writing tweets for venture capitalists. The unnamed ghostwriter only had to work five hours a week to generate this income, so he had a "real job," too. 

As it turns out, "political" ghostwriting may be a lot more lucrative than that. On April 15, 2023, The New York Times reported that ghostwriters working for New York Governor Kathy Hochul were paid two million dollars for providing her help on her annual State of the State address. That was "taxpayer" money, of course!

I remain enamored with the very American idea that our nation is dedicated to a system of democratic "self-government," in which we, ourselves, ARE the government. You will perhaps remember that President Abraham Lincoln put it this way in his Gettysburg Address
 
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth (emphasis added). 
 
If there is dissatisfaction with government today (and I am assuming that you agree with me that there is a profound dissatisfaction with our government today - from all sides, and representing all political polarities), then isn't it true our dissatisfaction with our government springs from the fact that we don't, actually, practice what we preach, and that we don't do what we say we believe in? We can blame ourselves that we don't actually practice "self-government," but that doesn't stop us from being resentful of those who preside over the current governmental apparatus. 

When I was an elected member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, I talked about "self-government" a lot, and I contrasted "self-government" with a governmental structure that operated on the basis that we "elect the people, who hire the people, who run our lives." 

Our political "leaders" were elected, presumably, because a majority of voters thought that they would have the ability actually to lead and to "govern," but as Governor Hochul has demonstrated, our elected leaders, ever more frequently, are apparently either unwilling or unable to do their job themselves. They can't even write their own speeches. They need to hire the people who then do the work, and those who get hired tend to be all too well paid.
 
It is my hypothesis that if we could relearn how "self-government" is actually supposed to work, a lot of the current political polarization and dissatisfaction with our government would quickly disappear. Furthermore, I think we might start making progress on the things we desperately need to do.

And how is "self-government" actually supposed to work? 

"Self-government" requires that we get directly involved in government ourselves. That includes getting involved, ourselves, in the "politics" that gives us government. In other words, we need to reallocate our personal time, so instead of playing video games and watching films streaming to our television sets and computers, we need to go to public meetings, study governmental documents, meet with others on issues we care about, etc. If we want "self-government," then we need to recognize that "citizenship" requires work, and the work required is work that we need to do, ourselves. We can't hire "ghost-citizens" to do it for us.
 
Does that make sense? Unless that does make sense, then I think that our current situation is the inevitable default result, and we are going to continue to live with a system by which we "elect the people, who hire the people, who actually run our lives." 
 
If we do that, it means that we're not going to be happy with our government, and we're going to end up paying $2 million when the Governor of a big state has to make a speech.


https://www.entrepreneur.com/business-news/how-one-man-made-200000-last-year-ghostwriting-tweets/437249

Sunday, May 21, 2023

#141 / Environmentalism Is A Religion

 

The "Spread Great Ideas" website wants to spread the ideas of Michael Crichton (pictured above). 
 
Crichton, who died in 2008, was both an author and a filmmaker. Wikipedia tells us that Crichton wrote and directed Westworld (1973), the first film to utilize 2D computer-generated imagery. He also directed: Coma (1978), The First Great Train Robbery (1978), Looker (1981), and Runaway (1984). Crichton was the creator of the television series ER (1994–2009), and several of his novels were adapted into films, most notably the Jurassic Park franchise
 
Crichton also identified himself as a "dedicated conservationist," and the "Spread Great Ideas" website goes out of its way to emphasize that being a "conservationist" is quite a different thing from being an "environmentalist." Crichton was no "environmentalist," at least as he and "Spread Great Ideas" define the term.

In a 2003 speech at the Commonwealth Club of California, Crichton said that the then current approaches to the environment were inappropriate. He urged his audience to approach environmental issues with a "scientific" rather than an "emotional" mind, and he particularly claimed that "Environmentalism Is A Religion." Crichton claimed that "Environmentalism" is one of "the most powerful religions in the Western World," and that it is "the religion of choice for urban atheists." 
 
You can click right here for a full transcript of Crichton's Commonwealth Club speech. One basic thrust of Crichton's speech is that so-called "environmentalists" are "romantic" about the environment, and that their approach is not "fact-based." The dire predictions of the "environmentalists" are over-dramatized, the way Crichton saw it. "Faith" is substituting in for the actual truth. Here is how Crichton puts it:

If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all.

We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability.

Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday—these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don’t want to talk anybody out of them, as I don’t want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don’t want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can’t talk anybody out of them.

These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith. And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. "Facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief."
 
As far as I can tell, the "Spread Great Ideas" effort was begun by Brian David Crane, who self-identifies as "a digital entrepreneur and aspiring polymath." I have concluded, based on the following, from his website, that Crane would consider himself to be another one of those "Masters of the Universe," who have come to believe that they have a particularly acute insight into just about everything. Fabulous wealth can have that effect, it seems! Here is Crane's website self-introduction: 

I moved to Silicon Valley to be part of the original leadership team at Inflection. Thanks to several amazing mentors, I learned how to build and profitably scale web properties. To date, I’ve helped launch a handful of multimillion-dollar digital brands, including Archives.com, which was bought by Ancestry.com for $100 million, just three years after its launch.

While at Inflection, I created a side hustle: Spread Great Ideas, through which I began investing in digital brands and projects that advance causes which are near and dear to my heart i.e. liberty, civil rights, philosophy, and personal sovereignty. To this day, our team at Spread Great Ideas helps those brands profitably reach a larger audience.
 
I would probably never have found out about "Spread Great Ideas," or the Crichton speech, or about Brian David Crane, if I had not published a blog posting on June 29, 2015, which I titled, "Planetary Opportunities." A "Spread Great Ideas" staff member apparently found that 2015 blog post, and sent me an email, hoping that I would add a link to that posting that would tie to Crichton's "Environmentalism Is A Religion Speech." I assume that the purpose of seeking such a link was to spread the news about the "Spread Great Ideas" effort, which this blog posting will, I trust, accomplish. 

I want to say, however, that I don't really agree with the way "Spread Great Ideas" characterizes "environmentalism," and the way the group denigrates it. It appears to me that one of the "Great Ideas" that Crane and his "Spread Great Ideas" effort wants to advance is the idea that we don't need to worry very much, if at all, about the fact that we are, ultimately, totally dependent on the World of Nature. 
 
Human ingenuity, money, and a "can do" attitude can accomplish quite a bit - and I am all for them - but all that won't save us if we ignore what I said in that 2015 blog posting, linking to an even earlier one: "Nature Bats Last."


https://spreadgreatideas.org/resources/speeches/michael-crichton-environmentalism-is-a-religion/
 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

#140 / Doom Loop

 

Lots of people seem to be thinking that we are caught inside a "doom loop," or maybe several different kinds of doom loops! An explanation of what it means to be caught in a "doom loop" can be provided as follows: Things are bad, and are getting worse. Everything bad that happens makes some other bad things happen, so the doom gets darker, and the doom gets deeper, and catastrophe ultimately ensues. 
 
A "doom loop" signifies that a possible catastrophe will become an inevitable catastrophe. Things are bad. We're in a "doom loop," and doom results. You get the picture! That "doom loop" thinking appears to be going around.
 
The diagram above shows how the Euro-zone is heading towards an economic disaster. The discussion that accompanies this "doom loop" diagram references an article in The Economist.
 
To provide another example, the San Francisco Chronicle has been speculating about the future of the City's downtown. That future is being described in the following terms: "Can San Francisco dodge a 'doom loop'?"
 
The San Jose Mercury News has the same concern, with its article titled, "Bay Area exodus: Wealthy resident departures worsen ‘doom loop’ fears."

New York Times columnist David Brooks is also worried by the "doom loop" phenomenon: "My greatest fear," he says, "is that we've entered a distrust doom loop: People are so untrusting of their institutions and their neighbors that they are unwilling to reach out, to actively renew their communities and their country, and so the dysfunction will continue, and the distrust will increase, and so on and so on."

Vox, an online magazine, has written about the future of public transportation, and Vox is at least trying to think positively, and to find some way out - some way to escape the "doom loop" they see coming. A recent article is titled, "How to save America’s public transit systems from a doom spiral."
 
In the Silicon Valley, where you might expect to hear applause when a major new technology is created, people are not, apparently, all that happy about the deployment of the newest A.I. chatbots. "Catastrophic thinking" seems to be prevailing, with all the characteristics of a "doom loop." At least, that is what David Wallace-Wells is reporting. Wallace-Wells is the author of The Uninhabitable Earth, and it's pretty easy to discern a characteristic set of "doom loop" circumstances in his report on global warming.
 
oooOOOooo
 
I am quite familiar with the "doom loop" phenomenon - and also with its antidote. I still vividly remember my first exposure to a discussion that opened my eyes to the phenomenon known as "circular and cumulative causation." I found out about it when I was an undergraduate student, at Stanford University. More or less by chance, I picked up a slim little book by a Swedish economist, Gunnar Myrdal - who was, by the way, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. The title of the book I am talking about is Economic Theory And Under-Developed Regions. That book was published in 1957, and I believe it is now out of print. I value the copy I have! Myrdal makes clear that the phenomenon he describes can operate in both directions. His book was about how to stimulate economic development in underdeveloped regions. His prescription was just like a "doom loop," but moving in the opposite, and positive, direction. Start doing good things! Everything good that happens means more good things can and will happen, and..... Voilà!
 
My understanding of reality postulates that we live, most immediately, in a "human world," and that this human world is created by our own actions. Nothing is inevitable in the world we create. "Doom," specifically, is not inevitable. It is quite possible that "doom" may eventuate, but "doom loops" are not self-generating or self-sustaining. We can observe what has happened in the past, and what is happening now (and we may well be able to take measurements within a real, and growing, "doom loop," and see that such a "doom loop" is in progress). However, the continued progress of the "doom loops" we discern is not preordained. Description is not destiny. The reality we create - the reality that eventually precipitates itself from our past and current actions - will ultimately depend on what we do, and the actions we take. "Possibility" (including both good and bad possibilities) is the commanding category for the world in which we most immediately live. "Inevitability" is not!
 
Because that is true, and because the principle of circular and cumulative causation can operate in both directions, our future is never "predictable." Something new and revolutionary may occur, and that can break any "doom loop" whose progress we may be observing. 

When we start hearing about all sorts of "doom loops" (as we currently are), we need to begin charting new set of processes that can change the direction of the processes now underway - the ones taking us towards "doom."

Because we tend to see ourselves, mostly, as "observers," as opposed to seeing ourselves as "actors," the "doom loops" that we construct in our minds, based on the accurate observations we make, seem to take on the quality of reality itself. 

However, this mistakes our actual situation. The processes that result in the realities we inhabit are always "loops," because the realities we inhabit are all the product of some type of circular and cumulative causation. So, let's not be fooled. The "doom loops" we observe are not "inevitabilities." They may seem like it, but that's not an accurate perception of where we really are. "Observers," when that is all they do, find themselves trapped in the "loops" they see around them, whether those "loops" are doom-tinged or benign. Forget the "doom loops," at least insofar as you are tempted to think them as defining some sort of inevitable reality that is coming for us. 
 
Action is the antidote. 
 
Let's do what we need to do to start those "loops" turning in a positive direction. "Possibility," not "inevitability" is the nature of the reality we actually inhabit. Mesmerized by our "greatest fear," to use the words of David Brooks, we may forget, as we watch those "doom loops" spiral, that we can take an action that will change the world.


 
Image Credit:
https://blog.forumias.com/what-is-the-doom-loop-in-the-euro-zone/