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GET A GRIP!!!

Oh Please….get a GRIP!!!

The Supreme Court just ruled on the Hobby Lobby case where the company sued to be excluded from the necessity of paying for certain types of contraception, to be precise, 4 kinds out of 20 that it considered abortive rather than preventive.  The court backed their claim and people went ballistic. I was naively startled by the response from some quarters.  The hyperbolic reaction would make you think that the decision made contraception per se illegal.  Of course it did no such thing.  What the case was all about legally and what the court tried to to was to juggle the internal conflict between two very poorly written laws passed by congress (an earlier protection for freedom of religion law signed by President Clinton and the Affordable Care Act rammed through by the disciples of Barrack) and the unintended consequences of their inevitable collision.  One reaffirmed their support for a citizen’s freedom to worship and practice their religion as their conscience dictates, and the other was the Affordable Care Act that imposed on employers the need to pay for the various types of “medical” care as defined by the politicians and lobbyists, not by doctors.

What was NOT at stake was a Constitutional issue, merely the conflict of two laws.  Even Allan Dershowitz, hardly a bastion of Conservative thought, called the ruling “Monumentally insignificant.”  In an interview the day of the decision he had this to say,

“Why is it insignificant? First of all, it was not a constitutional decision. Second, the effect will be that not a single woman will be denied contraceptive care or birth control care,” he said.

“The opinion made it clear that there are alternatives by which the women can get adequate contraceptive care and won’t be burdened in any way.

“It was a decision that tried hard to balance freedom of religion against the needs of the government. If the majority doesn’t like it, they can change it tomorrow because it’s not a constitutional decision.”

“[It] won’t, though, because Congress does support freedom of religion. I met the people from Hobby Lobby, they’re very decent people. I disagree with their views, but who am I to tell them that they’re wrong about their religious view?” Dershowitz said.

“They regard these four or five methods of contraception as abortion and as murder, and they just don’t want to be part of it. I don’t blame them for that, especially since there are alternatives.

“The Supreme Court made it clear: this is not as if they would refuse to vaccinate their employees, because vaccination protects all of us. This is something that can easily be balanced . . . It’s a win, win . . . Ten years from now or five years from now. no one will remember this decision.”

Nor was the issue of contraception itself questioned… merely who has to pay for it.  Let me be perfectly clear here… personally I believe that a woman has an absolute right to do with her own body anything she wishes.  Period.  But… if what she does with it is a result of a choice by her to engage in specific behavior, then I think the burden to deal with any potential consequences of that choice belongs to her as well.  If two people are involved, as in sexual relations, I do think that burden should be shared by BOTH parties and would favor legislation that made any man shown by DNA testing to be the father of a child liable for at least half of the costs of raising and parenting that child EVEN IF the woman subsequently got married to someone else.  But if the behavior was a matter of choice, and it was consensual in every way, then I do not feel the slightest imperative to have to contribute to paying for the consequences either as a taxpayer or as a consumer via higher prices.

Let me be equally clear here; if the behavior was NOT a matter of choice by the woman, i.e. if she was raped or in NO WAY consented to it – to include simply saying, “No!” then it is a completely different story.  The man involved, the direct and proximate cause of any result, should bear the burden for ALL costs whether that is for an abortion or for the raising of that child and I would support legislation to make that the law of the land.

I believe in Freedom.  But there is a price for Freedom, writ large and writ small.  The price for our nation’s freedom has been and will continue to be paid in blood by those willing to fight for it, even to provide those freedoms to others too craven to fight for it themselves.  But there is also a price for the application of those freedoms, and those should be paid by the citizens specifically enjoying those freedoms.

For Example, another current hot topic is the 2nd Amendment and Gun Rights.  Let’s compare that with contraception “rights” from a Constitutional perspective.  If you have followed this blog at all you know I come down hard on those irresponsible gun owners that abuse their rights vis-à-vis guns and believe they should be hammered into the ground and perhaps be considered even treasonous since their actions bring about a real threat to the continuation of that (to me) fundamental right. At a very minimum, the individual cost of exercising a right is personal responsibility and personal accountability when that right is abused.  But apart from the granting of the right to engage in certain freedoms, there is no further entitlement granted by the Constitution or common sense.

For example,even though the right to bear arms is specifically spelled out in the Constitution, there is no place where it mandates that the government must supply the citizenry with guns.  They have a right to own them but must bear the cost of purchase and maintenance on their own if they choose to own one.  I think that is fair.  I would not be opposed if with the right to own a weapon came a duty to train and gain skill and discipline so long as the government did not have to pay for it.  But the Constitution does not mandate that all citizens acquire weapons, they are also perfectly free to NOT do so.  Therefore it has taken on itself no duty to provide the weaponry, it is a matter of choice whether to exercise that right or not.

But nowhere in the entire constitution is there a single word about any “right” to contraception or even abortion.  Those rights are modernly implied but not specifically spelled out.  So if there is no mandate for the government to purchase the weapons for which they specifically grant the rights of ownership, by what sophistry of reasoning do we think there is a mandate for them to purchase or cause to be purchased contraception for a behavioral choice?  I support making the costs applicable to the parties making the choices and engaging in the behaviors, but not in making uninvolved third parties liable for them.

This is hardly an isolated issue.  We are also, for example, granted freedom of the press but not the Right to receive free newspapers; we are granted freedom to assemble but not the Right to escape any costs of the assembly; we have the freedom to travel between jurisdictions but not the Right to a government-provided free means of transportation.  Those are freedoms spelled out carefully in the Bill of Rights, freedoms we often take for granted, but the costs of enjoying them is borne by the people engaging in them.  In many states including my home, Colorado, you have the absolute freedom to head off into the wilds but you must supply your own gear and if you get in trouble you will be liable for the cost of your rescue.

So even though this specific decision was not in any way tied to our freedom to have sex, to use contraceptives, to have abortions, it is being reviewed as if it somehow prohibited all of those things and was an attack on the Rights of women.  I do not believe it did any such thing.  One author stated that by not paying for it we were denying women the use of them.  What?  We would be denying the use if we made them illegal and said NO ONE can buy them.  Where did this new entitlement get spelled out?

Those who know me know I have a limp that comes from a service-connected injury.  Before that I could run, climb, do all manner of activities that required leg strength.  But no more.  Now I would dearly love to be able to climb to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, but it is, for all practical purposes, impossible for me.  But wait, that is a public federal park.  Wheel chair access is mandated so why not an elevator or chair lift up the back of Half Dome?  Because it is stupid.  I would vote against it even though it might allow me to do something I would like.  Even though I was injured in service to the country I do not feel I am somehow entitled to that level of accommodation.  Sometimes live just deals you a bad hand.  Boo Hoo.  But that does not mean, in my mind, that the government owes me the cost and effort of making the limitations I sometimes face all go away. It may owe me a basic level of care and thus far it has provided that through the V.A. and I have to tell you I have no complaints about the care I have received in Colorado or California.  But it does not owe me the eradication of all inconveniences my injuries have created.

I do not philosophically oppose broad aid in health care even though I think the specifics of of AHCA are galactically ill conceived and will ultimately be economically ruinous for far more people than it will help.  For catastrophic illnesses that sometimes blindside us the potential was there to create a policy that could have been incredibly valuable. But I do not believe the government should bew paying for voluntary behavior even if it is not illegal behavior.  And no, by the way, I do NOT believe it ought to be paying for ED medicine such as Viagra for the exact same reasons.  But doing one stupid thing does not mandate doing another stupid thing… it means the first stupid thing should be stopped not used as an excuse for more.

So, again, get a grip here.

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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Why does the world seem to be in such Chaos?

No wonder some groups feel the apocalypse is near, the world seems to be tearing itself apart nearly everywhere you look.  Why, when world productivity is up, when information technology easily connects nearly all of us, would this be happening?  It seems counter-intuitive so surely the only explanation can be the designs of a higher power to bring all this to an end.

There are, however, other explanations and one of the best I’ve seen has come from my favorite geopolitical intel service, Stratfor.  This is written by Dr. George D. Kaplan. He is the author of Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, which will be published by Random House in March 2014. In 2012, he published The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, and in 2010, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. In both 2011 and 2012, he was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”  His essay, written for Stratfor and re-publishered here by permission from Stratfor, follows:

——- Stratofr Report “Why So Much Anarchy? by George Kaplan ———————

Twenty years ago, in February 1994, I published a lengthy cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet.” I argued that the combination of resource depletion (like water), demographic youth bulges and the proliferation of shanty towns throughout the developing world would enflame ethnic and sectarian divides, creating the conditions for domestic political breakdown and the transformation of war into increasingly irregular forms — making it often indistinguishable from terrorism. I wrote about the erosion of national borders and the rise of the environment as the principal security issues of the 21st century. I accurately predicted the collapse of certain African states in the late 1990s and the rise of political Islam in Turkey and other places. Islam, I wrote, was a religion ideally suited for the badly urbanized poor who were willing to fight. I also got things wrong, such as the probable intensification of racial divisions in the United States; in fact, such divisions have been impressively ameliorated.

However, what is not in dispute is that significant portions of the earth, rather than follow the dictates of Progress and Rationalism, are simply harder and harder to govern, even as there is insufficient evidence of an emerging and widespread civil society. Civil society in significant swaths of the earth is still the province of a relatively elite few in capital cities — the very people Western journalists feel most comfortable befriending and interviewing, so that the size and influence of such a class is exaggerated by the media.

The anarchy unleashed in the Arab world, in particular, has other roots, though — roots not adequately dealt with in my original article:

The End of Imperialism. That’s right. Imperialism provided much of Africa, Asia and Latin America with security and administrative order. The Europeans divided the planet into a gridwork of entities — both artificial and not — and governed. It may not have been fair, and it may not have been altogether civil, but it provided order. Imperialism, the mainstay of stability for human populations for thousands of years, is now gone.

The End of Post-Colonial Strongmen. Colonialism did not end completely with the departure of European colonialists. It continued for decades in the guise of strong dictators, who had inherited state systems from the colonialists. Because these strongmen often saw themselves as anti-Western freedom fighters, they believed that they now had the moral justification to govern as they pleased. The Europeans had not been democratic in the Middle East, and neither was this new class of rulers. Hafez al Assad, Saddam Hussein, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Moammar Gadhafi and the Nasserite pharaohs in Egypt right up through Hosni Mubarak all belonged to this category, which, like that of the imperialists, has been quickly retreating from the scene (despite a comeback in Egypt).

No Institutions. Here we come to the key element. The post-colonial Arab dictators ran moukhabarat states: states whose order depended on the secret police and the other, related security services. But beyond that, institutional and bureaucratic development was weak and unresponsive to the needs of the population — a population that, because it was increasingly urbanized, required social services and complex infrastructure. (Alas, urban societies are more demanding on central governments than agricultural ones, and the world is rapidly urbanizing.) It is institutions that fill the gap between the ruler at the top and the extended family or tribe at the bottom. Thus, with insufficient institutional development, the chances for either dictatorship or anarchy proliferate. Civil society occupies the middle ground between those extremes, but it cannot prosper without the requisite institutions and bureaucracies.

Feeble Identities. With feeble institutions, such post-colonial states have feeble identities. If the state only means oppression, then its population consists of subjects, not citizens. Subjects of despotisms know only fear, not loyalty. If the state has only fear to offer, then, if the pillars of the dictatorship crumble or are brought low, it is non-state identities that fill the subsequent void. And in a state configured by long-standing legal borders, however artificially drawn they may have been, the triumph of non-state identities can mean anarchy.

Doctrinal Battles. Religion occupies a place in daily life in the Islamic world that the West has not known since the days — a millennium ago — when the West was called “Christendom.” Thus, non-state identity in the 21st-century Middle East generally means religious identity. And because there are variations of belief even within a great world religion like Islam, the rise of religious identity and the consequent decline of state identity means the inflammation of doctrinal disputes, which can take on an irregular, military form. In the early medieval era, the Byzantine Empire — whose whole identity was infused with Christianity — had violent, doctrinal disputes between iconoclasts (those opposed to graven images like icons) and iconodules (those who venerated them). As the Roman Empire collapsed and Christianity rose as a replacement identity, the upshot was not tranquility but violent, doctrinal disputes between Donatists, Monotheletes and other Christian sects and heresies. So, too, in the Muslim world today, as state identities weaken and sectarian and other differences within Islam come to the fore, often violently.

Information Technology. Various forms of electronic communication, often transmitted by smartphones, can empower the crowd against a hated regime, as protesters who do not know each other personally can find each other through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. But while such technology can help topple governments, it cannot provide a coherent and organized replacement pole of bureaucratic power to maintain political stability afterwards. This is how technology encourages anarchy. The Industrial Age was about bigness: big tanks, aircraft carriers, railway networks and so forth, which magnified the power of big centralized states. But the post-industrial age is about smallness, which can empower small and oppressed groups, allowing them to challenge the state — with anarchy sometimes the result.

Because we are talking here about long-term processes rather than specific events, anarchy in one form or another will be with us for some time, until new political formations arise that provide for the requisite order. And these new political formations need not be necessarily democratic.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, societies in Central and Eastern Europe that had sizable middle classes and reasonable bureaucratic traditions prior to World War II were able to transform themselves into relatively stable democracies. But the Middle East and much of Africa lack such bourgeoisie traditions, and so the fall of strongmen has left a void. West African countries that fell into anarchy in the late 1990s — a few years after my article was published — like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast, still have not really recovered, but are wards of the international community through foreign peacekeeping forces or advisers, even as they struggle to develop a middle class and a manufacturing base. For, the development of efficient and responsive bureaucracies requires literate functionaries, which, in turn, requires a middle class.

The real question marks are Russia and China. The possible weakening of authoritarian rule in those sprawling states may usher in less democracy than chronic instability and ethnic separatism that would dwarf in scale the current instability in the Middle East. Indeed, what follows Vladimir Putin could be worse, not better. The same holds true for a weakening of autocracy in China.

The future of world politics will be about which societies can develop responsive institutions to govern vast geographical space and which cannot. That is the question toward which the present season of anarchy leads.

————– End of Essay ————–

Some might argue that this merely narrates the mechanism by which the “End Times” is being set in motion.  Who knows?  But what is, or ought to be clear is that the world has become a far more dangerous place not a nicer one as was predicted at the “end” of the cold war.  For all of the idiocy and atrocity that transpired as two superpowers used the rest of the world as their pawns against each other, the bottom line was that both realized that a full-on confrontation was not only unwinnable by either side but that it could, with a high degree of probability, leave the planet a wrecked place truly unfit for human habitation.  And, being politically greedy but not stupid, both realized that all it would take is one radical player in one of their puppet kingdoms to do something truly stupid and we would be drawn into such a nightmare scenario whther they wanted it or not.  Remember the Cuban Missle Crisis?

The uncontested result was that the superpowers kept an ultimatly tight rein on their various puppet regimes and forced them to play relatively nice in their own sandboxes.  But that grip that kept us out of World War III was tenuous and maintained only by sometimes brutal authority.  Whine about it all we can as we pretend to some enlightenment and humanity, but the real politic on the ground shows us to be a species exactly as people like Harris and Ardrey posulated: ferociously territorial, acquisitive, and aggressive.

When the Soviet control of the Balkans was lifted, within days ethinic groups that had peacefully coexisted under the iron fist of soviet sponsored dictators, returned to killing each other wholesale.  In Africa and the middle east colonial powers, which had created working governmental infrastructures, granted independence to cultures that begged and fought for it under the assurances they were as good at governing themselves as any of the imperial powers.  The result?  Within weeks the various factions were back to committing genocide and mayhem on each other and the infrastructors collapsed around them.

How can that be?  If, as is passionately argued, all cultures are equally capable of enlightend behavior toward their own and their world, then it can NOT be happening.  But it has… and is still going on.  Kaplan’s essay addressed some of the objective reasons, but if you think about them for a few minutes they are extremely disturbing in their implications.

Is, for example, our much vaunted technical progress that has elevated our standards of living and put us in touch with the world actually an underlying cause of the anarchy and the ruin that will flow from it?  Is our enlightened desire to grant independence and self-determination to people not always a good thing for them OR for us?  Was the often brutal and always self serving actions of the superpowers in controlling their puppets actualy responsible for a quieter and safer world that the one that has resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the cold war mentalities?

If that is true, even in potential, then we would be fored to ask how many other modern concepts that seem so humane, so fair, so proper, so “good” may turn out to have a very keen double edge that will, in the end, swing round and take a chunk out of us in some extremely tender spot and leave us far worse off than before we “got it” about how we should allow any and every behavior and never discriminate between “right” and “wrong” actions or choices?  And worse in today’s environment, it may force us to consider that some of the modern anarchic groups are fanning the flames of actions that will somedy burn us all down, the good with the bad?

To the “modern” progressive mind those are unthinkable possibilities.  So too is the idea that a divine power is unravelling the fabric that holds the world together and worse, He is doing so on purpose.  So what is left?  What is causing it?  That is a critical question and seeking an even more critical answer… at least if we would like NOT to see the world descend inescapably into a state of anarchy that will reduce us back to a far more primitive state and set in motion the horrid future of many negative sci-fi futures.

And given the accelerating rate of decay, we do really need to find some answers faily quickly.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Freedom to Fail

San Diego — A liberal acquaintance published a link on Facebook where one of his progressive sites attempted to define the major political/economic “isms” of the day with the clear implication that only liberals understood what the terms really meant; and that conservatives, libertarians, essentially any non-liberals did not understand the terms and so used them incorrectly.  Liberals and progressives on the other hand, in this as in all things, had the pipeline to ultimate truth which, at least in this case, they would share.

But if they accept that post’s definitions they are no closer to the truth than those they disparage.

The essay attempted, in a vastly oversimplified way, to define “Nazism,” “Fascism.” “Socialism,” “Communism,” and “Capitalism.”  Clever.  Unfortunately it was incorrect in several places, and incorrect by ommision and selective inclusion is several more..

It tried, for example, to frame Nazism as a political philosophy, but in practice it was basically a cult of personality run by paranoid and power hungry people using a very flawed belief in a sort of social and biological Darwinism wrapped in theological fervor.  It incorporated the belief in and the creation of a fantasy “race” incorrectly using the term “Aryan” which was the original label for an Indo-European group who would have looked nothing like the Nordic ideal the Nazis deluded themselves into thinking included them.

The closest to a coherent economic philosophy the Nazis got was the simple expedient of blaming others for their problems by feeding upon latent hostilities toward several groups of, to them, sub-human “races.”

The closest political model for the Nazis would have been Fascism.  Named for the bundle of reeds and axe that was the symbol of power of the Romans, the fasces, they even modeled their structure to some extent on Imperial Rome.  But the essay’s section on Fascism was poorly defined and failed to note that economically, the Nazis (National Socialist Worker’s Party) was not even true to the socilistic part of their name and allowed private ownership of the means of production though it was totally under the control of the government.  Think Krupp and his steel mills.

We usually associate Fascism, another combination of economic and political philosophies, with the Nazis but in fact it was formulated in Italy under Mussolini who drafted the only official definitions of it in which he outlines three principles of a fascist philosophy:

1.”Everything in the state”. The Government is supreme and the country is all-encompassing, and all within it must conform to the ruling body, often a dictator.

2.”Nothing outside the state”. The country must grow and the implied goal of any fascist nation is to rule the world, and have every human submit to the government.

3.”Nothing against the state”. Any type of questioning the government is not to be tolerated. If you do not see things our way, you are wrong. In practice you were also likely… dead.

 It was also the foundation for a warrior culture.  In 1934 Mussolini wrote,

Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism — born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have courage to meet it. All other trials are substitutes, which never really put men into the position where they have to make the great decision — the alternative of life or death….

…The Fascist accepts life and loves it, knowing nothing of and despising suicide: he rather conceives of life as duty and struggle and conquest, but above all for others — those who are at hand and those who are far distant, contemporaries, and those who will come after…”

Socialism, a polar opposite of Fascism on many levels, was also poorly defined by the essay and its hallmark approach of “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need” based on Rousseau’s complete misunderstanding of simple, tribal communal structures was ignored.  Socialism requires the belief that production per se is a zero sum game and that in order for some to survive others must be held back.  This may be true in small, primitive tribal or family band units; but it is not even remotely true in modern industrial societies.

Though couched in the language of fairness to support the downtrodden, reality has shown otherwise as everywhere it has been implemented it devolves quickly into a situation where the government takes from the productive to support those who will not participate in production.

Socialism, an economic philosophy, in seeking social justice, puts the means of production into the hands of the “public” meaning, from a practical standpoint, the state.  It allows the state to define, based on the goals du jour, just who can be taken from and who is to be given to in order to establish economic equality throughout its populace.  It sees people as poor pawns driven wherever the winds of class warfare drive them and therefore deserving of an enlightened state authority to set things right and level not just the playing field, but the results as well.  It harbors the notion that for one to succeed, another most fail; that if one person gains it is only through the taking of things from another.  Wealth, it argues, should be distributed evenly not based on skill or effort but on the goal of social equality.

In that sense of “public ownership” socialism and communism, a term coined in the 1840s, are the same.  But under communism, a combination of political and economic philosophies. or at least its theoretical proposition, the role of the state is more extreme.  Not only does the state own everything, but people, regardless of job or work, are paid essentially identically.  Regardless of effort or productivity, all get the same results.  It usually results in only the equality of common misery but it does take the traumatic decisions about life’s.  The state and its autocracy are, of course, distinct from the common man and in exchange for their care of the masses are not precluded from reaping the spoils of their social depredation.

The linked essay further noted that Communism requires a violent overthrown of the existing system in order to establish a state where all property is owned communally.  That is not true.  Marx and Engels wrote that while it might come to that, it was better if it could be done by fiat and subterfuge, with out and out revolution a last option.  He feared that it likely must be done but not because it was an ideal approach… simply a probably necessary one.

Where the essay really fell down was in trying to define Capitalism.  It said capitalism believed in profit but, recognizing that not all can make a profit required the government to step in to help those who failed.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Capitalism does indeed use success and its rewards as a motivator for effort and energy.  But it has never seen government as a safety net for those who chose not to participate or whose failure was through their own poor choices or activities.  Indeed the most critical freedom in a capitalistic society is the freedom to fail and face the consequences.

Someone blind-sided by life or nature or circumstances beyond their control aside, a capitalist structure specifically does not allow government to be in the rescue business precisely because of the ease with which that power devolves into “crony” capitalism where government can decide who to help and who not to help.  Helping those hurt by forces outside of their control is a human, ethical duty, but it is not, in pure capitalism, the prevue of the government.  When government, unable financially to save all in need from its treasury, can pick and chose, corruption is inevitable.

That corrupt cronyism so completely tilts the playing field as to render the concept of equal opportunity to TRY but with no guarantee of result pointless since in cases of its own choosing government does indeed guarantee the outcome.  That is not capitalism per se but a rather bizarre mixture of socialism and fascism.  The very concept of something “too large to fail” is anathema to real capitalism.

So read such biased “explanations” with a grain of salt.  Francis Bacon said that humans prefer to believe what they prefer to be true.   Even minimal experience shows that we will go so far to accept “evidence” that supports our own beliefs and reject “evidence” to the contrary that often even the admonition to research the truth for one’s self is wasted.  H.L. Menken opined that the chief occupation of mankind was indulging in passionate beliefs that which are palpably untrue.  And it is that conflict of unshakable faith in opposing but equally unsupportable positions that has brought us to the political gridlock, animosity, and danger point we are currently in.

One side of our current political divide holds tight to a fantasy world that cannot be because it violates the very core of human nature.  The other side holds equally tight to a highly filtered and equally fanciful history that never was.  Neither side seems to hold any stock in the principles and documents upon which this nation was founded and from which we rose to greatness on the world stage.

I do fear we are seeing the beginning of the end for our country and the hopes with which it was created.  We are on our way to becoming just another in a long sad litany of great nation states that forgot who it was, eschewed its founding principles, and threw itself on the midden heap of history to make way for the rise of the next great power.  How sad.  What a waste.

 

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Some Perspective on PRISM and Other Spooky Stuff

As many of my close friends know, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the intelligence world. Note that I did not say, the “intelligent” world; I am currently in academia where, as Arthur C. Clark wrote, those in academia too often have had their education far surpass their intellect.  I’m talking about “intelligence” in the sense of one team trying to gain an advantage over an opposite team by learning the plans of the other team and/or when possible disrupting those plans one way or another.

On a geopolitical front, ALL of the teams, large and small, have fielded players in this global and sometimes ugly game because all have a vested interest in sustaining their futures and not being overrun by a surprise action on the part of some other team that would dearly like to see you and your homies wiped off of the face of the earth.

THe current and on-going flap over the espionage and counter-intelligence resulting from those well meaning but useful (to the other teams) idiots Manning and Snowden has roused many who were too busy or too dense to be aware of activities long ago publicized, into a state of righteous indignation even if that is based on nearly terminal ignorance of the geopolitical world.  I’ve shied away from posting about it because it would be too easy to counter that I would simply be self-serving in doing so or too biased to do it more or less objectively.  But those of you who have read this blog for any length of time know that I very much like the private intel fromn groups like STRATFOR and LIGNET, but most especially the former.

What follows, republished by permission from STRATFOR, is a report by their founder, George Friedman, giving some background and, in the end, asking the important questions we need to disxuss as a nation vis-a-vis such activities.  I think it gives the clearest context for the issue I’ve read so here it is.

——— ESSAY ON THE NSA and PRISM by George Friedman ———–

Keeping the NSA in Perspective

In June 1942, the bulk of the Japanese fleet sailed to seize the Island of Midway. Had Midway fallen, Pearl Harbor would have been at risk and U.S. submarines, unable to refuel at Midway, would have been much less effective. Most of all, the Japanese wanted to surprise the Americans and draw them into a naval battle they couldn’t win.

The Japanese fleet was vast. The Americans had two carriers intact in addition to one that was badly damaged. The United States had only one advantage: It had broken Japan’s naval code and thus knew a great deal of the country’s battle plan. In large part because of this cryptologic advantage, a handful of American ships devastated the Japanese fleet and changed the balance of power in the Pacific permanently.

This — and the advantage given to the allies by penetrating German codes — taught the Americans about the centrality of communications code breaking. It is reasonable to argue that World War II would have ended much less satisfactorily for the United States had its military not broken German and Japanese codes. Where the Americans had previously been guided to a great extent by Henry Stimson’s famous principle that “gentlemen do not read each other’s mail,” by the end of World War II they were obsessed with stealing and reading all relevant communications.

The National Security Agency evolved out of various post-war organizations charged with this task. In 1951, all of these disparate efforts were organized under the NSA to capture and decrypt communications of other governments around the world — particularly those of the Soviet Union, which was ruled by Josef Stalin, and of China, which the United States was fighting in 1951. How far the NSA could go in pursuing this was governed only by the extent to which such communications were electronic and the extent to which the NSA could intercept and decrypt them.

The amount of communications other countries sent electronically surged after World War II yet represented only a fraction of their communications. Resources were limited, and given that the primary threat to the United States was posed by nation-states, the NSA focused on state communications. But the principle on which the NSA was founded has remained, and as the world has come to rely more heavily on electronic and digital communication, the scope of the NSA’s commission has expanded.

What drove all of this was Pearl Harbor. The United States knew that the Japanese were going to attack. They did not know where or when. The result was disaster. All American strategic thinking during the Cold War was built around Pearl Harbor — the deep fear that the Soviets would launch a first strike that the United States did not know about. The fear of an unforeseen nuclear attack gave the NSA leave to be as aggressive as possible in penetrating not only Soviet codes but also the codes of other nations. You don’t know what you don’t know, and given the stakes, the United States became obsessed with knowing everything it possibly could.

In order to collect data about nuclear attacks, you must also collect vast amounts of data that have nothing to do with nuclear attacks. The Cold War with the Soviet Union had to do with more than just nuclear exchanges, and the information on what the Soviets were doing — what governments they had penetrated, who was working for them — was a global issue. But you couldn’t judge what was important and what was unimportant until after you read it. Thus the mechanics of assuaging fears about a “nuclear Pearl Harbor” rapidly devolved into a global collection system, whereby vast amounts of information were collected regardless of their pertinence to the Cold War.

There was nothing that was not potentially important, and a highly focused collection strategy could miss vital things. So the focus grew, the technology advanced and the penetration of private communications logically followed. This was not confined to the United States. The Soviet Union, China, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, India and any country with foreign policy interests spent a great deal on collecting electronic information. Much of what was collected on all sides was not read because far more was collected than could possibly be absorbed by the staff. Still, it was collected. It became a vast intrusion mitigated only by inherent inefficiency or the strength of the target’s encryption.

Justified Fear

The Pearl Harbor dread declined with the end of the Cold War — until Sept. 11, 2001. In order to understand 9/11’s impact, a clear memory of our own fears must be recalled. As individuals, Americans were stunned by 9/11 not only because of its size and daring but also because it was unexpected. Terrorist attacks were not uncommon, but this one raised another question: What comes next? Unlike Timothy McVeigh, it appeared that al Qaeda was capable of other, perhaps greater acts of terrorism. Fear gripped the land. It was a justified fear, and while it resonated across the world, it struck the United States particularly hard.

Part of the fear was that U.S. intelligence had failed again to predict the attack.  The public did not know what would come next, nor did it believe that U.S. intelligence had any idea. A federal commission on 9/11 was created to study the defense failure. It charged that the president had ignored warnings. The focus in those days was on intelligence failure. The CIA admitted it lacked the human sources inside al Qaeda. By default the only way to track al Qaeda was via their communications. It was to be the NSA’s job.

As we have written, al Qaeda was a global, sparse and dispersed network. It appeared to be tied together by burying itself in a vast new communications network: the Internet. At one point, al Qaeda had communicated by embedding messages in pictures transmitted via the Internet. They appeared to be using free and anonymous Hotmail accounts. To find Japanese communications, you looked in the electronic ether. To find al Qaeda’s message, you looked on the Internet.

But with a global, sparse and dispersed network you are looking for at most a few hundred men in the midst of billions of people, and a few dozen messages among hundreds of billions. And given the architecture of the Internet, the messages did not have to originate where the sender was located or be read where the reader was located. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The needle can be found only if you are willing to sift the entire haystack. That led to PRISM and other NSA programs.

The mission was to stop any further al Qaeda attacks. The means was to break into their communications and read their plans and orders. To find their plans and orders, it was necessary to examine all communications. The anonymity of the Internet and the uncertainties built into its system meant that any message could be one of a tiny handful of messages. Nothing could be ruled out. Everything was suspect. This was reality, not paranoia.

It also meant that the NSA could not exclude the communications of American citizens because some al Qaeda members were citizens. This was an attack on the civil rights of Americans, but it was not an unprecedented attack. During World War II, the United States imposed postal censorship on military personnel, and the FBI intercepted selected letters sent in the United States and from overseas. The government created a system of voluntary media censorship that was less than voluntary in many ways. Most famously, the United States abrogated the civil rights of citizens of Japanese origin by seizing property and transporting them to other locations. Members of pro-German organizations were harassed and arrested even prior to Pearl Harbor. Decades earlier, Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War, effectively allowing the arrest and isolation of citizens without due process.

There are two major differences between the war on terror and the aforementioned wars. First, there was a declaration of war in World War II. Second, there is a provision in the Constitution that allows the president to suspend habeas corpus in the event of a rebellion. The declaration of war imbues the president with certain powers as commander in chief — as does rebellion. Neither of these conditions was put in place to justify NSA programs such as PRISM.

Moreover, partly because of the constitutional basis of the actions and partly because of the nature of the conflicts, World War II and the Civil War had a clear end, a point at which civil rights had to be restored or a process had to be created for their restoration. No such terminal point exists for the war on terror. As was witnessed at the Boston Marathon — and in many instances over the past several centuries — the ease with which improvised explosive devices can be assembled makes it possible for simple terrorist acts to be carried out cheaply and effectively. Some plots might be detectable by intercepting all communications, but obviously the Boston Marathon attack could not be predicted.

The problem with the war on terror is that it has no criteria of success that is potentially obtainable. It defines no level of terrorism that is tolerable but has as its goal the elimination of all terrorism, not just from Islamic sources but from all sources. That is simply never going to happen and therefore, PRISM and its attendant programs will never end. These intrusions, unlike all prior ones, have set a condition for success that is unattainable, and therefore the suspension of civil rights is permanent. Without a constitutional amendment, formal declaration of war or declaration of a state of emergency, the executive branch has overridden fundamental limits on its powers and protections for citizens.

Since World War II, the constitutional requirements for waging war have fallen by the wayside. President Harry S. Truman used a U.N resolution to justify the Korean War. President Lyndon Johnson justified an extended large-scale war with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, equating it to a declaration of war. The conceptual chaos of the war on terror left out any declaration, and it also included North Korea in the axis of evil the United States was fighting against. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is charged with aiding an enemy that has never been legally designated. Anyone who might contemplate terrorism is therefore an enemy. The enemy in this case was clear. It was the organization of al Qaeda but since that was not a rigid nation but an evolving group, the definition spread well beyond them to include any person contemplating an infinite number of actions. After all, how do you define terrorism, and how do you distinguish it from crime?

Three thousand people died in the 9/11 attacks, and we know that al Qaeda wished to kill more because it has said that it intended to do so. Al Qaeda and other jihadist movements — and indeed those unaffiliated with Islamic movements — pose threats. Some of their members are American citizens, others are citizens of foreign nations. Preventing these attacks, rather than prosecuting in the aftermath, is important. I do not know enough about PRISM to even try to guess how useful it is.

At the same time, the threat that PRISM is fighting must be kept in perspective. Some terrorist threats are dangerous, but you simply cannot stop every nut who wants to pop off a pipe bomb for a political cause. So the critical question is whether the danger posed by terrorism is sufficient to justify indifference to the spirit of the Constitution, despite the current state of the law. If it is, then formally declare war or declare a state of emergency. The danger of PRISM and other programs is that the decision to build it was not made after the Congress and the president were required to make a clear finding on war and peace. That was the point where they undermined the Constitution, and the American public is responsible for allowing them to do so.

Defensible Origins, Dangerous Futures

The emergence of programs such as PRISM was not the result of despots seeking to control the world. It had a much more clear, logical and defensible origin in our experiences of war and in legitimate fears of real dangers. The NSA was charged with stopping terrorism, and it devised a plan that was not nearly as secret as some claim. Obviously it was not as effective as hoped, or the Boston Marathon attack wouldn’t have happened. If the program was meant to suppress dissent it has certainly failed, as the polls and the media of the past weeks show.

The revelations about PRISM are far from new or interesting in themselves. The NSA was created with a charter to do these things, and given the state of technology it was inevitable that the NSA would be capturing communications around the world. Many leaks prior to Snowden’s showed that the NSA was doing this. It would have been more newsworthy if the leak revealed the NSA had not been capturing all communications. But this does give us an opportunity to consider what has happened and to consider whether it is tolerable.

The threat posed by PRISM and other programs is not what has been done with them but rather what could happen if they are permitted to survive. But this is not simply about the United States ending this program. The United States certainly is not the only country with such a program. But a reasonable start is for the country that claims to be most dedicated to its Constitution to adhere to it meticulously above and beyond the narrowest interpretation. This is not a path without danger. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

———-End of STRATFOR Essay—————

It is so easy to see the world as simply filled with others who all just want what we want and if we would just play nice in the sandbox, so would they.  Jimmy Carter believed that and it led to one of his most important quotes when that nice belief blew up in his face, “I can’t believe the lied to me!”

But we are in a world in which some very capable and scary folks want us dead and removed from the planet.  THey do not want out good or standard of living which they see as decadent at best and blasphemous at worst.  THey just want us GONE so they can establish their theological world empire and see anyone opposing that goal as Godless sinners to be eradicated.  The problem is they are transnational and not constrained to a political state with which we could easily deal.  Their ideology has cost us lots of lives and damage.  Their diffuse organization means a decisive frontal assault is not only unlikely it is, for all practical purposes, impossible to define much less carry out.

So the only remaining question for us, as a country that at least used to be of, by, and for the people (not of, by, and for the government) is how much, if any, of our freedoms are we willing to give to that government to support its efforts to keep us safe from those and other threats and to perserve and defend the Consititution and to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress, as they swear an oath to do?

Or maybe the more important question is, since we have already allowed that oath to be selectively kept and broken at will, do we even care anymore.  Because of we are OK with the selective breaking of that oath for things we may like, we have no standing to complain when it is also broken for things someone ELSE likes but we don’t.

As I’ve written elsewhere, if we allow the Constitution and its rules to be re-interpreted by any new regime, then it has no meaning, no rules, and though we would not have the nerve to say so, we have de facto scrapped the whole thing on the midden heap of convenience and entitlement.  Is that something we really want?

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Tragedy Does Not Always Play Into an Agenda

It has been a while since I posted here.  Reading the intellectual offal from many of my colleagues on Facebook has been disheartening.  To see the extents to which they will cite inapplicable and often fabricated statistics to cover up a complete lack of insight in order to see the world as all bad or all good based purely on party affiliation is at once sad, laughable, and reprehensible since i know many of them use their positions of authority to press their skewed points of view on their students.

But few things seem to have excited them recently as much as the mere thought that the jury might find George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Treyvon Martin is cold blood in an act of rampant and naked racism  hearkening back to the horrific days of lynchings. It was clear that they believed no person in whose heart beat the sense of sympathy and outrage proper to this situation could even conceive of the defendant being anything other than guilty and of far more than the simple and inadequate charge of murder.  Anyone who had the temerity or the political insensitivity to even suggest otherwise was instantly accused of being openly racist simply because they might suggest the prosecution didn’t make the case.  The prosecution and the law be damned, regardless of such inconvenient things as the law, the jury had to — HAD TO — find him guilty, guilty, guilty or they too were clearly racist.

Well, the verdict is in, George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges.  Already the weeping and gnashing of teeth has started among the liberal race-baiting crowds rending their clothing, shaking their posters, and indulging in intellectual self flagellation that what is to them such an obviously bigoted result could have let this wanton killer of an innocent black youth free to walk the streets.

How, they ask, could we skeptics not see that this innocent youth was gunned down purposefully and unmercifully by this self-styled vigilante harboring his deep-seated desire for racial cleansing of all non-whites? How, uness we shared the same level of heinous bigotry and racist thinking, could it not be abundantly clear to us that this was just another example of the overt racist acid eating away at the belly of hypocritical America, much less failing to see that the only proper outcome was to send this evil gunman to the chair for a gruesome and public execution to stand as an object lesson that it was time we all threw off the Klan robes all those who questoined this case must secretly have in the closet?

Actually, in my case at least, it is pretty easy.  It is about the law.  In this case, the law of self-defense in which anyone reasonably in fear for their life or serious bodily harm may use deadly force to defend themselves.  The entire case turns on a single, simple question: did the defendant, who admits to shooting the victim, do so as a wanton  and racist act of murder, or during a time when he was in fear for his life or of serious bodily harm?  The police investigators did not want to press charges, the original DA did not want to press charges at this point and for the same reason… they understood that they did not have the hard evidence to form a successful case.

But this quickly became a political cause celebre because it perfectly played into the libeal agendas based on the view that although a continuous litany of black on black crime and murder in places like Chicago is unworthy of comment, any single incident where an evil “white” guy can be played as a typically hateful bigot snuffing out the life of a poor black person, is to be exploited with all energy available.

The law, or any concern with the law, got lost in the political fog.  That this case deals with a tragedy is beyond debate.  But a trial is not about justice or fairness or karma or any warm fuzzy feel-good elements: it is supposed to be and should be about one simple thing… the law and whether or not it can be proved that someone broke it.

Zimmerman himself was not white; his mother is Peruvian.  Serious racists and white supremicists of the type Zimmerman is accused of being would see him as contaminated by that non-white blood if there was so much as a drop of it in his system.  And besides, as we all know, straight from the spoken gospel of that paragon of interracial ethics, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, only white people can be racist and bigoted.  A worse blow for this view of him is that, according to unchallenged testimony, being Hispanic in southern Florida he was raised in a mixed race environment and even dated a black girl.  It is really hard to make a case for vicious unrestrained bigotry out of that history. Yet the press and the prosecution tried to do so even resorting to implications of other misconduct that in restrospect appeared to have been fabricated. and by withholding evidence, especially of his own wounds from the struggle that tended to indicate he might actually be telling the truth.  THe TV stations even edited a phone call to make it appear that he was after this kid only because he was black which, when you hear the enitre conversation, is not at all what he expressed or implied. That idiocy does not inspire confidence in the prosecutor by any juror who, unlike trial followers hearing selected reports through their own political filters, got to hear all of the witness testimonies and see everything brought into evidence.

Unsubstantiated allegations have been raised saying he is a closet bigot, but even if he were an open bigot, the trial was not about that; it was about murder.  He is free to think whatever he does, but he is not free to act on it in such a way as to use deadly force outside of very defined circumstances, none of which includes his ill will toward a group to which the victim belongs.  The press tried to make him into a bigot with the clear implication that if you would believe him to be bigoted then he must therefore have murdered the young black kid as a natural and inherent result of the bigotry.  The press thought so little of your intelligence they assumed they could force you into that conclusion with some very selective documentation and misleading information.  And one of the tragedies of this case is that they seemed to have been right.

But from a legal standpoint, even the darling of the left, Attorney Alan Dershowitz, long standing champion of civil rights and the ACLU, told an interviewer that if ever there was a case for reasonable doubt, this was it and that the prosecution should have been disbarred for unethical overreach in their charges, and for trying to alter charges in mid stream when they realized they had made a hash of their main plan.

“What reasonable doubt can there be?” the liberal crowd exclaims as they salivate all over themselves seeing this as the equivalent of a modern lynching over which they can get worked up in righteous indignation to castigate their favorite whipping boys.  The outcome is important for them because if it turns out not to be true then they would have to face the concept that other closely held beliefs about the evil U.S. might also have some flaws in them and need to be re-examned.   For them, therefore, no explanation other than rampant racism will ever explain any result other than a guilty verdict.

Well, the problem for them is, as Dershowitz pointed out, all of the evidence presented in the trial demonstrated clearly that no one, NO ONE but the defendant and the victim actually knew what happened because they were the only ones on the scene.   He (Dershowitz) wasn’t there, the prosecutor wasn’t there, the reporters weren’t there, the President wasn’t there, I wasn’t there, the jurors weren’t there, and most importantly neither were any of you who claim to have some pipeline to truth about it because your political blinders force you to see such actions through very specific and very ugly filters.  Thank God the legal system demands more proof for major crimes than that.

The burden of proof is on the state.  Defendants (except when dealing with the IRS) do not have to prove their innocence; the state, rather, has to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  With no more evidence than the prosecution brought to bear in this case, if that level of proof were truly sufficient for convictions there are few of us who could not be found guilty of a wide assortment of crimes despite our actual innocence.

It could scarcely have been more muddled. There were conflicting witnesses about whose voice was on the tape calling for help – even the boy’s father wasn’t sure it was him — however the answer is possibly irrelevant anyway since the time between the call for help and the actual shooting was enough for the flow of the fight to have turned.  If you have never been in a fight where you reasonably (or even unreasonably) thought your life was in danger, you need to shut up now and keep your terminal ignorance to yourself.  In such struggles the tide of battle can turn back and forth almost instantaneously.  It is more than likely that during the fight BOTH participants had moments when they feared for their lives.  And when you are fighting for your life you no longer are fighting to kill the other person, regardless of the initial intent, you are fighting to keep the other person from killing you and you will do any and everything you can to accomplish that.

There was, lacking witnesses other than the defendant, conflicting forensic evidence as to who was prevailing in the ground fight although the wounds on the back of the defendant’s head sure seemed to look like those of someone having his head slammed into the concrete.  How would I know that?  Because I’ve been there and bore the scabs and scars from it for quite some time.  The forensic testimony about the gunshot wound declared that it was consistent with a shot from below and at an angle.  The prosecution claimed, nevertheless, that the defendant ran the victim down and shot him down in cold blood.  The only thing certain was it was at close range.  Well duh…

Bottom line, there was not a shred of incontrovertible hard evidence, much less an eye witness, to corroborate either Zimmerman’s version, the only surviving participant, or the story concocted by the prosecution, or even the story they had to modify that first version to when facts proved them wrong, or even their third version as more facts surfaced.  So as a juror, if you have the honesty and integrity to follow the law, whether or not you like the outcome, you had no choice but to vote that the State had not met their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt” does not mean he might have done it, or that you think he probably did it, or even that you are, say, 70-80% convinced he did it based on emotion, and political agendas.  That you want non-blacks to always be the bad guys does not mean they always are any more than real bigots seeing them as always thugs means they always are.  That you want members of a specifically sympathetic group in your view to always be the victims does not mean that they always are.  No group is all bad or all good; truthfully it is almost safe to say that for the most part no individual is always bad or always good.  We are complex individuals and we create even more complex groupings.  People who see groups as monolithic in any way, from issues of political philosophy to issues of ethical behavior, are simply delusional and usually are following some particular political agenda.  Guilt by association is as inane as innocence by association.

What happened was a tragedy, a death that need not have happened.  Either party might have stopped the processes early on and derailed that final fateful moment.  But legal decisions are not supposed to turn on the stupidity or immaturity or a lack of wisdom of the parties, but on the legally defined consequences for provable actions.  Zimmerman may have been mistaken or been stupid, or he actually may have done any of the various versions the prosecutor claimed, but they failed to make a case for any of it beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

Perhaps if they had not been forced by political meddling to act so soon, the needed evidence might have been uncovered but that potential was not allowed to play out.  In some ways, Zimmerman was acquited by the people who hate him the most because they forced the charges before anyone was ready.  There is no statute of limitations on murder so the police and DA could wait for further investigation if they believed an issue existed.  God knows the press would have every investigative reporter out digging, in ways not kosher for real investigators, for precisely such evidence since they now had a vested interest in his conviction.  But no, they stupidly forced a trial before any hard evidence surfaced.

The jury had no option but to acquit.  When even Mr. Dershowitz agrees with that, it is very hard to argue it on any grounds other than purely emotional or political.  Unless you can demonstrate that in fact you were physically there and witnessed the whole thing start to finish, or unless you can produce a tape or photo or ANY hard evidence demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant simply chased down an innocent kid and shot him, for ANY reason, then it is time to let it go.

I know, I know, now there is now a call for civil suits to be brought where the standard of proof is reduced to “the preponderance of the evidence.”  Well, good luck with that.  Unless more evidence is uncovered before THAT trial starts, the results will be the same because there is currently NO hard, incontrovertible evidence to support even an evidentiary balancing act.

It is always handy when some event reinforces our heartfelt political beliefs, and tragedies are the best sort because they have the deeply emotional aspect to them.  But sometimes, tragedies, even gut wrenching tragedies involving unfortunate and wasteful loss of life, simply do not play into the hands of those agenda.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Intellectual Mediocrity on Display… Again

San Diego — This week, thanks to moronic posts on Twitter and Facebook, Pixar had to change the name of a production now in progress.  Originally titled “Dia De Los Muertes” (Day of the Dead) with a storyline based around the Mexican festival that has since swept the Latin American cultures, they sought to trademark the material created for the film.  But some whose ESL classes apparently failed, or others whose laziness and absence of insight and knowledge of intellectual property laws prohibited them from discovering the underlying truths involved, went ballistic.  My Facebook page was sadly inundated with posts from people who should know better, all up in arms claiming that Disney was trying to steal and/or commandeer their holiday.

Oh PUHLEEEEEEZE…  The result is something that should be of interest to every  designer and artist seeking to copyright and/or trademark their work.

I must say, I’m used to reading and ignoring uber liberal screeds from authors clearly paying no attention to such little issues as history or socio-anthropological studies into human nature.  I’m even used to the idiotic posts from minds so closed to basic physics principles as to think that the world can, today, simply stop deriving energy from fossil fuels, especially automotive in nature, and all drive electric vehicles thereby eliminating pollution and other byproducts of the internal combustion engine.  Those pathetic bits of inanity are barely worth a response because they fail under the weight of their own lack of knowledge or connection to reality; I could not improve on the rebuttal of reality except to parrot it, so chose to ignore it and hope that someday, ignorance and stupidity will receive its own karmic justice.

But I’ve never gotten quite used to skin so thin and self esteem so shallow as to feel culturally threatened by such characters as The Frito Bandito or Speedy Gonzales.  When you feel slighted by a character who likes Fritos or one whose speed and cunning invariably win the day, then it is time to get a grip.  Especially when other negative depictions of the cuture, such as the gangs in West Side Story, or Hill Street Blues, or CSI:Miami, draw not a peep of protest.  One can only assume that observers are OK with those gangs, or at least more so, than with cartoon characters.  And what does that say about mental acuity?

But this Disney/Pixar thing is too much.   It is time to call “Bullshit!”

When such a large group manages to bounce their collective reality check because, like sheep to the sheerer they were led by sound bites and impassioned, if stupid, assertions on Twitter and Facebook, I honestly don’t care beyond wishing for more chlorine in the gene pool.  But when that collective nonsense rises to the level of creating a precedent that could have a negative effect on artistic/creative endeavors, then it is time to respond.

First of all, anyone with an interest in truth or an ability to read fairly basic English could have started with even the tiniest search on just what can be claimed under copyright or trademark laws.  Hint, you can Google it.

Had they done so they would have discovered that you cannot trademark/copyright protect ideas, nor can you protect common phrases or names such as… names of holidays and festivals.  If that were what disney/Pixar sought to do the trademark application would have been summarily turned down.

So the next phase of investigation would have logically been to discover what was actually being sought and what are the precedent examples.  Remember there have been any number of films made with the titles of holidays (“Fourth of July,” and “Halloween,” for example).  No one would try to trademark the NAME itself because it is not allowed.  Nor did the producers of those films seek to take over the holidays or their celebrations and wrench them out of the hands of those wishing to observe them.  So what WAS in need of protection?

Especially in an animated feature, but in smaller ways true of any production, there is ancillary design and artwork that CAN be protected.  Title designs, designs of posters, for example, can be protected.  In an animated feature the characters and their appearance can be copyrighted and protected.

You are free to make a copy of Mickey Mouse, but if you attempt to appropriate that figure for your own commercial use Disney will hammer you.  You are free to enjoy Halloween but if you copy and appropriate the figure and designs of the film’s logo or poster image for your own commercial use without proper licensing, prepare to pay a huge penalty.

And THAT is what the petition for trademark protection sought to protect, it was the name IN ASSOCIATION with thetype, logo design and the drawings of the characters specific to the film.

Had it been pursued to completion no one, certainly not Disney or Pixar would try to stop someone from celebrating Dia De Los Muertos.  And it would not have been economically worthwhile coming after some family that used the same but protected logo or characters for a home-brew party.  But you would not have legally been able to use the logo or the characters in a commercial, for-profit project.  In essence you are not allowed to make money off of the work of others.  Why would you have a problem with that unless you too wanted to appropriate someone else’s work as your own?

Any of us who create designs or logos know that lots of company names use words that one cannot trademark or copyright: it is the PACKAGE of design, layout, graphic, etc. that can be trademarked.  If you are a designer, graphic artist, or content provider for such creative services you ought to be concerned about a situation where a large group of essentially uninformed people can get all stirred up for a bogus issue and cause the disruption of your project over utter B.S.

Is this going to be the legacy of social media: that mental midgets can totally misunderstand something but rouse enough others suffering from similar intellectual handicaps to destroy projects over nothing?

Personally I think it already is.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Whatever It Is… It STILL Ain’t Love

San Diego — Over a year ago I wrote a post titled, “Whatever it is… It Ain’t Love” which I would encourage anyone in, or getting into, a relationship to read.  to my surprise it got more responses and hits than virtually anything else I’ve written. Here is the URL to find it: (https://ndkphotoblog.wordpress.com/?s=Whatever+it+is).  If you click on the link, that older post will appear BELOW this one so you can scroll down to read it then scroll back up here for this one.  Please read it first if you have not done so.  Both the older post and this post is really written for ladies but little boys (of all ages) could learn a few things from it as well (real men already know them…).

It seems that once again a recent discussion has brought me back to this topic of love and behavior.  This time a young female student told me of a would-be suitor who texted her a couple of questionable lines.  Now bear in mind this is from someone with whom she is not currently in a relationship.  He first told her he “needed” her.  So first let me set you all straight about this “need” thing.

“Need” and “Love” are not only NOT the same thing, they are deadly enemies.  “Love” is primarily focused on the other party; but “need” is primarly focused on one’s self.  “Need” in the context of a relationshp is not a statement of affection but a statement of insecurity, immaturity, and serious emotional and psychological dysfunction.  It quickly becomes a truly dysfunctional version of co-dependency where the person doing the “needing” soon not only needs the other, but quickly needs to be needed themselves BY the other.  And this quickly evolves (if it hasn’t already) into jealousy – again an emotion whose main component is not affection but insecurity and a complete failure of trust.  And jealousy devolves further into controlling behavior and all to often into physical abuse and the ultimate delusional rationale:  “I beat you for your own good…”

No, ladies, you cannot and will not change them at that point.  The truth is that if you are on the receiving end of that warped sense of need, you can never be enough or do enough to satisfy someone else’s “need” because the need will grow as it is being fed.  Someone in control mode can never be truly satisfied with voluntary compliance but must now and then push that control to where it will naturally be resisted and tested so they can assert, however it has to be done, their ability to be in control even if, sometimes tragically, it means killing the other as the ultimate act of control.  Does that sound like a good life to you?

So if someone says they “need” you… run.

But this clueless loser Lothario went even farther and poured out that he wanted to “kiss (her) so hard…”

What?

Let me be clear here: real affection is not a test of physical strength.  Trying to drill your lips through someone’s face not only does not express anything other than one’s own immaturity and focus on self; it not only is a clear attempt at control through physical presence, it blocks him from following the second rule noted in the previous post, that is, “Paying Attention.”

Proper kissing is a two player game.  I hate those idiotic “kissy kissy” pecks on the cheek or worse, the lip smacking pretense of a kiss a la Miss Piggy, or even worse yet, the “Dead Grandmother Kiss” where it is happening, though barely, out of some sense of duty or protocol.  Please, PULEEZE, spare me those.  They are one-party kisses and at the core, phony.  If you want to kiss me then mean it and do it, otherwise just shake my hand and walk away… or just walk away.  I will get the message.

And if the texter twit in question is stupidly given a chance to try and is trying to apply more pressure to his artless kiss, thinking in his hormone soaked tiny little brain it is showing his affection, then, again, that is a one-party kiss; it is all about him and not about the lady OR the kiss.  Kissing is not the facial equivalent of arm wrestling! You do not capitulate and fall in love because of more lip pressure.  Anyone who thinks of it in terms of winners and losers guarantees that both lose.

Here’s why HE loses. If I’m concentrating on trying to impress someone with the strength of my neck and lip muscles I’m going to miss the important parts of the activity.  I will miss sensing whether or not the two of us are involved in this kiss; I’ll miss sensing when she responds and when not.   I’ll miss the clues of her breathing and respiration rate, I’ll be absorbed in MY efforts to demonstrate something with no existence through an exercise of no value and not likely even feel her lips on mine.  I’ll probably not then kiss her forehead and sense any temperature change, or kiss her neck and not sense any change in heart beat.   I’ll probably be oblivious to her hands and whether they are drawing me close or trying to push me away as she gasps for air.

In short I’ll miss out on all of the wonders a kiss can bestow when two are doing it… not just one.  Even more sadly I’ll miss out on the connection, the potent emotional moment when two people are warm and safe in each other’s arms and touch two of the more sensitive parts of the body (yes, yes, I know about the others but that is not a post for a family hour…) and let feelings and cares flow through them.  Those kisses are not “hard” kisses but gentle ones, loving ones.

And ladies if you have not figured out by now how YOU lose, then I’m not sure what to tell you…

I do not know where this idiotic, counter-productive concept of “Macho” comes from but I do know it is not from real inner strength.  I’ve known some truly tough, strong, powerful men in my life (and no, I’m not claiming to be one of them) but all of them were so self-assured they had no reason to prove anything to anybody.  That confidence allowed them to be incredibly gentle.  They had no need of posturing and display, they had no need of controlling others; that type of immature activity belongs to the cadre of the aspiring not to the company of the attained.  Only the insecure person feels a need to prove themselves.

And back to the field of affection and love.  If someone truly loves you, they cannot prove it by physical display, it can only be demonstrated by behavior and only the behavior that flows naturally from respecting someone, honoring someone, and being honored by their company.  It is only behavior grounded in support and encouragement not the behavior grounded in a self need to control that demonstrates real affection.

So, ladies, do you know why idiotic boys, especially those boys in mens’ bodies, act like such jerks?

It is your fault.

They do it because you allow it, facilitate it, and perpetuate it with your acceptance of it and your perennial search for excuses for it.  If it became clear that women were repelled by such behavior and treatment, it would change.  Not overnight, to be sure, but over time.

If all of you or even most of you acted like and then demanded – and I mean truly DEMANDED – to be treated like ladies not like professional women of the street, and snubbed those jerks who kept up the tired old macho bullshit, men would slowly get the message.  Slowly because they have had so many years of modeling by other jerk men and training by stupid women that went along with it because at one point in history the women may have had little choice.  But now they do have a choice.

Men like to act as if THEY are in control and their physical strength may let them get away with abusive tactics for a while, but in the end, except for a few sociopaths (and psychopaths) that are emotionally crippled and will never “get” it, guys want love too.  You ladies may not realize it but to a very large degree you are in the driver’s seat here.

And that is the way I was raised to think it should be. On the relationship bus, I was taught that the woman drives. Ladies, YOU get to set the ground rules; YOU get to build or tear down the walls, YOU get to make the choices of acceptable behavior… but ONLY if you demand it.  As a male I can tell you there are times when that is cosmically frustrating, especially if it is not a route I would choose.  But if I really care about the lady, if I truly honor and respect and care about her and her feelings, and especially if I really love her, it is how it should be.

Bottom line ladies, is this: whatever IT is that is expressed by a statement of “need” or whatever emotion a desire to “kiss you hard” may be, it is NOT about YOU…  but about them.

And it sure as Hell is STILL not about love.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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