Wednesday, May 29, 2013

loose wingnuts

When I started paying serious attention to news on the internet, and the ever present comment sections at the end of every article, I didn't really know where to start.  I like commenting, so naturally, I tend to gravitate towards sites where my comments are more likely to result in friendly discussion.  I try not to end up in too much of a bubble environment, but people are so polarized these days.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about this, being quite the radical socialist, myself.  At least, as far as my ideals, go.  To me, it isn't all about ideals, though.  That's all too easy, to get caught up in ideologies of how the world should really be, and then depressed because there isn't a chance in hell it'll ever be that way.  I prefer to think about what's realistic, what we can honestly expect, and what we might even be able to do, to help nudge things in that direction.

That said, it still surprises me, when comments I make get thumbed down for not being liberal enough.  Such as saying that I think Chris Christie would be a hell of a lot less disastrous than Rubio, Paul, or whoever else might make it through the primaries in 2016.  Not because I have any illusions that he's not a Republican and all that entails, but because I can see that he's not an utter RWNJ.  Still, this fails to elicit a single agreement, as I can only assume, it isn't ideologically rigid enough.

Too many people just want to see what side everyone's on, eager to embrace the prospect that the opposition is in a tailspin, and just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.  It's comforting, sure, but this is too much like the bubble the GOP found themselves in, when they thought Romney was the very model of a presidential candidate, while Obama, well, that it was a crazy fluke that he ever won the first time around.  It is a failure to understand the other side, but even more grievous, a failure to understand the center.  The huge percentage of the country which isn't so ideological, just fickle people who keep voting for whoever seems more likeable, without even watching much of the news, not even Fox's version.

I keep saying that overall, we're always moving forward, but this doesn't mean the winds never blow in the other direction.  It's not even two steps forward, one step back, so much as a hundred steps forward, ninety-nine back.  It would be foolish to assume we won't see a Republican president come 2016, especially given all the underhanded means they'll use, attempting to pull it off.

The irony to all this, is that people who come off as moderate can seem like they don't care as much, or that they aren't taking what's at stake seriously enough - when the reality can be that they take it more seriously.  Willing to step out of that comfort zone, of loving to hear ourselves speak, basking in the agreement of like-minded individuals, in favor of paying attention to the details, and thinking strategically, so that what we consider important has the most realistic possible chance of success.

This is why the right is looking increasingly wrong lately.  Too many of them are refusing to do that.  I hate seeing those on the left trying to hamstring their own causes, the exact same way.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

connecting the dolts

Looking at those demographics got me thinking about early immigration to the US.  How country of origin may create bias towards certain industries, so for example Germans immigrating to the US predominantly chose rural areas for farming and the like.  This creates a demographic, even centuries later, where flatland rural states are more German than urban states or states with colder rougher terrain.  These farm heavy states also tend to be very red.

Does this have something to do with the ethnicity of their immigrants, or does it have more to do with the fact that they're farm states?  Where the inefficiency of people living so far apart from one another leads to poor infrastructure, and an uneducated populace that's easily manipulated by the worst sorts of politicians.  From corporate puppets, to sociopathic power mongers, to the just plain old too stupid to win an election anywhere else.  Basically anyone who can afford enough ad space.

Maybe those rural states do need some extra help, but not in the form of gerrymandered legislators - that's like trying to cure anemia with more leeches.  What they might need is extra government assistance to compensate for their geographically inherent inefficiency.  Particularly in education.

So of course, in such places, those in power are pushing to gut their education systems as thoroughly as possible.  From their inane voucher programs and shutting down public schools, to trying to make sure that kids learn how science is just an alternative to religion.  It's almost like they want to keep their constituents stupid.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

sweden is pretty white..

Sweden sounds like one of the more socially progressive places in the world, probably more so than the US, and yet, this is an issue for them.

It is interesting how they've framed it, and could probably even make an argument for being less racist than America, despite being so homogenous.  Not to even detract from that.. but I'm reminded of what I love about this country.  The diversity.  The parts of the country that are more diverse than anywhere else I'm aware of.  Never really thought of myself as much of a patriot, but this is usually the most important thing to me, when judging how much I like a place.  I strongly suspect that it's also a major factor in our prosperity.

 


Maybe this is why it matters so much to me, where things are going, here, in particular.  Sometimes I wonder, because I can see how things could go so very wrong.  I think to myself, that it wouldn't be the end of the world, the human race seems to keep moving forward, regardless.  They probably don't need this lunatic nation leading the way.

I'm not so sure, though. The US isn't as broke as some would have us believe.  We still have the highest GDP in the world.  We have more resources, we are stronger, we probably do have all sorts of influence over the very course of humanity itself.  For better or worse, depending on whether or not we can get our act together.

Friday, May 10, 2013

depression is not an illness

Depression is a loose clustering of symptoms.  That is fundamental to the medical understanding of a condition, but it is not how medical science normally defines an illness.  It can be the way most of us think about it, but in modern medicine, that is only one of the very first steps.  Part of a process which involves getting down to the anatomical specifics of what the illness is really all about.

With depression, and really most of psychiatric medicine, that just isn't realistic.  Humanity doesn't yet understand the brain as well as specialists in this field pretend to.  They seem to hope no one notices, much like shaman and witchdoctors of primitive times, who had some knowledge of what might help, but lacked a comprehensive understanding of the overall system they were trying to work with. What we do understand is really marginal at best, and may even prove to be outright wrong, someday.

We have an approximate idea of what causes emotions, but we don't understand which specific combinations of which specific neurotransmitters cause which specific emotions, and that's not even touching on how the neurophysiology of thought plays into it, how the endocrine system is involved, etc, etc.  We can't honestly say why one person suffers depression and another does not.  We can't even show that depression is ever an illness in itself, and not just a symptom of something else.  We have no way to gauge severity.  A cluster of symptoms that can look very similar in two different people, yet be caused by entirely different conditions.  A disruption of neurochemistry, which we know can be disrupted in so many different ways.

This is to say, we do not really understand depression at all.  It suggests a gross lack of understanding of a whole lot of the human condition, but I'm just talking about depression, for the moment.  How are we supposed to promote awareness for something we just aren't all that aware of?

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/05/dsm-psychiatry/

This 'depression' thing is something I've struggled with, in my own way, my whole life.  I have experienced every symptom listed in the DSM-IV, and at any given point in the past 30 years, it's probably safe to say that I could have checked off the minimum of five symptoms necessary to qualify by those standards.  I have been worse, I have been better, but I have never been able to get out from under this.

This has been my experience, since I was maybe six years old.  Looking back on how it's all played out, I think there's a pretty good chance that this is related to the damage to my pituitary gland, which occurred at about that age.  Most notably, this crippled my body's production of growth hormone, but it's likely to have had an entire cascade of systemic effects.  Especially over time, during childhood and adolescent development.  Not to even get into how it manifested in my life extrinsically, and the psychological effects that had on me.

My endocrine system has been way off, all my life, and this is likely to explain a few things, at the very least.  Rather, it might explain a few things, if only we had a better understanding of what this insanely complex cocktail of biochemistry does, exactly.

This is just one obscure condition which can lead to some of the symptoms people call depression, but what I have, is not depression.  I think the entire paradigm of how we view "mental illness" is way off.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

i love our fake president

Obama's approval rating is down, but congress' is even lower.  This appears to be the Southern Strategy coming to a head, and as I said when this Kenyan was elected for a second term, it's not going to go over that easily.  It is a massive step forward for this country, but a step that's still shackled by our heritage of slavery, the civil war that ended it, and a Nixonian tactic, where Republicans chose the wrong side of history, for an inherently fleeting power-grab.

(and when I say "Nixonian," it isn't nonsense rhetoric.  I mean literally, involving Nixon, during his time in office.)

Even on the left, I see so much disapproval of Obama, that he's not liberal enough, that he compromises too much, that he isn't leading hard enough, but I've come to think, this is just playing into the GOP's hands.  Even if he's not quite as liberal as I'd like, suggesting that he's as conservative as Bush or Reagan is a bit absurd.

I know it can be somewhat difficult to tell, given how mitigated his efforts have been, but I think he's doing what he can, for a government that's designed to prevent anyone, even the president, from having too much individual power.  It's not a perfect system, but it's worked pretty well - at least before one party realized they could exploit it, to obstruct just about everything.

This is not a viable strategy for them in the long term, though. Times are changing, demographics are changing, this is even related to their in-fighting on immigration reform;  If they even begin to lose the south, it would be game over for the radical right, and the strategy which gave them power.

It's a reaction to Obama's re-election, it's a reaction of desperation, but by undermining the country, opposing public opinion at every turn, they're chiseling away at their own party.  The president is more likely to go down in history with a shining record, not just in spite of all this, but even more so, because of it.  As time goes on, we'll step back, and he will not look like a failure for what he hasn't accomplished, but a brave leader, fighting an incredibly difficult battle.

He's also paving the way for future progress, after all this blows over, and the right is practically helping him do it, by sabotaging themselves.  Things may be pretty rocky for a while, but it will be interesting to see how the next decade or so plays out.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

counter propaganda

There have been many instances around the world, and throughout human history, where society polarizes, where one side turns to outright lying, to make their case.  The more successful they are, the more they will impede the flow of real information, so that they can replace it with whatever they want.

How does it even get started though?  Before they get to that point, where they can control information, how do they even get a foothold?

It starts with those who just don't know any better.  The low-information types.  People are so busy dealing with their own lives, there's this huge void of ignorance, waiting to be filled.  You start getting them riled up with false information, and if all goes well, you end up with a substantial subset of the population backing a position based on the lies they've been fed.  People who will suffer as much as anyone, should the process succeed, who just don't know any better.

In the US, we're seeing arguments called out for being propaganda  more and more, because that's exactly what it is.  From Nazi Germany to North Korea, this is how extremists get their power, and no exaggeration here, it is dangerous.

This is what I mean, when I talk about the power of modern communication, information exchange, the internet, and how maybe we need to figure out how to be more pro-active about keeping the American public informed.  Pro-active, and creative - because this is no easy task, to say the least.

I suspect that we now have advantages that we've never had before, that propaganda will be a lot more difficult to spread than it used to be.  and yet, by the same token, it is also easier to spread than it ever used to be.  I've been seeing people shouting nonsense all over the place, and not all of it's even right wing.  I see independents who don't buy into the two-party system, yet buying into a lot of the same lies, because they don't have the time or inclination to stay informed.  They're easy prey for those that know how to weave compelling fallacies based on natural skepticism of authority.

Look at these forces in government now, celebrating their ability to stall progress.  They've retreated to highly defensive gerrymandered positions, where they can more safely wage their war of attrition.  This isn't even a battle between the right and the left anymore.  This won't be good for anyone.  That is, other than those just looking for the opportunity to seize power for themselves.

This is what propaganda is all about.  I don't know how successful they'll really be, but even those on the right need to think hard about how they're aligning themselves.  The way things are going, the GOP is in a lose/lose situation, where either the extremists will take over, or they'll drive the whole party to marginalization.  The latter looking to be a lot more likely, given the modern limits to how far their dishonest tactics can really get them, these days.

I'm starting to wonder if the more sensible among the right might be the only ones who can actually do something about it, before it's too late.  They need to reclaim their party, or eventually, the left will get big enough to do it for them.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

a legacy of pointless legacies


What is tradition?  It's just a word, for how things were done in the past.  It isn't a reason for doing things, in itself.  Just, often cited, in the absence of real reasons, of any kind.  As time goes on, we learn, we think of better ways of doing things.  We gain a better understanding of why we should do one thing over another.

Tradition, though, is a way of saying that we just want to do what we're used to.  Sure, that can be comforting. Important, even.. but that's only reasonable, when it doesn't interfere with what actually makes sense.

When we build society in ways that defy all logic, simply because, tradition?  It's like a big ol' "fuck you," to the human intellect, itself.