There is a town, not far away, whose people woke one morning to find that the town’s only industry had shut down. There were no jobs. The people wondered how they would earn their living. One man decided that he would earn money by doing his neighbors’ laundry. The neighbors were busy complaining that they had no jobs, and were happy for this man to do their laundry. A woman on the next block saw what was happening, and offered to do her neighbors’ laundry. The number of home laundries grew, and soon everyone in town was taking in someone else’s laundry. The town became known as Washingdon.
I don’t know who first told this story, but it contains an important lesson. Certain economic activities create wealth. Those activities are properly called capitalism. Other economic activities do not create wealth, they merely moves money around. Those activities are properly called washingdon. An economy, like that of Las Vegas, that is based on casino gambling, is not a capitalist economy; it is a washingdon economy. An economy based on the presence of a military base is not a capitalist economy; it is a washingdon economy. An economy based on tourism is not a capitalist economy; it is a washingdon economy. An economy based on retail sales and the proceeds of sales taxes is not a capitalist economy; it is a washingdon economy. An economy based on money spent by film and TV crews is not a capitalist economy; it is a washingdon economy.
Any government program that shifts money from capitalist economic activity to washingdon economic activity through taxes on the producers and subsidies to the laundries is not encouraging capitalism or creating wealth; it is creating more washingdon economies and wasting money. For example, using tax money to dredge the Savannah harbor to encourage stops by cruise lines is a washingdon program. Giving roads to a developer so that he or she can build another big box store is a washingdon program. Using taxes to subsidize movie and TV crews is a washingdon program. These programs may increase the flow of money in the short term. However, they do not create wealth. They are not capitalism.
[This first appeared in “The Citizen” newspaper, Fayetteville, Georgia, on July 12, 2011.]
Organized religion implies a hierarchy, and a hierarchy implies money rising to the top. It’s no accident that cardinals are called “princes of the church.” Any hierarchy’s first mission is to preserve and expand its power. Hence, any threat to that power is dealt with severely. (Witness the Inquisition, witch burnings in Europe and Salem, and the fundamentalists’ on-going missions to Africa to preach their belief in the evils of homosexuality … resulting in mayhem and murder.) It’s simplistic to say that various churches’ opposition to same-sex marriage is because they want more children to recruit, but there’s always that niggling thought. [Niggling isn't racist; it comes from 17th century Scandinavian language meaning to “fiddle.”]
Groupthink occurs when an idea surfaces, and “gets legs” because even people who think it’s a bad idea are reluctant or afraid to speak out. At some point, the idea becomes so codified that no one will challenge it. As a matter of interest, the frozen O-rings that caused the Challenger disaster were almost certainly a direct result of groupthink.
A greater problem, however, is based on contemporary neuroscience. It’s been known for some time that people latch onto the first thing they hear about an issue or event. Their mind creates a filter that will allow future supportive information in, and will block information that challenges the notion. The more information they hear that supports the notion, the more solid the filter becomes. That’s old news. More recently, it’s been shown that information contrary to the initial belief is not only rejected, but also serves to strengthen the filter. Thus, it becomes nearly impossible for an outside force to break these filters by a frontal attack. They can only be undermined.
[This is something I wrote to a friend after he and his wife broke from the Catholic Church after the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.]
On my first day of fourth grade, a black boy boarded the yellow school bus and sat next to me. We introduced ourselves. We talked. We found we were in the same class. During that day, we create the foundation of what might have become a friendship.
On the second day of school, I sat by the window when the bus stopped where it had picked up the black boy the day before. He was standing on the sidewalk. I opened the window and called to him.
He looked at me, then looked at the ground as the bus pulled away.
I never was able to speak to him again. After that first day, he rode a different bus to a different school. There were no Blacks in my classroom. Ever again. Not through grammar and high school in North Carolina. Not in college.
I entered the fourth grade in 1953, before schools were required to integrate. Looking back on this incident, perhaps I should not be surprised.
However, the bus I rode was to a school on Quantico Marine Corps Base. The integration of the Marine Corps began in 1948, and the Corps reached full integration in 1960.
In 1953, the Corps was integrated, but the schools attended by the children of Marines were not. After all, this was Virginia, and the schools had to meet state standards, as well as the unwritten rules of the local populace. It would not do to have peasants with torches and pitchforks attacking what was probably the most famous Marine Corps base.
As I grow older, some memories fade; others become more vivid. I can see clearly the scene I described, above. To my regret, I do not remember the boy’s name. But I remember understanding for the first time the bigotry that lies in the underbelly of American society.
Donald Trump did not create bigotry with his attacks on Muslims, refugees, people who bypass immigration controls in order to seek a better life, and others. All he did was appeal to something that has existed for a long, long time.
“You don’t believe that, do you?”
The person behind the voice was staring at my “Darwin Fish” T-shirt: the fish had legs, and the word “Darwin” was emblazoned inside the outline. I recognized her: one of the volunteer chaplains who roam the hospital, trying to sell their version of the truth to people who were helpless, often depressed, and frequently in fear of death. It was probably a fertile ground in which they planted the seeds of their particular superstition.
“What don’t I believe?” I asked.
“That Darwin,” she said. Her lips pursed. I felt that she was prepared to hear a blistering argument.
“Believe in Darwin? I’m not sure that belief is the right word. But there’s more verifiable proof that Charles Robert Darwin lived than there is that Jesus of Nazareth lived.”
“You don’t believe in God?” she said. I could hear the upper case letter.
“You don’t listen very well, do you.” I said. “I didn’t say that, at all. Why do you think that?”
“You said Jesus didn’t exist!” Her anger was showing in the way she clipped her words.
“You really don’t listen very well. Probably because your mind is protected by with perceptual filters and beliefs created and reinforced by the cultus deorum to which you belong.”
“What?” she demanded. Apparently my diction was too high.
“You’ve been brainwashed by propaganda from the pulpit for so long that you can no longer hear anything that conflicts with your prejudices and preconceptions,” I said. “If you will agree to listen and stop misinterpreting what I say, we can continue this conversation. Otherwise, please leave.”
The woman turned, nearly knocked over a man who had been behind her, and stomped off.
“What was that all about?” the man asked.
“Do you know who she is?” I asked.
“One of the chaplains,” he said. He looked around the waiting room. “As if these folks didn’t have enough to worry about without someone telling them they’re going to hell, or that whatever church they belong to is the wrong one, or that god is all about love and all they have to do is surrender—”
He stopped talking abruptly when he saw me raise both eyebrows and start to laugh.”
He joined me in the laugh, then said, “Yes, I’ve heard it all. It’s not like they try to keep it a secret.”
This is WhatDoctorWho blogging from exile.
[The blog of WhatDoctorWho is a feature of “Holy Fire,” which is further described on the Home Page of this web site.]
About a quarter of the way into each of the accounts on the home page, the characters took over and bent the narrative to their own ends. They were guided by the Muses, who have taken on responsibilities not foreseen by their creators. Nor have any of them been silent since then. I am but a mouthpiece for the characters. Here are thoughts from one of them.
If you wanted to do something to help destroy the environment, help speed global climate change, and handicap US energy independence, what might you do?
Here’s one suggestion: build a “fast-chicken joint” that’s a “drive through, only.” Encourage lines of massive SUVs, sucking gasoline and spewing CO2 and hydrocarbon residue into the atmosphere. And build it on one of the busiest corridors in a city, contributing to an already difficult traffic situation.
It’s a start, a small step. But every journey starts with small steps.
What might you do if you wanted to help preserve the environment and help slow global climate change? Boycott the “fast chicken joint.” Not just the drive-through, but all outlets. Encourage your friends to do the same. It’s a start, a small step. But every journey starts with small steps.
This is tardisboy, blogging from exile.
[The blog of tardisboy is a feature of “Holy Fire,” which is further described on the Home Page of this web site.]
The good news is that two-thirds of Americans are confident that climate change is real and well-supported by evidence and science, while only fifteen percent of Americans deny climate change*.
The bad news is that the climate is changing. The changes have created more severe droughts, floods, and storms. That’s still a hypothesis. Although it is based on evidence, it is subject to testing and more data collection and analysis. What is known is that climate change has devastated coral reefs around the world. What is suspected (another hypothesis) is that climate change has adversely affected the biodiversity of Lake Tanganyika, the longest freshwater lake in the world.
Worse news is that climate change is a significant contributing factor to the wars in the Middle East and Africa.
Drought has devastated farmland; rural peoples have migrated to cities looking for opportunity. The crowded cities and lack of those opportunities have created tinder boxes ripe for the flames of radical Islam. The crowded cities and lack of opportunities have been an excellent recruiting poster for Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), Boko Haram, and their ilk. Droughts led to war; war has led to the current migrant crises in Europe and Africa.
It’s another lesson that everything that happens has a cause. Not necessarily a reason, but a cause. Yes, there is a difference. Climate change and weather are not the result of divine retribution or favor. They are the result of the physics of the atmosphere, of wind and waves, of oceanic carbon sequestration, of solar heating and human-created greenhouse gasses, among other things.
Worse news is that Donald Trump’s history of denying climate change, to the point of calling it a hoax, has apparently affected his mindless followers. The number of republicans who doubt climate change rose from 26% to 34% in only six months*.
It’s not enough to “believe” climate change is real. It’s critical that we do something about it. More on that, later.
* National Survey on Energy and Environment, University of Michigan and Muhlenbert College.
One million people including thousands of children are trapped in Aleppo. Scavenging food from garbage dumps. Burning tires to create a smokescreen against Russian airstrikes—and creating a deadly atmosphere in their own lungs. Starving, dying of preventable or curable diseases and injuries. Both Syrian government forces and rebel forces prevent these people from leaving the city. They are hostages for both sides, and targets for the Russians and who knows who else.
Some numbers and descriptions come from “relief organizations” that have a vested interest in reporting large numbers and horrors. That’s how they get their funding and power.
Enough numbers and descriptions come from so many different news sources, however, that there is likely to be considerable truth to this.
Where is the outrage? I’ve not found it, and I’ve looked hard.
The Syrian Civil War has been going on for about five years. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that over a quarter of a million people have died. Other estimates reach nearly a half-million. The United Nations estimates that the war has created four million refugees, and that nearly eight million people have been “displaced.” That means driven from their homes but still living in Syria. Maybe in Allepo.
And what does America do? Our leaders play footsie with the KGB thug who controls the kleptocracy that is the government of Russia. We the People argue about which of the two principal presidential candidates is the biggest liar and thief—without having read either party’s platform. We wonder how long some starlet’s marriage to a man five times her age or to a woman will last. And we drink the signature American beer probably not knowing that Anheuser-Busch has been bought by a foreign company.
Trump claims that he will make America great again. Think about this. He’s saying that America was once great (by some undefined standard), that it’s no longer great (by some undefined standard) and that he will make America great, again, by some undefined method. Frankly, that’s lacking in specifics.
Clinton is attacked for her arrogance in setting up a private email server, and for things that various conspiracy theorists have dredged up. (I’m not knocking conspiracy theorists, by the way. That’s the way our brain is wired. More on that another time.)
Why does Hillary’s chicanery, perfidy, and arrogance not bother me as much as does Trump’s?
I’ve said this before: Hillary Clinton is arrogant. Her use of a private email server was not so much about secrets as it was about arrogance. I think she believed she was above the law and beyond the rules. It wasn’t the secrets that may or may not have been released. It was about the arrogance that led her to believe she could get away with it. (And, truth be told, it seems she has.) Further, given Bill’s proclivities, do you really think that during the private meeting on his plane, he and Loretta Lynch just talked?
The significant current question relates to the DNC’s undercover campaign against Mr. Sanders, specifically, “what did Hillary know, and when”?
Who cares? Who should care? That’s politics as usual. Both sides have been infiltrated by crooks and neither side has a leg to stand on.
What we, the electorate, need to do is dig down into the morass of lies and corruption and find what might be the truth. What do the two candidates really believe, and what might they try to do to and for this country—and for themselves—should they be elected?
I don’t like Trump (any of them), and I have a hard time finding anything in the Republican Party or his platform that I can support. I don’t like Clinton (any of them), and I have a hard time finding anything in the Democratic Party’s platform that I can support. It’s a sad note when the only reason I have for supporting a candidate is that he or she is the lesser of two evils. I’m learning that I’m not the only person with that problem. And I’m still trying to figure out who is the lesser of the two evils.
One of those two people and their party’s platform will rule the USA for the next four-to-eight years. And I’m too old and infirm to follow James Thurber’s advice (“Run, do not walk, to the nearest desert island.”).
My electric bill was 50% higher than average last month. If you live in the US, especially in the southeast, southwest, or west, you’ve probably seen something similar: more need for air conditioning, and higher bills.
June of 2016 was the hottest month on record—ever—in many parts of the world, and for the globe, overall.
I’m not surprised that my electric bill was higher, despite conservation measures.
Still, there are people who deny that the climate is changing or that it is an important matter.
For example, the 2016 Republican Party platform reads, “Climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it.”
Just what must Congress stop? The platform’s unsupported statement that “climate change” is “the triumph of extremism over common sense”? That’s how the statement reads grammatically. (And you thought in ninth grade that diagraming sentences was a useless tool. There will be more on that, in later posts.)
In simple terms, the Republicans want to shut off debate. Yes, they want to suppress freedom of speech and of scientific inquiry. And their statement that global climate change is not an important national security issue is a lie.
Climate change is a serious challenge to the national security of the United States (and every other country in the world). It is correct to say that the refugee situation in Europe is the direct result of climate change. It is correct to say that the war in Syria and the rise of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) is the direct result of climate change. It is correct to say that the spread of the Zika virus is the direct result of climate change. For my Georgia readers, it is correct to say that the success of peaches from South Carolina over those from Georgia is the direct result of climate change.
The “bottom line,” for those who think in absolutes, is that climate change is at the root of more national security issues than even you can imagine.
Yet the Republicans deny this.
A pull quote in the Republican Party Platform shows support for energy sources, but lists coal, oil, and natural gas above nuclear power and hydropower and does not mention wind, wave, solar, tidal, geothermal or similar sources. Yes, they’re in the fine print, but only if supported by private capital.
What’s wrong with that? A lot of things ranging from the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) naysayers and Luddites, to the need for comprehensive, national planning and coordination rather than a patchwork of local and state regulations. While I support the notion of private capital developing such systems, I suspect that long-term energy independence will come only from national programs on the scale of the Manhattan Project or the building of the Hoover/Boulder Dam.
Please consider reading both parties’ platforms. Yes, the whole things. The Dem platform is only 51 pages; the Reps about 54. And please, read them with the thoughts of Peter Abelard in mind:
Doubt; question everything. Doubt leads to questioning; questioning leads to truth.
Distinguish rational proof and propaganda/persuasion.
Be precise with words and demand precision of others.
Be wary of error, even in the most sacred texts.
And let me add:
Think about it.
In a recent election, sociologists, talking heads, and politicians were bemoaning reports that young people were getting their news from television—not from the soi-disant news channels, but from a comedy show written around current events.
Today (2 August 2016) Dante Ramos in the Boston Globe bemoans the idea that people are getting their news from social media, and points out that Facebook’s software “shows people material that affirms their ideological instincts rather than challenging them.” (Please scroll down and read my 24 July 2016 blog on perceptual filters.)
Mr. Ramos also gives examples of misleading headlines and “news” from several sources, without taking sides in the current political debate. It’s a well-reasoned article. The link is below. Sorry, no short URL.
The greatest problem with the internet is that there are no gatekeepers. Anyone can say or post anything they want, and laws about slander and libel are often unenforceable with respect to public figures.
The second greatest problem is the one identified by Mr. Ramos: social media and search engines, in an attempt to show people what they want to see are reinforcing prejudices and shutting off real debate.
Where do you get your news? If you’re checking only one or two feeds, or watching only one television “news” channel, you may be putting your mind in a prison of its own making.
Where do I get my news? From the internet, but from a wide variety of sources ranging from the Boston Globe to Aljazeera, from the BBC to the Christian Science Monitor, from UN.org/news to seeker.com, and others including Google News.
Some of them make me uncomfortable. I’ll see a headline and mouse past it, because it’s not what I want to hear. As soon as I recognize this feeling, I’ll go back and read the article, knowing that it’s going to challenge my own preconceptions.
Which of these news and opinion sources is right? I have no idea; however, by reading a diversity of opinions and reports, I think I have at least surrounded the truth. And I know that I have opened the bars of my mental prison, at least a little bit.
Here’s the link to the Globe article:
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.