Raging Against Rage

When I wrote this piece, the Tea Party was just starting to rise in opposition to Obama’s … well, it certainly wasn’t his being black that was an issue, so it must have been abuse of power or something like that.  But the process that got us to where we are today was just starting.  What was it like?  It was remarkably predictable, sadly.  Here we are, a bit lower than I ever hoped but really on the same path.  Enjoy this trip back in time.

The situations have been coming on strong for years, but they seem to be peaking.  Everywhere you visit on the internet, and sometimes even in public, we all run into someone who can take any subject and make it into a kind of right-wing rant:

“Sure is hot today!”
“That’s not evidence of global warming!”

It wasn’t long ago that characters and attitudes like this were the domain of the other side – those who were against The System, The Man, The Establishment, They.  Has everything flipped, or is this all one big phenomenon?

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Beyond Politics

This post from a year ago may seem like wishful thinking. After all, isn’t everything political these days?  No, actually, it isn’t.  We’re in a tribal war, and politics – the art and science of human interaction, especially for accomplishing social goals – is completely broken. 

Our times are often described as “after”. The term “post-modern” came into vogue decades ago as art and architecture slid back into a desire for structure and meaning. “Post-racial” turned into a handy way for white people to never talk about what was right in front of their eyes. “Post-truth” became a useful word in 2016 as the effervescence of “truthiness” fizzled.

Welcome to “post-reality,” the final frontier of after.

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Worker’s Paradise

This piece, from 2015, is a good one to mark the 200th birthday of Karl Marx. His analysis of history, and where it appeared that we were going, was remarkable in many ways, mostly in how badly it was misinterpreted.  As we move ahead to a market driven economy that is remarkably distinct from an industrial economy, an understanding of Marx (along with Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, and Milton Friedman) seems more essential every day – assuming it’s done properly, that is.

Imagine for a moment that you live in the most fair and equitable economy you can dream up.  There are some very specific things that most people in the developed world, especially Americans, would think would be a part of this.

There would be upward mobility, where family circumstances do not determine the kids’ future.  People could find their own way according to their own talents and choices as to what makes a good life.  Money would rarely limit dreams, as a free-flowing capital market would provide funding for good ideas at reasonable rates.  Most would own their own homes and have control over their own destiny.  Workers would own the company they work for, banking their retirement at a reasonable age on the place that they helped build.  Basics like food and access to health care would not be expensive.

Such a place is the embodiment of pieces of both the Democratic and Republican parties in odd turns.  This place of the imagination has also been  pretty close to the perfect state envisioned by Karl Marx, although it may be descending into an oligarchy (which I prefer to call “gangster state”).

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The Rats Know

Like all mariner tales, the story slips in like a schooner on a foggy, becalmed day. Rats, the story goes, might leap off the lines that held a boat fast to the dock if they knew the next voyage was doomed. And rats, as creatures of the bilge, always knew. When you see them on the lines do not sign on to that ship for she is bound for Davy Jones’ locker.

People today are rarely as superstitious as ancient sailors. But when you have far too many hours adrift at sea with no winds, like this Congress, the mind does wander. A change of leadership isn’t always up to the voters, as it were, but up to the crew and their desire to not miss the message of the rats.

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The Case for Pragmatism

This is a post from four years ago.  After a weekend of robotics I am plain exhausted!

You probably have a better idea about how to do something. But will it work? You’ll never know until you try. When you do give it a go, you may find that getting there requires a lot of compromises along the way before your dream is realized. Or, perhaps, you’ll simply give up – blaming your own inability to make it happen or blaming the world for being so darned unfair.

Both experiences are simply part of human nature meeting reality. We’re all idealists at heart, at least in a certain sense. Only a few people have the skills necessary to make those dreams a reality and much of the time they have to keep their eyes on the prize. A dream is one thing, but getting there requires wide-awake attention.

That is why an open, democratic political system can’t live by rigid ideology alone.

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Bizzy World

Did you see the news today? It’s hard to not simply react to the world around us. There’s too much going on, too much chaos, too much news. And that post on facebook – did you see what “they” are doing now?

There are many problems associated with this sort of life, starting with anxiety and unhappiness. Stress induced coronaries come to mind as well. But as bad as this is for a person, it’s even worse for people. Everything in our world depends on some level of planning, deliberation, and rational thought.

Good luck with that.

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Culture War Meets Cyber War

The news broke over the weekend, confirming everyone’s worst fears. The 2016 election of Trump and the Brexit vote were indeed engineered by one firm, Cambridge Analytica, which used millions of facebook profiles to build, then manipulate, psychological profiles of voters ready to be led like sheep.

It’s terrifying. It’s everything George Orwell warned us about. And it may be completely legal.

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