Thursday, March 31, 2011

First post, another blog

I'm clearing out some blogs I started for various reasons. It looks like my first--and abortive--foray into broadcasting my thoughts into this electronic world actually happened back in 2007. I read it now, and as happens often to me, I find myself agreeing with myself, and realizing I have phrased some things better in the past than now. Anyway, here it is:

Saturday, October 27, 2007
Welcome!!!

It is with a mixture of sadness and relief that I inaugurate this blog.

Sadness, because my intent is here to "publish" for the world intellectual content in the development of which I have invested enormous effort. My prior intent had been to collate my ideas, present them to a publisher, sign a nice book deal, make loads of money, and retire somewhere warm and watery.

Last night, however--in the sort of development which I don't think is unique to my particular psychology, but which may appear to some dysfunctionally ideosyncratic--I had a series of dreams which convinced me that I ought instead simply focus on getting my ideas out there, hopefully to generate some concrete good in the world.

This decision is in fact a relief as well for that reason. It is hopeless, I think, in most cases to fully tease one's own vanity out from a received vision of reality; however, it must be said that I think some of these ideas, in their precise formulation and order, are both unique, and potentially world changing. Because I believe that in many important respects our culture is heading in the wrong direction, I likewise believe that with better quality ideas, we can begin--in small ways, in small places--to improve upon the foundations we have built with Western Culture, rather than continue to destroy them in the act of building. . .what? That is the question, isn't it?

In a series of roughly 20-40 paragraph posts I will outline a system of morality which in its precise formulation is to my knowledge unique. There is a pronounced tendency, especially among the educated, to see something and say "this is nothing but x, y, and z".

This sort of superficial overview is in a broad sense responsible for a great many human problems today. As I will argue, proper perception requires the ability to generalize, to examine issues in excruciating detail, and--most importantly--to move flexibly back and forth between the two, and to never cease this process. I call this perceptual breathing. You breath in, you breath out. Neither alone is sufficient to the maintenance of life, and neither the general nor the specific is sufficient to the task of proper understanding.

My preference is for the word Goodness. Both the words "morality" and "ethics" have a sort of bloodlessness about them that I find quite unappealing. They have a distance and a lack of personal immediacy about them that is attractive to philosophers but few others.

What most people want to feel, to know, is that they are "good" people. In the movie "Saving Private Ryan", the now old and fading Ryan asks his wife "Tell me I've led a good life." One gets the sense that when he passes on--or not, depending on how our universe is actually constructed--his dying thoughts will be on the nature of his life, how it was lived, how he conducted himself, and the standards he uses will not be intellectual. They will arise from within and be treated from within his gut.

There is nothing that cannot be rationalized, and thus there is no human evil which has not arisen from within a system which would seem on the face of it to oppose such evil. I will argue, though, that there is also nothing which can be hidden without a profound cost.

With that I would like to conclude my inaugural post. I will have a long day tomorrow, and am going to drink some beer tonight.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Decisions

A man walked into an Italian restaurant and asked for a clock. "We're sorry", he was told, "we don't sell those here."

He then walked into a clock store and asked for a pizza, and again failed.

"Life is so hard", he was heard to mutter on his way home.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Primary Annihilation

"I": let me discuss this word before continuting to my primary thought. I realize many of my introspective posts begin with I. This is my starting point. It is not that I am egoistic, so much as that I cannot see from anyone else's eyes, or introspect from within any mind but my own. As William James percipiently (and with typical thoroughness of analysis) pointed out 100 years ago, the discipline of psychology can really only be pursued in three ways: introspection which we hope is generally applicable; empirical research involving our physical bodies, such as our neurological systems and statistical analysis (rats in mazes; psychological tests); and a combination of the two.

Quite obviously, I often use the first. I is an appropriate and descriptive word in that case. I will add that the word in Sanskrit for ego is "Ahamkara", which literally means "I-Maker". It describes not an immutable self, but a field within which the effect of an I is created. It can be neither said to exist--since it is in constant flux--nor not to exist, since it is plainly there.

Anyway, having circumnavigated the topic three times in conformity with Tibetan Buddhist tradition--but backwards, with a whiskey bottle (Very Old Barton) in my hand and singing George Jones, as per my tradition--I would like to move to what prompted this post, this story

I figured somebody else had typed out the story, and dang if I wasn't right. Multiple people. More than one person had the same thought, didn't they? Take a few minutes and read the story. It is a strange story, from Idries Shah's "Wisdom of the Idiots".

Read it? No? Well, either way, here is my mind game I would like to present to you: what if you knew that there were not just hundreds of perfect copies of you scattered around the universe, but that you were just a copy of some perfect you who is always already up in heaven?

The point of this story is that this singer of songs thought that he had a unique voice. He was singular. And by extension everyone who knew him was singular. There was no one else like them. They were special. Upon learning they were not in fact special, and in fact a bit inferior, they vanished. Their selves were identical to their vanities.

At a deep level, it seems to me that spiritual growth requires the capacity to imagine our own annihilation, the humility to imagine a happy universe without us; the ability to live in the world and at times so fully merge with experience that we disappear, and let go of our clinging.

The experience of learning there were more you's would for some people amount to an annihilation of an undesirable sort, since they were fully stuck: they existed like butterflies pinned to a board, content to consider their selves to have been fully described by the label affixed at the base of the pin holding them there. When the label is torn off, they are unable to move, and thus disappear.

What if you met yourself? Me, I visualize myself telling myself I'm ugly, then going out and drinking some beer, chasing some women, then coming home and having a blog-off. What if we both type exactly the same thing? Well, then we are damn geniuses. And idiots.

There is this famous scene in E.M. Forrester's book "Passage to India" in which a British women has what amounts to a panic attack in caves modelled on the caves of Barabar. As I visualize it, it seems to me the task of the ascetics who lived there would have been to be transparent to the echo, or have been pleasurably tickled by it. Given sufficient vanity, however, it would amount to an attack.

So much of "life" consists in the interaction of events with the qualitative gestalt we call our self. Not for nothing have many of the best minds of human history asked probing questions about the nature of the self; and not for nothing, in my view, have they located the answers not just here and now, but in a world which can be felt but not seen in our present condition.

These are for me just thoughts. They are thoughts arising from feelings, but still just thoughts. They seem to offer a pathway to liberation from worry, emotional strain, and curtailed happiness. This may seem counter-intuitive, but that is only because much of our Western tradition has taught us to view ourselves as machines.

Descartes famously pointed to an animatronic sculpture in a French garden as a model for our physical selves. To that was appended a soul, in his view. We have kept the sculpture, but for all too many, the soul--being introspective, and thus in some respects merely amenable to James first method--has disappeared.

And now I have gone and mucked up even that.

Oh, I forgot what I wanted to say. If you are unable to undergo what I decided to call a "primary" annihilation, if you lack the humility to "disappear" at times, then you must at some point seek a secondary annihilation, which is to say the imposition of your power on the world, which causes and diminuation of the selves of others. You either destroy your own self, or those of others. The first is the path of Goodness; the second of course that of evil.

All of this exists on a continuum of course. Agonistic careerism, for example, consists often in winning relative to others. Now, forcing others to work harder is not intrinsically bad for them, but it is bad for the person who focuses on winning rather than growth, who focuses on the relative diminuation of others rather than self perfection.

It is the NCAA season. Let me offer what I view as the best model for success: "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." John Wooden.

This model will actually cause general growth, and is thus completely compatible both with material success and primary annihilation.

I saw one other quote there that made me laugh: "Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then."

Few thoughts for your Monday morning.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Endless Life

I was thinking about this conception of living forever. If we are going to live forever, I see no objections to the doctrine of reincarnation. In fact, for those who examine the actual evidence, there are hundreds of amazing stories of children of 1 and 2 years old telling stories of previous lives as soon as they can speak, which when tested prove accurate down to the names of their siblings, the map of their homes, and the way they died.

I decided to take it to a logical extreme, though: what if you could plan your next 10,000 lives? It seemed to me that you could put a musical pattern to it, like Mozart. You could have high points and low points, qualitatively rich lives and boring lives. Perhaps you are even cruel in some lives, since in an eternal order it all works out.

One sees this idea that once you get there, you should stay in heaven. Buddhists desire Nirvana. Hindus "moksha", which amounts to the same thing. But if everything everywhere is equal, can we really say that heaven is superior? I am not trying to lower heaven to Earth, but rather to elevate Earth to Heaven, such that happiness and satisfaction are possible everywhere.

My children play this game with artillery. At some point they got me into it. Despite my objections to his morality and politics, I still sometimes fancy myself Napoleon. We are all silly sometimes. I am no different.

Anyway, I figured out how to win all the levels quite some time ago, but still find it amusing to win different ways, to change the permutations.

Why would it be impossible to posit, within the context of endless life, and endless iterations of life, that we spirits could not do the same thing? Solve the same problems repeatedly in different ways, just to see if we could?

Parenting

It seems to me this whole particle/wave thing applies here too. To be clear, "particulation" is what Socialists would refer to as "individualism", which in the moral chaos within which they choose to live amounts to "pernicious", "dangerous", and "hertical".

To individuate properly, though, you need have been loved, I think. I have more or less defined love as seeing people as they are, and helping them become who they want to be. It has nothing to do with you, and your aims and goals.

As I visualize it, children that are loved emerge from a sea of ennestedness, from a sense of belonging. In another day and age, this was also an identity tied to time and place and economic identity. When the Socialists finally admit that they want a return to Feudalism, the lie of their anti-classist rhetoric will perhaps be admitted even by the stupid.

Be that as it may, the task of the child is to live on land. They must emerge from the sea, on their own, but waves of love and belonging can guide them in. If they live in a very traditional order, they never get far from this oceanic sense of belonging.

In our social order, people are expected to individuate, but very few do. For most people this amounts to managing their own affairs economically, living apart from their parents (whose destiny is a cubby hole from which they periodically squeak), and some combination of sports affiliations and hobbies.

True individuals, though, can go back and forth from the ocean--when they need comfort--and deep inland, when they are exploring, learning, risking.

Some people find the water has dried up. They are in an arid land, with no shelter in sight. This sparks an obsession with sex, and a persistent tendency to use other people to satisfy their own needs, rather than asking first what they have to offer.

I had mentioned two posts ago some ideas on why so many people seem so eager to reject freedom. I had come up with this concept of Maternalism, by which I mean the following: it seems to me many women in our society are jaded by the time they are twenty; they have had sex with multiple partners, fallen in love and had their hearts broken, and been exposed to endless repeats of movies and music portraying women as more or less inanimate sex objects; this must affect their capacity to love deeply, which creates a dearth of genuine maternal love in our society.

Superficial mothers will breed superficial children. They will drink their milk from a cup, but they will never feel truly and deeply loved. In fact, many mothers, lacking nurturing from their husband--whose training was similar to her own--will find in their children the reason to live and the source of love that has been heretofore denied them. This is, in my view, one of the reasons so many kids in the inner cities get pregnant so early: they need love. They just don't realize that babies take a lot more than they give for many years. This in turn leads to anger and resentment, and more kids who are destined for failure.

Emotional dissatisfaction: this is the climate within which calls for a more "nurturing" State will resonate. These lonely people, who don't know where to turn, will listen to calls for, oh, I don't know, say "Hope and Change"?

You first crush peoples spirits. Then you claim you have the solution to alienation. This is a path to freedom for the intellectuals, and slavery for everyone else.

To the point here, the parents of children capable of running a free nation will necessarily be constantly providing a background of emotional support, but also pushing the child to develop an identity of its own. Sometimes the water has to disappear. Sometimes to love is to be cold and cruel. As long as they remember where they came from, they will always know that there is a way back, when they really, really need it.

My two cents.

Objectivism

One sees devotees of Ayn Rand from time to time who more or less seem to have appropriated from the philosophy the idea they don't need to be polite if they don't want to, or feel gratitude towards people who helped them. Economically, this makes some sense, in that people will not associate voluntarily with people whose company they don't like, or do work for someone without recompense. Fair enough. They don't owe anybody anything unless they entered into a contract with them, and vice versa.

But no man is an island. Take the famous skyscraper scene at the end of "The Fountainhead". Howard Roark designed the building, but as the architect he would have done something close to nothing of the actual construction. Yes, every workman there was getting paid a wage, but can the building itself really be called the work alone of Roark? Would there not be good cause for him to locate himself within a social order, a team, a--God forbid--voluntary "Collective"?

Thoughts have, in my mind, textures. The vision I get from Ayn Rand is that all individuals are like little steel widgets. We can plug into one machine, or another. As we call combine in endless spontaneous forms, the capacity for large scale work emerges. One could homologize, I suppose, the building of a skyscraper with the system of planetary motion. Both are rule-governed, and the expression of an order which is latent, but quite real. But

In the end, though, everyone is alone, being the sole judges of merit (although such judgements can of course combine in the marketplace), and sole sources of creativity.

What is interesting about this to me is that Rand (real name Alisa Rosenbaum) grew up under the Soviets. As such, she was subjected to the alienation and moral atrophy that such regimes breed. They breed apathy, contempt for human life, conformity, and brutishness.

In my own conception, Leftism is like a permanent wave function. In physics, you have particles and waves. Matter can possess either attribute, depending on the question you ask it. Where Rand seems stuck in the particularizing, Leftists (who include of course "Fascists" and National Socialist) have a blanket mass narrative that applies to all people and all times. You "are" who you were born to be. If you are German under the Nazis, and you are not Jewish, gypsy, slavic, homosexual or handicapped in any way, that is from their perspective wonderful. If you are Jewish, your best destiny is death. People are fit into boxes without regard to their individual differences.

I saw a bumper sticker today which read: "Drive a Liberal crazy: work hard and be happy". This is what sparked this train of thought. By what process of mind does one repeatedly impose policies which have never worked towards their stated end?

The simple fact is that these retards exists within a mass myth, withing a LARGE narrative that admits no details, and into which all counternarratives can be sunk, like so many safes in quicksand (with the bodies, as in "the Lovely Bones").

By permitting details, and individual perception, Rand/Rosenbaum is of course much, much more useful than any conceivable leftist narrative.

At the same time, I feel there is a possibility of a balance. Neither side is balanced, although one is clearly superior to the other. You have to be able to go back and forth between being "atomic" and being general. This is what I have called Perceptual Breathing, and is the reason that concept exists.

That's enough for today. That concept is discussed in the first essay, and the piece defining terms.

Right level of compassion

I congratulate my children when tney hurt themselves. I tell them that if they aren't skinning a knee or bumping their head or something from time to time, they are not doing their job as children. Once I've verified they are OK, I also laugh at them.

Today I went for a hike, and my oldest said that if I fell down the hill, as long as I was alright, they would laugh at me. I said that was fine.

A story I've told often to them is when I was a plumber's assistant a long time ago, there was a beam in the attic where we kept some supplies that was large and low. It was too hard to duck under it, but it was at just that height where you forget about it. Someone had written "Watch Out", and someone "seriously, you will hit your head on this." I made a mental note for that not to be me. How could anyone be that stupid?

Well, when I did, it was one of those things where your head stops instantly, but your feet keep going, and you literally land on your ass. I literally saw the stars people talk about (not for the first time). They think this story is hilarious, because once I picked myself up, I myself thought it was funny.

Pain is a fact of life. That is a given. How we choose to deal with it, and how much risk we incur, are up to us. That is the domain of our freedom. You can live a very safe life with little injury, little anxiety, and from my point of view little growth.

This isn't what I want for my children. I want them to fall on their asses from time to time, cry their eyes out, get back up, and go again without worrying about it.

When someone falls in front of you, sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do it watch them struggle, doing nothing, until they realize on their own they have the power to manage the situation. I literally did this with kids when they were younger. I would only help them once I was satisfied they had made a serious effort.

If you pick a man up, you teach him to remain on the ground unless he is helped. If you teach him to get up--which in large measure consists in forcing him to figure it out for himself--then you teach him to walk as a free man.

We see so many people rejecting freedom. I will make some of my commentary on that my next post.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nails

A man walked into a hardward store to buy some nails. When he went to the counter and offered to pay for the $2 nails with a $100 bill, the clerk told him they could not change that large a bill. At first, he was angry, reflecting that their lack of preparation had cost them the money. Then he realized that his lack of preparation had cost him his nails. He left the store a wiser man.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mind Games

One interesting thing to point out about the Steven Lerner story (SEIU official plans to crash economy on purpose, creating generalized poverty to help the poor be less lonely) is that that tape had to have come from a spy. I am surely not revealing secrets here, since the first question Lerner would have asked is who the leaker was.

The spy presumably was invited, and may well have been a former leftists. This is the interesting part. Leftism appeals to the morally high-minded since it excels at creating morally high-minded rhetoric. They are going to end racism, or poverty, or the use of the American military to bully other nations so "corporations" can make more money. They are going to save the environment, and have a damn good time smoking weed and grooving out in drum circles doing it.

As I have said, though, Socialism is at root a moral narrative. It is not a viable economic plan. It is not a social system, except to the extent of some murky utopian images of people getting along since money is no longer around. It is not even scientific, since if it were formatted as a hypothesis, it has been falsified by repeated experimentation.

This means that the only coherent part of it is a claim of how the world should be, and this claim is that all people should be alike materially and culturally. This latter part is obscured by an obsession with cultural others, but the only point of that is to blunt America's cultural cohesion, and that of Western civilization more generally. You talk up others, and in so doing talk down yourself. You don't say "they are great and we are great". You say "they are great, and we are sinners: repent for your very existence, and we probably won't hate you".

But bubbles are popping everywhere. Previously deluded people are waking up and realizing what is actually being planned, what socialism actually means in practice. And they don't like it. It does not make the world a better place. It does not increase justice of any sort. It does not improve the environment (China is a centrally planned economy in many respects), and it doesn't make anyone HAPPIER, if they were not already capable of happiness.

The Danish model is not awful. It is just decadent. It is a system incapable of sustaining itself. The population is falling across Europe. The only people increasing in population are people who do not believe in either democracy or Socialism.

And to the point, Obama and his cohort are not planning a Danish model. Every indication is that his heroes are Mao and Lenin. Their ideas led to mass death, much suffering, tyranny, and no relief whatever from the human condition, except to the extent the vodka factories met their quotas.

Obama is no Lenin. Lenin sat in jail for many years, lived the furtive life of an exile, and was very intelligent, very persuasive, and very strong-willed. Obama is a boy in a man's suit.

He surrounds himself with some dangerous people though.

The point of this thread, which admittedly wanders around--it was a long day--is that all of the leftists in this nation will from now on have to wonder about their Operational Security. Who can they trust?

In order to create a high degree of security, they will both have to severely limit their communications, and betray to the periphery just how ruthless they actually are, by process of an exclusion that did not heretofore obtain.

The Vietcong were very good at internal subversion, but they were able to rely on hatred both for the Chinese, and the Catholic Presidents, particularly Diem. This mobilized people, because they promised--falsely--something better.

Here, though, the stakes are a generalized collapse of our nation, with all the terror, poverty, violence, and suffering that will involve. To be on the side of the Left, now, is to hate this nation, and the people in it, all of them.

It is my belief that thoughtful people are realizing this en masse, and that the cruel and hateful sadists at the core are going to have great difficulty integrating this reality into general plans, even with a sympathizer in the Oval Office.

Economic Terrorism

Couple quick points. First the spirit of "revolution" always has been, from a Leftist perspective, one of violence, and not creation. They want to tear down, destroy, desecrate what is, because they hate the world we live int passionately. They hate the suburbs, and plastic toys, churches, two parent homes, and "bourgeois" morality. When I say "nihilist", I being precise. That term was leveled at them by their opponents, but if you read Nechaev, you see a lot of cleverness attached to the task of destroying economic and institutional orders, but more or less a shrug of the shoulder when asked with what they intend to replace it. That isn't his problem. He will create a pile of rubble, then YOU, future generations figure out what to do with. What, one might ask, if we rebuild the same thing, since it worked for people quite well. Well, he would say, then I will destroy it again.

This is the level mental midgets like Lerner are operating on. To call them stupid is somewhat wrong, though. They are stupid in that they fail to see that their hatred makes them impervious to normal forms of happiness and satisfaction. They fail to grasp their agenda is fundamentally evil, and that it hurts most those it claims to care about. Death and destruction: that is all they want. That is the extent of their thinking, which they cloak when they think about it in pious rhetoric about some group that is supposedly going to benefit.

Anyway, let us suppose that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did not just abuse the authority granted them to line the wallets of the executive committees. Let us suppose they had a secondary aim.

They knew they would go belly up at some point. They made too many bad loans. It was inevitable, and even though they were clearly morally stupid, I don't think they were financially stupid.

What if, though, they had a long term plan to get WAll Street dependent on them as a customer and backer? They bought up huge tracts of the mortgage backed securities. Why would you not stop a couple months before the election? Why could you not time this with a call to your buddies over at the Credit Rating Agencies and tell them you would like them to reconsider the value of those securities, and that until they did, you weren't buying any more.

It was that cash flow failure, that excessive inventory, that caused the big banks--Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns--to fail.

Why could socialist revolutionaires at FM and FM more or less precipitated it? The own, directly or indirectly, 75% of all housing in America.

Ponder that fact. OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OWNS most of the supposedly private housing in America. Why are we in effect not already considered to have socialized housing?

Why does not Fannie Mae's decision to patent a device to regulate your power use remotely make sense? At some point, they presumably plan to make it obvious to everyone what has until now been happening in the dark.

Sometimes the best lies are the most flagrant and obvious. People think "surely that can't be happening."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Last post

I'm not sure I agree with my last post. I reserve the right to label myself an idiot. Please keep in mind that I am putting into a public realm what amount to open musings and ramblings, and that if I were driving a car, it would regularly be in the ditch, the other lane, 30' above the ground, underwater, upside down, inside out, and rolling along on one wheel. Yes, there is a lane with my name on it, but what fun is that?

Musings on anger and sadness

These are really the two emotions which consitute my sins. I really don't feel jealousy, greed, lust which I satisfy by using people, pride beyond healthy self esteem, and I'm not lazy.

It seems to me, though, that there is a part of me which can sit behind my self, and watch how my emotions flow into the world. I watch, and somewhere in there my world, what I bring into the world, is polluted with these two emotions, which are sort of mixed in as the whole thing flows out.

I believe I have finally isolated the source of both. Now it is a task of understanding and dispelling them. Description is to cure roughly what a picture of aspirin is to ending a headache. As you might imagine, I'm no fan of talk therapy. I believe it encourages narcissism, abdication of personal responsibility, and moral weakness.

I had this dream last night, in which I was shown by a guide people sleeping, and malevolent spirits hovering over them, trying to scare them. When people awoke, they would shoot at them, but those around them thought they were mad, because they had not seen what they had seen.

What happens when we feel anger? Is it not an initiation of the mechanism by which we physically defend ourselves? Yet, normally there is no physical danger. The danger is to our self esteem, and our emotional independence.

The way I visualize this is that a ghost comes into being, one that is fighting us. We create another ghost, to counter it. We are never really seeing the person in front of us, who we would say has provoked this anger.

I'm thinking out loud, but let's run through a concrete example, one in which anger is justified. You do some work for someone. They had promised you X per hour, but when the work is done, and it's time to get paid, they offer you X-Y, and say that was the deal. You know they are lying, and they know that you know they are lying. But there it is.

Your task is to get paid what you are owed. Everything that furthers this aim is desirable, and everything which retards it is not desirable.

The first fact to be acknowledge is that you may not be able to accomplish this aim. If you had an oral contract that was witnessed by no one, you will have no enforceable claim in court.

You can get angry and threaten them. They may then threaten you back. A moral relationship may degenerate into a physical one, in which the stronger, more clever, more lucky man wins. Might will make right.

You can appeal to their sense of decency. Let us suppose, though, that they have none. Clearly, these people exist. You can threaten them with defamation. This may or may not work.

Let us say in the end you fail. You have been cheated. This sort of thing happens all the time. Now what?

You have created this ghost, ready for a fight, and he doesn't go away. As I visualize it, we have many selves, and this man gets a room in your house. Whenever you open that door and go into his room, there he is, fists up, face clenched, and amped up. He is like this all the time. He is there when you sleep, and he is there when you are awake. He is always standing at your shoulder when you meet people, and perform the business of your life.

How do you make him go away? You can cement off that room. You can lock him in there, and refuse to acknowledge his existence, but every time somebody brings up that deal, he pops right through, fists up, ready for a fight.

This is a burden.

I think the only way to make him go away is to refuse to consider anger as a response to ANY circumstance. This is not to relinquish your right to demand your rights, but rather the mechanism of creating a proxy to do it. All problems have solutions. Sometimes the solution is forgetting the problem. You do this by being present in the moment, and not living in the past or the future. You let everything go, as you go. If you travel light, you will travel far.

I find I laugh a lot more when I can't remember who I "am". What sort of person am I? I don't know. I'm standing here, though. Would you like to go have lunch somewhere?

Is this a way to live? I don't know. I coined a term for this a while back, though, called "forgession". This is the process of actively forgetting, forget plus progression. I suppose it should be forgression, but I like the other one better.

To live otherwise, it seems to me, is to live in a wax museum, filled with all the ghosts you have created over the years. Sooner or later, they crowd you out, and you are left walking a narrow path that is mapped out for you. You are unfree.

Some people live in the past. They remember the affronts with which their grandparents were afflicted. Such is the case, for example, with the grandchildren of those Arabs who chose to leave Israel during the war in 1948. They can't forget, because they want to be prisoners. Their rage is their identity. That is not a very good identity.

Sadness, it seems to me, is the consequence of that ghost feeling defeated. You have another room where someone sits, unvictorious, his head in his hands, moping. Often he drape himself on your back, and asks you to carry him everywhere, since he doesn't have the energy. If you like, you can ask anger to kick his ass, reenergizing you, but you have just exchanged one problem for another. In neither case are you free. Your "home" is not your own. You have guests you invited in, but who now refuse to leave. Every time you want to go out for some fresh air, to enjoy the sun, they drag you back in. "Don't leave us", they tell you: we are afraid we might die.

And so we cling to outdated, unnecessary reactions to things that happened many years ago. We all do this, I think, to some greater or lesser extent, which in large measure depends on the extent of the affront, which becomes larger proportionately to who hurt you and how early.

We-I-carry burdens which are unnecessary.

I would add that bitterness is when the two get together, and decide to destroy your home, the place where you should be able to rest and seek shelter. The bitter person can never rest. They hate the world because they hate themselves. They hate who they have become, but refuse to see it.

When the early Buddhists set off across India, they did so as itinerant beggars, who rose early, and never ate after noon. This would seem a hard life, but it would seem to me what they were trying to build were palatial, airy, sunlit estates, completely free of permanent guests, and therefore open for companions whose company they found pleasurable, easy and free.

I don't have all the answers. All I can say is that I trying to find them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Diversity

I was driving through the rural Midwest somewhere today. I always enjoy looking at the cars in the yards, the trailers, the lawn ornaments, the well manicured lawns, the tire shops, the little restaurants, the slaugherhouse signs, and those to the "boat". People live and die in great numbers in such places. I love that some of them are a bit kooky, lazy, energetic in strange things, patriotic, church-going, gambling, drinking, and given to strange decoration. They have horses in their front yards, and a garden in the back, that they tend diligently in the summer, and eat a lot of tomatoes when they ripen, and watermelon too.

I was thinking: why do socialists hate this so much? Why do they want to turn everyone into grey robots, marching the same way, dressing the same, singing the same "happy" song in the happy tone they were taught?

What they want is the eradication of religion. They want no one to smoke. They want no one to eat foods they don't approve of. They don't like drinking. They don't like guns. They don't like cars in lawns and ugly litter. They don't like dancing if it isn't their kind, and they wonder why people would want to hold hands rather than do the nasty, just because they were taught otherwise by their parents and/or their church.

They don't like bacon. They don't like fertilizer. They don't like people named Bubba who need to lose 100 pounds. They don't like people sitting around in a cafe, discussing the weather and religion, politics (unless it is their politics) and local sports.

How goddamn DULL is socialism? It is the creed of the boring, compelled on the unwilling, in the name of no one.

I want flowers in the spring, genuine diversity of thought and behavior, and no damn rules governing people's own damn right to kill themselves in any way they see fit, whether it be booze, smokes, or ATV's.

I want to preserve the places where they cling to guns, religion, hard work, and biscuits and gravy. Those are my people.

Well, actually I'm a Berkeley graduate who drinks Oolong tea and knows what Tempeh is. Maybe I should limit myself to saying I enjoy their company, and appreciate their lifestyle.

It may not seem obvious, but in many respects cities are culturally homogeneous. We need all types.

I have a few more thoughts, but they will wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Further thoughts on emotions

In my essay on Goodness, I did not define any acts, per se, that were right or wrong, in an abstract way. What I did is orient myself within the only skin I have, and look at the world, and figure out what seemed to make me happier, and what more disturbed.

Evil is evil not because some absolute code is embedded in the universe: it is evil because to want to do it, you have to kill the parts of your self that are able to make you happy. It is completely congruent with unhappiness, understood in a deep way.

I was watching my emotions today--mindfulness is a basic Buddhist practice--and noticing the flow. I did something, then immediately said "that was a fuckup", and got mad at myself. It probably wasn't, but let's say it was. We are shooting figurative missiles out into the world every time we make a decision. You can't undo the past, and you can't make things that flowed from your actions disappear from the world. Shit happens, but there is always a proximate cause, and sometimes it is you.

How much good does self-flagellation do? The task is to get it right the next time. We learn to be mad at ourselves so that we are impressed enough with the severity of the wrong to not repeat it. Otherwise, since most of us are dumbasses, we risk repeating it. This is an adaptive reaction, but only to someone who is fundamentally asleep at the wheel. If you are alert, there is no need for anger.

Or take jealousy. Is it not attachment to something someone else has? Is it not in effect giving some part of your self to your conception of some other person?

I studied martial arts for a fair while, perhaps six years. The useful part of it was learning to deal with complex flowing situations without losing my physical, emotional, or mental balance. I have no idea if I can fight, but the practice was invaluable just for this sensation of relaxed reaction without fear.

Emotions attack us, in some ways, do they not? Are most tragedies not about someone attacked by some emotion, who in the end is overwhelmed? King Lear, vanity perhaps. Hamlet, paralysis. Othello, jealousy. MacBeth, ambition and pride.

The tighter you are, the more profound the effect. Ideas like "no self" help to loosen you up. I was having fun playing with this whole antipodal Buddhist thing this morning. There is no fuckup, and there is no not fuckup. There is no being smart, and no being not-smart. It seems to give you play, and room to maneuver.

When reading some Asian (and other) philosophical texts, it is easy to misunderstand them. Take the doctrine of Sukhaduhkasamo, which translates as He for whom pleasure and pain are the same. Who would want to live like that? Emotionally numb, unable to enjoy anything to gain the satisfaction of not suffering.

On my rendering, what an exceptionally well-organized person is feel both positive and negative feelings deeply and often, but buffer them in such a way that homeostasis is quickly regained. I visualize a sort of slow motion film, where you see the assault, the impact, and the adjustment, and renormalization. It's not that you don't feel, it's that you are not attached to grief, or joy. You let the world live, and the dominant sensation of that is still pleasure and enjoyment.

You could almost use an example of interest income on investments. Do you make more money on 3% return annually for 50 years on a given amount, or on a return that varies constantly from -10% to positive 20%? It's hard to say. It depends how often you wind up in each place.

A sunny disposition is much more to be wished for and cultivated than the great strains and victories of continual agonistic conflict.

That will do for now. I had a few nascent things to say, and think I roughly said them.

Socialism as Moral system

I have defined socialism as a moral system, which implies an economic system, which in turn REQUIRES a political system. Everyone should be equal, which means they have equal amounts of stuff, which--given manifest inequalities of talent and position-requires an authoritarian regime, to some greater or lesser degree. The State--which is to say a self appointed Socialist elite that is just a bit more equal than everyone else--has to have the power to take what it wants, and give it to whomever it wants.

Logically, though, it would follow that if egalitarianism as a moral doctrine fails, then so too do the economic and political doctrines which flow in its wake.

An intelligent person could go far with that basic insight.

The Oyster and the Grain of Sand

I was thinking yesterday about chronic emotion. What is it? How can, for example, anger be an emotion that often emerges from your being? How do you stay angry? Expressed biologically, anger is presumably some raising of blood pressure, the release of certain hormones, and the tensing of muscles not needed for the activity at hand. This is tiring.

Perceptually, within the vortex of experiences we only contain by filtering most of them out, anger is an artifact of pain of some sort. Anger and sadness are quite clearly linked. Anger, in important respects, IS pain. It is a perceptual limitation.

I feel sometimes there is this light in us trying to get out, and that with inferior emotions we build stone walls that limit our worlds. When our light shines out, the light elsewhere in the world shines back at us, but instead we live like animals in cages. We live in darkness, when we have access to an infinite supply of illumination.

How does this process work, though, and how do you end it? This is a practical question.

As I have often viewed the matter, it seems to me that the essence of Buddhism is applied psychology, with the intent of building mental health. He starts with a problem--life is suffering, which can be construed both as actual pain, AND as less happiness than you are capable of--and comes up with a detailed plan of action, which works in his particular case.

Consider the Heart Sutra.

form is not different from emptiness, and emptiness is not different from form. Form itself is emptiness, and emptiness itself is form. Sensation, conception, synthesis, and discrimination are also such as this. Śāriputra, all phenomena are empty: they are neither created nor destroyed, neither defiled nor pure, and they neither increase nor diminish. This is because in emptiness there is no form, sensation, conception, synthesis, or discrimination. There are no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or thoughts. There are no forms, sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or phenomena. There is no field of vision and there is no realm of thoughts. There is no ignorance nor elimination of ignorance, even up to and including no old age and death, nor elimination of old age and death. There is no suffering, its accumulation, its elimination, or a path. There is no understanding and no attaining.


What is he saying? How can form equal emptiness? Why are there no eyes, ears, etc? Why is there no ignorance and elimination of ignorance? What have you accomplished if you claim nothing exists? Why is this text revered, and not rejected as the rambling of some opium-addled fool?

Logically, several points can be made. First, that when he equates form with emptiness, that is his whole argument. The rest of it is just clarification. He (the author, who may not have been the Buddha) is simply being thorough.

Secondly, the universe works the way it works. Water flows downhill in a gravitational field. When we think, we use mental structures that are partly mechanical, and partly free. Since we have to live in bodies which come with some programming, we are all more or less already cyborgs.

The task of a spiritual teacher is to free people. It is not to tell them how he does it. It would be perfectly consistent to tell people something that was not true, if the end result was that they finally saw for themselves what IS true. You cannot ever see through someone else's eyes. You cannot inhabit their worlds for them.

One of the features of our mind is dichotomous thinking. We are programmed to process things, in many ways, as binary. O's and 1's. Good and evil. Friend and foe. Group member and outsider. Acceptable and unacceptable.

Logically, how would a clever teacher prevent his teaching from being corrupted? By calling his teaching a non-teaching. By refuting his own first premises.

Why would he do that? Because to him the essence of thing is always beyond words. Your words therefore MUST be contradictory in some ways, lest this point be missed. This is the point of the Zen koan, although I would question how many people that process has actually enlightened.

Further, think of any form. To take an obvious example, let's imagine a tree. This tree is in constant movement. It is constantly taking water and nutrients from the ground, absorbing sunlight to create food for itself, and growing. When it sleeps in the winter, it is simply breathing more slowly.

Take a rock. It is composed of trillions of atoms, each of which is in constant flux. Most of matter is in fact empty. If you imagine a football field, the nucleus of an atom would be roughly the size of a golf ball at center field, and that might even be exaggerating. The rest of the field: emptiness, surrounded by electrons the size of grains of sand, in constant motion. Actually, we are not even sure if visualizing electrons as things which "exist", per se, is even accurate. I think most physicists think not. It is simply a useful heuristic in teaching chemistry. The "electron" more or less "exists" simultaneously throughout its valence shell.

So does a tree or a rock "exist" as a form? Yes and no.

Can I see? Can I hear? It would appear so, but can I see X-rays? Can I hear what dogs hear? Do I see when I sleep? Do I actually possess the mental processing power to see everything in front of me? Am I not forced by the limitations the mechanical structure I call my brain places on me to choose the objects of my attention, more or less consciously?

Do I feel what I feel? Does not the same problem arise? Can any of us say we operate our bodies without ever exerting unnecessary tension, that we are perfectly efficient? Do we not have many selves, competing for attention, as hypotic researchers seem to have shown? Who are we, in the end? This question is at the root of the Buddhist doctrine of No Self.

And if you do not exist, can you be ignorant? Can you grow old? Can you die? Can you be a Buddhist, following the 4-fold Path? Can you read the Heart Sutra? No.

Is he not saying "Not THIS: THAT, dummy!!!!"?

We do not exist in our minds. Our minds work on words, and words are needed for communication, but clever words lead to their own cessation. They extinguish themselves. The Buddha was trying to put out fires, and confronted with a herd of cattle who would not have needed him if they could see for themselves. His only possible way forward was facilitating a way of living and perceiving that made that more likely.

Here is what I believe: I believe that we are all eternal beings, all of whom are capable of reaching God--who I visualize as the root of the possibility of form, and a source of endless light--and of travelling anywhere in the universe. Yet, we forget that here on Earth. In an endless existence, this doesn't really matter, but you have to do something, and teaching is one of those things. It doesn't really help anything. Souls always get rescued. Nothing, really, can be done. But the process of moving is endlessly delightful.

The Buddhists have this idea of Bodhisattva's, enlightened beings who have no need to return to Earth, but continue to do so. And why not? Once you realize that all pain is illusory because temporary, in and endless expanse of time and motion, then it doesn't really matter where you are, or what you do. Any time and any life anywhere is acceptable. Love--what we call love, I should say, since if you are following me you realize that "love" doesn't exist either--is the primary reality, and it is omnipresent.

Which brings me to the grain of sand and a metaphor I have used before. The task of oysters is to be useless. It is to exist at the bottom of a body of water, reproduce and die. Most oysters everywhere are able to accomplish this.

Within some, however, an accident happens. A grain of sand is introduced, causing them pain. Everywhere it moves it scratches. Every day, all day, the pain is there, and it won't stop until they are able to create a barrier between their soft inner parts and this chafing intruder. So they build a wall around it, and day by day their burden lightens. They still have an intruder, but now it hurts less. Then one day they are harvested, killed, and their intruder taken and sold at a jewelry store.

This grain of sand, for us, is the desire to impose our wills on the world. It is grasping and clinging to one form and not another. It is clinging to an identity, to a place, to a way of living, to social standing, to success (or as far as that goes, to failure). If we consider things properly, within the manifest truth of impermanence, this is foolishness.

This is not to say we should not have a place and a time and a way of living. It is simply to accept that shit happens and that there is no use worrying about it. It is to view life with humor and good taste, regardless of what it holds in store.

This is the way to live. I sure as hell have not achieved it, but these musings help me better calibrate, I think, in that direction.

I hope somebody reads this, after all that work, or I will be mad as hell.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The extraordinary and science

I have made this point before, but feel the need to make it again, slightly differently. Science is not a discipline which separates plausible--"ordinary"--claims from implausible, extraordinary claims. There quite simply is no room, formally, for deciding in advance what is possible and impossible. There can be no extraordinary truth claim. There can only be claims for which evidence exists, and claims for which no evidence exists. Empirical/non-empirical. This is the only divide.

That pictures, as an example, can be communicated from one mind to another is an empirical claim. It can and has been done, repeatedly, and in scientifically quantifiable ways. This is not an extraordinary claim. This is simply a fact.

To say, therefore, that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is to betray a FUNDAMENTAL misunderstanding of the NATURE of science. That this is possible is not extraordinary to me at all: I have experienced it. And whether or not this is the case, the only reason to ever try and sift one from the other is practical: finite amounts of funding exist, and it is not irrational to want to study things which are generally agreed to exist.

As I have said, though (I am sensitive to repeating myself, but find that I rarely if ever frame things exactly the same way twice, making some repetition useful, since new insights sometimes emerge), the most useful approach to increasing useful human knowledge is not investigating what is known, but rather finding and investigating all known outliers which have the potential to falsify general paradigms.

For example, evolution plainly cannot be explained by reference to Natural Selection, if we posit that mutations are random. The fossil record simply doesn't support it. Nor do Gould's contributions become scientific simply because he has layered a theory onto what we actually found.

Who, anywhere, has tried to measure evolution in response to environmental challenges? What I believe will be shown, if and when this happens, is that living organisms react as WHOLES, as conscious entities. This fact, when eventually shown as I believe it will be, will enable a useful understanding of the nature of life to emerge.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kennedy

This is a small thought, but I figured I'd pass it along. The toughest Cold Warriors, as a group, were the Catholics. Catholics were the only group overrepresented in Vietnam demographically. Contrary to a popular myth which was presumably created to get votes for post-radicalization Democrats, blacks died there in the same ratios as they lived in America.

Kennedy was a social liberal, but he was Catholic. I have to wonder if he got elected by appealing to the Catholics, who otherwise would have put Nixon in office. As some will recall, the race was in any event roughly as close as that between Al Gore and George Bush, with the notable difference that Nixon wasn't a crybaby, and who promptly conceded.

Kennedy, like FDR, was not very bright, but he had a talent for speeches. The damage he did this nation was largely as a result of enabling LBJ to get into the White House, and begin a "war" we are waging to this very day, and losing: the "War on Poverty".

States Rights

Here is the best quote on the topic I have seen, by Supreme Court Justice McReynolds:

I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity throughout the United States. . . Can it be controverted that the great mass of the business of Government--that involved in social relations, the internal arrangements of the body politic, tne mental and moral culture of men, the development of local resources of wealth, the punishment of crimes in general, the preservation of order, the relief of the needy or otherwise unfortunate members of society--did in practice remain with the States; that none of these objects of local concern are by the Constitution expressly or impliedly prohibited to the States, and that none of them are by any express language of the Constitution transferred to the United States? Can it be claimed that any of these functions of local administration and legislation are vested in the Federal Government by any implication? I have never found anything in the Constitution which is susceptible of such a construction. No one of the enumerated powers touches the subject, or has even a remote analogy to it.


It is very literally the truth that we are not a Fascist nation because of the so-called "Four Horsemen" of the Supreme Court, who overturned FDR's National Recovery Act, and Agricultural Adjustment Act, which combined gave Franklin Roosevelt the power to control substantially every aspect of our economy, and by extension our lives. He had the power to control production, dictate wages, and determine profit margins, as I understand the issue.

He lied when he claimed Social Security would be self funding. That possibility ended less than a decade after it was signed into law.

I have said before and will say again that our Constitution is the most brilliant political document ever devised by the mind of man. We are free today only because our Founding Fathers foresaw aspiring tyrants like FDR, who was a stupid, ignorant, unprincipled man whose only talents were his ability to convince people he cared about them, and his ability to perform political calculations and generate accurate results.

People ask about Jim Crow. Well, we got rid of Jim Crow, didn't we? How are black people faring in this nation? You can't put lipstick on a pig and call it beautiful, and you cannot call the interferences of the Federal Government in issues of State governance successful. If you fail to empower people because you want to empower government, you get a powerful government, and weak people.

[Edit: I want to be clear here. 60 years ago African Americans were in this nation a proud, hard working people who valued family, church, and civic responsibility. And they were shut out of the flow of much of our economic life. As one example, FDR's pro-Union policies had the effect of making many of them unemployed, since most Unions were openly racist, and the closed shops they created meant that black people could not approach companies directly.

FDR nominated a former KKK member, Hugo Black, for his Supreme Court. Reason: Black was a reliable Democrat.

I want African Americans integrated into our cultural life. They have been fed vicious lies for 50-60 years, and taught to revere only the State, and the money that the Democrats can get for them. Their families are gone, church is largely irrelevant, and their models are killers, drug pushers, and men who abuse women. This needs to change.

I am doing nothing but speaking the truth here. I see no reason to posit innate differences, but that a cultural divide exists between inner city ghettoes and the suburban/exurban neighborhoods that white flight has created to avoid them, is to me self evident beyond the need for further comment. We don't legislate this away: we negotiate it away, over as much time as we need to do the thing right.]

We have a mountain of debt we cannot hope to pay, which will saddle future generations with a burden that will make their lives darker, sadder, and harder.

Private pensions were working fine in the 1930's. There were State social safety net programs as well, for those States that wanted them. Social Security did not write its first check until the Depression's effects were masked by our mobilization for war, and associated IOU's issued on behalf of Americans not yet born.

The extent of the fraud and idiocy FDR and his cronies visited on this nation are only now coming into general awareness, after 70 yearsor more. Let us hope We the People are able to wake up from the sopophorics leftists have so diligently planted in our milk, and that of our children, for all these many years.

Food

I was thinking about the meaning of good food, and the hedonic pleasure associated with it. As you might imagine, I was contemplating the food culture of France.

It seems to me that food has no meaning, except to the extent that it is a communication between one human and another as to what is possible. It is possible to put a lot of love and qualitative information into a well prepared meal. To the extent it is affirmed, it represents a bond, a shared committment to elevation. It represents the triumph of work, and perception, and diligence over the commonplace, the easy, and the insipid.

To the extent, though, that it is valued for novelty or variety, it is decadent. There is no pattern or template, no qualitative richness in the movement. Meaning is about transcending self pity and difficulty, and if you are just sitting there as a figurative fat child waiting to be entertained, then the best meals in the world are wasted on you.

Bon Mots

The devil can sing, but only for a short period of time.

The bad warrior faces real bullets.

Fascism

As I think about it, Fascism is nothing but the application of the military model to society. Everyone is assigned a place, and it is expected that there be no friction and no competition between the parts. A Command economy is one based upon Generals who know what is best for all of us. They decree it, and it happens (even if a few lose fingers and toes in the machinery).

That this mindset would lead naturally to aggressive militarism seems obvious. You have everybody forcibly confined to little boxes, many of which are not suitable for them. This breeds anger, and you then need some sort of outlet for that. Go invade someone. Simple enough plan.

And as I have said often, Communism is just Fascism confined to a border. The aggressive militarism is directed at the population itself. Cuba has in fact more or less invaded other countries, but for some years now it has existed as a figurative as well as literal island. The secret police are everywhere, ready for action; but the people have learned to suffer in silence. What is left for them is decline: all the energy is gone.

Edit: I will add that we might usefully define Communism as "Fascism without hope". Mussollini and Hitler found outlets for the aggressive energies of their nations. Even if you didn't like your station in the order, you had the opportunity to go take other people's stuff. In this respect, Napoleon--whose soldiers were in large measure always paid in booty, and the opportunity rape other men's wives, mothers, and daughters--was clearly a Fascist. He kept the French busy for quite some time, while Emperor.

To be clear, when they invade other nations, Fascists don't even try to pretend it is for their own good. They are simply Vikings on a raid, who intend never to leave, and to do like the Vikings did, and enslave anybody they want as slaves.

The paradigmatic Communist War, on the other hand, is that of internal subversion, in which they get Fifth Columnists in key posts, and desecrate and denigrate the cultural and political institutions by which that nation maintains itself. The lie is always that they are rescuing the nation from some evil supposedly superior to their own.

This applies even in the case of naked aggression, as in the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, the invasions of Czechoslavakia and Hungary, the invasion of South Vietnam by their Communist neighbors, and many others. Such incursions were claimed to be for the good of all concerned.

Practically, though, they were still Fascist. The confiscated wealth of Eastern Europe was used to buoy the Soviets up long after the failure of their economic system became obvious; and of course Party bosses to this very day in China and Cuba are able to live much better than those they rule over, since they have legally protected access to the fruits of their labor, like plantation owners of old.

Again: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme merde.

Taxes as inflationary

I'm still reading "FDR's Folly", which not only decisively demolishes any residual beliefs poorly informed people might have that FDR helped this nation economically--on the contrary, he nearly turned us into the Fascist State many of his top New Deal advisors wanted, and would have but for the Supreme Court--but also eerily prefigures what Obmama is trying to do now. What FDR did in the 1930's--not let a good crisis go to waste--Obama and his Communist czars are trying to do now, using the same language, the same imbecilic economic and social theories, and which will end in the same result.

I will deal with this at length elsewhere. For now, let me make one point he made that I hadn't considered.

Inflation is always wealth transfer. I make that point often, and did in my last post. If prices are going up, SOMEBODY is taking money from the people paying higher prices. If oil goes up, and the cascade effect causes anything that is moved by truck, train, plane or boat to go up, then either the oil companies are increasing profit margins, or the cost of oil exploration has gone up, which has created business and wealth for oil explorers. If, due to cartelization, the production of oil has simply been slowed intentionally, that is still effectively a profit margin increase, and the obvious solution is decartelization.

How would we break up OPEC? That is actually an interesting question I won't address here.

Getting to my point, taxes increase the cost of business for employers. Take the Social Security Tax. We pay 6.2% of our income, but so do our employers. This cost has to be factored into the cost of doing business. Consequently, it necessitates, directly, an increase in prices charged. So our government takes money from us by force, supposedly for our own good, and thereby causes everything in America to cost more.

Self evidently, this inflation is a wealth transfer from the private sector to the public sector. All of the homes that public sector employees buy, all the cars they drive, all the 401K accounts, and pensions, and boats, and vacations, and anything they consume: we pay for it. Our wealth becomes their wealth.

With about 2.0 million civilian employees, the Federal Government, excluding the Postal Service, is the Nation's largest employer.

The postal service--which in my understanding has to be constantly underwritten by taxpayers, but which does in fact provide a useful service, and which is clearly Constitutional--employs 596,000.

Consider this: Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation

Multiplying $123,000 by 2 million gets me 248,000,000,000. This is the amount of private wealth that is transferred from the private sector to the public sector every year.

The subtle point I want to make here is that every dollar in taxes paid to support these workers--some of whom we plainly need, like the military--is not only diverted from private investment and following sustinable job creation, but also causes the cost of services and products to rise correspondingly. Your net profits are sales less costs, and taxes, being a cost, necessitate higher sales prices.

This point is ineluctable, and worth pondering. There has been so much stupidity over the last 100 years. Maybe, just maybe, we can reverse it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oil prices and inflation

I think we need to keep some things clear in our minds with respect to inflation. Prices, the amount of money in existence, and the amount of money in circulation are all related but separate things, even though practically they get used interchangeably.

If oil costs go up, everything that gets transported--which is pretty much everything--will go up in cost. This is a means of wealth transfer to oil producing companies, if their costs have not gone up, and if their costs have gone up, then it transfers that wealth to those who are charging more. Perhaps they have to look longer, or dig deeper wells, or whatever. The people that do that, are doing well.

When the amount of money in existence goes up, then the people who create it and first spend it benefit most. This would be first and foremost people with first access to Central Banks, but also all banks generally, who create the money they loan.

When the amount of money in circulation goes up, it would seem to there is no net difference. To get the money out of the supply in the first place, people would have to buy dollars at then market value. When they then spend them, they get better deals, since the absence of the money on the market will have caused prices to drop, but on balance this seems to me not a big deal. China, for example, might exchange $10 billion Mao's for $10 billion. If the yuan is devalued relative to the dollar, they don't get a great deal.

Certainly, one could take advantage of the ebb and flow of currency exchange rates, like Keynes did personally, but the primary agent of true inflation is in my view related to number two, the banking system.

Recognition

To cognize is to think. To recognize is to think twice, or so I would suppose, without confirming the etymology.

To think is to create or acknowledge a pattern. To re-think, is really to see that pattern again.

I recognize him. To do that, I must have seen him before.

How much of our perception is original, and how much recognition? If the world is constantly in flux, what is the proper role of recognition? It is difficult to imagine a world in which every pattern had to be created anew. It is equally difficult to imagine an interesting world which consisted ONLY recognition.

Emotional self mutilation

In my view, perhaps the simplest definition of psychological well-being is the ability to consistently accomplish chosen goals with enjoyment. This is really pretty simple. Do you exercise the way you want to? Do you eat the way you want to? Do you interact with others, and with your job, and pursue your career the way you want to?

Most of us, and I clearly belong in this category, are some combination of well and ill. We go to work every day, we more or less get our work done, albeit often without enthusiasm. We sort of stick to our diets, but not completely, and not without some resentment. We more or less do our fitness programs, but without excitement.

Higher level self organization, though, would enable each of us, over time, to do superior work in all areas of our lives, and enjoy it. This is the obvious path forward, that can be pursued independent of religious or spiritual beliefs. It is quite adequate even for atheists.

What I wanted to say, though, is that failing to pursue the goals we choose, is in some measure to fail to be who we are. My own goals are ridiculously ambitious, but even so, I do not pursue them with the diligence with which I know I am capable. If you are going to climb a mountain, it makes sense to keep going up, and not to circle it. One sees this terms self sabotage. I like the term self mutilation better, as the habit of paralysis has lasting consequences.

And I would draw a parallel with cutting as well, which most people--certainly all kids--are familiar with now. How does cutting ease pain?

In answering this question, I think one must look not just at psychological data, but to our broader culture, which most psychologists seem loathe to do. It may be that if it is not in a lab it is not science. At the same time, you have to look for the truth where it is. To do otherwise is to be like the drunk Irishman, who when asked why he was looking for his keys under the lamp, when he had dropped them a dozen yards back outside the pub, replied "because the bloody light is better."

Our modern world lacks rules. Our children, by and large, are only reliably taught that you can't judge people based on race, and that their chief task in life is to consume. To put it bluntly, this is a really shitty identity, and more or less a form of child abuse. We can't ask them to do our damn job, which is to give them some sense of moral compass, and some reason to persist in the face of difficulty.

It seems to me that to relate to others deeply, you have to be able to feel deeply, and to feel deeply you have to have some means by which to contextualize suffering. It can be as simple as "life is like that". It must involve the rejection of self pity, however it is accomplished.

And it must involve pain. I think any child that is too comfortable throughout childhood will be lacking in empathetic capacity. I think of sterotypical Valley girls, whose entire lives involve nearly perfect weather, malls, beauty salons and cosmetic surgery, and sex at an early age.

Sex: what a hopelessly lifeless word. A penis and a vagina or some other orifice coming together rhyhmically for some period of time, until some degree of biological tension is released, temporarily. No emotional connection need be implied.

I don't like sex--well, actually I enjoy it like everyone else--but what I really WANT is to do it with someone I can see sitting on the front porch with 40 years from now, long after I have the need, or possibly even physical capacity, to do it.

Most kids nowadays, certainly not the boys, don't think this way. They watch hard and softcore pornography, and come to view women--girls, initially--as existing in some sort of parallel world devoid of emotional committment. For their part, girls come to view themselves in much the same way. They give of themselves, but always think in the back of their minds that the boy will appreciate them much more than he ever does.

The best model for depression I have seen is that of the dog on the electrified plate. It has, I think, been some time since I've talked about this, so I'll run through that quickly. I think the following is correct, but I may have slightly altered some detail.

Experiments were done, in another time and age when ethical concerns were not so prevalent, in which dogs were placed in a cage with an electrical plate. It would be turned on, and initially the dogs were given a pathway out, so they could avoid the pain. Then the door was locked, and there was literally nothing they could do. After having endured this for some time, the door was reopened; yet, the dogs would remain where they were, enduring the shock. This phenomenon is called Learned Helplessness.

What I think many kids nowadays learn is that our common culture is so weak that what deep feelings they have can nowhere be communicated. Nobody seems to want to listen. Nobody wants to hear about feelings of rage--say, at some boy--or confusion as to what to do in life, or fear about the future, when there are so many ways the world could end in a nasty way.

They are alone. Maybe you the reader feel alone. Nobody wants to hear the thoughts you think may be silly, but which are yours. Maybe you are a poet, but afraid to share it with anyone. Or maybe you share it with everyone, and nobody reads it; or maybe they think you are stupid.

How do we connect with one another? Who are we? Have we not all been through this synchronizing mechanism in which we compare tastes in movies, or sports, or music? You listen to the Killers? Cool, I think they are the best. You a Packers fan? Me, too. Somebody was doing the dialogue to Caddy Shack the other day. I only saw that movie once, 25 years ago. I don't remember anything but Bill Murray and the gopher. I was left out of that conversation.

This is the root of cutting. Pain is real, is it not? It is not ambiguous. And I think all the piercing and tattooing we see going on is just a thinly veiled extension of cutting. Eyebrow piercings? Ear gauges? We are all looking at one another, lonely at the core of our being. We can all be cool with each other, but who will get up in the middle of the night to save you? Who will run into a burning building for you?

The Portuguese have this word "saudade". I may have mentioned this, but if so it's been a while. It is the feeling an ocean faring people get, that is sort of a longing for what is in the distance. As I understand it, it can be both a longing for home, when you are far away, and a longing for far away, when you are home. It is a sad restlessness, a lack of contentedness, a need to move.

This is what the Buddhists and Taoists called desire. To be happy, is to be happy where you are.

I have things to do. As I note on the side there, this blog is for open thoughts, and random musings. Thoughts can be like paintings or scultures. The Goodness Movement blog is sort of my museum, and this is my workshop. You have to play with the materials, you have to hit things roughly the same way, but from many different angles. These are all sketches. Some I complete, some I don't.

Always, I am trying to learn, though: to see what I should see, if my eyes were clear.

Friday, March 18, 2011

War on poverty



This is an interesting graph. Just click on it, and it will expand. You will note a substantial decline in relative Defense expenditures over the years. It definitely went down to its lowest amount at the end of the Cold War, but does not even approach what it was in the 50's, relatively speaking.

The point I wanted to make is we have spent some $16 trillion in todays dollars on the War on Poverty, and poverty is winning.

Let us use the analogy of an actual war. We have been fighting this one for 45 years, and we can list as casualties most of the people killed in poor areas, due to destroyed cultural institutions, most notably the family and church.

The War in Iraq will in the end have cost us about $2.4 trillion or so. That is one sixth what we have spent on the War on Poverty, and in the end we will (or should have) a democratic Arab nation in the Middle East. The War on Poverty has made things WORSE.

Food for thought--unless you are a leftist, in which case your only decision is what combination of fool, corporate apologist and racist I am. Whatever you do, don't think about the ghettoes of Detroit and your role in their creation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Periodic Krugman Piece

For once, he has not said anything I find objectionable. I only read this column once, and I had a Guinness for St. Patrick's Day, but he makes sense.

Banks need to be held accountable for hurting people. It is one thing to knowingly enter a loan you can't pay--and even there, the bank should not make the loan if this is the case. It is another entirely to willfully mislead people.

Once you truly grasp how the fractional reserve system works, particularly as it combines with central banking, you just want to tell many of these banks to shut up and fly right. Not many of us can imagine million dollar bonuses, but they are not uncommon, I don't think, in the banking world.

If Krugman wants to attack our banking system as parasitical, I would be prepared to support him, at least up to a point.

The "rich" are not the enemy. Bill Gates, for example, earned his money. He has created some ten thousand millionaires-something on that order--and ten's of thousands of well paying jobs. This is a useful activity.

What is not useful is creating money from scratch. All banks do this. Money that should be in the proverbial vault is instead cloned and given to other people. This is money that would not be in the economy otherwise, and is thus intrinsically inflationary.

Moreover, this Quantitative Easing the Fed is doing is nothing but printing money and giving it to a small elite that is already very, very, very rich, so they can lay ownership claims on more of the world's property. Yes, we lose the purchasing value of our money through inflation, but only if that money is spent HERE. What I expect to happen, now, is that a lot of $600 Billion or whatever it is--how would we know, when we can't audit the Fed?--will be spent buying up Japan. That won't cause inflation here, but it WILL cause a net transfer of wealth from Japan to here.

I won't defend this. This is not a matter of patriotism. Theft by any of us is the responsibility of all of us, and theft is what this is.

We need to end the Fed, and end fractional reserve banking. The latter idea makes peoples heads want to explode, but in my view it is quite doable. I will link my series again: http://www.goodnessmovement.com/Page14.html

I have said this often, but what I propose is fully congruent with the spirit in which Marxists approach economic matters, except that I care about getting the damn thing right. There are fundamental inequities n our system, but they will not be fixed by "revolution", or the empowerment of an unaccountable elite. On the contrary, such an outcome would likely work to the BENEFIT of those who already hold most of the wealth and power in this nation.

Keynes at Harvard

I recommend this book from time to time. That was where I pulled the Stuart Chase quote from, and where he quotes Mussollini calling Keynes ideas "pure fascism".

I was unable to validate all the personal crimes he catalogues in the chapter on moral depravity, except the note Keynes wrote to Strachey about "bed and boy" being cheap in Tunis. One wonders how any positive spin can be put on that; that he was referring to pedophilia and child prostitution seems almost inescapable.

One last comment I will add is that it is interesting to me to note how much people assume of our world. Things happen in a certain way, in a certain order, day after day after day, so they complacently believe that they must always remain that way.

I was on a 12' ladder the other day, working over peoples desks with them at them, with two pairs of pliers, removing 3# speakers. Some of the people were alert enough to realize that pliers do not always remain in hands. Most of them were not. They were at their desks, that was their place, and I was just going to have to deal with it. That is perhaps understandable, but I was not the one risking something dropping on my head from 15'.

There is a book called Deep Survival, which is uneven, but which makes some good points. He goes through some tragic accidents, and points out that quite often they happen because people blindly ASSUME that things do not change. A group of snowmobilers was killed in what I believe was an avalanche, after going up a hill they had gone up dozens of times. They knew that conditions were right for disaster, but it was THAT HILL, they knew it, it was their friend. Nothing had ever happened before. How could it happen now?

Many of the people out there today are the same. They blithely assume that since America has been free for 200 years (to varying degrees, depending on who you are or were), that it will always remain free. This is mouth-breathing complacency at its worst. So is trusting "governemnt" to fix anything. History is quite clear that if you are going to get some large-scale disaster--like war or tyranny--then it starts with the government. There are no examples of corporations exercising direct power (outside of, perhaps, the British East India Company, which however itself was a Crown-granted monopoly), but history is little BUT the naked abuse of power by governments. That is not the exception, it is the rule.

No one living today should be so stupid as not to realize that.

Fannie Mae is Fascist

As I hopefully made clear in the post where I discussed Hugh S. Johnson, Time Magazine's Man of the Year for 1933, point man for the New Deal, and admirer of Fascism, our government has had people in high office for many decades who held free markets in contempt, and thought they knew better how to do EVERYTHING.

The role of Fannie Mae--a New Deal agency--in the meltdown of 2008 has not been made as obvious to all concerned as it ought to have been, but it has not been fully ignored either. The short version is that when it failed, its backing of something on the order of a trillion dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities became suspect, the Credit Ratings Agencies downgraded their ratings, and sales dried up, forcing massive cashflow problems for very, very, very large banks, like Lehman Brothers.

What has been little remarked upon is that the government holds most of the mortgages in this country. The number is something like 80%. Ponder that. The Federal Government, either through direct ownership (you write a monthly check to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), or through final backing of securities consisting of packaged mortgages, has the title to 80% of the homes built in America. I am not talking public housing. I am not talking urban renewal projects. I am talking ordinary homes, "owned" by ordinary people. That is phenomenally important. We are using our own tax dollars to buy ourselves homes, and in the process ceding ownership to one monolithic entity, the Federal Government. This is a MASSIVE transfer of power, even if the consequencs of this are not obvious, yet.

Keynes was a Fascist. Mussollini himself said so, and presumably if anyone knew what Fascist economics looked like, the founder of Fascism did. Certainly, Keynes mentor--George Bernard Shaw--looked at Mussollini's Italy, Hitler's Germany, and Lenin's Soviet Union with the same enthusiasm.

In "The End of Laissez-Faire", which was not a well-thought out body of thought, but rather an erudite expression of the most cartoonish thinking, Keynes makes a case for what he called "semi-autonomous" bodies, which support the power of the State, but not in an obvious way. He used the example of the Bank of England, and if memory serves the London Port Authority. What he wanted were agencies ultimately accountable to no one, which could be subverted in a political direction he desired. Some years you make progress in the government; in other years, you have people doing things in the dark that nobody can see. Somewhere, every year, you are moving your plan for autocracy forward.

It is within this context that the patent Fannie Mae filed for a system to turn off power remotely to any home in the nation must be viewed. This is not the best link, but it will do for now.

What were they doing? They were thinking ahead to when the government actually flexed its muscle, and under the guise of preventing global warming exercised the right to determine how much power people could use, directly. They literally want a line into your home, such that they can kill your power whenever they choose to.

We are told the lie that the role of Fannie Mae is increasing home ownership. What has in fact happened is that, yes, people were approved for homes who would not otherwise have qualified. Those people, being unqualified, have in very large numbers defaulted on mortgages that never should have been written in the first place, at ENORMOUS cost to American taxpayers.

To be clear, what happened was that local banks wrote mortgages they NEVER would have kept for themselves, but which they wrote simply because Fannnie Mae buys everything. Even though everything they did put the American taxpayers on the hook, nothing they did was regulated, at the insistence of Democrats, with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd being the most egregious defenders of this terrible system.

I will note as well in conclusion that the man who wrote the book "A New Deal" was an open admirer of Soviet Communism. He went there, liked what he saw, and wrote "why should they have all the fun". By fun, he seems to have had in mind mass murder:

Best of all, the new regime would have the clearest idea of what an economic system was for. The sixteen methods of becoming wealthy would be proscribed—by firing squad if necessary—ceasing to plague and disrupt the orderly process of production and distribution. Money would no longer be an end, but would be thrust back where it belongs as a labor-saving means. The whole vicious pecuniary complex would collapse as it has in Russia. Money making as a career would no more occur to a respectable young man than burglary, forgery or embezzlement. “Everyone,” says Keynes, “will work for the community and, if he does his duty, the community will uphold him.” Money making and money accumulating cannot enter into the life calculations of a rational man in Russia. A society of which this is even partially true is a tremendous innovation


We underestimate the extent to which our order has ALREADY been subverted at our peril.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Racial differences

An interesting question in approaching racial differences is to ask, not how they differ in terms of intelligence or other physical factors, but how they are spiritually different? Do races--and I am here conflating cultural patterns with ethnicity--differ in how they become Good, or how they approach God?

What is the best path to Goodness for African Americans? For Asians? For Caucasians?

This might make for a useful dialogue. Obviously some people would object to positing ANY difference, good or bad, but my thought here is that I VALUE cultural differences. I have no desire at all for African Americans to change who they are. I have no desire for Asian-Americans to change who they are. I like who I am.

What I want is MORE cultural diversity, not less, and within the context of that aim, this discussion MIGHT make sense. I am talking out loud, but thought there was sufficient potential for something useful to come from my post, that I am hitting the button.
I was sitting in a Jewish deli called Noshville, in Nashville, some weeks ago. Sitting there, drinking coffee, looking around, watching people, several thoughts occurred to me.

When you are in a big city, you are monad-itized. You are a singular unit. You are isolated. You have people you can connect with, but the enmeshment is disrupted just by the scale of movement, and the cultural diversity. In that sort of cultural context you hvae to be able to make some assumptions about people. This is the value of uniform political beliefs. No matter what else he may believe, you can say "Well, at least this guy understand how the world works, and why we need strong unions." This is an outcome of the anxiety that attends never knowing what to expect from others. You see thousands of people very day, so you need to be able to make some assumptions.

I read once of a woman in New York claiming she did not know one person who voted for Nixon. Of course she didn't. In the face of all the diversity, at least some things remained stable for her.

Second thought: This restaurant was filled with pictures of people I didn't recognize, but who were presumably local heroes, or at least Jewish heroes. This place has kind of a Swing-era theme, so they were old. Some pictures were almost reminiscent of shrines to me, to someone was important to someone.

This led me to the conclusion that local heroes are very important. George Washington: great man, but he lived somewhere else. The people that really make you feel good are local kids who made good. Maybe not President, but they played pro ball somewhere, or started some company everyone knows. That sort of thing is useful because you can RELATE to it.

The homogenization of our culture that mass media has enabled has impoverished us in many ways.

Black Prostitutes

I wonder if one of the reasons black people are so focused on prostitution in this country (please find yourself virtually any rap album out there today if you doubt this) is that many black leaders have made deals, saying we will work with you if we get our cut.

Jesse Jackson is a pimp, who has prostituted the communities he claims to serve. He was there when MLK was shot. He has been around since then. Let us call that 40 years or more. What good has he done for his community? Where are the jobs? Where is the wealth? Why are crime rates high? Why do 40% or more of inner city kids drop out of school? Who has won? He has.

Jackson himself has made a killing, and has taught his son the family business as well. He has made a career out of it. So have Louis Farrkhan and Jerry Wright, who drive nice cars, live in nice homes, and can look forward to very comfortable retirements some day. None of them have done a damn bit of good for their constituents, but do pimps really care about the working girls who keep them in the green? They just need to convince them they need them, that they can't do without them.

You have to wonder if becoming a pimp--or talking in strongly positive terms about that or being a gangster--is not in some way reacting against that reality. This would not be conscious, but in the air in areas where everyone lives on public assistance of one form or another. If you have been subordinated in some way, you feel a compensating need for being in control.

We can and should fix our inner cities. Plainly, though, it is not getting done by current methods, even though the money flowing to it is making some people very, very rich.

I feel for these kids. This situation is intolerable. But the solution is clearly not more public assistance. My financial overhaul would help: http://www.goodnessmovement.com/Page14.html

I also presented some ideas here, in my piece on the future: http://www.goodnessmovement.com/Page8.html

I do not have the data--which would involve talking with specific people over an area--to do better for now. I will content myself with pointing out the naked immorality of most supposed black leaders.

The Way of Goodness

I may have posted something like this before. If so, my apologies. I write so much, I can't remember the details. I am continuing to take off voice memos to myself. Good God I am talkative. I am editing the content down.

To live in love is to live in chaos. I visualize being attacked by darkness. What the dark wants is routinization, and a pattern that never changes. That pattern may be outwardly helpful, it may serve the cause of Goodness for some period of time. But the world changes around us, and to fail to see that, is to fall off the Path. As Lao Tzu wrote the Way that can be told--the Way that can be defined statically, and without alteration forever--is not the Eternal Path. For that, you have to dance with the stars.

Sometimes the easy path is the hard one. Sometimes you have to skip the bridge and walk through the marsh. You can complain about it all you want, but in my view that's the way it works.

Goodness is wildness. It is being untamed, never quite sure what the next step is. That's the way to live, in my view. I could be wrong--but I make new decisions every day.

Tony Robbins, or one of the motivational gurus, used the example of a plane flying from California to Hawaii. It is off course something like 90% of the time, but the pilots make constant corrections to accomodate the wind or whatever. If you are making regular decisions, based on core principles, you can never stray too far off course, if you allow yourself to see. Only by saying, once, "this is the line that will never change" can you wind up in Japan.

Brainwashing

If you really think about it, the efforts of Communists to drive people mad, the assaults on their minds, are the more vicious of the crimes they commited when compared to the actual murders, and famines.

You look at histories, say CIA mind control, a lot of it was designed to counter the techniques that had already been developed by the Soviets, and which the CIA had to fear might be used on their own agents, if captured.

Look at brainwashed soldiers from Korea. People born into normal American families, who came home believing that the most oppressive political system ever invented was desirable.

This was done to millions of people. This is as evil an act as can be imagined. Simply inflicting pain on someone is much less evil than stealing their souls. You are creating beings who are not autonomous yet who still possess independent awareness.

I think I posted on this a while back, but I rarely repeat myself, since I can't remember what I said.