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February 12, 2014

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My granddaughters and I play a game called "Opposites". It is a barrel of fun. It applies to this thread. Back later with more details.

AZREB, I ave invented a ghostly game of conversing with my phantom dog, Spot. No more details.

Jon, you are right on about consumerism. Few today think about downsizing whether it’s the hamburger they are stuffing in their mouth or the new Caddy convertible sittings in their six car garage.
Possibly if there is water on Mars a new pioneer spirit will develop far, far away from this once earthly paradise we have managed to turn into a huge floating garbage dump.

For you, may I suggest a Hegel quote, "no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit.”

And for those Randians out there, The concept counters the Great Man theory popularized by Thomas Carlyle which sees history as the result of the actions of heroes and geniuses.

And for me, as Jenkins (the robot) the last “living” entity on earth departs on a ship for Jupiter,
“sees nothing but infinitely repeated versions of a single sculpture; a human boot kicking over an anthill.” Simak.

The problem with complexity is that there's insufficient contrast. People are interested less in nuances and slight deviations than vivid details. Those things bewitch us - Miley Cyrus and her darting tongue, say. Statistics are dry, history is a rabbit hole, and other people will always be hell. But to understand ourselves neurologically, at least in the phylogenetic sense, illuminates the basic problem. Yes, there's this wonderful neo-cortex but most of cognition occurs in the older part - the reptilian brain that moves us to action when a sabre-tooth tiger comes into view. Climate changing over decades? No. We can't even muster interest in the obvious chicanery of Wall Street. The rich need their carrots just as the poor require sticks to keep them in line. That's what Jesus/Ayn Rand taught us.

We liberals are frustrated with a nation seduced and hypnotized by a politically engineered culture war (and what a culture! Honey Boo Boo, indeed). We commiserate in private conversations but how do you tell a next-door neighbor that blaming everything on black people is how the oligarchs stole the government in the first place? They tweaked your reptilian brain and here we are, a nation full of sound and fury and utterly bereft of even the most modest capacity for reform.

A paralyzed nation does not augur well for the future but the rich and powerful are not playing for the future. They're playing an age-old game that counts its blessings in the present tense. Après moi le déluge a plutocrat might think. And he's right that it can't go on forever. History passes like falling rocks, Robinson Jeffers wrote. Ours is poised like a boulder on the lip of a volcano.

Great comments. I recommend Bear's link.

Soleri has eloquently captured the essence of a conversation I was having with a friend this morning, the short version of which is that the vast majority of Americans have completely lost the ability to connect the dots between our singular focus on acquisition/instant gratification, and the ever-escalating downward spiral in which we're trapped.


Thought this might be pertinent. The UAW is attempting to unionize a new VW plant in Tennessee. Outside groups are interfering.

http://www.freep.com/article/20140206/BUSINESS0104/302060166/Volkswagen-VW-UAW-Chattanooga-union-organize-vote

http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/12/news/companies/vw-uaw-vote/


As recently as 2007 "A B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear warheads and flown for more than three hours across several states..."

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/20427730/

But there may be little new here: back in 1961 two nuclear bombs were dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina as a result of an air accident, "and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage."

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/20/usaf-atomic-bomb-north-carolina-1961

The big difference is that it took more than 50 years for the earlier incident to become declassified, whereas today we learn about these incidents nearly contemporaneously.

"Military intelligence" has long been regarded as an oxymoron. Crazy accidents, friendly fire incidents, and downright criminal incompetence were far more common in WW II and in the subsequent "police actions" than they are today. They just kept it under cover and I think the press of the era colluded in that.

There was plenty of timely intelligence to avert Pearl Harbor and it was brought to the attention of the director of the FBI and to military and civil authorities, who promptly disregarded it.

Also, the U.S. airfleet which could have limited the effects of the Japanese strike had they been scrambled, had been moved from the usual comparatively secure, standard airfield configuration into concentrated "ducks in a row" out in the open, because the U.S. feared not a Japanese carrier-based airstrike but sabotage from the (mostly loyal) Americans of Japanese ancentry.

"You get cities and towns whose local elevator speech is, We used to make this and that and be the headquarters of all these companies — but now our largest employer is health care!"

According to recent data, the United States is still the second largest manufacturer in the world ($2.43 trillion versus $2.9 trillion).

http://news.thomasnet.com/IMT/2013/03/14/china-widens-lead-as-worlds-largest-manufacturer/

What's changed has been manufacturing employment rather than manufacturing output. There is an enormous amount of outsourcing and automation displacing American manufacturing workers. This used to be a reliable way for blue collar workers with a high-school education or less to make a good living.

The middle-class will slowly wake up to this as they in turn find their livelihoods eroded by expansion of these same trends, which have begun to affect many non-manufacturing jobs.

OK, so the game is called "Opposites".

You need One Grandfather
You need One 5 year old Granddaughter
You need One 10 year old granddaughter

You pose a question to the five year old and she has to answer "opposite" of what the right or common sense answer would be.

For example: If it was raining and you had an umbrella, would you open the umbrella and walk in the rain dry or would you carry the umbrella unopened and get soaked with rain?

So the five year old says " keep the umbrella closed and get soaked with rain".

Now all three laugh with delight at such an absurd and wrong answer.

The interesting thing to observe is how well a five year old can determine the common sense answer and choose the wrong answer for everyone's delight and entertainment.

All through life, individuals, neighborhoods, cities, counties, states and countries play a game where they get to choose the right answer and the wrong answer.

We all know the world is mostly gray, not black and white. However, most of the time it is darker gray or lighter gray depending on the situation.

If one of the entities I mentioned above makes a practice of choosing "the opposite" of what they should do, eventually, the bill comes due and life has a way of slamming them to the ground for all their wrong decisions.

Example: a young person I know has had to make 13 life decisions in the past 14 years. Each of the decisions has been wrong. Suffice it to say, at this point this person is "screwed" for the remainder of their life.

Example: The city of Glendale has made numerous wrong decisions over the past decade and they are "screwed" for life.

Do we need to go into the "wrong" decisions AZ has made?

How about the US as a country?

I love playing "opposites" with my Granddaughters.

I hate seeing it played by young adults I know, cities I know , counties I know , states I know and countries I know.

I don't care to address the causes: money, corruption, politics.

All I know is, if you play "Opposites" long enough and wrong enough, you're gonna lose.

It's time to Tar and Feather (and I do mean literally Tar and Feather)

The former mayor of Glendale
The school board in Gilbert
Joe Arpaio
Russell Pearce
The AZ legislature
Everyone at Fox News
George Bush
Dick Cheney
President Obama once he leave office
All of Congress
The entire Supreme court

Feel free to add to the list.

The loss of service referred to is very real and cuts across all industries. Cashiers, customer service representatives (both telephonic and on-site), service station workers, and just about every other position that used to be staffed by employees, is now increasingly replaced by automated, menu-driven telephone services, self-service automated devices (ATMs, check-out stations), and computerized, online service options.

Obviously this is driven by the corporate bottom line: why hire labor when you can get a machine to do it for less?

True, the general level of service is much inferior in many cases. Lines are longer, employees are insufficiently numerous and often (because they are interchaneable cogs) less knowledgeable about the business operations involved.

Theoretically, capitalism says that when this happens, businesses pop up to provide what's missing: superior service. But as all businesses move toward this model it's hard for any of those remaining to do otherwise while remaining competitive. There will always be exceptions for those with the money to pay more for service, but these cater to the economic elite.

This goes for libraries, even. It's amazing how little today's reference librarians (at both the university and city level) know; ask for research assistance and nine times out of ten they will either turn to Google or some other database or search engine; but most of the time they have no more idea how to research than you do; and more often they will simply direct you to the computer system to do it yourself.

ASU West removed many of its hardcover reference books. For a while, the only copy of the OED was digital and available only to staff. They used to have a great room full of reference books which were available for browsing (something you can't do very well with a search engine). You could find all kinds of interesting subjects and information that you didn't even know about and would never have come across unless you were physically walking down the rows of stacks browsing by section and title. No longer.

The near-elimination of private-sector unions in the United States (just 6.7% of these workers are unionized in 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) has certainly done great harm to the economy, helping to remove income from the hands of working and middle-class consumers and putting it into the coffers of those whose consumer needs are already met and who therefore use it for financial speculation (bidding up the price of commodities, stocks, and other "paper assets"). As a result of this increasing inequality of income distribution, demand is weak and thus so is economic growth and the business hiring which tends to accompany it.

But many of the changes in the workforce involve jobs that were never unionized (e.g., gas jockeys) and are the result of automation. True, strong union contracts negotiated and enforced by assertive labor leaders would have slowed down the replacement of workers with machines, but the trend would exist regardless.

Question: does anyone have any information comparing health provider plans available through AHCCCS? I need to sign up for Medicaid (you wouldn't believe how difficult they make this for the poor in Arizona) but since one is only allowed to change provider plans once a year, I need some comparative information (number of doctors, locations, etc.). I can't seem to locate this information online, though doubtless it is there. What I want is a comparative review rather than an overview.

P.S. Speaking of automation, etc., I recently caught part of RoboCop (the original, with Peter Weller). I have to admit that 1980s liberalism was inadvertently humorous, but on the other hand it had an attitude that is generally lacking today, and Paul Verhoeven did a fine job as a director. Today, Detroit is closer than ever to a realization of the kind of decay and loss of public services depicted...

Ahh, Zeitgeist.

It is a siren to me, and I am always trying to tap into it.

"Something needs to change."

Oh, things will change. The question put is, is 2014 a going to notably carry some of that?

First, #Occupy 2014. A tech research firm, which gets paid big money to advise corporations about trends, is predicting a major revisit of the #Occupy phenomenon late this year (September again?) Why could this be significant? I will point to two things:

First and obviously, this new generation of protestors got a real lesson in what to expect from the State last time around. I don't think you'll be seeing daisies in rifles, as it were, this time around. Other lessons have been absorbed, and now they will be beginning the #Occupy in a situation where permit law has usurped public space - a tactic that evolved mid-stream during the 2011 uprising.

Secondly, and most interestingly to me, our good friend and patriot Edward Snowden has threatened to release the personal information of every government employee in the United States if Martial Law is invoked (oh, do go to the link, because the information he has secured is rather stunning in its scope.)

My Zeitgeist-meter says that this information might be providently absorbed by #Occupiers and perhaps embolden us... er, them... to really take this thing to the streets.

Or, it could just be my wishful thinking. :)

As for "global warming" - I've noticed that the term "climate change" is being used more frequently now, and I think people are getting that "lurchy" weather is quite consistent with the whole proposition.

Or, again, it could just be my wishful thinking. :)

OT: Well this is a bit depressing for the WBIYB crowd (of which I am a proud member):

...The results show that those travelling to work by bus or coach had lower levels of life satisfaction and a lower sense that their daily activities were worthwhile on average than those using a private vehicle to commute to work.

How Does Commuting Affect Your Health?

On the other hand, I am a Stoic, so eff that. ;)

Petro, this sounds like something generated out tof the ASU rat behavioral school of thought.
However at 73 I understand the feeling of power and freedom one obtains from behind the wheel of a 4000 pound vehicle that can arise to the speed of 100 plus in a few seconds.
But I cut back to a Honda fit so I could buy more books.
I am the guy that in 75 got free bus rides for cops, firefighters and postal employees ( I asked for all city employees but that did not happen at that time.)I always enjoyed the bus. U could sleep, U could read and have a good conversation with other riders.
I can understand the packed sardine aspect of mass transit but all things have there drawbacks. Like 15mpg, outrageous insurance costs and maintenance and a place to park.
Keep riding the rails buddy.

In Az. the public have accepted the propaganda of the local media that unions are achronistic organizations that are no longer needed.If this is true,it must be the same for the rest of the world as I have found from personal experience that people are pretty much the same,regardless of where they live.This is refuted by the following facts from Wikipedia:

Union growth and decline comparisons[edit]

In the mid-1950s, 36% of the United States labor force was unionized. At America's union peak in the 1950s, union membership was lower in the United States than in most comparable countries. By 1989, that figure had dropped to about 16%, the lowest percentage of any developed democracy, except France. Union membership for other developed democracies, in 1990 were:[1]
95% in Sweden and Denmark.
85% in Finland
Over 60% in Norway and Austria
Over 60% in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Over 30% in West Germany and Italy.
In 1987, United States unionization was 37 points below the average of seventeen countries surveyed, down from 17 points below average in 1970.[1] Between 1970 and 1987, union membership declined in only three other countries: Austria, by 3%, Japan, by 7%, and the Netherlands, by 4%. In the United States, union membership had declined by 14%.[2]
In 2008, 12.4% of U.S. wage and salary workers were union members. 36.8% of public sector workers were union members, but only 7.6% of workers in private sector industries were.[3] The most unionized sectors of the economy have had the greatest decline in union membership. From 1953 to the late 1980s membership in construction fell from 84% to 22%, manufacturing from 42% to 25%, mining from 65% to 15%, and transportation from 80% to 37%.[4][5]

We are not the homeland.We are the dumbland.

Two-thirds of workers in downtown Seattle don't drive, including about 86,000 that take transit. They can use wifi, read, sleep, etc. I almost always use the bus or light rail.

In Phoenix, I plan everything I can around taking light rail (WBIYB). Car dependency makes people crazy.

Two points about that commuting study:
1) It's from the UK; the original report (including spreadsheets with the full data) is available here:
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing/measuring-national-well-being/commuting-and-personal-well-being--2014/index.html

2) They don't control for income at all. The comment that gets quoted in the news stories is a hypothetical: "higher income or better housing may not fully compensate the individual commuter for the negative effects associated with travelling to work." They didn't actually look at the survey respondents' incomes. So the people taking public transit are presumably more likely to be poor, and may have "a lower sense that their daily activities were worthwhile" because their jobs aren't particularly rewarding, emotionally or financially.

I don't think there's anything wrong with the study, but it's not actually arguing that public transit is singlehandedly making people miserable.

Thanks all for highlighting the probable myopia behind the commuter study.

Cassandra, well done!

Getting back to the original question about the temper of the times, I'd have to go with malevolence at the top and despairing resignation at the bottom. Happy Valentine's Day.

We don't need friendly gas stations, Rogue, we have the internet and that is good! Although I will say that business loses billions because of poor customer service.
However, the future is happening on the internet, with the amount of content tripling since 2010. And, the internet is more affordable than a storefront or paid advertising.

commuting: correlation, causation, co-factors.

Rogue, this is off topic, however The League of Women Voters shared this link with me and I would like to pass it on to anyone who is interested in Arizona politics. The link is: http://www.azvoices.gov/ I highly recommend that interested persons visit the ‘About’ page to get an understanding of the concept. Thanks

Zeitgeis: Try Fun!
Generally speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.
http://thebaffler.com/past/whats_the_point_if_we_cant_have_fun

Excellent article at The Baffler, cal (never been at that site before.) Destroys nihilism in one clean stroke.

cal has asked me to post this clever unpalindromatic* bit of prose on YouTube:

Lost Generation

---

*I am not under the illusion that this rises to a neologism. It just made me chuckle, so I kept it.

Where is phxSUNSfan??

How come nobody on this esteemed blog ain't answered emils health care question. Don't nobody on here know nothing.

I ain't got a clue. Otherwise I'd answer.

cause cluless Reb, Emil is the smartest dude in da blog.

I like that. That's my new troll tag.

Petro, I wish you had told me, before I clicked on your Snowden link, that it went to a right-wing website. I had a brief look around elsewhere on the Web trying to confirm the Snowden story, but the only regular website I found (New Republic) had pulled the thread because of a link to a White Supremacist website (not necessarily the same one you linked to, which at a glance looks more teapartyist / John Birch than anything else).

Do you have a link to a less problematic website confirming this story? My past experience of right-wing websites is that they are rife with invented "stories". The Snowden info sounds quite interesting, so if you have a better link I'd appreciate seeing it. Given the bombshell involved I'd expect this to be reported widely, at news sites and magazines across the political spectrum.

Emil, you're making a good point here. I may have fallen into a honeypot, as it were.

In my defense, it doesn't seem to be a feat that is out of the question, given what has been revealed so far. :)

It's funny that the right-wing websites are trumpeting this, when the whole idea of it is very appealing to us on the left, for opposite reasons (specifically for the protection of Snowden, not for celebration for the imminent revelation of gov workers' personal information, of course!)

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