25 July 2015

It's Too Late

Excerpt from a LinkedIn discussion thread some time ago:

It has been said that “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross,” to which I would add, "and have 'carry permit' and be well armed." Is it too late? If not, what can be done? -author unknown

Perhaps more plutocracy than fascism, but in my not-so-humble opinion, yes, it's too late.

Not that there weren't plenty of warning signs and opportunity to slay this beast before it grew too big to kill (or too big to fail), but energy, water, infrastructure, economy, politics, culture, you name it, where there are warning signs, we are masters at ignoring them. For years we've been talking about reining in out-of-control campaign finance and other monetary political influence, yet over those years, we've sat back and watched the problem worsen. Or just plain remained oblivious to it. Wall Street now owns Washington, and Main Street is paying the mortgage. We have all but boiled an electionlocal to presidentialdown to he or she who has the most money, wins. As we spool up another presidential campaign circus, that is currently one Donald Trump. [insert deity here] help us all.

The people of the world who aren't busy killing each other must be watching and laughing at the spectacle that has become the USA, but we're too shameless to be embarrassed. Tipping point? Long past; we're toppling.

While I can understand (though it both sickens and saddens) how and why a large percentage of the population buys into this "trickle down" and "job creators" nonsense and continues to allow it, what I cannot understand is how a handful of powerful and intelligent people with a U. S. flag in one hand, a bible in the other, and a fountain of empty promises (and outright lies) spewing forth from their mouths can reconcile their actions and behavior with their so-called patriotism and religion. But beyond that, this course our leadersboth business and political, if they are even able to be separated any longerhave us on, while in the short term has created exponential growth of wealth for the already wealthy, comes at a cost of crippling the middle class and crushing the poor, not to mention siphoning funds away from badly needed infrastructure maintenance and upgrade. It is difficult to see how in the end there is any option other than completeand literalcollapse.


So enough with the "Job Creators" bullshit. Beyond demand, the only reason a domestic job gets created is when a company cannot employ machine technology or outsourced (or undocumented) carbon-based units and is has no other choice than to use genuine, domestic, carbon-based W-2 or 1099-MISC human resources. This has been going on since long before there was the Internet, electronics, or global economy; since before the engine, internal or external combustion; since before sea, air and rail transport; since before grid electric power. Humans treated like animals (or worse) worked our fields before Whitney and Deere and McCormick mechanized cultivation and harvesting. We're still paying for that Bad Idea whether we want to admit it or not.

Don't pretend you're doing a good deed and make a P. R. puff-piece out of creating a local job or two. It's just that the current technology/cost leaves no other alternative than to use local humanoids for the task.

18 July 2015

Pictures, Pictures, Everywhere

We can't seem to go a minute without taking an image of something with our phones (and, occasionally, dedicated cameras), sending, sharing, uploading what is often useless dreck, a waste of everyone's time, the time often wasted at work. But perhaps it's all part of the next phase: we're halfway to becoming illiterate, so images will become the only way we document and communicate. They may be digital and called "emojis" this time around, but we're regressing from the written word to visual glyphs.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but what happens when there are no more words?

The user interface, shifting toward an adult "Playskool" environment, might be where we're going whether we want to or not. I am not alone in having observed this shift since long before Microsoft released Windows 8 upon the world. Shorter attention spans and a general loss of literacycollege graduates includedare causing us to dumb down. Our computer/tablet/phone desktops are starting to look like a Denny's menu or a McDonalds cash registermore pictures, fewer words. Customer or cashier, the tired, drunk, stoned or illiterate can just point to what they want without saying or reading a word. Why write actual words when you can just snap a picture with your mobile, tack on a little happy face or swirly-turd, hit Send and be done with the communication?

Might this be related to our refusal to grow up (which is not the same as fighting the aging process)? Dave & Busters is nothing but Chuck E. Cheese with booze for young "adults," and the silly, immature, glitter-infused alcoholic drinks and flavored liquors and beers we drink indicate a population that is not maturing with adulthood. Hell, we even have adult chewable vitamins in the style of Gummy Bears. When I was a kid, I strove to grow up enough to drink real beersans any stupid fruit or mismatched additional flavorand straight scotch, not a sugar-fortified pastel-colored Slurpee with booze in it. Going from Flintstones to Centrum, St. Joseph's to Bayer, root beer to real beer, were rites of passage. We are not growing into adults; we are growing into adult-aged children. Fat, ignorant, spoiled, unhealthy ones.

"Sharing" our lives is no longer taking the time to write something out, to share intimately, one-on-one or one-to-few; it's snapping with our phone a picture of something as mundane as breakfast and broadcasting it via social media for everyone we know, even tangentially, to see, most of whom probably don't give a shit about our breakfast. (Speaking of, do we post our morning poop later? That's about the only use I can see for the swirly-turd emoji that for some odd reason has eyes and a smile.) Ever since film and cameras became available to the masses we have taken pictures, but it was not the primary means of communication, more a photographic record. Digital has brought the cost of taking pictures down to nearly zero, and hard disk (and cloud) storage is not much more than zero per gigabyte today. This allows for taking and saving a virtually unlimited number of shots. The cost of film and developing, as well as a limited number of exposures on a roll, at least gave the photographer reason to pause before pressing the shutter release. We are drowning in a sea of images, but only a fraction of them are good photographs.


The god-forsaken "selfie" has taken this to all-new, narcissistic heights. WTF, people. Send yourself a post card, "Glad I'm here, and glad I'm here with me!" and sign it, "Love, Me." One of these days I'm going to grab someone's selfie stick and beat them over the head with it. It will be worth being escorted out of the venue by Security, and maybe a couple of people will applaud.

The trend is not completely without its merits, though the good is often a dark good: evidence. Shocking crimes and ugly truths swept under the rug for far too long are reaching our eyes, and if the networks won't bring them to us, the Internet will. Hopefully and with luck, we'll finally begin the process of righting some terrible wrongs. It's a shame that it had to come to this, but if it takes dash-cams and body cams and citizens with camera-phones to keep us honest, or assist in the prosecution of those who are not, then so be it.

A cloudy bright side, but a bright side nonetheless.

11 July 2015

Guns

Like many, I am neither belt-buckle-proud NRA-member and game hunter nor all-guns-are-evil bumper-sticker vegetarian activist. But I do believe that just a little more background checking and delay before allowing citizens to take ownership of firearms might help, and probably not hurt. A Kit-Kat bar is an impulse buy; a Glock 9mm is not. True, there is a thriving black market for unregistered or stolen guns, and plenty of legally obtained and registered weapons are involved in crimes. As I write this, we are still learning of yet another breakdown of a system, this time the FBI's Background Check System, which failed to prevent the sale of a gun to Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine people at a church in South Carolina.

Where is the logic in stopping none, rather than some?


Guns involved or not, we could possibly achieve a good deal more prevention of violent crime by simply recognizing some signs and acting upon them before it's too late. While a lot of the persons who commit mass murder and other heinous crimes were indeed the "quiet, polite, never-saw-it-coming" types we see time after time in television interviews with neighbors, coworkers and family, many who eventually make it to the nightly news were clearly, undeniably, batshit crazy, leaving behind plenty of evidence to prove it long before they executed whatever sick plan they were brewing. Discovering this information would not require probing covert surveillance and loss of privacy, merely better observation and recognition of suspicious overt actions on websites and social media, and better communication between health care, education, law enforcement, etc.

We invest so much money and effort on cool and profitable things, but have a complete aversion to investing in the boring but important stuff that might help us survive ourselves and the future.

Finally, here's a thought to perhaps curb the number of children gunned down by mistake in this trigger-happy country we've created: The manufacturers/importers/retailers won't do the right thing and simply cease production/sales, and entertaining laws prohibiting the sale of certain toys would lead to a rabid, Big Brother backlash. But isn't it time consumers and parents—and kids old enough to know better—just exercised some common sense and stopped going out to play with toy guns that look so damned real?


Sometimes we have to take a little bit of responsibility for ourselves.

03 July 2015

Introverted Drunks

I hung up my alcoholic spurs about two decades ago, but for all the drunk I got—and I got a lot of drunk—I am happy to report that I never found myself having gotten into anything like those embarrassing (and pathetic and disturbing) situations shown in pictures that circulate about the Internet. We've all seen them pass through our In Boxes: unresponsive, vomit-covered and urine-soaked young men wedged unconscious between the toilet and the wall of some public bathroom stall; bodily fluid-splattered young women in various stages of undress leading one to wonder just how many things were shoved into someone's daughter and where while she was out cold and oblivious. No doubt many a time as the door closed behind me or I stumbled away from the table to crawl home comments were made as to how I was pretty well lit and whether or not I was okay to drive, but I never faced any "Do you at all remember what you did last night?" announcements after waking up in an unfamiliar place with dried puke down my front, unfamiliar (as opposed to familiar?) panties on my head, and a load of piss and poop in my pants.

Perhaps I escaped these treasured moments because my drunken career built slowly; I was well into adulthood before I would cross the famous "blacked-out drunk" threshold, and then, always at home, alone. (Johnnie Walker and I managed to disjoin a happy and loving couple, by no means the first relationship destroyed by booze, which assisted with the alone part.) When forced to be out at some function I would pace myself, drinking as much as any normal heavy drinker (whatever that is), never a stranger to the bar, but rarely getting staggering, slurring, drunk in public. Once released from the function, I would finish the job at home, however many drinks it would take and until whatever hour. The job wasn't done until I couldn't remember finishing it, which usually meant waking up the next morning to a fresh cigarette burn in the comforter, the remains of a scotch on the night table, and some unexplained object—often the CD player remote—in bed with me, like a trophy brought back to a crow's nest. I went through a lot of eyeglass frames during The Drinking Years, from collisions with door frames when guessing, incorrectly, which was the real door.


Growing up in Connecticut during the state's legal-at-eighteen experiment, I was lucky enough to enjoy legal drinking early on. (Personally, and despite being an alcoholic, I still believe one should learn how to drink before one learns how to drive. Giving a kid a driver's license before a drinker's license just seems like a bad idea.) As a teen and into my twenties and beyond I was never a "party drunk"—I hated parties then, I hate parties today (more so sober)—so getting shit-housed and rowdy with a bunch of equally shit-housed and rowdy friends was never my idea of a good time. I would grow into that guy who drank too much but remained a functioning alcoholic for years—not yet drinking during the day or on the job (that day would come), but the first to say Yes without hesitation when the sun went over the yardarm. You never had to encourage me to have a drink. If someone wanted the motion seconded for the Should we start drinking? vote, I was your man.

Our super-sharing and social society does not shower many benefits upon us introverts, but I'll take this one.