Sunday, January 31, 2016

Every American Should Know This

I have often heard Americans complain about how bad the USA is to its citizens. This kind of complaint is rife especially in urban environments and poor communities. I would like to point out something.

The poverty level in the USA according to is about $11,000 for individuals and $24,250 for a family of four. The average per capita income in America as of 2012 was $42,693. The percentage of the US population living below poverty level as reported by the government is 14.5% today, however that does not take into account the welfare and entitlement payments disbursed. When such figures are included, the poverty percentage falls to less than 5%.

In spite of hyperbole to the contrary, America's war on poverty begun in the 1960s is actually working, albeit without media or public attention.

That this hidden success should become widely known would not serve the government well. It would neuter the class warfare argument that serves both parties so well. Their corporate bogeyman would lose its teeth. If the true poverty level is only 5%, then why does it seem to be so much higher? The answer is as simple as your television set.

Public opinion and policy is driven by the media. With the advent of television in the 1950s, the developed world began to consider itself better informed, wiser in the ways of economics and politics because of the wealth of "information" the media presented. Only recently have people begun to cast a jaundiced eye at the media, becoming more suspicious of exactly what is being said versus what is actually going on.

The art of propaganda has a long history. It has been the tool of dictators, republics, and monarchs. Keeping the public in the dark about the truth has always been the best way to control their attitudes and therefore their loyalties. We need to know the truth if we are to elect leaders who will serve us best. If we do not stay informed and investigate the claims made by those with obvious agendas, we will always be manipulated and toyed with. We will always be subjects instead of masters.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Fraud of Political Debates

Since the Kennedy/Nixon televised debate of 1960, the public has been subjected to what amounts to political theater of the worst kind. From that point forward, the presidential election cycle turned into a popularity contest rather than an actual search for the most qualified candidate. 

At no time has this been more evident than today. The circus of the Republican party candidate debate has rightfully been compared to a "cage-match." The dignity of that first debate is a long-lost memory. Instead, we are assailed with back-biting, insults, and infantile posturing.

This embarrassment is leaking over into the Democrat debates as well, although not as exaggerated. Nevertheless, what should be a national concern has become puerile entertainment.

At the helm of this farce is Donald Trump, a man who knows how to manipulate people and the media. By force of personality, not unlike other megalomaniacal figures in history, he has dominated the Republican party's field and gained popular support from a public starved for something other than the corruption Washington has become so well known for. Not that Trump is any different in integrity than anyone else in the field, just that he speaks directly to that dishonesty, owns it, and is up front that he will use it to best advantage. He is the villain we love to hate, an anti-hero for the 21st century.

But how useful are these debates? What do they really tell us about the candidates that we can't glean from other sources -- newspapers, television ads, magazine interviews, the internet? Nothing, really. They are a massive waste of time. And money.

It's just entertainment for a nation so despairing of having honest politicians in office that they have resorted to making the race for the most important political office in the US into reality TV. The debates are a fraud and a shame on this nation. They should be allowed to die a dishonorable death with this election cycle.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Let's Stop Fooling Ourselves, America

The USA government can only be described as a social democracy. Originally designed as an oligarchy (not a representative republic, as most might imagine), its inevitable evolution was into a social democracy. The theater of party politics perpetrates the illusion of popular vote influence on governmental power but what the USA actually has is a mostly beneficent despotism masquerading as democracy. This masquerade is critical to the stability of the government itself, because if the true power behind the government was revealed, it would lead to terrible consequences. It might mean the end of the USA as a nation and that would be a loss to the entire world. The theater and masquerade is absolutely necessary because the American experiment, as contaminated and tainted as it might be, is as close to the best in human government in the world.

The American media does a magnificent job of forwarding the theater of American politics. In actuality, the popular idea of "one man, one vote" is wrong. As the US Constitution was written, the individual does not directly vote for the most critical office, that of the president. That privilege is reserved for an independent body: the electoral college. None of the members of that body are required to vote as per the wishes of the people they supposedly are sent to represent. They may vote as they wish. In other words, if 100% of the people they are supposed to represent vote for a Democrat, they may vote for a Republican and the people would never know. This may sound unfair, but the truth of the matter is, it prevents the country from falling apart.

Democracy at its base is rule of the mob. It is rule of the majority, and the majority follows the loudest voice (i.e. people like Donald Trump). Social democracy is rule of the majority for the benefit of the loudest voices. The squeaky wheels (social champions) get the most benefit, often to the detriment of the majority itself. "Social justice" is its battle cry and often leads to unintended consequences like failing economies, higher crime rates, and a broken social structure.

The subject of the democracy of ancient Greece as an ideal has often been raised. What is not well known, however, is that even that system was rife with corruption and cronyism. Democracy is not a government to be admired. It is to be feared and avoided at all costs. 

Bottom line, there is no perfect government because human nature is so disparate and unpredictable. If every person was willing to work for everyone else and share everything they gained or earned, socialism would be the best government. The truth is, human beings are selfish and vicious at their core. We have to settle for the American experiment because it allows for human nature while striving to do justice for the individual. 

We need to stop denigrating the US system of government and work to perfect ourselves as individuals. The government is not some abstract entity. It is us, the people, with all our problems and hatreds and loves and foibles. 

Be better to yourself and others. Eventually, government will reflect that.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Remembering the Space Program

On January 28, 1986 the Challenger space shuttle exploded seconds after launch, killing all aboard.

All the magic went out of the concept of reusable orbital vehicles. Unlike the generation that saw the deaths of the Apollo 1 crew as a reason to try harder to reach the moon, this generation gave in to critics of the space program and abandoned the important work the program had just begun to accomplish. The shuttle program was the first step in taking humanity offworld, of opening up the resources of the entire solar system to our use as opposed to dooming us to an increasing problem of dwindling natural resource.

The shuttle program was 14 years old at the time, but the shuttles themselves had only been flying for about five years. The novelty of watching a shuttle launch had not faded. We were used to success and the explosion was confusing at first, then horrifying. After Challenger, every shuttle launch engendered anxiety and tension. The worst manifested in 2003 with the loss of Columbia. The space shuttles were supposed to be used only 20 years. The program went on 30 and put a permanent station in orbit. It accomplished more than any previous space program and forwarded our progress into space even more than the moon missions.

Today NASA is reduced to going to Russia with hat in hand to beg rides to the International Space Station. It still operates robot exploration into the system, but that is no substitute for human exploration. It is imperative that human beings maintain a primary role in space exploration. Robots are fine for gathering data but it takes a human mind to interpret and develop that data into usable information.

People have sacrificed their lives in the space program because they believed in its goal - to send mankind into space. Using robots is not enough to do justice to their sacrifice. We need to build a base on the Moon and then push on toward the outer planets.

It's time to leave the crib and grow into adults.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Government is Not

The definition of government has become needlessly complex.

In its purest form, government's purpose is to enforce social peace and defend its citizens. To that end, governments maintain law enforcement agencies and military armed forces. It establishes the limits of civil liberty by defining criminal acts. In other words, it legislates how we are allowed to deal with each other.

What government is not is a supporter of individual freedom. Government by definition deals with the greater good of the society as a whole, as defined by its own influence. Individual freedom is often, too often, at odds with social good. In morality, finances, and social relationship, individual freedom often diverges from "social justice."

Government is not interested in "social justice" beyond exercising its power over the populace to maintain the illusion it is interested in "social justice." A happy populace is easier to control than an unhappy and if the populace believes the government is being fair, they remain happy. "Social justice" is a term used by statists to elevate governmental judgment over individual freedom. It is a term favored by people more concerned with short term issues than with long-term consequences of incurred debt or badly researched regulation.

Government is not interested in educating the populace. An educated populace is difficult to control. It questions government decisions, debates government legislations, and in extreme cases will act to remove the government itself. 

Government is not interested in reducing debt. Government is not in the business of earning money because it can simply print the money it needs. "Debt" to government is a null term. Usage of the term is an expedient tool to manipulate the populace into accepting heavier taxation and larger, more expansive, more intrusive government.

Finally, government is not about personal welfare. It is about influence over, regulation on, control of, and management of citizens. No one should develop dependence on such an entity for their livelihood or emotional/social well-being.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Problem with Words


When we try to communicate, something is always lost in the process. Even if we speak the same language, the process of thought to speech to hearing to comprehension is rife with landmines of misunderstanding. Each step compromises on the previous until what is comprehended by the listener is seldom exactly what was conceived by the speaker.

This problem is compounded in written communication. Where face-to-face conversation depends much on subtle and no-so-subtle body and facial expression, the written word has no such ability. True, a person's written vocabulary is typically three to five times larger than their spoken, but this hardly makes up for the cultural and social equities the physical gestures, facial cues, and odd vocal tones which are often critical to the meaning of the thought being expressed.

Too often, the listener is more interested in formulating what they have to say than to hear what is being said by the speaker. This sets up an insurmountable obstacle to understanding and inevitably leads to problems in communicating. It is critical, before beginning and conversation concerning a subject that could be considered controversial, to first define fundamental terms in a way both parties agree. A groundwork must be laid before the structure of the conversation can even be framed. Without that groundwork, no exchange of ideas is possible. What results is a mere confrontation of ideas that probably have no bearing on either speaker's point.

Semantics -- "the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text." It isn't just a term to read about in passing. It is a term to consider as critical to effective communication.

To discuss politics, religion, or social issues, one must first come to an understanding of what the terms being used by both speakers mean to each of them. One person's definition of religion is probably different than another's. It is almost certain that one person's definition of abortion is different from another's. Unless the difference is first identified and recognized, there is little point to debate. Conversation then becomes argument, and argument leads no one to understanding.

Define. Listen. Question and inquire to understand. The exchange of ideas can be very rewarding and enlightening, but first you must understand the difference between definition and interpretation.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Welcome to the Changing World

The United States is about to go through a major change.

The generation that revolted against the Vietnam War is now the establishment. Their children have been brought up to distrust the government or depend on it, love it or hate it. Increasingly, the government has extended its reach into the lives of its citizens until more than 50% of the US population is dependent in one fashion or another for their livelihood on it. Welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and the myriad other programs that provide "free" services to the poor and those who believe themselves poor have entrenched the government into a society that should no longer consider itself free.

The largest employer in the US is the US government. Its leverage on US society is undeniable.

That is why the upcoming 2016 Presidential elections will signal a change unprecedented in US history. The exercise of extra-constitutional control over the legislative branch by the current POTUS and SCOTUS has negated the checks and balances intended at its drafting. Congress, by becoming polarized and ineffectual, has allowed this. It is entirely possible that within the next decade the US will become a de facto dictatorship.

Each of the front-runners in both the GOP and Democrat Parties are potential despots. This should not be a surprise to anyone who has been following their diatribes in the media. From the hubris and megalomania of Donald Trump to the economic ignorance and social blindness of Bernie Sanders, from the intolerance and inflexibility of Ted Cruz to the corruption and cunning of Hillary Clinton, the election stands to be not just a choice of the lesser of several evils. It stands to have long-range consequences that mean an abandonment of constitutional values in favor of expediency and political prostitution.

This state of affairs has not suddenly descended on America. It has been building slowly since World War II, when the country lost its innocence about warfare on August 6, 1945. Gone was the thought that wars could be waged on a controlled scale, that nation against nation was still a way to settle differences. With the deaths of thousands at a single strike on Hiroshima, the world found itself faced with a new and terrible possibility. Planetary suicide.

For those of us who remember the days of "duck and cover," today's "terrorist threat" is nothing new. It is simply another way of saying "nuclear shadow." It took the world coming to the brink in October 1962 for that shadow to begin to dissipate. What will it take today?

If we elect a president who will press the military option we will face that threat head on and maybe survive. If, on the other hand, we elect a president who will draw back our military and concentrate on internal social matters, that threat may evaporate altogether. There are no guarantees either way.

As just another citizen, we are most of us in the same boat as that peasant farmer who tilled the soil while the Axis and Allied powers threw shells at each other. We are the people trying to stay alive while TPTB arm-wrestle over who gets the largest cut of the financial pie.

The good news is, the little guys may be the only ones left standing when the markets crash and the military option flares. People survive. Governments fall.

Remember that, candidates.