Sunday, December 30, 2012

Competition and Cooperation Pt. 2

Cooperation in economics is often over looked despite being fundamental to the very concept of commerce. After all, trading goods and services in a way that eventually lead to a common currency requires that actors in the system cooperate from the very start. However this is not the prevailing view of economic systems currently. Everyone is focused on hostile mergers of corporations, or predatory lending practices, or coercive marketing and debt encumbered slavery. Yet none of these systems are the intended purpose of cooperative commerce.

One of the most fundamental aspects of currency, is tacit agreement. I agree that this otherwise worthless piece of paper is worth a bundle of carrots. If it was suspect, no one in their right mind would trade their carrots for a scrap of paper that has already been filled with print. The value of the bill is agreed upon by everyone, every time they allow it to be used. This requires cooperation on a massive scale, between billions of people every day. If one out of every five farmers in the world were to decide tomorrow that paper was no longer worth the carrots, the whole system would collapse in days.

Cooperation is important and over looked in other economic systems as well. An employee is agreeing to exchange a commodity for currency, their time for wages. Again this requires tacit agreement and cooperation. Labor struggles are characterized by a loss of cooperation. When a group of employees decide they are not collectively being treated fairly and strike, the act of non-cooperation is the weapon they wield.

The stock market represent a cooperative agreement as well. The system currently has been perverted so it no longer even resembles its intended purpose, but it was designed so that private sector innovation could be financed and implemented. Today it has degenerated into nothing more than a complex series of  systems for harvesting profit from disfranchisement. (I would LOVE for some one to explain to me how I am wrong on this one.)

Marketing also used to be based on cooperation. The system started out on the basis of informing people of a good or service being offered. It was implicit that both actors, the merchant and the consumer, were in cooperation. Both needed one another. Then the system skewed sharply towards competitive focus and the tacit agreement of the consumer was no longer valued. This can been seen today as people coerce a disfranchised "market" of consumers to buy $0.14 worth of gold for $9.95 through televised advertising. "Buyer beware" is the banner of crude competitive influence.

By focusing economic policy towards protecting competition instead of encouraging cooperation, we have created  society based on waste, dishonesty, and avarice. Some times I wonder just how far we could have gotten by now as a species, if we realized that by working together, we can accomplish more than we ever will competing with one another.

As always, I encourage your comments and criticisms, and will never edit or omit anything.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Competition and Cooperation pt. 1

It seems to me that one of the most fundamental driving concepts driving the world today is competition. Economic theory is based on it. Our personal lives are shaped by it. The most predominant view of nature is colored by it. We are drawn to sports that feature competition and rarely cooperation. We idolize individuals not for their ideas and generosity but for their mastery and strength. I believe this is the result of genetic predisposition and not an actual reflection of the world around us.

It is easy to imagine the natural world in the "red in tooth and claw" variety, because that is as close to our own evolutionary track as it gets. Life for higher mammals, including our ancestors, is very competitive. We competed for: food, mates, social status and sometimes even for our very lives. The current model of economics is very much in this same vein. Individuals compete for jobs, businesses compete for markets, countries compete for resources. 

But this is not the end of the story. Lost in all of this competition is cooperation. We forget that we are as much apart of the world, if not more, then we are in competition with factions of it. Now before you start in thinking I have been spending too much time around hippies, let me explain. I have written about the ecosystem services in the past. I have already made the point that it takes countless interactions between several dozens (if not hundreds) of species just to serve one meal. Some of those interactions are mutually beneficial, some are deleterious, some are a push. 

The bigger point is, we are completely wrapped up in the caveman competition model of the world, and will expend great amounts of energy just to eek slightly ahead of some competitor. Some of these battles we have won handedly, for instance when was the last time you had to fight off a cougar while picking up a steak at the grocery. Some we have only gained a slight and fleeting advantage over, mosquitoes and biting flies for instance. Some of these we will never stand a real chance at, like multiple antibiotic resistance staff infections. 

True, human nature is competitive, but when we really started to take off was after we evolved cooperation. Less innately intelligent animals are adept at "red claw" type competition, most snakes and birds for example. But very few animals have adapted true cooperation, wolves who hunt in packs, or whales who trap fish. Humanity truly surpasses them all. It is our ability to coordinate, communicate, and ultimately cooperate that has lead us to the technology and comfort we enjoy today. If we were still constantly mired in competition, selfishness and avarice would have stifled scientific progress more than it has.

We even have the rarer ability to cooperate in between species. We have domesticated plants and trees that provide us with staggering varieties of foods. There are other animals that we can ride or herd live stock with, some even started out by keeping vermin from our grain stores with-out consuming our grain. It is time to take this time honored and successful methodology and apply it to more and more systems. 

Competition while sometimes healthy between two competitors on a level playing field, quickly becomes pointless when one competitor irresistibly takes advantage of some power unavailable to the other. Further more, competition leads to waste as two complete and competent, yet mutually exclusive systems must be generated. Uneven power distribution and wasteful redundancy, are the result of unchecked competition.  

Over the next few posts leading into the new year, I will take a closer look at the nature of systems like economics and politics through the lens of cooperative vs. competitive systems. Please feel free to comment and critique, I will not edit or omit anything.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A System in Crisis.

I have talked about the application of competitive capitalistic models to altruistic systems. Education is a stark reminder of how this fails to meet the goals of system. When Ronald Reagan, as governor of California, decided to reduce the subsidy on education and force the system to compensate by charging tuition, he fundamentally changed the purpose of the system. He grabbed the reigns of a system that had been working towards building communities and developing society, and perverted it into something that parallels private sector service industry.

Today, the system bares many of the hallmarks of a private sector corporation. Social stratification within the organization, with high paid directors and administration, a strong buffer of bureaucratic tangle protecting it, and disenfranchised labor who actually provide the service. The disenfranchised labor class (faculty), strives to provide the best service to the customer base, but the bureaucracy is indifferent at best, and often this places them at odds.

The modern CSU system is a textbook failure of the application of private sector models to public institution. From ballooning executive compensation, to a lack of interoffice communication, and a complete lack of compassion for human interests systemically. Instead of producing citizens who are focused on improving communities, the focus of the system seems to be extracting resources from a stream of raw material as we pass through a cookie cutter ready to support further expansion of the stratified society at large.

The role of education traditionally is exploration and innovation. It is meant to influence artists and scientists so that they can make informed progress, instead of having to reinvent the wheel each generation. Science in particular operates on a system that extends far beyond a single lifetime. If every person had to rediscover everything their predecessors developed, there would have been very little progress to separate humanity from animals.

That places the goal of education in a clear direction, to expand human knowledge, to inform and inspire, and to help the next generation discover the best place to invest their efforts. Once the purpose of a system is corrupted by profit motivation, the first causality is society. Any society that doesn't view education as purely altruistic, or worse as entitlement, is doomed to stagnation.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Compromise

I have had a lot of jobs in my life, but nothing I would have made a career out of. Often I find I am making some sort of moral compromise in order to earn a paycheck. For a while I worked at an international port running heavy equipment. I spent several years working as an auto tech and most recently I worked in hospitality. Each of these jobs left me with some moral uncertainty as to how I was contributing my effort to the world.

It is impossible for me to just work. I inevitability end up considering the system I am apart of and how I fit into it. Working at the port left me wondering about the effects of globalization and the effects of out sourcing on domestic manufacturing labor markets. I also thought about the effects of mass consumption and the environmental effects of centralized distributional networks. The working conditions overseas was impossible for me to ignore when I saw foot prints on cardboard put down on the floor of containers to protect merchandise that obviously came from barefoot children.

My time spent as an auto mechanic left me wondering about perpetuating a system of petroleum consumption. By suggesting to people that they need to get oil changes every three thousand miles instead of actually researching the maximum life span of oil and tailoring recommendations accordingly, I was directly contributing to environmental degradation. Worse yet, every un-fixed oil leak that left my shop because the customer was more interested in making sure the stereo worked than minimizing their environmental impact was like a stain on my soul.

Through all of this people told me I just think too much. No where was this more bluntly put to me than when I work in bars. We sold people alcohol, we encouraged drinking, we were witness to people choosing to compromise their moral structure and their standards night after night. I served people intoxicants purchased by other people with a single interest in mind. I watched as people "loosened up" and were sometimes swept away in momentary hedonism but rarely had to witness the morning after when they paid for it. I don't actually know for sure, but I was probably party to: rape, addiction, depression, and the erosion of people's lives.

I sit here in my mid-life. A turning point. I realize that all I really have in this world is the time I am alive in it, and my perspective while I experience that time. Having a job is exchanging one of the most precious commodities I have, my time, for money. I do not imagine at the end of my life I will wish I had more money, but I might wish for more time. It is much more important to me that what I spend my time doing is working for good. So as I experience the last days of the year, I want to devote my next year to finding a position in the world where I can exchange my time for income, but I am going to do everything I can to ensure that position does not make me feel like I am compromising.

This career must not perpetuate a cycle of disenfranchisement. It must not contribute to the environmental damage that is apart of so many systems. It must not have a negative effect on communities or on people's lives. I want my time and my efforts to have a net positive influence on the world. I have no idea as of today where my vocational track is going to take, but I am going to spend the next year turning over every rock and rooting through every aspect of our society until I find something that fits. Let this be the year I turn my back on compromise. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Medical Science and Petroleum

Besides environmental causes, there are several other good reasons to restrict the consumption of petroleum. My chemistry professor pointed out that most industrial manufacturing processes require the use of petroleum derived products. Most notably of these processes is medical technology. Imagine for a second every medical procedure you have ever had. I'm willing to bet every one involved the use of plastics at least. Take that in combination with the fact that most chemically derived medications require a petroleum product in at least one step of its synthesis.

Petroleum is not the infinite resource we have been lead to believe. It takes millions of years to form and requires specific environmental conditions. You have to have a large amount of biomass buried deep in the ground and exposed to heat and just the right amount of pressure. Too much or too little of these conditions and you will get diamonds, graphite, or other carbon formations. Oil is finite.

While many of the SUPs (single use plastics) and petroleum derived chemicals we currently enjoy can be replaced with less convenient materials, medical technology is a different story. Plastic utensils, water bottles and food containers have been developed that are made form plant cellulose and can be composted. The limited life span of these types of SUPs makes this kind of innovation a perfect fit. But many medical devices and medications require petroleum that cannot be so easily replaced.

What does this have to do with you? Well if you do not and are not planning on having kids, very little. But if you have already contributed to the gene pool, you can safely bet that once petroleum resources have been exhausted, western medicine as we know it will be devastated. Many of the drugs, medical supplies and equipment used for even basic procedures (like syringes or antibiotics) will be much more difficult to come by.

Imagine every plastic product in your life today. Then imagine your great-great grand children not having access to any of it or being forced to pay cost prohibitive prices for access to it. Welcome to the future we are currently on track to create. This is a one to one for your life. Every gallon of gas you save by riding your bike, might just save one more life in the future. Every time you refill a stainless steel water bottle, you might be helping someone years from now get access to a dialysis treatments. Be a hero, don't consume.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The future looks bright! (for spiders and plants)

So I have written previously about reasons for people to become personally involved with combating global climate change. The worlds coca crops, for instance, are threatened by the changing climate in the narrow band near the equator where it grows. But with 2012 coming to a close, and humanity still prioritizing trips to the mall over environmental stewardship, we are crossing the threshold some predict will lead to irreversible climate change.

But it might not be all bad. There are several species that might seriously benefit from the direction the climate is trending in. Arthropods for instance, who depend heavily on ambient temperatures for homeostasis, would seriously benefit from a warmer average climate. A recent study shows that spiders that live in warmer "urban heat island" cities tend to grow larger and can generate more body fat over their rural cousins.

Much of the kingdom of Plantae will also benefit from the increased carbon dioxide we are dumping into the atmosphere. When we burn fossil fuels, we are merely shifting the climate back to the conditions that were present on earth during the Paleozoic era when most of the biomass that fossil fuels are composed of was buried. Massive tree ferns and other mega-flora will surely dominate the post human landscape.

This may lead to significant changes in diet for us as well. Most animals we raise for food are adapted to surviving in a very different climate than the one we are influencing. It is more than probable that, in the future we are creating, our ancestors will be carving up a three foot millipede rather than a turkey for thanksgiving. If they can compete with larger, much more successful reptiles who wont be wasting energy creating their own body heat.

The bad news for us; however, is that mammals are not particularly well adapted to these conditions. The earliest mammals didn't even evolve until almost 50 million years after the carboniferous period ended and the earth started cooling down. Even then we were tiny creatures, relegated to nocturnal or secretive lifestyles. We didn't become competitive in the cordata phylum until after the cataclysmic end of the Cretaceous and the long trend of cooling that followed.

But our future is not planned. We are adaptable and resilient as a species in general. I am sure we will get used to giant spider ranches instead of cattle and consider our selves lucky when we feed a family of four from a single giant carrot instead of the hassle of washing and preparing dozens at a time. Who knows, maybe our distant ancestors will thank us for forcing them to grow up learning to ride giant dragon flies while hunting massive lizards.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mother Nature's Lobbyists

As the new year rapidly approaches, a new political force is making its self heard. For decades now environmentalists have warned that the path humanity is on is unsustainable. We squander the precious resources that are provided to us by the natural environment without carefully weighting out the potential costs. We have used the air, water and land as dumping grounds for all sorts of anthropogenic wastes assuming that we will never reach its capacity for renewal.

Global climate change will continue to make dry places drier and wet places wetter. Natural cycles of hot and cold weather patterns will continue to be exaggerated, but at a pace more rapid than most of the ecosystems we depend on are capable of coping with. This will be compounded by direct anthropogenic problems, like contaminated fresh water, until only a few of the most resilient systems will survive.

Today, as the severity of natural disasters grows, politicians still insist on discussing environmental stewardship in economic terms. Protecting tax loop holes or safe guarding "entitlements" are more of a litmus test for political popularity than scientific literacy. As long as financial interests are held paramount over everything else, the path forward is clear, and it does not look good.

But that might soon change. Hurricane Sandy represented one of the most expensive weather related catastrophes in our recent history. This is mother nature trying to wake us up. Civilized nations have for the most part realized that like it or not, we are not above nature, but apart of it. Now is the time for America to step up to the plate and take responsibility for our actions. We cannot afford to selfishly revile in our teenage years much longer, but take our place as a maturing nation capable of harnessing our skill and determination towards becoming leaders once more.

These responsibilities include paying full price for the services we enjoy. No more youth discount, we must factor the environmental costs into our consumption. Cradle to the grave product life spans need to be considered. The convenience of single use plastics should come at a price commensurate with the ecological damage they create. Designed obsolesce needs to be rooted out and abolished from business models. Striving for carbon neutrality should be as, if not more, important than any symbol of social status.

Elected leaders that still cling to outdated models of success cannot be allowed to endanger our future any longer. Make your voice heard. If we do not act offensively right now to stem the "profit at all costs" attitudes that infect our culture, mother nature will put us on the defensive. That will surely be much more expensive in the long run.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Class warfare.

Make no mistake. Class warfare exists. From the financial barriers of educational access to targeting only the "entitlements" that benefit the working class despite tax loop hole and direct subsidy entitlements for industry,  there is a war and the working class (and more and more the middle class) is losing. Recently a boycott Walmart has become popular on Facebook. For some of us this is no surprise, Walmart has used horrible labor practices in the past like forcing employees to work off the clock, and when confronted about this upper management policy, it denies everything and blames it on low level management.

The truth is many of us have been apart of a decades long boycott of Walmart and several other non-union retailers. This is supposed to be the invisible hand of the free market economy "correcting" a business for being bad. Only like Freemarket economics in general, this hasn't worked. With the Walton family making record profits while they continue to utilize slave labor abroad and at home. Most people come up with some kind of excuse for why they shop there, but in reality they are condoning slavery.

It is very difficult to be a truly informed consumer in this day and age. Often the neighborhood grocery down the street is actually apart of a multinational conglomerate who is completely willing to compromise your morals and never ever tell you. Make no mistake about it, "Just being the consumer" does not exempt you from taking responsibility for the business practices that brought you the goods or services. If you buy the cheep plastic toy, you might be saying "I am ok with a child being chained to the machine that made this in china".

Worse yet, through practices like predatory pricing, they have already eliminated competition on some goods or services so that their are no alternatives in some markets. In these cases it takes real ingenuity or complete sacrifice on the part of the consumer to maintain ethical consumption standards. Don't let that stand in your way however, you are not alone, many other people are trying to consume ethically. This takes many forms so you must decide what is important to you; animal rights and testing, fair labor practices, environmental stewardship, domestic and foreign trade policy. Then join with a consumer advocacy group who most closely matches your personal moral structure.

As always, I welcome comments and criticisms. and will not edit or omit any.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Nation in Transition.

Extreme weather events, fishery collapse, and the ramifications of the decline in biodiversity have on ecosystems we depend on for clean air, water and food is starting to smash the cognitive dissonance of those who still doubt the anthropogenic causes of climate change. As I write this, Wall Street in New York City is running on a gas powered generator. This isn't just a warning shot across the bow, but the first jabs from a undefeated prize fighter.

As a nation we have historically invested a significant portion of our financial resources to defend our national security. It is time to put that same muscle behind protecting our nation and its citizens once again. Make no doubt about it, transitioning our economy to the paradigm of the post fossil fuel realities we need to face will be hard. But we are a strong and innovative people. We have historically faced unflinching challenges much greater. We came from behind to seal our legacy in the space age by completing the monumental task of planting the American flag on the moon.

The hardest part will simply be purging our political system of those whose financial interests conflict with national security. Historically, international petroleum corporations have acted against our nations interests by raising domestic consumer prices in order to under sell competitors in foreign markets. They constantly shirk their tax burdens despite reliance on our nations military force. Today they are actively propagandizing Americans to resist facing the realities of climate change. No entity in my life time has ever presented such a clear threat to our national security.

We have the know-how and the technology exists to maximize efficacy and minimize environmental degradation. While the transition to a post carbon economy will be hard for some companies and even harder for many individuals, in time the same innovation and dedication that made business succeed in a carbon based economy will bring success in a post carbon economy. The same skill and ability that drove our nation's development over the last century, when harnessed in sustainable direction, will once again bring about a push for infrastructure adaptation that will ensure a safer future for subsequent generations.

Like our forefathers who scratched out a hard won existence as pioneers in the new frontier, we too must commit to the work of transforming the rough shod and scattered America created by fossil fuel reliance into a system where we are no longer dependent on such a limited resource.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms and will not edit or omit any of them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Still waiting....

The very first post I ever produced for public consumption (all three of you) was a little embittered. In waiting for the old people to die I painted a picture of the world as I saw it. Full of injustice and entrenched complacency. I have not really softened, but my views have changed. I am no longer embittered when I think about the generation that is in power currently. The truth is I feel very sorry for them.

The paradigm they live in is one where the single biggest economic driver is killing us. Petroleum was a boom for the development of our nation. I have been reading "The Prize" by Daniel Yergin, and it is hard to not feel a certain sympathy for those who strove their entire lives to build such an extensive and powerful industry. There is no doubt that petroleum exploitation has shaped our nation much the same way the discovery of fire must have transformed our ancestors.

Climate change denial is to be expected from such a paradigm. They grow up in a world of limitless resources, and immutable environment. The main focus of humanity for the last two thousand years was to separate its self from nature. The natural world has been maligned as primitive and as something to be conquered. Now we are facing the backlash of the natural world in the form of ecosystem collapse. There is no longer any debate internationally about the validity of the anthropogenic causes behind climate change.

But like the Widerstand standing up to Hitler in Nazi Germany, being right is simply not enough. There is still a strong economic force in America clinging to petroleum like a caveman resistant to adopting an electric stove. My sympathy goes out to them. They are not equipped to deal with a post carbon economy. The world they created is becoming increasingly inhospitable, and the cognitive dissonance they must maintain has become unbearably complex. 

Where is gets scary is in the context of the american political system. These strong economic forces have shifted the debate so far from scientific credibility that many of political leaders in our nations capital are not even capable of understanding the scope of the problem we face, let alone bring about effective policy against it. That is where my sentiment of "waiting for the old people to die" comes from. They seem to have no interest in working towards a livable future for my and subsequent generations. 

But don't worry, pretty soon we will be taking their keys away, in the mean time, just stay out of their path as they careen the wrong way down the freeway.

As always I welcome your comments and criticisms, and will not edit or omit any.   

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Economics as an ecosystem, pt. 3.

Alternative economic models might exist in nature. There are many different types of cooperative systems in the natural world. I propose that capitalism is an attempt to create a natural like system of economics. However it was created when the idea of "Nature, red in tooth and claw" was the common representation of evolution as decent through natural selection. In reality, many of the systems that have grown to become self-perpetuating rely on some form of natural cooperation between or within species.

We all think we are better adapted than squirrels to exist on this planet right. We have larger brains, we have mastered technology that the squirrel world might never be able to utilize (though it is fun to imagine squirrels making use of trenching equipment and GPS technology to bury and keep track of their nuts). But when it comes to economics, they beat us hands down. Considering their short life, they bury thousands of seeds and nuts, it is estimated that a full third of these will never be found. These abandoned hordes germinate and generations later, supply food for the great-great-great-grand-squirrel of the planter.

They contribute a third of their labor towards forest management! They are actively creating conditions to ensure the success of their species well into the future. This is most likely not the direct result of a big squirrel meeting, where they mandated a percentage of "lost nuts", but squirrels have not adapted the organizational trait that characterizes humans. Yet despite our "advanced" adaptation, we are still collectively unable to match or trump this level of sustainability.

Ant and bee populations also present another possible natural economic system. Here we have social stratification; workers, warriors, queens and her drones, all with specific job descriptions and traits to match. There is considerable evidence that they even have basic intra-collective communication skills. Decisions made by individuals tend to lopsidedly favor the collective welfare of the hive or nest. This often translates to inter-generational success and empire expansion. But at the cost of individuality and the personal freedom.

Despite the success of the hive model, it is somewhat antithetical to apply to humans. Unfortunately for vertically integrated models (corporate type), we do not preform our best when we act exclusively through directives from the top (micro-management). Ants however do not receive "orders" per-say, they have intrinsic behaviors that are triggered by the actions of others. That is to say, they act autonomously, but with the single interests of the collective as their highest priority. If only business could generate this single-mindedness with in its ranks. (They probably could if they would forget about cost benefit analysis when it came to how they treat their employees, but that is a different story.)

Both of these models do have (imperfect) parallels in human behavior. The squirrel is like the bottom up approach to sustainability. Creating resilient sustainable communities from personal involvement; programs like the capital hill food forest in Seattle is an example of this. The other model is top down management, Japan's highly successful forestry management program through careful accounting and enforcement. One thing both of these models share that capitalism in general is completely ignorant too, is sustainability over profit.

For the squirrel, the energy it spends to amass the surplus could easily be spent on much more personal gains, expanding territory and harem for example. For the ant colony, if the interests of individuals were to become more important that the collective good, the nest would surely collapse in decay within only a few generations. The take-away is basically, individualism be it bottom up or top down, is somewhat at odds with sustainability.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ecosystem Services

One of the biggest revelations that comes to most people who study biology is the intrinsic nature of our interconnected lives with biodiversity. From birth we are propagandized to believe we are something different and apart from the natural world. This most likely grew from the admittedly hostile environment we compete in. But like a bad jr. high school yearbook photo, we cannot escape our true dependence on our ecosystem.

Take a basic meal for instance, steak, potatoes, peas and fruit cobbler for desert. It is easy to imagine that only four or five organisms were involved, maybe if you really think about it, grain and grazing pasture for the steer and bees to pollinate the fruit trees. Think that is it? Not even close, we are forgetting the host of AMF fungi that are necessary for most plants to be productive enough to have harvest-able growth. But why stop there, almost nothing would grow with out nitrogen fixing bacteria, and what about the birds and bats that keep insect pests in check, or detritivores that allow for nutrients to be converted from waste. 

The point is, we have never and will never take a bite of food or breath a single lungful of air that didn't come to us through the complex interactions of hundreds if not millions of organisms. Like it or not we all deeply depend on natural land and water ecosystems. Researchers at Stanford University have taken the first step towards quantifying the value of these complex systems. InVEST is a GIS based modeling tool that can be used to quantify data from biological field experiments among its myriad of uses. 

We have the tools now to place a concrete value in economic terms to natural resources without having to resort to "aesthetic appeal". In the right hands, this has immense potential to change the way we look at natural resources. From water resource management, to farming, and even city planning. Best of all (through the link above) the program is free. But you do have to purchase the accompanying GIS software package (second link) if you do not already have it.

Better than any "cap and trade" model for environmental stewardship, this could revolutionize economic policy to actually account for the systems now taken entirely for granted. It is better than learning the hard way, like when we found out after installing a dam that NW cedar forests require the input of salmon to maintain a viable nutrient store. 

As always, I welcome comments and criticism, and will not edit or omit anything.   

Monday, October 15, 2012

Vote with heart, not with fear.

I have advocated for writing in or voting for a 3rd party candidate this election. Several of my lefty friends (I call them centrists) have preached fire and brimstone to me for it. They see Romney as the worst of the worst and any vote "wasted" will only strengthen his position. I am not so easily dissuaded nor will allow my vote to be cowed with fear developed by in group/ out group tactics.

A professor once told me while we were discussing ground water resource management that "people are not going to care about clean drinking water until green sludge comes out the tap" and to a large extent he is right. The apathetic majority are perfectly content to mill along in the traces of their social construct despite the world crumbling around them.

To this end I see Romney as sort of an anti-hero. Romney represents the last wave of capitalism. His business experience is based on swooping in on an organization in trouble and selling off everything he can, firing everybody employed, and pocketing the profits. Despite all of his american exceptionalism rhetoric, his record shows that he is quite flexible when it comes to acting in the narrow capitalistic business interests. His short sighted policies will surely disenfranchise a large segment of the population, especially considering the challenges climate change will present over the next four years.

Secondly, the scope of the changes needed for our nation to shift to a post carbon economy will be much easier with the majority of Americans slipping into abject poverty. Poor people consume less. They have a lower standard of living. So greener transition elements will be seen as nation building in the post Romney era. As more and more of the apathetic majority find their personal interests on the wrong side of a cost benefit analysis, I predict greater involvement in politics.

Romney sees himself apart from the general population because of his religion, and he probably sees america as nothing more than another troubled asset to glean a profit margin from. Maybe seeing what the principals of purely capitalistic motivation combined with a religious zealots ambitions being applied to our government can do will wake more people up in the long run.

As always, I welcome your comments and responses and will not edit or omit any of them.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The True Majority

I hear politicians and pundits, toss around the term majority often. The moral majority, or even the 99% is truly a misleading tool to wield. But there is one actual majority in America, The Apathetic Majority. Often you find them crouched behind excuses like "busy" or sometimes openly admit they don't care. Often these overly busy people still find time for trivialities such as mind numbing television programs or following sports.

Participatory democracy only works if you participate. There are far too many citizens in our country for everyone to have their interests fully realized. Ideally, if there are enough people who share a common interest, that becomes clout to be addressed politically. In today's political environment however, wedge issues are used to wrangle the voting minority while the only real change happens for the benefit of those who control public opinion.

I believe this apathy has been manufactured by those who have the means to control public opinion to further their own personal agenda. They want you more interested in sports, entertainment and which celebrity is sexing up another celebrity. They want you more interested in the product than the manufacturing process behind it. They want you more interested in "fitting in" by having the symbols of success than standing out and up for what is currently not "popular".

This is not crazy fringe conspiracy, it is based on real science, in fact one of the best funded areas of cognitive science. The marketing industry really wanted to know how people tick and now that they know, they exploit the techniques developed with a level of sophistication that is truly frightening. They can sell products that known to contribute to; obesity, or even cancer, and people "willingly" line up to buy them.

Nothing in our regulatory bodies stops the practice of applying those same techniques to influencing politics through public opinion. Marketeers are willing to manipulate consumers into acting against their very health in the name of corporate profit, and they are willing to manipulate voters into voting against their own interests. The only weapon we have left is research and awareness. Choose apathy at not only your own peril, but at the expense of our collective best interests.

As always I welcome your comments, constructive or otherwise, and will not edit or omit any of them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Have you ever lost your voice?

When the supreme court ruled in favor of citizens united in the landmark case citizens united vs. federal elections commission, the language of the decision expressly equates the capital expenditures of a corporation to influence an election as free speech. So where does that leave the rest of us who do not have billions of dollars in capital to advance our causes? Basically voiceless.

The voice of the 99% (used in this case as meaning anyone who cannot get corporate sponsorship for their cause) is essentially wiped out by this "constitutional interpretation". It is like saying "sure you have your right to free speech, but every time you open your mouth I am going to scream in a bull horn so no one can hear you". I ask you, my readers (all three of you), does this infringe on our freedom of speech?

It is like the "free speech zones" they set up during campaign events, only in stead of separating dissenting voices from public events, they are separating the American people from the elected officials that write the laws we live by.

There is no doubt about it, if we don't put aside the artificial differences created by partisan bickering (see "wedge issue voting") and put forth a collective effort to enact meaningful change we no not stand a change of having any of the most important issues our nation faces resolved properly. Think for a second, does the issue you care about the most in politics have a chance at gaining corporate sponsorship? It there a way for a singularly profit motivated entity to benefit from it? If not, then you better get involved soon, or give it up entirely.

Don't be fooled into becoming what I call the "apathetic majority". Gather signatures or at least sign the petition, or accept that the only direction our country will travel in the future is towards what is best for a handful of the most lucrative industries.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dear Congressman Broun.

I am not a constituent of yours but it has come to my attention that you are professing a disbelief in evolution. Normally this kind of ideology is to be expected coming from the right and wouldn't be so alarming. Your particular case as a Medical Doctor and appointee to the committee for science and technology makes this particularly worrisome. 

Any physician who practices medicine is our nations front line against disease. It is written into the oath that as a doctor you must do no harm. Choosing to be blind to a important part of how the human body works in the context of how it evolved is exactly antithetical to that oath. 

I strongly believe that a competent understanding of evolutionary biology directly contributes to a person's effectiveness at protecting our nation as viral pathology and immunology including antibiotic mechanism, all require understanding the problems we face in the proper context. 

Please in the interest of national security step down from your post on the science advisory counsel. As for any individuals who might be harmed by poorly made decisions please stop practicing medicine. 

Thank You.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Get involved!

The current (US) presidential election cycle is unprecedented. The supreme court ruling in the case of Citizens United vs The Federal Elections Commission has changed the political dynamic in profound (and profane) ways. By opening the door to wealthy corporate influence, our political leadership is no longer beholden to the American people, but to those who brandish the stick of public opinion.

This is not a failing of government, but a gross manipulation of political system that was not designed to handle the modern worlds technologically interconnected nature. Today, the political leaders who are supposed to represent the interests of our nation are under constant threat and pressure by those who wield propaganda or direct campaign financing. The story of stuff project made a simplified video explaining how the mechanism works.

The answer is simple and can only be accomplished by direct action  by the american people. We must free our political system from the stranglehold of regulatory capture and other manipulations of the system.  The link above redirects you to a campaign to amend the constitution. How involved you want to get is up to you, but make no mistake, this is your fight.

The political climate of today is such that no cause will gain any traction on capital hill with out corporate sponsorship, making this is a truly bi-partisan effort. I understand that in such a politically divisive time it is hard to conceive of a universalizing movement, but every one; from conservatives who worry about immigration reform or the moral framework of our nation, to environmentalist who strive to make a better planet, to social justice fighters who work for equality, have this problem in common.

This is the first step towards the ONLY way to bring our nation back to a place where an idea lives or dies on the senate floor solely based on the merit of its argumentation and not whose lobby is supporting or against it. Short of revolution, supporting this amendment is the last, best hope for restoring any semblance of a representative democracy in our nation. Are you a patriot?

As always I welcome your comments and will not edit or omit any of them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The truth about "Chem-Trails".

I wanted to do a piece on a topic that has been becoming more and more prominent on the internet. The so called "Chem-trail conspiracy". With over 90,000 hits on YouTube it is becoming one of the fringes biggest agenda items. 

But there is a simple explanation for increasing persistence of jet con-trails, global climate change. According to NASA (under "Global Surface Temperature") the earth is warmer today than it was before air travel became commonplace. Warmer globe means more Atmospheric water vapor. Con trails start out as the emission of combustion bi-products, as these cool they are composed of and attract water vapor. Higher vapor density means longer lasting con-trails.

Even more convincing is the economics of the concept. Of the 11,000 MILLION gallons of jet fuel consumed by the US last year alone, even a one part per thousand additive of the kind of chemical capable of causing the kinds of diseases cited would be seriously cost prohibitive. Secondly, regulatory bodies like the FAA, EPA through the ASTM tightly regulate jet fuel composition.

Looking for some kind of dubious tie to a phenomena that has a sound scientific explanation to blame the declining birth rates or increase of disease is not science. But it might be an GCC denier astro-turfing campaign in response to the 1990 IPCC report that indicated an increase in global atmospheric water vapor.

Besides there are much better point sources to investigate first. In the same time frame that "chem-trails" have become more common so have; cell phones (a point source of microwave radiation), plastics, chemicals in food processing, bio-accumulation of chemicals in everything from seafood to beef, paint compounds have changed, volatile organic compounds (VOC's) are everywhere as the bi-products of most manufacturing technologies.

The point is, it is impossible to blame something that even at its highest concentrations (if lets say half of all jet fuel was "chem-trail" chemicals) is still significantly less present in anyone's personal environment compared to car exhaust or manufacturing chemicals left over on the plastics ubiquitous in modern daily life.

As always, I welcome your comments, and will not omit or edit any of them (even from conspiracy theorists).

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The psychopaths on welfare.

I have never understood why corporations want to shirk tax burdens. They receive a disproportional level of benefit from the types of systems that taxation creates. Systems like social security have the direct effect of lowering long term retirement expenditures for a business that employs american workers. How do you calculate how much infrastructure benefit (like roads and bridges) american businesses rely on for shipping their good or allowing their employees to commute.

Police and firemen protect private property on ground level and trade agreements protect business interests internationally. Municipal water and waste treatment systems are expanded to accommodate the expansion of private enterprise, from manufacturing to office parks. The US Navy maintains eleven carrier groups in international waters at all times to protect american shipping interests. We have paid billions of dollars as tax payers to fund clean up after ecological disasters from irresponsible mining or oil extraction operations.

Yet despite all we have done, as tax payers, to support business, all they seem interested in is bringing down the quality and safety of the products and services they provide to extract a little more profit. They have wormed their way into the pockets of OUR representatives in local, state and national offices, with the single minded interest of expanding their profit margins. This takes different forms, it can be: direct subsidies, deregulation, tax loop holes, or even favoritism in the competition for government contracts.

Often this places the people we have elected in juxtaposition with our interests. Take for example deregulation in the banking industry. You would have thought that the lessons we learned as a nation during the first great depression that it is important that banks keep separate the books they keep for in house lending and the money they make available to stock market trading. If a bank lends someone money to buy a house, that deal should be between you and the bank, not you the bank and your cousin's retirement fund. If they stand to profit from the interest they charge you for the mortgage, then they should solely face the risk.

Instead of working in good faith with in the intent of regulation, most major corporations expend a great deal of energy pushing the limits of the letter of the law to get away with as much as they can. This comes at a great cost to everyone. Those of us who rely on ecosystem services (read ALL OF US) and are faithful law abiding citizens, are now out voiced and out classed by an out of control juggernaut with a strangle hold on the system intended to protect us.

The psychopaths are tightening their grips on our way of life, from the food we eat to the zeros at the end of our pay check. Worst part is, we are paying them to do it.

As always I welcome your comments and suggestions, I will not omit or edit any of them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Oil, the driver of avarice.

There are many who are content to allow the future of our nation, and to an extent, our home planet to be controlled and manipulated by those who have gained status as the wealthy heads of business. Allowing a disproportionate share of political clout to fall in the hands of only those are capable of affording it by shrugging to "the system as it is". This apathy is not only helpful to those who desire power for selfish ends it is necessary.

The apathy rampant, especially in younger generations, is carefully crafted by those who seek to shape public opinion. They infect educational systems with bloated bureaucracies and pollute entertainment media with propaganda to create a false sense of monolithic permanency. This is plain and obvious in the lens of history, when carefully observing the homogenizing effects these two systems have had on society.

When considering domestic energy policy, the most powerful lobby group in the game is fighting to keep america dependent on oil. We subsidize an industry that has put more shareholders on Forbe's lists than any other. We have even sacrificed the lives of countless soldiers to protect the interests of these nakedly greedy thieves. Yet they betray the national interest by chafing at tax burdens despite their dependence on the services (like the eleven carrier groups deployed by the navy to protect shipping interests).

It cannot be said that they grew malignant over time, they started out as a cancer on the body of the public. In 1914, the reason Royal Dutch/Shell group expanded into the american market was defensive. Standard Oil was more than willing to hike domestic prices to off set losses in the European market as it attempted to out compete The Group. They have no loyalty to any nation or consumer market yet today they wield more political influence than any domestic citizen organization.

We need to get our country back. We must purge the political influence of those who will turn on our national security in a heartbeat if the margin of profit was right. Media propagandists are traitors to our nation. The apathetic are traitors to our nation. Those who seek tax loop holes despite demanding services are traitors to out nation. Those who would stand idle as our political system is bought and sold openly are traitors to our nation. It is time to take a stand.

As always I encourage your comments and will not omit or edit any of them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The invisible hand of the market.

"If the only tool in your tool box is a hammer, then every problem you encounter better be a nail!" I would like to start out by saying I am NOT anti-corporatism. I think for some applications, the corporate model should be applied because of the efficiency of scale it provides. Some systems do benefit from top down control in ways that can act to benefit consumers. It is when that model is applied outside of its useful range that it becomes by magnitudes more harmful than beneficial.

In my opinion, two things limit the range of applications where the corporate model can be applied. One is the way in which consumer choice can be inherently protected. The second, is the purpose of the system being studied.

Despite the charter of any company, the end goal of any business is to make money. It is the single driving force behind the vast majority of boardroom decisions. It all comes down to money. When consumer choice is not protected and a good or service is compulsory, health care for example, regulation must be tightly maintained to prevent the decision making process to allow services to sink to lowest common denominator. Decisions that are detrimental to the public good become "necessary to the bottom line". That puts those profiting from the system exactly at odds with the interests of the consumer. This is one of the most strikingly obvious examples of where the corporate model is entirely incompetent.

Another question that should have been asked before allowing the private sector to apply a corporate model is "What is the purpose and role of this system?". Education for example is a way for a country to invest in its own future. Education is the only thing keeping any nation from slipping back into the dark ages. This is not something that pays off with forth quarter dividends. It is altruistic, it leads to greater personal investment by individuals who a part of a nation. It prevents the kind of desperation that spikes crime rates and lifts people from the need of social welfare safety nets. Again, constraining a system intended for public good to become profitable places the system at odds with the consumers.

Today, this highly successful model from the competitive private sector is being applied to systems where no competition exists. It is leaching into governance where its essentially psychopathic nature will eventually become the single greatest threat to our national security. The model of corporatism has proven to struggle under regulation and will do everything it can to shirk its control. If individual businesses can not be trusted to act in the best interest of important yet unprofitable components like environmental protection, how can we trust them to strive for the best for our nation?

The answer is, we cannot.

As always, I welcome you comments and will not edit or omit any.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Tool Kit of the Informed Consumer.

Almost everyone in America has access to a powerful tool. Access to information has become practically ubiquitous. The cell phone in your pocket probably has more computing power then every computer created up until I was15 years old combined. This power, if used properly can change the world in real and meaningful ways, if you are up to the challenge.

I posit this, decide on a month, or a week or even a year (if you are the competitive type) and research every purchasing decision. Make a little time in the evening, and look at the business practices of every label in your fridge and pantry. If you shop at a corporate store this will probably be easy, you will find that most of the products you consume come from only a handful of sources. When I say business practices I am referring to the entire vertically integrated system, from raw material extraction, through domestic labor practices to get it onto your shelf.

When you are spending money on a product, it sends a message to the provider. That message is "I agree with your business practices." Every dollar you spend is a vote, the only vote that truly matters in the system created by industry today (including the political). The single best way to have your voice heard today is by abstaining from supporting evil.

Would you still feel comfortable wearing a diamond ring if you knew that the very rock on your finger cost the lives of a man's family? Would the shirt you wear still warm you if you knew a child was chained to a loom to create the fabric? How would the meat you eat taste knowing that tracts of rain forest had to be cleared for that steer to be grazed? A lot of this information will be hidden from you, for obvious marketing reasons. So if a part of the supply chain is left out of an explanation then you might be best off erring on the side of caution.

For me personally, I value environmental issues above all else (not that I think labor issues are unimportant). So I would rather do without, than to allow some corporate entity to sacrifice my moral ideals without my knowledge or consent. If they can't account for it, I'm not going to buy it. Don't give in to the social pressure that is generated by advertising. Just because everyone else is dumb enough to be manipulated in that way does not mean you have be as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Consumption: Entrenched Complacency.

I grew up without a television. Mostly because of the live-aboard lifestyle but also because my parents thought it was a bad influence. As much as it made me a social outlier, in the long run I am glad they did. But looking from the outside of American society is very strange. The things many people value as "needs" generally seem foreign to me. I missed out on the acculturation of consumerism.

Two of the most striking trends I have noticed, I have dubbed "disposable purchases" and "pointless consumption". Disposable purchases relates to the decline of quality of goods available for purchase and the mentality of throwing away an item after some arbitrary useful life. Pointless consumption is more about impulse buying or making purchases; less on some specific identified need and then researching if a product exists to fill that need, and more on finding purposes for items purchased.

Disposable purchasing is one of the worst problems we face as a society in my opinion. Often the products we buy generate more waste in the manufacturing process than the weight of the item itself. Settling for a lesser quality item that cannot either be repaired if it loses functionality or has a predetermined half-life straight out of the box, is agreeing to be apart of the business model of waste and environmental degradation. From paper plates, and single use plastics at one end of the spectrum to cars and computers at the other, the idea of a product being useful only once or only for a few years is beyond insulting to the natural environment that so graciously provides us with so much.

Pointless consumption is even more evil. In other posts I have written about the way marketeers (knowingly or not) violate your will through advertising to instill an urge to consume. (See "Television has ruined America".) If you have ever purchased something that you only used for a week afterward and then sat for months or years in personal space before becoming part of a donation to a second hand store or yard sale you have been the victim of this manipulation. If you have ever purchased a product that you "did know you needed" and felt remorse afterward, you have been victimized through subliminal influence directly to your pocketbook.

There are ways to fight back though; making shopping lists at home and sticking to them, researching products at home before purchasing them, "steeping" purchases by walking away from them in the store and coming back after several days if you still think that particular product would improve your life, seeking second hand options first, and lastly but most importantly ask you self if the business practices of a company are really worth supporting.

Buying one pair of shoes for $200 dollars that will last 10 years, is still cheaper than buying 10 pair of $25 dollar shoes that only last a year. Don't be manipulated by "seasonal fashion" that is nothing more than a blatant construct by companies to extort regular purchases out of you by playing off insecurities and vanity. Second hand products are often of higher quality than anything purchased new, partly because manufacturing standards has declined in recent years, but mostly because anything that has survived the consumer market once intact will most likely still retain its function for you. You have to take control of your life and your finances, because if you don't there is thousands of marketers out there who will gladly take it over for you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Echo's of the past.

I am sitting on my college campus as I write this. The campus its self was entirely unfamiliar to me a year ago. I had to carry around a map so I would not get lost, I also had to bring directions anytime I left campus to go into the local town because I didn't know it very well either. Now this all seems very pedestrian but the odd thing is, I spent quite a bit of my childhood in this area. I was born no more than forty miles away, and traveled to a race track within walking distance for more weekends than I can count during my adolescence.

Today as I sit and write this, I can hear the fast un-muffled cars pacing the world famous turns of this challenging track. Like ghosts of my past. During my youth I was involved with racing and loved the thrill of high performance cars. The amazing designs, augmented by experienced hands and pushed to the limits of physics by talent. Not only did I have some hands-on experience as a family member relied on me as apart of the pit crew, but I was also afforded opportunities to learn from masters of the art of driving.

Then one day I grew up. Simple as that. I realized that day that the fuel being burnt was not unlimited. Worse yet; working in that industry as a general service tech, I was exposing my self on a daily basis to several harsh carcinogens. Compounding my personal misgivings, was the fact that the industry I had chosen as a career was perpetuating a monumental environmental catastrophe. Of course it is disingenuous for me to give the impression this all came to me at once. It took years for me to come to grips with the reality of the situation.

I got a lucky break. I was struggling to transition from being a general service tech in the auto industry into being a motorcycle tech when I had my truck broken into and more than ten thousand dollars worth of tools stolen. At first it was very difficult. Sleepless nights or violent dreams seemed my only options for months.

Then one day it hit me. I got a call from a psudo-friend. The kind of person who only calls when they want something. His car was running funny and asked me over for a beer. When I relayed that I would love to come over for a beer but I couldn't help with his car because I didn't have the tools necessary to fix his problem, our friendship ended quite abruptly. That day I realized that I was no longer trapped in a system that I didn't like any longer. That was the day I claimed my freedom.

Today I devote my self to preventing the very environmental issues I once perpetuated. I still love cars and going fast, but not at the expense of air quality or contributing to global climate change. We need austerity, but not the fiscal kind enforced on the poor by the wealthy elite. We need resource consumption austerity. It must be universal, with everyone from all walks of life limiting the wanton consumption that plagues "civilized" countries. America can be leaders in this paradigm shift. If not for the citizens of today, but for the Americans of tomorrow.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Language in the age of indifference.

Lately I have received some criticism about the accessibility of my writing. Not about the content but specifically the language I use and the un-hip format of my admittedly long and drawn-out diatribes. I am fully aware that my writing style does not have mass appeal, nor is it properly watered down for a general audience.

I do not write to win hearts and minds. I am not interested in converting people over to my ways of thinking by spoon feeding them "accessible" drivel conveyed in a 6th grade reading level. This is an outlet for me, a clearing house of the thoughts that rattle around inside my head as I make my meandering path through this world. It is as close to the inner voice of my mind as I can relate it in type.

Furthermore, I have more respect for anyone who would care to read this than to strive for lowest common denominator. Language is somewhat imprecise, and just as a micrometer is more accurate than a vernier caliper which is in turn more precise than a steel ruler, I strive instead for words that more accurately convey my meaning.

For far too long now the collective intellect of the American people has been insulted and diminished in the name of accessibility. When was the last time (honestly) you had to look up a word used in a public broadcast by a news agency or entertainer. It is seemly reminiscent of '1984's' "Newspeak". It is not healthy for the public interest either, as less precision leads to wider interpretation of statements. Think for a second about the manner in which political pundits skew statements made by politicians.

 This is my way of saying, "if you care to read this, I respect your intellect and your researching abilities". I am taking a stand against the collective dumbing down brought about by anti-intellectual ideals. With over 300,000 words in the English language (based on OED entries) it should seem insulting to anyone to have to limit their personal lexicon. Most of all, I want to provoke thought even if only to learn new words.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Game over.

The current weather reports and the fact that more counties than ever before in the history of our nation are asking for federal relief for drought related disasters is more than a unsettling turn of events. NOAA and other non-federally funded scientific sources have linked these extreme weather patterns to global climate change. I am not interested in starting a debate about the minutia of such publications, asking about the creditability of organizations that have served out nation faithfully for decades is nothing more than cowardice.

I am asking you too carefully examine the interests of those who still deny GCC. It is easy to see why the recent ex-CEO of GM would become a climate denier, I am sure he still holds stock in the gas guzzling SUV producer. What is trickier is to figure out why your congressman or representative still balks at bringing about the kind of changes that might just save humanity from it's self. If the worst drought ever in the history of the United States (including the Great Dust Bowl) doesn't count as a warning shot by mother nature across our collective bow, then the hike in food prices we are sure to expect over the next two or three years surly will.

We have run out of time to entertain the fanciful passions of crackpots who still deny anthropogenic climate change. The science is in. We did it and now we need to change our ways on a massive scale soon, or stop having kids, because we are just condemning them to death by starvation. Anyone who says different, ask "what is their motives?" sooner or later it will come down to maintaining some pathetic financial interest. Do you really want to let the petroleum industry decide your children's future?

The kinds of sacrifices we will all have to make over the next crucial few years will be beyond difficult, but they are also necessary. If you want humanity to exist as more than another long forgotten relic of the past like Easter Island or the Greenland Norse, you must examine your life and what power you have in your daily life. "Do I have to drive?" Is one very important example, "Do I really need this product?" and "Are there alternatives to this necessary product that are not wrapped in single use plastics?" is another mode of thought that should be apart of every purchase decision. Deeper still; "What was the environmental impact of this product?" (do I really need out of season fruit or vegetables when the shipping costs are weighed in).

Outside of food and clean water (which are both seriously threatened in our current paradigm) how can we protect our lives from the shortsighted model of corporate control? How can we take our political system back so that it serves the greater good of our nation? What decisions do you make in your daily life to perpetuate the system that is slowly tightening a noose around your future?  Be careful where you choose to spent your money, every dime we control now is an investment in our future, because you can bet the hoarded cash in the corporate coffers will never be loosed to save us.

As always, I welcome your comments and will not edit or omit any of them.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Television has ruined America, Pt 2 video games.

In my previous piece on the subconscious effects of televised media, I spoke about mirror neuron response. Its pervasive effects can be felt in our daily lives in some of the most profound ways. Video games also present actions that on a subconscious level are being vetted as a learned behavior. Scarier still, modern systems of fighting seem to be exploiting the very skills, and disassociated attitudes that video games generate.

One of the horrible things about war is that people die and even if you live, the imagery of being apart of so much death and violence can leave veterans haunted for life. But what if you could kill with impunity. Swoop in, invincibly slaying opponents that you never had to face and at the end of the day, return to your family. That day is today. Video games allow you to "kill" as many enemies as you wish with hurting anyone in real life, if you are taken out, you simply wait to re-spawn.

A predator drone can zip off the deck of a battle ship far out of the reach of the target's guns, fly in and destroy the lives of "enemy combatants" targets, and fly home on auto-pilot while the controller breaks for lunch. The disassociated pixels he faced on the computer screen, no more real to him than the millions of computer generated images he might have "destroyed" during training or playing video games as a child.

By taking the risk out of warfare, the military has sidestepped one of the biggest hurdles of popular opinion during wartime, casualties. But like any arms race, once technology has been developed and deployed, it is only a matter of time before it universalizes. The desire to reach out like "the hand of god" and destroy with impunity can only be ours temporally.

Much of the technology can be imitated with off the shelf goods. How long will it be before flying bombs made from radio controlled planes with off the shelf video transmission sets start to represent the greatest challenge for ground troops instead of crude IEDs. Just imagine the position of superiority China will hold as this becomes the norm for warfare with the manufacturing infrastructure they can easily re-purpose.

As always I welcome all comments, anonymous or not, and will not edit or omit them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Flaws of the free market, pt. 2.

In my last post about free market ideals, I pointed out that without the american military protecting globalized shipping interests, most large companies that exist today wouldn't be nearly as profitable. Most free market proponents don't take into account that business relies on infrastructure that is paid for with tax dollars. From streets and highways or sewer and water systems to early education for what will become its employees, no business is capable of existing in a vacuum. So why does business put so much time and effort into cutting its own throat by shirking its fair share of taxes? 

The corporate ethos of quarterly profits is a big part of the problem. If you only have to act for the benefit of short term interests, thinking long term is impossible. This is strikingly apparent in the extractive industries like mining and oil exploration. The economic interests of resource exploitation don't add up when you consider the environmental impacts often associated with them. The hard won lessons of the past; like the super fund site in Idaho's Silver Valley that still to this day contaminates an important aquifer system despite billion dollar clean up efforts, seem completely lost to modern oil and mineral exploration companies. 

We all pay for massive clean up efforts, massive scale infrastructure, foreign and domestic security, and a host of other interconnected systems. Many of these system disproportionately benefit many big business models, like social security (decreasing the dependence of labor forces on retirement benefits) and the aforementioned eleven carrier groups that protect shipping interests. So how does the corporate sector justify the efforts to reduce their tax burden? Are they blind to their place in the system? Again this falls to the "kick the can down the road" short sighted mentality of corporate ethos. 

Sustainability needs to become the new metric of success. Instead of asking if a company will turn a profit next quarter when investing money, people need to start asking how many years can the company stay in business with its current model. Longer term investment strategies need to become the norm with short term profit motivation maligned as dangerous for our society and environment. The concepts of; "disposable", "single use", "designed obsolesce", and other purely economically driven models are antithetical to patriotism. Investing in any company who still clings to such outdated modalities or the necessarily short sighted ideals of free market economics is out right un-american. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Taking the keys away.

The time is coming soon in many of our lives when we must take action as a part of one of the hardest decisions faced as the offspring of the previous generation. Our once strong and capable parents are showing the limits of their capacity, in ways that cannot be hidden any longer. The boardrooms of america are filled with people who are no longer competent to lead. They are not equipped to understand the problems of our nation let alone face them. It is time to take the keys away from corporate america.

The denial of scientific evidence; especially in the case of global warming, by the corporate culture is like watching a parent slowly lose control of their faculties. They are no longer making decisions with a clear rational mind. I refer to the corporate model of economic policy as a monolith because they share a insular thought process. MBA programs teach you how to work within a system, not think for your self, they are designed to work within a system of public policy not shape it.

So with our political system addicted to the bribe money from lobbyists, we have a situation where a handful of corporate entities hold the keys to an over sized luxury car. This car is careening out of control, down the wrong way on the freeway of our future towards certain demise.  Others working toward environmental or humanitarian causes represented by drivers traveling in the right direction are forced off the road by these dangerous individuals.

The corporate influence on politics has become much more dangerous to our national security than any threat presented by Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Our political system has been hijacked and the captors are not interest in working towards the common good for all americans, but only for furthering an agenda of limited benefit to a merest handful at the top. If we do not gather the courage now to stand up to our increasingly  incompetent leadership; and stop them from hurting them selves, the inevitable disaster will deeply effect us all.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Powers that be.

The current state of american politics leaves many of us entirely un-represented. Companies like AIG have spent millions of dollars to contribute to the campaigns of political actors, giving them access to the political system very few of us can match.

So since financial institutions and other major corporate actors have chosen to abscond with such a disproportionate amount of political clout, maybe we as the general public should look to them for solutions for the problems we face today.

It is time to start writing letters and flooding email in-boxes of the companies who really hold the power. It is time to let them know we understand how things are, and since they took it upon them selves to be magnates for power, they better start acting responsibly in the eye of history.

This will not be an easy battle, corporations are essentially amoral entities. What little good they do in general is often only for PR. They cannot hide behind the message of "we are just a bank, how is this in our interests?" forever. They chose to take more power over our political leadership than should be in their purview, so the onus has shifted onto their shoulders to for a corporate moral structure into their thinking, lest they be responsible for the destruction of the future of our nation.

So pick a bank, or an industry, make your name known to the boardroom with an avalanche of letters phone calls and emails. Tell them you know how much power they have, and collectively we will ensure that the lens of history will hold them accountable. It is time to stop ignoring the situation, or wringing our hands conceding power without accountability. Please post in the comments section, so we can all direct our efforts collectively.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Television has ruined America.


My problem with TV is multifold. First it speaks from a position of authority it often hasn’t done anything to maintain. Fact checking has drifted off in popularity. It is a passive form of communication on the part of the viewer. Humans are wired to learn from input from visual and auditory communication, it is how we evolved to be such a successful species. We have a rare skill to take in information through other people and benefit from it. Many other animals have learned behaviors that they take on by modeling their parents. Learning to hunt for example is innate for reptiles and some birds, but most mammalian hunting patterns are passed on less intrinsically generation by generation.

Humans surpass even this ability; by passing ideas on through many generations into the future and across great distances, thanks to the development of language. This innate ability, the ability to learn from other people who we may never meet face to face, has been corrupted by people who wish to control societies at meta levels. Television sets norms. Mirror neuron response is automatic and innate. We often are not even aware of the influence that sets the tone of lives. If you see people modeling behavior, regardless of whether on a screen or in real life, some small part of your brain is calculating somewhere if the behavior you are witnessing would be beneficial for you to emulate.

The passive level of “entertainment” has another effect as well; when you read a book or a news paper you can stop at any time, take out a pen or pencil circle a word or bracket a section of text, research the topic and make an informed decision whether you agree with the statement or not. If you are having a conversation with a person, and they make an informative comment about a topic, you can ask them questions, learn more about the concept or the motive behind their desire to share it with you. But with television, it is like being lectured to in a crowd, it is very hard to pause and research a concept further. Some small part of your brain stows stuff away as “potentially useful information” with out vetting it, as the next rapid fire talking point comes up.

(I invite you all to open a new tab on your browser and look up “mirror neuron response” to check and see if I have given you an accurate picture of the phenomena. I write this blog pretty informally, Usually you are reading an unedited first draft. Hence the name “mind access“, this is how I write “off the cuff" so to speak. That said, all I have in the world to work with is my perspective, and as much as I like to think I have the facts correct, I could be wrong. I encourage people to find factual errors in my work and post them in the comments below, it not only helps other readers, it helps me by honing my understanding.)

Television is a creation of man, and there for subject to mans own shortcomings. For things to be broadcast as news, they have to be news worthy. No body tunes into the ten o’clock nightly news to hear about the small good things people do for one another. You get the occasional story about a person who overcame terrific adversity to triumph at some goal, or nice thing a notable person has done charitably. Rarely do you see behavior like polite driving or being nice to the person who is selling you food. So some of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy community are not part of the mass zeitgeist.

The result is a tendency to rely on television for you sense of community (though beloved characters in sitcoms or what ever) and withdraw from the community in general. This is then exacerbated by the mostly negative  nature of televised new and information. News hours are flooded by rapes, murders, hostile nations out side of our borders, and many other negative images. This becomes the perspective of the “out side world” and paranoia creeps in. The truth is the world isn’t out to get you, most of the time the world doesn’t even know you exist. Ask your self. “Do I know the names of more people; in my favorite show, or the people who live on my block?”

Worse yet, some people have realized the full potential of these effects and strive to manipulate public opinion. It might be a product they wish to sell, or a political agenda they wish to forward. They understand more about the way a human mind works than you would be comfortable knowing, many multi millions of dollars have been spent on marketing research. It is one of the best funded branches of psychological research.  (Again, don’t take my word for it, use the critical thinking skills that are one of the best gifts of your evolutionary heritage and research it.) You can make a pretty safe bet that they understand how your mind works better than you can.

So through the practice of laissez-faire fact checking and repeating talking points they can manipulate society at large. This is the mechanism that is used in our democracy to bend the public will into acting against its own interests and towards the interests of a handful of moneyed elites. This is the tool they use to create cracks in the social structure they can then cleave into voting blocks. This is the weapon they use to control our elected officials. Television has the effect of homogenizing cultures locally and globally.

The first step to living your life for your self and not the aims of others is to banish television from your life. The good and enjoyable parts of it are not enough to justify exposing ones self to the threat posed by insidious agents. From preventing the environmental damage that results from wanton consumption to empowering people to become more invested in their community as well as the direction of our nation, it is imperative that the human race moves past the TV era.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Forgiveness: The weapon of the protester.

The growing resentment of the disenfranchised youth is starting to manifest itself in protests. With the political attacks on education currently taking place in Washington DC this is likely to grow as over the summer many students have to face the harsh reality of student debt. I worry that some of this anger and resentment will be unjustly aimed at the police force.

It serves no greater good to fight against the propagandized victims who are in most cases simply doing their job. Sure a handful of cops are being overly aggressive, but I see that as more of a symptom of a much larger problem. I am sure that in time, we will see that within the culture of the police force, their actions are out of fear and repression spawned from pressures higher up in the chain of command over the visible foot soldiers. They have not yet come to realize that the system they are fighting to defend will eventually turn on them as well if they succeed.

It is important to keep protests civil. As the manipulators behind the scenes attempt to quell popular opinion, attacks will undoubtedly become harsher, but if we as a people stand firm in the resolve to keep non-violent, sooner or later the enforcement apparatus will begin to question the motives of the decision makers. Remember that they too are humans, who fear losing their jobs or their lives, if violence escalates it will only make it easier for them to turn a blind eye to the just nature of our cause.

Forgiveness is the greatest weapon we have. If our actions continue to remain peaceful despite the disrespect of the propagandized enforcers our numbers will surely grow, if we slip into the dangerous cycle of violence not only does it justify their response, but it limits new participation. Don't let the persistent evils pulling the strings win by dividing us on front lines with each other. I can assure you that the real target of our anger will not be found on the street, but in the offices of those who have chosen to expand their purview past their rightful place.

Ending corporate influence of politics will not be accomplished by fighting our own police force or by defacing public property. Violent action will only lead to having the rights of our constitution further stripped from us. Already, freedom of speech is barely a vestige of what was once a proud tradition in our country, don't let them justify further eroding it. Stand up for what you see as right, but not by doing what is wrong.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Politics incorporated.

The model of corporate leadership that is infecting american politics is especially troubling in the context of environmental policy. Corporations are amoral enterprises that are solely focused on short term gains. The current model of corporate success is based on the income level of top level management on a yearly basis. Climate change is impossible to successfully counteract within this model because of the lag time between cause and effect.

If our carbon emissions are not curtailed today to nearly pre-industrial levels the harshest effects will not be felt by those in power today, those effects will be felt by the humans 100 years or so in the future. The sad truth is for those over the age of fifty are not going to face the problems in store. They will drift off into their twilight years riding the remaining vestiges of the status quo like the last bastions of innocence. Sticking my generation and those after me with the bill.

So it makes perfect sense for them to deny climate change or fight tooth and nail against real change. Why should they make any sacrifices if they are not going to directly benefit from them? They have bought into a pathological lie propagated by sociopaths who are simply not concerned with the future past their own lifetime. Now this is not a call to start distrusting anyone over a certain age, or start a young vs old class war. There are plenty of older people who do understand and are willing to make changes in their lives to benefit the great grand children they will never meet.

Sadly those individuals are not a majority in the political sphere. The current political actors that govern america are too much like the early industrialists who saw no issue with pumping waste directly from their factory into rivers and lakes. Citing costs or economic damage to prevent change is treason as it directly effects our national security in the future. Those who continue to insist the corporate model is acceptable for the political system are traitors to our country.

The market has its place; when consumer choice can act as a limiting counter force, the corporate model is perfect. For compulsorily systems or altruistic endeavors like health insurance or environmental policy and education, proponents of the amoral system of the corporate model are a out right threat to our national security. We cannot afford to let those who will not choose to act in the best interests of our nation continue to have the strongest influences in politics any longer.