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Member since: Sat Nov 29, 2008, 02:55 PM
Number of posts: 17,671

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I'm from the south.

I spent most of my life there. When I was young my politics were as deep red fundamentalist Christian conservative as any you’ve ever seen. But then I reached, as Bill Maher says, the age of reason. I decided that the cultural attitudes and political ideology of my youth were wrong. It wasn’t easy. There wasn’t anybody around to support my decision. In fact, there was active resistance. It alienated friends and family. It affected every job I got thereafter. But I persisted, because I knew it was the right thing to do.

It was the right thing to do because I saw how people in the south got treated and how southerners treated each other. I saw workers of every race screwed over by corporations, lied to by religion and traumatized by education. At the same time I saw poor and middle class southerners of every race, creed, and sexual orientation quietly working together in peace to try and have a better life while getting screwed over at every turn.

After graduate school in the north I finally moved away from the south to an unabashedly liberal community and I have seen the same bigotry that gets blamed on the south every day. It comes from people who have had their liberalism handed to them on a silver platter. They have enjoyed the privilege of marinating in an ideology they didn’t have to earn. For many of them, liberalism is little more than social plumage.

There is an especially dangerous and ugly kind of bigotry beneath the feathered plumage of ideological arrogance. Liberals, or progressives if you will, are supposed to support others and help them have a better life, not use them as a foil to prove the bona fides of their liberal ensemble. Behaving that way is dangerous because the obvious arrogance and bigotry of such an attitude makes it impossible to build a successful political coalition. If you behave that way not only will people not work with you, they will actively work against you. And there will always be somebody out there willing to exploit that division.

When ideology becomes an affectation it also becomes a product. The people that profit most from ideology as a product are the 1%, and they are selling us the tools of our own destruction. They pit us against each other by turning citizens into consumers. The result is the Morton Downey horse race culture war scrum that American politics has become. It's nobody else's job to tell us how right we are. It's up to us to prove that we can make what we believe work for them.

There are other contibuting factors to a roll off in gun purchases.

A more important one might be market saturation.

In terms of the symbolic importance of guns, the features of guns that make them dangerous for innocents makes them equalizers for innocents in the event of an assault. That merry go round of potentialities underlies the entire debate. So whenever there is a mass shooting, calls for the elimination of guns are matched with the desire to acquire them for defense.

The Navy Yard shooting and Sandy Hook, while both mass shootings, involved a different set of victims and their role in our culture. Sandy Hook involved children while the Navy Yard shooting involved the military. Never mind that guns are not commonly carried on military bases and certainly not in office buildings, any organization with the word "navy" in it calls to mind rough and ready soldiers kicking ass and taking names at the drop of a hat. The murder of defenseless children in what should be in a place as safe as their homes personalizes the experience for the public in a way that the killing of people associated with the military would not.

I expect a bunch of factors combine to make the Navy Yard shooting a less viable product for lobbyist group and firearm manufacturer profit. He used the wrong gun for the wrong reasons on the wrong people too soon after the last mass shooting and too late after landmark legislation had run its course. The result was outrage fatigue, legislation fatigue, stereotype confusion, and an event that does not fit the ideologically based business model of the outrage manufacturers and fearmongers that feed off of both sides of the issue.

We are certainly bounded by our culture,

but who designed the culture that bounds us? How is it distributed and how do we acquire it? How diverse is the marketplace of ideas? Ideology, on the right and the left, has become little more than a consumer product. The institutions that have traditionally been a bulwark against mercantilism have been co-opted or marginalized by the profit motive, and when they fail, disaster capitalism can find a way to make money off of that.

College enrollment is going up, but look what the kids are studying:


And add to that the number of disciplines that are considered mere extensions of business like communications, journalism, engineering, health professions and the arts. While the objectives and methods of business are obvious, how many people are trained in other disciplines within the context of those same methods and objectives? That's how we get Madison Avenue, network television, HMO's, Google Glass, Twitter, SSRI uptake inhibitors for "social anxiety", Olestra, Fox News and the Southern Baptist Convention.

I once talked to a cowboy that trained horses for a living. He said the trick to training horses was to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. We are suffering from a national sense of anomie because our culture is been skewed to train us to make the wrong thing easy and the right thing hard. Today, given the obvious dangers over the horizon regarding resource depletion and climate change, the wrong thing is to do it the way we've done it for hundreds of years.

The term "liberal" refers to increased, or "liberally applied", cultural change. That's why we need a Democratic congress in 2014, because it's our best chance for change in a time when cultural change will make or break our country and our species. Conservatism simply makes no sense given what we know about the world today and our prospects for tomorrow.

Everywhere you look, from incessant culture wars to packaged cable television, your culture is doled out to you . Ninety nine percent of the images people see every day are produced by a corporation. Human relationships are metered and squeezed for profit by limiting them to, for example, 140 characters. Political discourse is dominated by ratings driven hyperbole on both sides of the aisle. From where I sit whole swaths of our population have become little more than trained pigeons pecking at a button for a pellet.

Meanwhile, in other news...

California lawmakers pass expanded semi-automatic weapons ban


By Sharon Bernstein, Reuters

SACRAMENTO — New sales of semi-automatic rifles with removable magazines would be banned in California under a bill passed by the Democratic-led state legislature on Tuesday, and those who already own such weapons would have to register them.

Missouri: Pro-Gun Laws Took Effect This Week

On August 28, House Bill 533, sponsored by state Representative Jeanie Riddle (R-49) and state Senator Brian Munzlinger (R-18), took effect. This new self-defense law protects the right of a state employee to store a firearm in his or her private vehicle on state property as long as that vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible. Additionally, it prohibits any government entity from using tax dollars to participate in a gun “buyback” program unless the firearms are resold or transferred to a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Finally, a provision in Senate Bill 75, sponsored by state Senator Dan Brown (R-16) and state Representative Eric Burlison (R-133), also took effect on August 28. This provision allows schools to annually teach the NRA Eddie Eagle Gunsafe® Program to help keep children safe by preventing gun-related accidents. However, the portion of this bill that makes sheriffs the issuing authority for all concealed carry permits in Missouri will not take effect until January 1, 2014.

Blue states go one way in the culture wars, red states go the other, swing states get divided. The split grows wider with every bill passed. And we sit around scratching our heads wondering why congress can't seem to get anything done. "What's the matter with Kansas?", we ask. How did one percent of the population wind up owning most of the country? This is how. We burn off metric tons of political capital on both sides of the aisle fighting culture wars while they run off with the store. Well, at least the money in the store. They leave the ideological kitsch for us to fight over.

I would rephrase if I could think of a better way to say it.

I think I would have to assume a right, since I cannot confer it nor prove it exists beyond the evidence given when someone exercises it. For me, and not having given the matter much thought before now, a right is not a social convention or law, but the expression of one's own being. Birds fly, fish swim, and people do whatever it is that people do. Rights do not exist unless they are exercised, and the social conventions that surround them are the result of that exercise.

Rights are attached to actions, and the expectation of action exists in the future.

I don't know if that makes any sense, since I just made it up. The implications lead us to all sorts and kinds of notions regarding a priori goodness and what it means to have certain rights to be one sort of person and not another. But maybe, as we do whatever it is that we do and build social conventions around those actions, the relationship between what we want, what we do, and what we discover doesn't work and declare the wrong thing to do revolve around our relationship between our inner and outer lives. That kind of thinking sorts well with my concepts of form and content in the human experience.

What, exactly, do you want fixed?

There is already a process for reporting threatening tweets. What does an alert button do that this form does not? If the objective is to apprehend and prosecute the malefactor, absolutely nothing. In fact, without a certain amount of information, there is no chance whatsoever that justice will be served at all. Unless the aggrieved party plays an active role in the prosecution, this alert button will work exactly like the alert link on DU, which is to say it will do nothing more than hide the offending tweet from their sight. It is probably possible for the programmers at Twitter to see to it that when the alert button is clicked, information about the offending tweet is already entered into the appropriate fields. But the user still has to play at least some active part in apprehending the malefactor. Do you really think that simply clicking a link on a website could or should be enough to send someone to jail?

Again, what does the button do that the form does not? It makes reporting easier. It is a convenience for the user. It does absolutely nothing to help apprehend and prosecute the malefactor. And what are the implications of this added convenience?

Well, for starters there are millions of fools out there who consider a threat to their overblown ego the same as a threat to their person and hurt feelings as tragic as a broken leg. For them the lure of a simple mouse click to exact revenge will be too great to resist. They can cry wolf with even greater impunity than they no doubt already do. The terrible form is a part of the investigative process to determine if the threat is real. That process begins when someone is actually frightened enough to fill in seven information fields and click seven radio buttons. Oh, the horror.

Add to those vindictive egomaniacs the legions of pranksters, false flags, social dominators, and all the other permutations of internet foolishness and the system, which still has to rely on the same basic form to function, will be front loaded with camouflage for whatever idiot is stupid enough to give their victim advance warning of their intent. Efficiency for the user will result in inefficiency for the system. The net result is reduced benefit for those who are threatened online. But there are some who will benefit more.

A few people, namely public figures and those who desire to be so, may get hundreds of threatening messages at a time from as many different people. Increased reporting efficiency will no doubt help them - a little bit. Although I would think that the necessity of filling out a short form for each instance would be considered part of the price one has to pay for making their living in the public eye. But personal convenience is not the greatest benefit for those enterprising souls.

This absurd tempest in a teapot regarding the graphic design on bank notes is little more than a lever for profit driven notoriety at the expense of Twitter. At the very least, these people can attract attention to themselves as advocates for justice with little capital investment. In fact, they can use the very system they are lambasting as the conduit for their accusations. It's disaster capitalism at its finest. And, if they're lucky, they will get their button. And that magical button of justice will become a reminder of those shamans ability to give you a voice. It will become a mini advertisement, courtesy of Twitter, of how they helped you every time you log on to broadcast your advertising laden and data mined one hundred and forty characters.

So an alteration of code from an overworked underpaid programmer, a small change in the EULA just to be safe, and you will get the feeling of security where there is none. Twitter will make money. Professional bloviators will make money. Internet service providers will make money. And you will get nothing more than you already have, which ain't much. And that's how the 1% wins.

Because the population in general

and liberals in particular aren't hungry enough yet.

Do you think only conservatives were flipping houses and investing in questionable securities during the last bubble? How many leading liberal thinkers have spent more time ensconced in university chairs pontificating than actually interacting with the people they are ostensibly trying to help? How much liberal political capital has been squandered on the culture wars instead of the class wars?

People didn't get nothing since 1980, they just didn't get as much as they deserved for their efforts. So, for example, women expanded their role in the workforce and now it takes two people to afford a middle class lifestyle. Wage stagnation is only half the reason. The other half is that a middle class lifestyle has become a hopelessly inflated orgy of consumerism. Both of these causes profit corporations and the 1% that controls them.

The United States is just another empire in a long line of empires, and we are in decline. Over consumption of resources, an economy based on finance rather than manufacturing, the conversion to a service economy (a thousand years ago it would have been a slave economy), and dependence on a bloated military to defend the profits of a greedy oligarchy are all part of the same pattern. Between the greed of a few here and a shortage of resources caused by actual depletion and competition for same around the world our population is being squeezed into the corner of a contracting lifestyle. Get ready for it, it's on the way.

No matter who you are or what you have, your lifestyle will contract. For those who are blessed with a surfeit of resources, that contraction will be unpleasant. For those just getting by, it will be painful. It will be disastrous for the rest simply because they have nowhere to contract to.

The terms liberal and conservative refer to rates of cultural change. Most people think they refer to certain issues of the day, but that just turns them into products that enrich the wealthy. That's how they get people to vote against their economics interest. Ideology has become little more than social plumage. Sooner or later liberals will have to get down to the business of actually changing a culture that simply doesn't work any more. To do that, they will have to be hungry enough to want to make those changes rather than simply pontificate about them and living off the royalties. The sad truth is that generally speaking, people don't climb into the trenches willingly. They generally fall into them. Or get pushed.

I agree, but it makes me wonder.

Why own something you're not willing to fight for?

Is it a sign of our decadence that we are willing to write off property that is worth more money than half the population of the planet will see in a lifetime of labor?

It's easy to say "my stuff isn't worth a human life" because your stuff doesn't keep you alive either. And it would be the height of decadence to be willing to kill for property that is little more than an affectation. But there is a middle ground, and that place is found a lot closer to having just what you need than where we we are now. The fact that we can speak in terms of the disposability of all material goods is a sign of our decadence. Our survival is so assured by our infrastructure it has become invisible to us although certainly many have died because of it.

It's not the liberal elite. It's liberals.

Ideology has become a sort of affectation or social plumage. On the right that affectation is manifest in libertarian ideology. On the left identity politics makes money for those who make a living at it, but the practice of it by the rank and file isn't profitable at all. So people who claim to be liberals, (there ain't many) wind up expressing emotional solidarity with any number of culturally oppressed groups and then telling their accountants to squeeze another 1% out of their investments no matter what. Do you really think teabaggers were the only people flipping houses and buying esoteric investments during the housing bubble?

People need resources to live. That need has been turned into a product to be sold to them. People also need to be recognized as people who are unique and have unique desires and goals. That has become a product too. The marketplace of ideas has been turned into a weapon to be used against us. When we stop behaving like ideological consumers and start behaving like citizens the tide will turn. Unfortunately, I expect that we won't start doing that until we run out of money to pay people to tell us what we want to hear.

Aquittal and privelage.

Well, Mr. Zimmerman is off the hook. Six citizens good and true determined that the prosecution failed to make it's case. I can understand how they came to that decision, but I don't like it or agree with it. I think I know what happened that night.

Trayvon Martin was minding his own business, not bothering anybody. He was young and impetuous, perhaps even foolhardy in temperament, qualities not unusual in young men and under more favorable circumstances can become heroism. But at the moment he was spied by George Zimmerman all he really wanted was something to eat. Zimmerman's ambitions ran to something more.

Zimmerman, through his fumbling association with law enforcement, martial arts, community service and weapons, reveals a disregard for anything like civic duty but rather a desire for the exercise of power to support privilege. His father was a minor functionary in the legal system, able to be referred to as a "magistrate" but without the power usually associated with that title. While his father may have, and probably did, discharge his duties as honorably as anyone, it is sometimes the nature of the sons of those with even a little power to be infatuated with the trappings of it than the responsibilities associated with its exercise. George's incessant calling of emergency services to report suspicious activity seems to have less to do with the defense of private property and more to do with the ingratiation of himself with the local police force.

Zimmerman, through his infatuation with the trappings of power, claimed privilege which he did not earn or deserve. He is a grasping toady and a bully who doesn't feel bound by the concept of civil behavior beyond how it can be used to curry favor with those who can feed his ego through praise, or others who could do the same through fear.

The night Trayvon Martin died he was confronted with the trappings of privilege in the service of George Zimmerman's petty egotistical desires. The trappings of privilege - property, a vehicle, race, a gun - were used to cruel effect to attempt to harass and intimidate the youth. Martin was harassed but not intimidated in the least. Had Zimmerman not shot him Martin would probably have pounded him into the ground then and there.

But we can't prove it. There is ample evidence of hate and fear, avarice and jealousy, but we have no actual evidence of how they were used as a fulcrum for injustice. And the tragedy of our ignorance makes a mockery of the law.
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