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Friday, February 7, 2014

Our LGBT kindred in Russia, after the Winter Olympics in Sochi


I know it's been a while since I blogged, but I've been very very busy. However, here's something I think we need to be aware of.



If you're truly committed to helping LGBT Russians, you may want to consider how many you'll be able to take in after the Winter Olympics are over. 

Yep, that's what I said, take in. Vlad tipped his hand before the Olympics by supporting legislation outlawing homosexuality in Russia, and between the police and the hate groups, the LGBT community there very well may see a pogrom of epic proportions executed against them. 

I spent 14 years in special operations intelligence with a focus on the Soviet Union. I speak Russian. I've been to Russia. They hate gays and lesbians! They merely dislike Jews, but they hateLGBT people. 

Russia is huge. There are already prisons scattered throughout central Russia and Siberia that would take very little to be turned into prison labor - or extermination - camps. Basically, modern day concentration camps or gulags. Russians have a history of dealing harshly with those who oppose authority or who go against the grain. 

This is a pot that I've watched simmer since I was a soldier and it was still the USSR. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the break-up of the Soviet Union, and "democratization" - as such as it exists there - have kept the focus off LGBT issues and the real hatred a-bubble right under the surface. It took very little for it to boil over, though.

Post-Sochi, the best these folks can hope for is for Putin to denounce violence against gays. Putin is well respected among the Russians and they'll pay a certain amount of attention to his demands, but that's only if he requires this. Frankly, he probably won't. 

When Adolf Hitler began his persecution of homosexuals, Jews, and foreigners, he began with gays. All of those he sought to suppress needed to flee the country as even hiding would do no good once the pervasive cloud of Naziism took hold. Other nations reached out to Jews and foreigners, but then, as now, no one reached out to gays (or lesbians, bisexuals, or transgendered).

If others won't, who will? Will we be the new Germans, those who turn aside when they see their neighbors oppressed, or will we step up and say 'not only no, but HELL NO? 

Electronic activism won't do a damned thing for the LGBT community in Russia after the Olympics, if things should go sideways; the Russians don't give a damn what people do on Facebook and Vlad damn sure doesn't care. 

There may soon come a time when we - WE - will be called upon to open our wallets and our homes and not merely our gadgets. There may come a time when WE become the partisans who find it necessary to create an Underground Railroad for our sisters and brothers in Russia. Will we? Will we step up and say 'count me in', or will we scroll past that TowleRoad item and look for a slightly less disturbing article?

Well, I'll go on the record here, and now:  Count ME in! My home and my resources will be open to help. I hope that a peaceful solution can be achieved, but I give it almost zero chance.

Be vigilant, because when it starts, it will go like wildfire. One thing about having so many former military members, as Russia does, is that they know how to assault an objective and overwhelm it. They're actively organizing, even now, so they're already ready to attack. 

The Soviets kicked off invasions of both Poland and Czechoslovakia with single-word radio transmissions. My point is, violence against our brothers and sisters could happen at any time, like a lightning strike.

Let's not let the worst happen.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Why I Don't Trust Homophobes

In other words, "Thanks, faggot, for the math. Have an apple. No, not that one. Eat this one." - My guess as to what British authorities said to Alan Turing before his death by poisoned apple. Link to the Towleroad post found here.

If you think that this mindset is gone, you're delusional to the point of needing clinical assistance. Christians today know better than to say things like Phil Robertson recently uttered, unless they're in a setting of fellow bigots, homophobes, and misogynists, which he thought he was. I'd wager that he has no regrets about what he said, only to whom he said it.

Recall, also, that recent polls have shown that people claim not to harbor homophobic attitudes in a general or public setting, but will admit in private that they don't really care much for gays or what might happen to them. 

Now, combine those two things and you get a sense of what could happen and I will even go so far as to say what will happen unless a disruptive movement comes along and changes the projected course of our future history. I believe that there will be a gay holocaust, or homocaust as I've dubbed it. Look at the places today where bias and hate have sway: Sub-Saharan Africa, where a gay genocide is already underway, funded by American Fundamentalist/Dominionist/Evangelical/Extremist Christians; there's Russia where a coverup of the national homophobic zeitgeist is being carried out, at least until the Winter Olympics are over, then you can bet that there will be deaths; and right here in the US of A, where people like Phil Robertson not only exist, but they're cheered on and funded by their redneck and other hick supporters who think that he was just expressing his First Amendment rights. Which rights, many of them no doubt hold, include 'Matthew Sheparding' a few of us. And by "a few", I mean 'all'.

If you've ever visited a concentration camp and spent time reading or listening to the accompanying guides, the common thread among them is that the first internees didn't see it coming. They thought, oh, it can't happen here!  Uh huh. Visit Dachau, and as  you enter the camp and are passing through the museum on your way to the yard beyond, look carefully at the photos of the gorgeous German - not Jewish - young men who were used by the Nazis for "medical" experiments, most of whom are dead in the photos. They weren't Jewish:  They were gay.

If you think it can't happen here...  Well, I hope you're right, but I believe you're wrong.
(Also, read Sinclair Lewis's 'It Can't Happen Here', published in 1935)

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Fallacy In Conservative Logic, As Simple As Can Be

When conservatives start in on you about what they claim they have to pay for things you use, ask them if they have toll booths at the end of their driveways to pay a per-use fare for driving on public roads. If they fly, ask them if they had to go through yet another gated entry system than the rest of us who pool our resources so that whoever needs a public service, regardless that others who also pay for it don't use it, has it available when needed.

You pay for things that they use that you don't. They never mention those things. Sit for a moment and think of all the public things that are available to us as individuals, and consider those things which you or your family don't personally use. You're paying for things that others use, that you don't. We do that because we share the burden.

But you can bet your butt that anytime one of the constipated has to pay a penny for someone else's use, they're indignant to the point of secession, sedition, and...silliness.

I'm proud to say that I pitch in for others' use, because I know that others are pitching in for mine! It's this very thing that makes us a republic - that is to say, a form of government where we refuse to allow the mob to trample the individual - instead of a mob-rule pure democracy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's Not Wealth Redistribution; It's Wealth Redistribution Redistribution: Get It Right!

The US needs to raise taxes on the highest income groups. We need to realize that "trickle down" economics are a failed proposition.

Wealth sympathizers will say that the ultra-wealthy deserve what they have, but it bears remembering that most of the people employed in the factories and businesses owned by these individuals earn below-living wages, and often must draw public assistance in order to survive. We all have to pitch in, and thereby tighten our own belts, in order for the ultra-wealthy to remain ultra-wealthy. This must end.

I have no problem with wealth. What I have a problem with is earning that wealth by paying employees a sub-standard wage and pocketing the difference while forcing EVERYONE ELSE to pitch in enough so that their employees can simply live.

What we need isn't wealth redistribution, it's wealth redistribution redistribution. That is, this is taking the wealth STOLEN from the paychecks of employees due to below-living wages and putting it back in those paychecks relieving EVERYONE ELSE from the necessity of doing for the needy what the greedy - the ultra-wealthy - won't.

Stop allowing the ultra-wealthy - and their syncophants - to portray forcing them to pay living wages as wealth redistribution. It's not. It's wealth redistribution redistribution. Get it right!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Observations and Conclusions About The Global Financial Cancer

Over my lifetime, I've made observations and I came to the conclusion that there is a  large, deep psychological operation afoot, using even the merely-wealthy as part of the scheme. 

Much like war, which most of us abhor and wish to avoid, we keep being thrust into these petty quarrels with each other, and to what end? In most cases, they're just pissing contests, territory markings, and he said/she saids. 

I spent almost a decade and a half in the US intelligence and special operations community, watching an American President go on TV almost every day and convincingly read his lines, as he had done in his previous career, while sitting with factual intelligence summaries in my hands disproving each and every point he would make. I totally understand Bradley Manning's motivation, even Edward Snowden's. 

The most difficult part of it all to understand is that the major players all know the truth, that is to say, the truth that was and is only being kept from the citizenry of the affected parties. If the US knows Russia's secrets and Russia knows the US's secrets and we both know that the other knows those secrets, then from whom are we keeping the secrets? 

Well, they're being kept from us, from We The People. Because if we knew the truth, if we knew that the real reason that we have war and rumors of war is to beat the drums loudly, to tattoo a martial tune and get taxpayers to pony up for it, then we'd quit believing, and when that happens, the truly wealthy - not the merely wealthy - cease having all the power and it begins to accrue to us, the people, and that won't do.

Central banks are privately owned. That is, we don't own our own currency, it's loaned to us by private, uber-wealthy families invested heavily in arms, food, transportation, and energy. Chief among those, in terms of profit, is arms, and the world's wealthiest families are invested so many different ways in so many different tiers and layers as to make an onion cry in shame. One family alone has wealth and power equal, in all likelihood, to what the rest of the world owns. It's intermarried in so many ways that it ends up marrying far-flung members to each other, consolidating and cementing power, and the wealth that comes with it. 

But when you say things like that, people have been conditioned like Pavlov's dogs to salivate and scream "conspiracy theory", doing the work of the wealthy, for the wealthy, without them having to lift a finger, or spend a dime. They're assured of their power by virtue of never having to wield it themselves, by having the people they've inculcated rise quietly and do their will. When no communication is needed, the ability to ferret the rats out is diminished.

And that's what it is, a giant rats' warren, underlying the world's economies and sucking the life out of them. Why do we have constant inflation? Because nations no longer own their own money; money has to be borrowed from central banks - like the Federal Reserve in the US - at interest, causing inflation the second it's borrowed, before it's even printed. Imagine a single family that garners even 1% of the total world's wealth. Imagine that every child born into that family becomes one of the world's wealthiest individuals immediately at partum, but who will never make a list by Forbes, or any other. 

The world's economy has a tumor, a cancer, a quiet disease that drains the life out of the weak, impoverishes people who otherwise should lead comfortable lives in a global middle class. It causes war, famine, recession, even depression. When you crash the global economy, you break the merely-wealthy, diminish the middle class, and add to the billions who can cheaply furnish your factories with labor. When everyone loses so much, the ultrawealthy still have enough to afford luxuries, making them cheaper for them because of the glut lost by the merely wealthy.

 If I have $1000 and you have $100 and I crash the economy, you still have to buy the food that I - ultimately - profit on, grown with the fertilizer I produce, reaped with the fuel that I sell, and protected with the arms that I make. If we both lose 75% of our wealth, you're down to $25, and it will take all of that for your basic needs, from me, but I'll still have enough for niceties. Then, because I raise prices and keep your wages suppressed - remember, ultimately, you work for me, so I control wages - I keep your nose to the grindstone while the kids and I go to Ibiza on the 40-meter yacht.

What do we do? Expose the connections, don't buy the propaganda from either side (because it all really comes from just one side), and barter. Think you can't barter? You can, and for more than you think. I even barter with my dentist.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Female Complacence and the Rise of Bro Culture, Bromance, and DL Sex: Why Your BF Has Sex With Guys

What follows is a response to a thought-provoking piece on Daily Beast, found here:


 I think the cold, emotionless approach to casual heterosexual sex that many young women engage in is partially responsible for the rise in heterosexual males who seek the company of other males, whether hetero-, bi-, or homosexual. 

I see a direct correlation between the rise in heterosexual males' dissatisfaction with their opposite-sex hookups and the increase in "bro culture" and "bromance", but taking it even further, in the geometric increase in the number of males willing to accept, and sometimes even actively seek out, companionship with gay men. I see that many or even most of these relationships are usually on the DL, occur late at night, most often at the gay male's home, and are initiated either online or with mobile apps designed specifically for the purpose, and in which both parties are satisfied sexually and emotionally. That satisfaction may be to a minor degree as in a hookup where the straight male doesn't feel like he's going to get kicked out as soon as he orgasms, or even to more intense emotional affairs that might go on for months, or even years.

Because of this, I have come to the opinion, and I stress that's what this is, that there may be good cause to view as different sexual identity and sexual preference. That is to say that while many males who have sex with other males may still consider themselves straight, their actual preference may have migrated to homosexual contact, not only because they find the sex more fulfilling, but because of the mutual enjoyment, they feel generally desirable, and actually, specifically desired. 

That said, even in the most casual of hookups, usually for oral sex, the straight male may find it easier to orgasm, zip up, and walk out without fear of having to engage in making excuses for leaving so abruptly, often by prior agreement that nothing but sex will come out of it. Due to the gay male's sexuality, the straight male might view their contact clinically and emotionlessly, whereas with any female with whom he would hookup, he may feel that he runs the risk of becoming attracted.

I base my beliefs here on personal observations of the relationships my fellow gay males have with straight and bisexual guys, and on my own experiences with the same. I have had two 5+ year relationships with self-professed-straight males - one while I served in the US Army with a fellow soldier - and once since. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

WE THE PEOPLE DEMAND POLITICAL REFORM TO PREVENT ANOTHER SUSPENSION OF DEMOCRACY

This post is a copy of the petition I created on Credo, found here:
We the People, in order to prevent one party, one group, or one philosophy from holding our government hostage against the will of the greater populace, ask Congress, as the duly elected representatives of the American people, to enact into law in the Constitution of the United States, the requirement that no individual, no person, no corporation, no group, no entity however entitled or constructed, be allowed to sway the tide of political influence such that it unbalances the scales of democracy as we have recently seen borne out by the Tea Party’s actions, resulting in the government shutdown and the threat of debt default.

This cannot be allowed to happen again.

These actions have cost the People of the United States billions of dollars, amity among neighbors, and the respect of the world’s financial institutions. These actions were taken by a tiny minority of the wealthiest US citizens, the so-called 1%, against the good governance and common weal regarding all who call themselves Americans.

This cannot be allowed to happen again.

These actions have jeopardized the good credit ratings of the American people, the default of whose loans, caused by the actions of a few, would have magnified the debt and deficit. 

These actions were taken by a handful of proxies, elected to Congress by the people of their districts in the mistaken belief that they acted for the good of all, but whose actions served none but the purposes of their wealthy benefactors. 

This cannot be allowed to happen again.


We the People implore our Federal elected officials, the Congress of the United States of America, to cause to be written into the Constitution, such law or laws as needed to prevent the purchase of political power by any body, singular or plural, representing business, labor, government, religion, or other philosophy. 

To this end, we ask Congress to enshrine in the Constitution an Amendment such that no body, singular or plural, may contribute to any political cause, party, political action committee, or other group whose interests lay in changing the course of American politics, more than the sum of $100 at any time during any election cycle, and that a publicly available list be made accessible for viewing, both physically and online, kept updated, and clearly posted for viewing by one click from an organization's splash page on their website.

Why is this important?

As we've recently seen, wealthy special interests have commandeered the process of governance and wrested control from the majority. This has to stop. Already, during this one shutdown, we will lose an estimated $28B. If we had gone through the debt default, every person in the United States would have to pay more for everything they buy, for loans, for credit, and for general goods, since everything we buy is affected by credit at some point. 

All because a wealthy few persuaded their Tea Party proxies in Congress to hijack the normal diplomatic route to governance and suspend democracy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Government Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Dickheadery 'Splained

This blog post is in response to John Cassidy's article from 8 October 2013 in the New Yorker, found here.

Why America Doesn't Need a Stock-Market Crash:

John Cassidy makes some good points in this article, but his conclusion is wrong. He suggests that a major market drop would convince Congress to get its act together, and he's right, it would. And that's precisely why we don't want this to happen - the stock-market already wields too much power over Congress, witnessed by the fact that banksters still infest the back alleys, boardrooms, and other places of ill repute on Wall Street. If the market had no power over government, things like the Great Recession, a tool created to crash the middle-class and damage the machine that threatened to place the upper-middle uncomfortably close - within arm's reach - to the least wealthy of the ultrawealthy, couldn't happen. 

Oh, sure, a lot of people lost a lot of money in the Great Recession, but here's how that works: If I have $1000 and you have $100000 and we each lose 90% of our wealth, I'm down to $100 while you still have $10000. Now, I have to work for whatever shit wage you want to pay, buy your shit products whose prices didn't drop when the F(ing) Bomb went off in the market, and you profit from...well...every part of the crash; you still sell just as much crap at the same prices, and I have to take a second job - also at shit wages - to make ends meet, churning out more crap products...and the great market Ouroboros swallows its tail and the cycle continues like a giant printing press minting specie and banknotes for the market whose power is increased because of the crash.

A crash is good for the market and increases power over government because, ultimately, the government has to go to the markets with hat in hand and beg a loan to pay itself. 

Some of these financial guys are standing too close to the elms to see the forest. Hand the market a crash and you hand it the keys to the Treasury, and...oh, hell...do I really need to explain this any further?

I didn't think so.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Dumbing Down of America - An Ongoing Theme

The dumbing down of America is part of the downward spiral we've been in for decades, beginning with the rise of the Religious Right. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, and the entire Southern Baptist pantheon of religiots always played down to their parishioners, and to everyone else, for that matter. No politicians had the courage to stand up and say, no, the god-fearing, dumb-as-a-sixpack hick schtick doesn't represent the average American. Or at least it didn't then. Now? Yep. 

Jimmy Carter was part of it, as was Bubba, W, and now President Obama says that he and Michelle like watching 'Duck Dynasty'. Really? Horseshit!

Joe Camo didn't just appear - he was created. He's a bespoke model special ordered from Winchester and delivered by Walmart, built so that his ass fits church pews across the republic. Religion can't have upward mobility unless it's wearing RealTree and holding a Budweiser, right up until JC steps out of his F-150 and into his megachurch. The "elite", as Sarah Putin-Palin refers to anyone with more than two firing synapses, can sort the wheat from the chaff, so the only way to deal with them is paint them as Satanists - or worse, Liberals - and then to marginalize them. Us. You, I, and those with whom we associate freely.

We're 'the enemy' because we won't buy what these idiots are selling - at Low Prices, Everyday! 

I realize that it's a chicken-and-egg situation, and hell, I don't know which precipitated what, frankly. But I damned sure don't think that we'd have gone down this road if Richard Nixon and Ronnie RayGun hadn't needed a voting monobloc which was delivered by religion. 

Raise the sights and shoot for Mars? If God had wanted us on Mars, he'd have put us there! Teach evolution in schools? If God had wanted us to evolve, he'd have made Charles Darwin Pope!

Preachers, pastors, and priests are all paid liars, so they're a natural fit for politics. What they needed was a quiet flock who wouldn't complain, would take their daily dose of dogshit and call it tasty, and who would pony up for both the collection plate and politicians. 

Then along comes Fox News; a group of Libertarians dolled up in their expensive finery, elitists of the highest caliber, telling Joe Camo that we're the elitists, that we're the enemy - not political rivals, mind you, but the enemy - and that we're trying to take away their right to have no more rights. So, accustomed to sitting in a building at least once a week and being told what to think, they BELIEVE! They believe with their entire selves. No fiber of doubt among them, they believe! 

"Look hyeah, Dollbaby Purty Mouf, they's a nuu show on Fawks 'bout some mountin' men what livin' like real men live. We gon' watch 'at!"

"But, DaddyHusbandBrother, yew sed I culd watch Hunny Buu Buu!"

"Shut yer mouf and git me a beer, bitch!"


Maybe I ought to use that hammer on myself afterall.  

;)

Monday, August 26, 2013

When Does Real Broadband Come To Rural America? The Answer Better Include The Word 'Soon'

This post is in response to an excellent Wired article found here being discussed on Google+ right now.

The internet has passed from being a luxury to being a necessity. We use it to shop, pay bills, keep in touch, for entertainment, for learning, and to see the world. In those regards, it's no different than our highway or postal systems, both of which we regard as necessities.

Imagine if you had to travel overland between cities. Imagine how your produce would look if it came to you spoiled because of the time it took to get it to you because of a broken highway system.

If 30% of the US was without electricity or running water, we'd call it unacceptable, yet 70% with "broadband"* is considered acceptable because half of those without are in rural areas (The 2010 census shows 15% of Americans living in towns of 2500 or less or in no community at all).

I'm very familiar with this dichotomy. I live in extremely rural Georgia. Windstream is my telco ISP; no cable ISP or any other copper or fiber options. None. That leaves wireless, and as the article shows, stream one HD movie and you're done for the month. You would have to pay a couple thousand dollars per month in many cases to purchase the overage data allowance you would need to do things on a daily basis that most Americans never think about.

Satellite is no better than wireless as it again caps you at such a low level - 2GB - that  you'd only get through half of one HD movie and you'd be done for the entire month.

It's ridiculous, yet these companies are allowed to call these plans "broadband". The only plan Windstream offers in my area is 3Mbps down, 1Mbps up, and they almost never deliver that. Add to that that their 'packet loss' and 'jitter' are among the highest of any telco ISP and you can't even use a VOIP phone, play online games, watch online movies, or do anything that requires a rock-solid connection.

I've taken the matter up with my US Congressman, but despite being a Democrat, he's one of the handful of Blue Dogs left who take the side of Big Business over that of his constituents. 

The 'white space' ISP concept seems promising, but we're likely years away from seeing that...if it ever happens at all.

Imagine this scenario and see if you think it would be acceptable:  Having gotten tired of being unable to access the same services and products that urban- and suburban-dwellers can, farmers, wood-products producers, mined-minerals producers, energy producers all went on strike. Or maybe not a strike, just a slowdown. 

You go to the grocery, but there's no fresh locally-grown produce at all. Oh, your grocer bought some from abroad....at 40 times the price you'd been paying for the local stuff. Unacceptable?

You go to put gas in your car. Fortunately, you noticed the price per gallon before you started pumping. It went from about $4/gallon...to $160/gallon. Unacceptable?

You decide that driving isn't going to work, so you decide to upgrade your phone. You go to your wireless provider and pick out a phone, then find out that it's gone from $200 with a plan...to $8000...with a plan. Unacceptable?

If those things are unacceptable, how is it acceptable that those of us who bring you your food, your lumber, the rare-earth metals and other products that go into your phone, and your fuel have to do without the necessity that true high-speed internet is?

Unacceptable! But you can bet your ass it's coming, because rural Americans are pissed off!

*Broadband is a term the FCC allows to cover much more than what most of us would include in the word. My current Windstream "broadband" is 3Mbps down, 1 up. But I average half that. Wireless and satellite both advertise higher speeds, but give you an unrealistic data cap that averages half an HD movie. That's not broadband, that's an insult.

Civilian Conservation Corps Redux - It's Deja Vu All Over Again At Area 54

The rewiring of America could easily and less-expensively be done with a national service plan like the CCC. 

Besides rebuilding our transportation infrastructure, our electrical grid and fiber optic futures could be secured while simultaneously providing young - and older - with work that anyone would be able to look back on with pride; work that would pay instead of unemployment or other Federal, state, or local aid. Work like our grandfathers were proud to point to and say, "I built that!"

Imagine large tent cities where CCC 'Conservants' come in after a disaster and help communities clean up and rebuild in a matter of weeks rather than long months, or even years like after Katrina. 

Imagine government and industry partnering to provide Master Builders, Master Electricians, Master Masons, Master Plumbers, Master Roofers, Masters of all sort to train apprentices - Conservants - in a trade that they can use the rest of their lives and which will always be needed. 

Imagine that people learn to work together as one rather than pulling each on his own end of the rope so that nothing ever gets done. Imagine those Conservants going back to their communities after their 1-2 years of service to the republic and rather than sowing seeds of discontent, become the new voices of reason, just as millions of our brave warfighters have learned in their times of service.

The Great Recession was far deeper than almost anyone knew. We can point fingers, or we can fix it, but an industrious hand has no time for pointing. 

We have a national need. We have millions still out of work. We have gridlock in Washington, DC. And we have a proud history written in stone, wood, and forestland, the Crown Jewels which are our National Parks. The enduring structures built by our forefathers who served in the CCC are signs that when America wills it, we can - literally, if need be - move mountains. Our will can also protect them. Either way, it takes willpower to do it.

We don't have these testaments to the strength of our American resolve because our leaders thought small. On the contrary, they thought large, they thought in terms of centuries rather than decades, and they thought to wield the greatest weapon in our American arsenal in the war against apathy: American grit.

What we need is a President with the same, built from the steel that Detroit once hammered into the finest cars in the world. We need a President who can grip the reins of this mighty American beast and lead us down the path of renewed national service. 

He or she will certainly face opposition, mainly from Big Business whose current leaders are so blinded by short gains that they can't see the long game. That President will need to channel the man who championed our national park system - Teddy Roosevelt. That President will need to wield the bully pulpit if necessary and not back down from using it. He or she will need to lash opposition with the whip of public shame for failing to take up the cause until such time that they shrink from view and either join the cause, or retire in shame.

Between FEMA, our nation's military, and volunteers with needed skills who can teach Conservants, we can form a cadre.

There are over 11 million unemployed Americans. No single person or politician is to blame for that; we all share in that burden, and in the responsibility for its cause. But it's time to move on. This is how we do it.

       

Some of you will no doubt say that it will cost too much. I answer that by saying that we're already paying it, we should get something for our money. This will have the added value of an ongoing national service program that can help train those who have no plans for college, or help those who do set aside a special educational fund created just for Conservants.

Yes, it will be an enormous undertaking. Yes, it will require building a cadre. Yes, it will require purchasing equipment or repurposing military equipment and then letting our military have the new replacements.

Yes, it will take resolve. Yes, there will be a rocky path. Yes, there will be corruption. Yes, there will be dissent. Yes, there will be every sort of crime committed by the same demographic wherever they are.

Yes, we can do it.

Or, we can sit on our hands and hope this crisis fixes itself.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Star Trek, Class Warfare, and Workers' Futures

When you watch a movie like any in the Star Trek franchise, you notice that you don't see a lot of industry happening. Why? Well, much of it isn't relevant to the storyline and would even be distracting, but part of it is that so much would have been automated, by then.

Look at modern factories around the world. Cars are largely assembled by robots. Robotic shipping systems send my packages from Amazon to other receiving and sorting systems in other places so that they might make their way to me via the USPS, UPS or FedEx. 

I live in farm country. I remember doing some of the same tasks as a teenager in Summer jobs that I see being done faster and more efficiently by machines, now. Near where I live, a company makes farm equipment and is on the cutting edge of design and innovation. I expect that some of the farm tasks we currently see migrant workers perform will soon be done by machine. Tractors and other equipment are already being fitted with GPS and systems which guide them through fields to plant and harvest with an efficiency that humans alone can't match. 

So, what will happen to people? Are people going to be made irrelevant and useless? I don't think so. I think automation will free us to do the things we want to do, not just the things we have to do. We won't need to direct all of our energies to earn enough to feed our families and ourselves. We will be able to go, explore, see, research, meet, experiment, and do. Automation might be what saves us from ourselves. Think about it, if people have more time to go and meet others, that is to say to meet people unlike themselves and whom they might never meet if they're tied to a job, they're much more likely to come to understand those people and rather than war...we might wage dinner.

But one's keep would still need to be earned. Surely a future in which one need only contribute to the common weal by means other than manual labor or monotonous mental exertion would be able to find niches where each of us could help move the race forward, outward to the stars, and for those who just couldn't break the old mindset, perhaps help them to look out to new horizons beyond Earth's or even Sol's influence.

But there are roadblocks to that utopian future. First, those who currently possess the wealth aren't going to want to part with it easily. They're not going to voluntarily take on a hundred people to support who do no work for their pay, but who simply draw a paycheck. So the first obstacle is figuring out how to insure that wealth and income are more evenly distributed. This might mean massive purchases by government. As ugly as the concept of nationalization is, it might be the only means of avoiding massive unemployment. The alternative is a dystopian 'Elysium'-like future where the wealthy owners live wholly apart from the rest of us in our downtrodden world. In a sense, it's where we are now minus the separation that the future holds. We're already going in that direction; the wealthy pay less tax now than ever, meaning they get to keep their wealth and use it to avoid the very things which have come to burden the rest of us who are kept just above absolute poverty, many living paycheck to paycheck with no real hope of ever getting ahead. Make no mistake, the wealthy like it that way. 

Next, once the wealth and income are distributed more equally, you have to figure out a way to allow innovators special consideration without tipping the balance and returning to the current system of inequity. This will probably lead to more disagreement than any other area save the next one. But note that I said innovators, not investors. There will probably always be a class of people who believe that it's their right to profit as middlemen. There may be a place for them in the future, but not one that I can see.

Under our current system, wealth is usually passed on by inheritance, but inheritance will necessarily disappear - other than family mementos - in a crowded world. Do the math. If in one generation, 10% of the world's land area is owned, then that percentage will only grow in time. At some future point, it will all be owned, but the population will have exploded, increasing almost exponentially. So, because a relative few families own so much, many others must do without anything at all. That's not fair. It's not fair to future generations who would stand no chance to own something themselves.

The only fair way is the way some societies do it: When a person dies, his house and land are returned to public holding. If he has a family, then of course they can remain in that house, but it passes into their name on loan, not in perpetuity. If several family members died and left no one to occupy their homes, those would go back to public holding. Essentially, we would be saying that this Earth belongs to all of us, not just a handful of us; we just borrow it and therefore accept responsibility for keeping it maintained for future generations in return for free rent. A great deal of flexibility would accrue to the property holders so that they would be able to modify the properties as they saw fit as long as no permanent damage was done and the property was returned in at least as good shape as when it was given for use.

We would want to establish criteria for participation, too. Not work in the sense we see it now, but pitching in when new technologies need to be built or where talent could be utilized, something to earn one's keep.

On the one hand, there's Utopia, and on the other its opposite, dystopia. Our future probably lies in between those two extremes. We can make the same deal that we have for the last few thousand years and continue to go nowhere in fixing the problems that the 99% experience, or we can do as Albert Einstein suggested when he noted that insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting something different: We can change the way people see each other. We can treat others, everyone, as equals, even if we disagree with them. We can stop looking down at the family with the rundown car and clothes purchased at Walmart and we can start accepting that they too matter, just as much as anyone else.

Does that sound Utopian? If so, then it's probably the opposite that we deserve.

A Path To Our Republic's Future - Learning To Pull As One

We were taught, and we taught our children, that individualism is the highest form of freedom, but we failed to learn the lessons that our parents and grandparents learned from the Great Depression and two World Wars, times that brought the republic together through national service, much of which was in the military.

We've forgotten that the infrastructural backbone of our nation was built in part by the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps. The Corps built roads where none previously existed, bridges that span our nation's waterways and chasms, and the built-to-last structures we see in our National Parks and National Forests. Along the way, people learned trades that served them well the rest of their lives, they helped build the engine which powered America's greatest growth boom, and they often made friends for life serving alongside their fellows. They learned to pull together rather than pull apart.

I envision a modern CCC wherein every able-bodied citizen - and I consider many who are deemed 'disabled' to be able to help as they may - serves 1-2 years depending on job skills and possibly the ability to "re-enlist" for 1 term of 1-2 years, all of whom help our republic recover from the deeply-damaging Great Recession. I see Conservants help to rebuild our parks, roads, and bridges, and help lay a network of fiber optic trunks and dark fiber that will continue to serve us long into the future. I see them helping lay tens of thousands of miles of underground power cable, bringing electricity from the great wind farms of the Midwest and West to our cities and rural areas not capable of generating enough wind energy to meet their own needs. I see them building solar collection farms. I see them helping to clean up toxic waste dumps. I see Conservants laying the bricks and mortar on new government buildings built in a grand fashion to last rather than the brick-facade, steel building, temporary structures we now see. These would be monuments to the CCC's past and future accomplishments, built in a manner that will allow them to be flexible for future remodeling and which will stand to remind us that universal service is a boon for our society.

We see the path that crass commercialism, rampant runaway capitalism, and mass consumption has taken us down, all of what we've wrought being the result of individualism. A new CCC would again show us what the value of teamwork can accomplish. It would show us that it's far better to get to know our neighbors than to remain fearful of them through our ignorance. And a new CCC would elevate our republic back to the top spot among nations, not through idle boast, but through the quiet acknowledgement that comes from one's peers at a job well done. We would again achieve a status worth emulation rather than revulsion, and would do so by means of care and tender concern for that we love rather than ugly show of force abroad.

Our republic still reels under the staggering weight of the Great Recession, an economic kill switch on our future unless we rewire our way of thinking. We need a boost from within rather than a loan from without. The time has come for us to return to a program whose grand achievements still stand as reminders of what we can do when we pull as one.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Political Zombies and Vampires - Dealing With The Undead In The Next Election

I was wrong before when I thought that the political center couldn't be falsely spiked any further to the right, but now I believe people when they say that there's still plenty of crazy to go around among Conservatives. 

They're already so close to the edge that Google Maps shows them to be in 'Heere Bee Dragons' territory, but they've got their parkas and tinfoil hats on, strapped into their kayaks, and they're ready for the plunge over the Rim of the World with all moral compasses pointing due South.

Maybe they'll see the giant tortoise on whose back rests the Flat Earth that so many in their party believe in on their way down...out...up...or where-the-hell-ever it is they're headed.

I'm not sure that even they know, anymore.


The Tea Party wants to steam full ahead with every divisive tactic they have in their arsenal. I think they might, one day, miss having people who, you know, cast votes. I want to say that nothing would please me more than the Tea Party's passing, but I've been wrong about "misunderestimating" political craziness before. I might actually find that, in the future, they're the sane party on the Right. Just not right now. 

I saw a daytime photo of Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachmann, and Rand Paul together, yesterday. First of all, I didn't think that those people actually showed up in photos or mirrors much less could withstand the sunlight. But I thought I caught a glimpse of Bachmann's wife...sorry, husband...flipping me off in one of those Harry Potter-type photos where the subjects actually move around. It scared me less than it should have; I guess I'm getting used to the Politically Undead.

It seems like Hillary will probably run in 2016. That's a good thing, I think. The Right will be lined up against her and may trip themselves up trying to prevent her from staging Occupy West Wing. It's going to be a bloodbath, whatever happens. If she has any skeletons left in her closet, they're bound to get their bones rattled. This is once where osteoporosis might be your friend, if you're her; the skeletons could crumble and take the wind out of the rightwing nutfudge fringe's sails. 

It's just as likely that they'll tear themselves to pieces in the primaries. I'm buying popcorn futures as I type this. I smell blood, and it's got Type V for Vampire written all over it.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Post-Disaster Fraud and Victim Abuses; What Happens When FEMA Fumbles

This is an excellent Utne Reader long-read piece here on the legalized fraud after Katrina, and probably occurring after Sandy and the multiple tornado disasters in the Midwest, too. 

The officials at ICF, one of the for-profit organizations mentioned in the article, ought to be ashamed of themselves, but I'm sure a quick thought about their bank accounts helps to assuage any pang of guilt they might suffer. Frankly, the DOJ needs to take a hard look at ICF and other contractors and subcontractors. I bet you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a fraudster, but it's unlikely they'll ever be prosecuted, or even indicted. If the crime is big enough, so is the parachute. 

Add to all that that this is Louisiana we're talking about, a state where fraud, graft, and collusion not only have homes, but have bank accounts, IRAs, and beach houses (complete with bodies in the foundations). 

When I read that FEMA had paid $229K each for those crappy little 300 square foot trailers (shipping and setup included!), I almost shat my kidneys. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, FEMA? Are you guys drunk, stoned, or just so goddamned stupid that maybe the next time you need to buy something, you should send a teenager with a credit card, because they couldn't do any fucking worse! 

Tell me, who had his hand in somebody's pocket on that deal? I don't know what you got besides a bunch of grossly overpriced mobile homes, but I bet you had to see your proctologist and get a shot for it!


I know, I know, we'll never be free from fraud as long as humans are involved. But when the fraud occurs to those who have already suffered so much, who have lost everything, and whom the system has squatted and crapped on, it's exponentially worse.