Saturday, October 07, 2017

Dream or Dystopia?

I read this piece today, then this one. Reading the first I thought, as one commenter posted, "Well, it's choice, isn't it." Addiction to anything is a choice not to find a way to let it go, even when we recognize its detrimental effects in our lives. But we are indeed on the cusp of some kind of massive global failure of what we consider to be civilization, as posited by some of the Silicon-Valley-defecting groundbreakers interviewed in the first piece. The only question is whether mankind will have time to bring it about before nature destroys enough of us and our infrastructure to render society as it stands obsolete. It won't be the end of the world - the Earth will go on with or without us barring anything short of whatever kind of collision it would take to actually vaporize the planet - nor even of humankind, but depending upon how this society ends an evolution may be triggered in future generations that leaves whomever remains of what we currently are to be their Bigfeet.

Social media will most likely play a significant part in any widespread human-caused destruction of civilization. It always has, if we recognize that the traveling bard, the town crier, the seafaring merchant with tales of distant lands, and the local gossip were the Instagram, Facebook, Google, and Twitter of yesteryear. Whether or not they bowed to corporate concerns - and how they did if they did - would have been a matter of whether it was personally worth more to them to tell the truth as they were aware of it, instill trust in their listeners, or whether it was worth more to take some money here and there to skew things, or to be swayed by threats to themselves or their family members, or because their business wouldn't survive the blacklisting they'd experience if they didn't get on the bandwagon, or whatever the case might happen to have been. ("Hey, Homer... Can you make Odysseus sound a little larger than life? The country could use a hero right now.") How corruption creeps into whatever media outlets are available at a given time and place is as varied and unpredictable as into what social groups and structures corruption is able to creep.

Human nature hasn't changed. Our specie, like most, has always had leaders and followers, visionaries and naysayers, teachers and students, and so on. Human nature isn't separate from nature as a whole but a part of it, which is where the second article comes in. I was touched by the account of Mr. Thoreau's perspective as given by Ms. Wulf, the author. (It also made me think of a wise young lady named Cecily with whom I haven't spoken in a while who named her daughter Walden after Mr. Thoreau's seminal work, which is cool but isn't what demonstrates her wisdom so much as does her even-handed, level-headed approach to life.) We can probably influence natural cycles and disrupt the natural order in ways that help to hurry about our own demise, sure, but that demise is inevitable in any case, someday, at least in terms of humans as we know ourselves.

If we go to space, we know that changes will occur in our bodies over time. As generations pass, some changes (mutations, evolutions, call them what you will) will be beneficial and passed along, some won't. Even if we can create ideal conditions in our spacecraft during travel, any new planet we attempt to colonize will require a certain level of adaptation, and after some number of generations have been born on that planet a segment of the population will come to believe that the idea that they came from 'somewhere else' or from the people their ancestors, our descendants, depict as us is figurative, mythical, while others will adhere fervently to some version of their origin story as the absolute truth, although things will be lost and added in translation and interpretation over time. Social, religious, and political systems will be built around various ways of thinking, wars will be fought, won, and lost in the names of those institutions, civilizations will rise and fall, and those people, our descendants, will experience setbacks and ages of enlightenment just like we do, but in their own way and within the parameters of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

If we don't leave, or for those who remain here, at some point even if we don't blast ourselves into oblivion there'll be a natural disaster or a series of disasters that wipes out our infrastructure to a great enough degree that we're reduced to survival. We might have hundreds of thousands or even millions or billions of years before that happens (unlikely), or it could happen today. It could be happening right now and we're just not aware of it yet. The one thing there's no question about is whether such an event will occur. When it does, depending upon what it is, there's a good chance that some segment of humanity will live through it and maybe even rebuild before too many basic genetic changes take place, maybe even surpass where we are now technologically, but given a catastrophe sufficient to push us back to the Dark Ages or even further, most likely before we ever see this place we are again in terms of knowledge and technical understanding, conditions on the Earth will have changed enough to force some degree of evolution. Either way there'll come a time when our descendants will no longer consider us to be the same specie they are.

In a hundred years they'll try to prop up and preserve whatever of our buildings are still standing, for the sake of nostalgia. In a thousand years they'll dig up our artifacts and monuments - whatever's left thereof - and wonder at by what means people as primitive as we must have been made these structures. Mount Rushmore will no longer be maintained and will have eroded, and many people will have changed significantly, so they'll see it and think it almost resembles a carving by some kind of sentient being, but one wouldn't assume it was truly human in their standard by the look. Some will believe it was either made by or depicts extra-terrestrials. Some will say it's a natural formation that just happens to look constructed, but couldn't've been by the primitive people of our day.

Only a few of our structures and tools will survive for very long once there's no one to maintain them, and most of the papers and plastics and silicon to which we entrust our stores of knowledge will break down relatively quickly. Items stored in salt mines like this one and other protected places might survive, if the facilities themselves do, and the people who dig them up will marvel at what great leaders we must've been honoring with these amazing repositories of curious objects. Why did we leave them there, what are they, and how could we possibly have created these structures in which they're stored?

I will say, as long as we're here the human mindset will probably inhabit a body with somewhat similar characteristics to how we are today: Not particularly powerful in any one way, but useful for getting about and for manipulating the materials of our reality, with our bipedal stance and our opposable thumbs. If we look around today, we can see that our specie has reached a population large enough that various segments within it are on one hand evolving to more specialized purposes and on the other doing what individuals in any of the social species do when there are too many of them and things are too easy, getting mean and unhealthy and cannibalizing their own.

The Bible talks about, after the End Times (huh?), a 1,000-year period in which humanity lives in essential peace, which could come about in one of two ways. Either whatever precipitates 'the Apocalypse' leaves so few humans on the planet that individuals and small groups can go whole lifetimes without running into one another, or whatever's left of humanity after an event or series of events so devastating that life as we know it is over learns a lesson and makes a conscious decision to avoid the same fate. I suspect a bit of both is most likely to be the case, and it seems plausible that it would take a thousand years to forget an event of that scale if we were rebuilding from a somewhat small percentage of the current population. It would take time for social groups to absorb enough people to move from survival mode to building/exploring/experimenting/inventing mode, and then time for various government systems to be introduced, and then time for some to start to fail, others to thrive... A thousand years would be long enough for the next phase of humanity (the mindset) to reach a point where there's reward in conflict, division, and destruction. Unless, as has been the case at times in the past, the next phase of humanity is very long-lived, but that seems unlikely unless conditions on the Earth change so much that they're entirely different than us organically, which may be the case.

Is it possible to move from where we are to some dream incarnation of civilization, some utopia, without first experiencing an end to our current age of technology and convenience and relative comfort? Maybe, if we stop taking the seemingly easy way through life and start putting effort toward being the best we're able. If we choose to work at patience, tolerance, understanding, listening and hearing, helping without controlling, seeing and comprehending, those sorts of things, then we'll start to make decisions that are best for the widest possible number and variety of people, and therefore best for us (and vice versa). It's a good idea to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and expect something in between. Maybe the world will just go on as it has been, human population increasing, resources dwindling, dissension rising, forever and ever, amen, but in reality it's a self-limiting problem, as there comes a time when a system built on that sort of foundation must fail. We at MOA have been saying for years, if we as a now global society choose to take responsibility and initiative, control the demolition and have in hand a plan for rebuilding, work toward strengthening our collective social and physical infrastructures and networks, we stand the best chance of moving forward in positive directions. We have little choice but to take whatever nature brings our way in stride as best we're able, protecting what we can, adapting as we go, and always knowing that anything we build can be destroyed by the power of those forces but that collectively we have some control over our human contribution to that destruction.

We believe that humans have been down this road before, on local, regional, and global levels at various times, and that some of the oldest known civilizations on the planet, ones many of us look at as primitive, have been through cycles of technological advancement but decided that living in balance with nature was the most stable path. Other societies that are aware of this reality that nature is no respecter of persons choose to build some structures in the most stable possible places while most of their people live in structures no one will miss when they get washed away in the monsoon or carried away by the tornado or tsunami, built of cheap, accessible building materials and easily replaced. Some societies truly believe that we can build structures that will endure to the end of time, and some of those structures will indeed almost certainly last long enough for archaeologists to dig up what's left of their concrete bones and find curiosities left behind by their occupants in ten-thousand years. Each type of civilization will leave evidence of its passing in its own way, and whatever's found of them will be studied in great detail, ascribed with all sorts of meanings, perhaps interpreted as being temples and tombs and sacred spaces, taken to represent what we held dear, we primitive almost-humans, in our time, what we were willing to go beyond our means to accomplish.

Maybe one of the seemingly-impossible things we'll do will be to experience a paradigm shift in consciousness that allows us to solve all our major ills and learn how to work around the minor ones while advancing our lot in life by leaps and bounds without having to first tear down what we've built in the midst of an enormous temper tantrum. Still and all, no matter how perfect anything seems to one or many or most, there's always a contingent that's dissatisfied. That's (human) nature's way of preventing stagnation: Our compulsion to find or create an issue gives us a problem to solve, in the process of which we inevitably find something new to pursue, so dream leads to dystopia, leads back to dream, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. The story ends where we decide to stop telling it in an infinite, eternal uni-/multiverse. When we decide we're already in a dystopia we can start looking forward to the coming dream.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Women's History Month

If you know us, you know that we're not feminists, we're humanists. We believe that every human being has inherent value, and that the actions of each individual should be given merit where they can regardless of our personal feelings, or even the apparent contribution of those actions to society. If a person's choices aren't doing overt and widely-accepted damage to the social fabric, those choices may be of value to someone else even if we don't see or understand it.

You may also be aware of our views on women's empowerment, that we believe that for anyone to wait for power to be given is foolish and wasteful, that each on their own must find the power within themselves and make of it what they will. If the external universe doesn't respond in the way we'd like, it's up to us to take the initiative to work at understanding why, make the changes we're able, and, if necessary changes are beyond our reach, find another approach or move on to another goal.

Some might say, "This is what I want and I won't give up until I get it even though I'm just not going to," and those individuals have invoked their power to make a choice, the choice being to fight ineffectively for an impossible outcome. This is the appearance given by the movement for women's empowerment.

There are good examples out there of women who don't wait for anyone to give them power. They set their minds to things and then go about getting those things in whatever way they're able within the framework of their reality. In general, they tend to be women who neither bow to nor fight against the men around them, but simply work with them, understanding that those men are also human and addressing any issues that arise as a result of that humanness in a kind yet assertive way. If that bothers the man, if he can't accept his own or her humanity without having to have some feeling of dominance or control - if he's insecure, in other words - the empowered woman will do what she can to acknowledge and address his fears, but will not allow his reactions to dictate her actions. If the wider world around them punishes her for expecting to be treated with the same respect she gives, she'll take that punishment - head held high knowing that she's done nothing wrong, i.e., with grace - and she'll make a choice moving forward whether to continue to deal with that world or whether it's time to move on. These are truly liberated, empowered ladies, just as men and transgendered folks who deal with the world similarly are powerful in their own right.

On the other hand are the weak, the needy, the angry, the entitled, and so forth and so on. Shaking fists and rattling cages may change things, but in the end those changes are rarely productive in any real way. So a law gets passed that protects some human rights. The other side of that law will be that for some contingent those same rights are violated. So we change social norms to punish certain behaviors through shame. That will only serve to exalt other behaviors that are just as egregious if perhaps in different ways. Every faction has its own ideas about what's right and wrong, shameful or worthy of glory, and each will tailor their laws and punishments to their own ideas. The only thing we all have in common is that we're human, and human nature can't be molded by force.

True power is made manifest in human terms only when individuals have both the ability to think and act in their own best interests, and the understanding that each of our individual best interests are most fully addressed when our social network is healthy and robust. When any one of us can feel truly confident that, when we fall - and we're human, so we all will from time to time - our world won't crumble, that when we rise we'll bring others up with us, and that when we're just going along and getting along the rest of the world is too, we'll all be confident in our personal power. We won't need to control anyone but ourselves, because we can rest assured that others are perfectly capable of getting done what needs doing in their own world, and that they'll feel free to ask if they could use a little help, male, female, child, elder, no matter who they and we are. We won't need to look down on any social group, nor will we see others as being in some unattainable elite echelon. Financial issues will be a moot point, as power won't lie in money, but in one's inherent sense of self-worth and -awareness. Fame or infamy will be natural by-products of life in that system for those who choose them, but will no longer drive people to make choices they might not otherwise just for the sake of achieving either.

That said, we owe much to women throughout history. What's interesting is how the focus has been shifted over time. Women have always practiced medicine, for instance, and worked and been influential in law and the sciences. It was mandates made to standardize those fields as professions that excluded women from them for a time by excluding them from the training needed to become 'professionals' - women did what needed to be done and found their ways into those institutions of higher education regardless - and it's a pathological need for 'equal' to mean 'the same' that has held the female gender back from making as much money as men, given that biologically women are and always will be different than men and adjustments need to be made in dealing with either. Perhaps in general women are less driven by money - ladies who've made their mark in what have become 'typically male' fields have done so because they loved what they were doing without need for financial compensation (as have many men) - and it's counter-productive for so much of this argument to rest on whose paycheck is the biggest. These arguments serve only those for whom wealth is power and in no way advance the cause of women being treated as equally valuable human beings in their own right. Paychecks will come into balance when society does, and not before.

On the subject of 'equal but different': No two humans are the same. Lines cannot effectively be drawn around any gender, skin color, culture, religion, or any other defining factor and all the people within those lines said to be 'of a type'. At the same time, there are traits that can be said to be more or less common amongst any group of individuals, including groups that are inclusive of people from every sector. For instance, in the case of women vs. men, the obvious difference is that women have babies and men don't. Not every woman is necessarily maternally-oriented, some men are more paternal than others, but the fact of the matter is, babies can't yet be grown entirely without a human involved, and that human - at this time and Thomas Beatie notwithstanding - has to be a woman. Some women have an easier time being pregnant than others, so may be able to work right through birth with barely a blip while others need to sleep a lot and stay off their feet. Some may be great with the day-to-day demands of child-rearing while others are emotionally healthier and more able to be moms if they spend some time each day away from their children. Some may not be equipped or have the desire to bear or raise children at all. In a healthy society there's room and respect for all of those ladies. The same can be said of men and their varying degrees of ability or desire to be involved with the raising of children, and there's room for each of them, too, if we're willing to stop making it all about a paycheck or some imagined 'social norm'.

What's happened instead is that in the name of being 'equal', many women have felt the need to be the same as men, or in other cases to use their sex or sexuality to control and dominate men. There are women who're just inherently sexy or sexual beings, and that can be useful in the workforce when the time and place are right. There are others who tend by nature to be more aloof, and again, that's appropriate in some workplaces. There are also men whose natural tendencies run along similar lines either way. Too many right now, in the name of gender equality, are altering their natural behavior in order to conform to an unattainable social standard. Women find themselves having to be bitchy in order not to be seen as inviting harassment, while men can't be friendly for fear that it will be seen as such. Women feel they have to put off or forego having children in order to keep up with their male counterparts on the career ladder, while men are being asked to accept things like 'menstrual leave' without resenting, in a world that screams for equality, that there's no equivalent break offered to them. Again, the problem isn't the acknowledgement of the reality of being a female (or male, or black or white or any skin color between, or Christian or Muslim or Jewish or atheist, etc.), but the idea that egalitarianism is about treating everyone the same way rather than giving everyone the same level of individual respect, which inherently means, yes, everyone will be treated differently to everyone else, as is appropriate to their personal makeup, their goals and dreams and desires, their choices, and everyone's needs will be met.

The history of women is rich, varied, and interesting, and wouldn't exist without men. Truly influential women are and always have been those who are most inclusive, who work under a notion of basic human worth and the rights of every individual to make their own decisions based upon what's important to them. They understand that the vast majority of reasonable humans given the opportunity to make a well-informed choice without being subject to unrealistic expectations or untenable restrictions will make the choice that's best for themselves and any others who are involved or affected. Let's honor their legacy by setting aside the fight in favor of cooperation and mutual respect all around.

Friday, February 24, 2017

President Trump is a Genius

The one thing the newest leader of the free world understands better than anything else is, the more heavily a person invests in a thing - be it real estate, a wager, or a political opinion - the harder they'll fight to justify their choice. For people of a certain mindset, the introduction of empirical evidence to the contrary will spur them to dig in and resist a change of heart with even greater fervor (see any active comment section anywhere for proof of that), and the more divided a contingent is kept the easier it will be to set various factions at one another's throats, thus not only allowing for the hegemony to exert greater control with less effort, but distracting from the actual agendas of the ascendancy.

By the time enough people get together and begin to wonder why they're fighting each other when they all want the same thing, there'll be little left with which to bring about an evolution (always preferable to a revolution). Those who are most convinced that an authoritarian leader intends to work for them will be the first to be thrown under the proverbial bus and the last to let go of their belief in the autocrat's loyalty to their cause.

President Trump has understood this peculiar human quirk better than most for a long time, given that it's the very mechanism by which he's convinced buyers that an apartment in one of his establishments, made of the same stuff as any other high-end building, is worth some margin more than a non-Trump-branded residence; by which he convinced those who rented rooms in his resorts and gambled in his casinos to keep putting money in the slots even though the house always wins, and convinced his now 'special advisor' to buy the corporation that owns them after declaring it bankrupt early in Mr. Trump's successful presidential run; and by which he convinced a large enough portion of the voting populace of the United States to propel him into the highest office in our country, arguably the most powerful position in the world, that he was 'their candidate'.

It should be noted that the four or six, depending upon who you ask, bankruptcies filed by President Trump's corporations allowed him to forego paying many of the same Americans - who helped build his establishments - for whom he claims to be a supporter, while protecting his own money and allowing him to claim losses that allowed him to pay fewer taxes.

It should also be noted that Mr. Icahn, because he holds no specific duties, isn't required to divest himself of any of his outside business interests, including Trump Entertainment Resorts. Mr. Icahn is serving as Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform.

Another example of this president's moxie is his ability to make his opposition underestimate him by running off at the fingertips via Twitter, speaking directly to his fan base with statements that run the gamut from immature to self-aggrandizing, while dashing off his signature - in today's example, flanked by multi-millionaire business leaders - on a variety of sweeping executive orders by which he bypasses congressional oversight, allowing him to act effectively as a dictator.

Yes, Mr. Trump's genius runs deep and wide. Are we ready to bow to his brilliance?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Let President Trump Do Whatever He Wants

Let's face it: There are nearly 7.4B people on Earth at this time. The question of how many this planet can support is essentially unanswerable, but current widely-accepted estimates stand at around 10B, which we're expected to reach between 2050 and 2100. Of course, the accuracy of these estimates depends in large part upon levels and types of consumption and rates of procreation, but without diving into all the variables explored so well and thoroughly in each of the two articles linked above (such as the need for a majority of people to stop consuming animal products, for instance), we'll just go with the stated numbers for the purposes of this post. You get the gist.

More important in any case than whether the world is overpopulated or quickly on its way toward being is the question of with whom it is currently populated. Depending upon your source, President Trump's recent approval ratings lie between 39 and 55% in the US. Current statistics for his approval rating worldwide are hard to come by, but he's angered many of our allies and is cozying up to some countries with which relations have been historically cool or cold. So a third to half of Americans along with countries with large populations like Russia and in an odd way China are happy with our new president, and who are the rest of us to discount their opinions?

So what does he want to do, and what does it have to do with population limits?

Well, we know he wants to build a $21.6B wall on our border with Mexico. That figure does account for the estimated cost of buying a bunch of private land (some of which may be mitigated by invoking eminent domain), but doesn't account for costs associated with building in areas that require new roads to be built or in which it's impossible to build roads, nor for certain legal issues that would have to be dealt with in regard to various standing agreements with our neighbors to the south. (This figure also doesn't include costs associated with newly ordered detention centers or the hiring of 15,000 new agents and officers.) President Trump says Mexico will pay for the wall. President Nieto says it will not.

MIT says no matter who pays for it, the figure just for the proposed wall will be somewhere between $27B and 40B. Interestingly, they also say,
However, because of several factors, including improvements in the Mexican economy and increases in Border Patrol staffing, fewer people are making the attempt [to immigrate illegally]. Officers caught 331,000 people crossing the Mexican border in fiscal 2015, less than one-fifth the number in 2000.
At this time, there's no clear plan for extracting the cost of this wall from Mexico. The one plan that was advanced and subsequently walked back was a tax that economists agree would ultimately end up being paid by US consumers. The current language is that 'all available resources' are to be diverted toward the costs associated with the effectively impossible goal of preventing all illegal immigration from Mexico. Whether President Trump is aware or not that resources from other agencies can't simply be moved into Department of Homeland Security coffers is also unclear. Whether he is or not, two things remain true under that stipulation, the first being that if 'all available resources' are used to prevent immigration from the south there won't be any left for combating terrorism - according to the former Acting Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, Alan Bersin, Canada's border poses a far larger threat in terms of terrorists entering our country than does Mexico's - and the second being that those resources are derived from US taxpayer dollars, many of which come from undocumented immigrants.

Ironically, the more immigrants we deport, the fewer US citizens we'll be able to support through Social Security programs like old age and disability insurance, worker's comp, food assistance, and Medicare/Medicaid, and the more expensive many goods and services will become, affecting most harshly those in need of such programs.

Looking at another of President Trump's agendas, he'd like to limit the reach of or eliminate altogether the EPA, as its regulations are too restrictive to businesses, as well as reduce or eliminate NASA's research into climate change and its potential effects. He's keeping an open mind as to whether climate change is a fact, but feels the human factor is overstated. The problem with the whole debate around whose fault it is, on both sides, is that it no longer matters. To whatever degree humans have played a part or if it's an entirely natural phenomenon as part of a normal cycle, or even if one chooses to disregard it altogether, right now climate-driven weather is causing issues that are affecting agricultural production across the board. Even if we're looking at a short-term cycle, global food supplies are being affected.

In recorded human history, spanning only about 5,000-6,000 years, most famines have been constrained to a region or nation, sometimes a continent, although the famine from 1876-79 affected several continents. Current conditions seem poised to bring about starvation on a global scale, in part due to climate-related weather events, and in part due to a population that doubled in size in the forty short years between 1960 and 2000 from 3B to 6B people, and which currently covers every habitable part of the planet, with only a small part of that population living in situations in which self-sustenance is possible, and an even smaller part of it actually equipped and prepared to self-sustain. The US is the world's largest exporter of food by a wide margin, so even if current weather events only affect us it's effects on the global food supply are noticeable, and the fact is that we're by no means the only country whose agricultural production has been and is being adversely affected thereby.

Famine, often brought about by drought, subsequent flooding (this link contains images that may be difficult to look at), and/or unpredictable temperature fluctuations, is inevitably followed by disease, which then brings about pestilence ('pests' are largely nature's cleanup crew) and more disease, and so forth and so on, until things settle out and whatever humans are left are able to move forward again. President Trump's plans bring in both mitigating and accelerating factors, and given that large-scale disasters along these lines also tend to usher in adjustments in attitude that are currently sorely needed in much of the developed world, it's not a bad idea to let him have his way.

Here's why: The effects noted earlier of reducing the southern-immigrant labor force, in particular rising costs and a reduced ability to offer aid to the vulnerable and poverty-stricken, will encourage many members of the global populace to explore and implement measures toward self-sufficiency. Then, when the effects of weather are compounded by the effects of the lack of arable land, potable water, breathable air, and resources produced through large-scale agricultural operations brought about by our reduction in environmental protections, more people will be able to self-sustain on a small scale and maintain at least some measure of health in the face of widespread shortages, reducing the death toll and shortening the duration of subsequent cycles of disease and pestilence, allowing humanity to recover more quickly and with fewer setbacks in terms of loss of the skilled and knowledgeable among us.

So let's let President Trump do what he wants to do. It's a matter of ripping off the Band-Aid and getting the painful part over with. In an age in which we cry over articles about children starving while we watch people on cooking competitions throw away dumpstersful of food, and in which people who can't afford shoes can tune in any day of the week and see shoe closets bigger than their entire homes, and in which it's more important to maintain illusions of importance than to be of any real value, why not? Why drag out the inevitable when the longer we put it off, the more likely it is that human 'history' will have to start all over again?

That's a subject for another post, the probability that we've been here before - technologically advanced and complacent, arguing over every petty thing while major issues go effectively unaddressed - but have been decimated, whether by ourselves or by forces of nature outside our control, or both, to a degree that we had to do a hard reboot. (Disregard that we didn't even mention here that President Trump's apparent desire to start a nuclear World War III would accelerate the process to an even greater degree.) Here and now we're simply advocating for each of us to get on about our own business, to deal with our own issues in whatever ways are possible and effective, to let our duly-elected leader - who must in fact by dint of his being in that position reflect us - get on about his, and to let the chips fall where they may.

Have an excellent day, and all the best to everyone.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Excerpts from "Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements" with Annotations, or 'The New Trump Towers'

Sec. 3. Definitions.
(d) Except as otherwise noted, "the Secretary" shall refer to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
More on this below.

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Sec. 5. Detention Facilities. (a) The Secretary shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.
Detention facilities are not new in the US. There are currently 111 such facilities operating around the country, and our nation's first such establishments were used to contain other groups of Native Americans. What's notable about this current order is its parallel to the immediacy with which the Konzentrationslager were ordered after Hitler's appointment as Chancellor and the subsequent issuance of the Reichstag Fire Decree in 1933.

The Fire Decree was instated in response to (and as a means of propagating) fears of a Communist uprising, and effectively ended civil liberties for many German citizens, stating in part - without being accompanied by any written guidelines - that due to supposed planned acts of terrorism:
On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:
§ 1.  Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of (opinion) expression, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.
We currently see this mindset being applied against another group as well, and it should be noted that while the Konzentrationslager were initially ordered for the detention and torture of political opponents, their purpose was quickly expanded to include any 'undesirable' element.

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(c) The Attorney General shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately assign immigration judges to immigration detention facilities operated or controlled by the Secretary, or operated or controlled pursuant to contract by the Secretary, for the purpose of conducting proceedings authorized under title 8, chapter 12, subchapter II, United States Code.
Mr. Sessions' voting record speaks for itself with regard to what he sees as 'undesirable elements'. The Attorney General is commonly held to be the chief law enforcement officer for their jurisdiction, in the case of Mr. Sessions, the whole of the US.

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Sec. 6. Detention for Illegal Entry. The Secretary shall immediately take all appropriate actions to ensure the detention of aliens apprehended for violations of immigration law pending the outcome of their removal proceedings or their removal from the country to the extent permitted by law. The Secretary shall issue new policy guidance to all Department of Homeland Security personnel regarding the appropriate and consistent use of lawful detention authority under the INA, including the termination of the practice commonly known as "catch and release," whereby aliens are routinely released in the United States shortly after their apprehension for violations of immigration law.
Current US immigration law calls unauthorized presence a civil (non-criminal) offense requiring payment of not more than $500 per day, while improper entry is a misdemeanor punishable by at least $50 and no more than $250 or six months of imprisonment, and only repeated improper entries rise to a felony-level crime for which they may be fined up to $500 or imprisoned for up to two years per entry or attempted entry (barring the commission of other crimes). Most 'illegal immigrants' in the US didn't enter improperly, and even fewer did so after having previously been deported.

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Sec. 10. Federal-State Agreements. It is the policy of the executive branch to empower State and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer in the interior of the United States to the maximum extent permitted by law.
(a) In furtherance of this policy, the Secretary shall immediately take appropriate action to engage with the Governors of the States, as well as local officials, for the purpose of preparing to enter into agreements under section 287(g) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1357(g)). [Emphasis added]
Notice that in the noted section of the INA the official of record is the Attorney General, while this order tasks the Secretary of Homeland Security with overseeing the agreements. While it's within the purview of the former to enforce federal law, the latter is specifically tasked with, among other things but primarily, protecting the US from domestic and international terrorist threats. It's a subtle change, but one that indicates a shift toward a presumption of such a threat by immigrants, which might be construed as fear-mongering.

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(b) To the extent permitted by law, and with the consent of State or local officials, as appropriate, the Secretary shall take appropriate action, through agreements under section 287(g) of the INA, or otherwise, to authorize State and local law enforcement officials, as the Secretary determines are qualified and appropriate, to perform the functions of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States under the direction and the supervision of the Secretary. Such authorization shall be in addition to, rather than in place of, Federal performance of these duties. [Emphasis added]
(c) To the extent permitted by law, the Secretary may structure each agreement under section 287(g) of the INA in the manner that provides the most effective model for enforcing Federal immigration laws and obtaining operational control over the border for that jurisdiction.
The highlighted phrases in section (b) and the wording of section (c) give the SDHS broad latitude in the enforcement of this order, as noted by Prof. David A. Martin. The linked article annotates the 'Executive Order Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States', in which these same paragraphs, word-for-word, make up section 8, and is well worth a read as a dispassionately measured examination of that order by a legal expert.

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At best, the EO: BSaIEI - as well as the EOEPSitIotUS - serve to greatly enrich an already lucrative for-profit prison system. At worst, we could be working our way toward World War III in the nuclear age. The likelihood is that we find ourselves somewhere in between, but echoes of that earlier regime are disturbing, and we'll do well to proceed with great caution.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Excerpts from a Conversation with a bhean an-deas na h√Čireann

Peace:
You'd mentioned [...] some months back that you were hoping [Ireland's peace walls would] come down or stay down where they've already been removed [...] . I [...] was curious as to how it's all progressing from your perspective as a citizen there.
To be frank, I'm also curious about real-world perspectives on our newly-elected president and how people are feeling about his apparent hostility toward the rest of the world, particularly there in Ireland given the tremendous degree of support you've given to some of 'our' most socially-important companies and the threat his attitudes may pose to your economy. I have trouble calling those companies ours, since I believe that many or most of the big ones have done great things for the whole world, or as much of it as they've been able, and have little to no intent of advancing American agendas to the detriment of that of any other civilized society. I'd like to see him embrace their nature as global companies that perhaps got their start in America, though I don't see that as likely.

We'll call her 'Myrna' (not her real name):
Yes, I was talking with you guys after Brexit about Northern Ireland and saying that I hope the border doesn’t go up again. It wasn’t really a physical wall, just border stops/check points on roadways between the North and the Republic. I just don’t like the idea of division. It’s so much better here now without all of that and I would hate to see any sort of separation start up again. Division doesn’t just physically divide one piece of land from another. It divides people too. It’s not a good thing.
Yes! President Trump! He’s such a divisive figure. It’s really hard to know what his presidency will be like. I do think he will try to relocate American companies back to US soil. To be honest I can understand that. These companies have been great for Ireland. I dread to think what could happen if they pull out. I can understand why the average American would want them ‘at home’. Trump wants to get those jobs back because that’s what he promised he would do. I guess we wait and see. It’s hard to know how this will all turn out. I’m fascinated with what’s been going on in the US since the election and inauguration. We are living in very interesting times. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Who knows what’s going to happen Peace. I just hope that the good in people will always win out over everything else.

Peace:
That's right, that was the conversation. Does Brexit then only affect Northern Ireland? It looks (upon a cursory search) as though most of the companies Trump's talking about bringing back are in the Republic, is that right? And I assume that your economy is independent of the UK's?

I agree with your thoughts on social divisions of that sort, physically indicated or not. It's been... kind of heartbreaking watching the current state of affairs develop, seeing people here become more vocal and less considered in our opinions of other 'factions', hearing all the talk of wall-building and deportation and state secession, and people taking sides against people based on preconceived ideas of their respective ideologies. At the same time I think 'political correctness' has gone to the extreme of making it impossible to have the conversations that allow us to understand one another better, but I think there is a happy medium if we can only find it. For instance, there is another way to deal with 'illegal' immigrants, and that's to just open the borders, let people come and go as they see fit and stop being so selfish and greedy. It'll all even out in the end if we're able to work together, but to do that we have to be able to talk to each other openly and honestly, but not hurtfully where the infliction of pain can be avoided.

That's where I fall on this whole 'bring jobs back' thing as well. The way I see it, these companies are employing plenty of Americans, and if they're more able to do that because having their headquarters in Ireland or elsewhere saves them some money on taxes or fees (and it's fairly narrow-minded to think that's the whole basis of the choices the intelligent, autonomous adults who run them made), well then, maybe we should look at our own tax and fee structure and how that money is handled here before we start being so presumptuous as to demand they come back. Under current circumstances, the only things forcing those companies to come back here will accomplish will be to make it more expensive for them to operate and to damage to varying degrees the economies of the countries in which they currently choose to base their operations. Increasing their overhead will decrease their ability to provide the goods and services - and, oh, jobs - they currently do, and limit their ability to research and innovate.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The general atmosphere in America right now is volatile and strongly-divided, with buzzwords like 'wingnut' and 'libtard' ruling the day, and it's difficult to have a rational conversation in those terms. I hold out hope that Trump's divisive nature will take us to such an extreme that we finally recognize how ugly it all is (we wouldn't be the first nation to go there, but perhaps we can be the last... ha), maybe before we destroy ourselves and anyone we can manage to take down in the process. That remains to be seen, and I suspect that nature might get us there before we have a chance to do it ourselves - would prefer that, actually, as it would skip the whole brother-against-brother step to which these sentiments inevitably take human societies and get us right to the 'okay, everything's broken, how do we fix it' part of the process without the 'and we're the ones that broke it' part from which it can be so hard to heal. It's a pattern that's repeated all too often and I'm beginning to wonder if humans are capable of doing it any other way on a large scale or if it's simply part of what we are that we must descend to the depths of the worst of our beings from time to time in order to understand why it's worth the effort of being our best. We shall see, I guess, and in the interim, these are indeed interesting times.

Speaking of time, I've taken enough of yours. Coming as you do from a place that's still recovering from conflicts that began three or four generations ago I think you have a unique perspective, and it's good to know that there's hope for people to really finally set those things aside in the end and still believe in one another and in our mutual ability to grow and build something even greater than the sum of its oh so very wonderfully and terribly human parts. :)

"Myrna":
... I have been watching what has been happening in the US over the weekend, at the airports with the travel ban. I am at a complete loss for words. I cannot believe this is happening in the states.
I think of the beautiful words written at the base of the Statue of Liberty;
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I love those beautiful words. They represent the America I know.

To answer your question, Yes there will remain a common trade deal between Ireland and the UK. We have yet to hear how the EU feel about this. Our relationship with the US is strong and we obviously don’t want that to be affected by either the EU, Brexit or President Trump. Again, we can only wait and see what the future holds.

Peace:
I quoted that to my son a couple days ago as well, when this all started. For me, what's most horrifying is that I believe that a government reflects its people so having this man in office says nothing good about us.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Trump, Clinton, and Human Rights

From an article posted at NPR during the October 2016 trial of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers: "'Especially if Hillary Clinton is elected, all of our rights will be taken away,' [John] Lamb said." Mr. Lamb was referring largely to land use rights, but the conversation is really about rights in general.

Clinton, had she been elected, would only have cared about land use or any other rights to the degree that caring would further her political future, and would've done exactly, and no more than, what she had to to get elected to a second term, meaning a lot of foot-dragging on the issue until it went away or until she was forced into the appearance of making some choice. That choice probably would've had no real effect on anything of import, as politicians by and large avoid doing things, especially in their first terms as president, that might cost them votes.

Trump, on the other hand, most likely sees visions of a Trump-branded western United States, formerly public lands covered with new high-end resorts, hotels, and office buildings, with a smattering of casinos thrown in to bring hope to those among the poor and disenfranchised who don't understand that the (white) house always wins, and where nothing else can be built, oil rigs and fracking and mining operations. Of course none of that can happen until he gets rid of the pesky ranchers who voted him into office and their bloody smelly cows. (Oh, and the cattle, too.)

We at MOA have always said that a government is a reflection of the society it leads. We can't blame Clinton for her complete lack of substance when we as a society punish anyone who takes a stand that differs from our own, and we can't blame Trump for his perniciously willful ignorance when we ourselves are entirely unwilling to learn what drives those with whom we disagree - or much of anything that's outside our comfort zone. 'Land use' or any other 'rights' are dependent upon our ability to cooperate and work together for mutually beneficial outcomes. We all lost those the minute we decided it was the government's job to tell us who gets what privileges rather than treating all humans as of equal basic worth and allowing our own actions or lack thereof to dictate how society would treat us.

When we're a better society - when we as individuals learn to respect ourselves and others - our governments will improve and questions of 'rights' will resolve themselves. (Self-respect should not be confused with arrogance, condescension, or specious sanctimony.) Until then, the bed we've made will be covered with gold-infused 1200-thread-count sheets for those who can afford them, and the rest of us will keep our heads down and do as we're told until we've lived out our useful lives, lucky if we have a bed at all, then go quietly - or screaming - like Lambs to the slaughter.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

FOX News

Given the nature of the programming on FOX - having consisted since the network's inception of shows that no other network would've touched at the time - it seems very likely that their news broadcasts were intended to be taken as farcical. Who says comedy doesn't carry a social impact?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Women's (or Anyone Else's) Empowerment

'Empowerment' connotes that that power must be given from some outside source, so we've got to ask ourselves some questions in order to make that happen. To wit:
  • To whom was our power given?
    • Power is inherent to the entity from which it arises and cannot be taken without consent. By that token missing power must have been and continue to be given. Without knowing to whom there'll be no getting it back.
  • When?
    • Was there a contract? What are the terms?
  • Why?
    • Power might be given in order to facilitate the efforts of another in creating or building something, or to absolve its holder of responsibility for its use, or because the generator thereof has been left vulnerable, or left itself vulnerable in the case of any entity we'd call sentient and accountable, to theft (where it's assumed that power is a limited commodity to be hoarded rather than freely distributed and consumed wherever necessary).
  • Where?
    • If power is being stolen or a system isn't sound, there'll be a leak. Find the leak, patch it, and watch the power meter rise. Or just replace the system altogether.
  • Most importantly and puzzlingly, how?
    • It's one thing to drain tangible electricity or some measurable signal off the grid; that requires nothing more than simple physical manipulation. But a human's own inherent power? Let's explore:
In an infinite multiverse nothing is impossible, but the proposition of taking power not given is pretty close to it. Will can be broken. Desire can be molded. Beliefs can be changed. But the power of the individual lies solely in who that person is. That person fills a role no one else can fill, and that role is whatever they make it. Each of us has all the power in our own universe. Frustration arises not when we can't do what we want, but when we can't make the rest of our universe do what we think it should. We forget that the 'rest of the universe' exists solely as a framework for what we are; it holds everything we can't be if we intend to have this unique human experience. We hold no true power over anything outside ourselves, save that which has been given or stolen, but infinite power to reshape ourselves within this framework, which responds in kind by reshaping itself around us and our new contract. So for those who feel disempowered (and who doesn't from time to time), our best bet is to examine our systems and what's plugged into them, adjust any drains to which we've agreed to suitable levels, eliminate any drains that serve no purpose, and give ourselves some time to recharge. Beating ourselves or anyone else up will only waste more energy.
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Isn't it interesting how power and the desire for more are the source of so many social ills? Power is infinite, so why do we fight over it? Because force is limited. The two are not interchangeable, and what's seen as power is very often really force in disguise. We don't want the power to run our own lives as we see fit. We want the 'power' to force others into the molds we purport to think are best for them, which upon close examination are usually really what we think it's best for us for them to be. But we'll only have that when we're ready to take responsibility for what they then become. Every action, every word, every choice they make at our behest is then on us. The only two ways to take that responsibility are by force or if it's given. In the former case, power always outlasts and ultimately absorbs force and turns it to its own purpose, given time, patience, and understanding on the part of the one wielding the power, while in the latter, power is willingly given and received, muted or boosted according to the purposes at hand, and both consequences and rewards for its use are shared as appropriate by all involved. As we at MOA have said before, power is inherent in particular to the feminine energy, and is most stable when produced individually but shared universally. Force is a masculine trait, used to direct and amplify power. Is it perhaps that power is more subtle than force and therefore less apparent, although - if we'll only use it - just as essential? Is it possible that the desire for empowerment is all about appearances? Either without the other is of limited usefulness, while the two together can change the world.

So where does it all go wrong? What makes us give our power up in the first place? When it's an intentional choice - "You take my power and the responsibility that goes with it" - do we really want it back? If that answer is yes, then have we figured out what we intend to do with it, keeping in mind that the only changes any entity can be guaranteed to effect are within oneself, with external effects being often random and unpredictable? If also yes, what are we waiting for? It would seem, with the current movement being stalled at, "We want empowerment," that we're asking for someone else to offer it. Who? And if we know who has it have we at any point asked for it in a way that we'd respond to favorably if anyone else were to ask us for something in the same tone and with the same attitude? If we know who has our power, and if we've asked politely for it back and it hasn't been given, then yes it's time to take it back unless we pledged to a contract otherwise. At that point, it's on us to find the power source within ourselves, tap into it, nurture it and do any necessary maintenance if it's become weak or drained, be ready to take responsibility for the consequences of (and enjoy the rewards for) our actions, and go use it.

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For those who can't be arsed to go read our post on the masculine and feminine, let us be clear in saying that although power is an inherently feminine trait and force an inherently masculine one, this is not a delineation between men and women, as each of us carries both positive (masculine) and negative (feminine) energy to varying degrees and, again, the sum of the two is greater than its parts. Where power is nurturing and gestational, force is originating and motivational. Each needs the other in order to meet its full potential, and empowerment comes in finding and embracing both within ourselves.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Catnip Madness

We at MOA would like to warn well-meaning cat companions that catnip may get their cat(s) high. Behaviors that, in the ~50% of cats susceptible to the evils of nepetalactone, may be brought on by this dangerous drug include but are not limited to:
  • Dangerous, even irrational jumping, biting, or scratching.
  • Chasing of non-existent prey.
  • Laughter (on your part).
  • Sleepiness.
Please protect your cats (kittens under six months of age should not be affected, but neither should they be exposed) from the dangers of this psychoactive substance, and avoid the 'nip.

"Just say no to 'nip."