I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
July 27, 2017 - 2:39 p.m.
I'm having a problematic vision day. I just remembered the workaround. I upped the magnification on word a ridiculous amount. This now counts as a large print book. I would get these spells well before I realized I had cataracts. I could see fine most of the time and then some days find I could hardly see when I woke up. Then my eyes would recover. Today it seemed to start as I sat at the computer. That could be an illusion and I just didn't notice the problem till I had to read but I thought I could read for a few seconds before things went out of focus. I can't figure out how this works. My lens isn't getting cloudier then clearing again. The clouding is from changes in the proteins. I want to know these things. I always want to know the details of what's going on in my body. I hated having an ileostomy but being able to watch my small intestine work was enlightening. I always want to know how the sausage is made. I mean that both figuratively and literally. Yesterday I read the Wikipedia article on sausages. I even contributed; I added knoblewurst to the list of kinds of sausage. Almost every reference to it I could find was writing about Katz's Deli; the only place that I've eaten it. I cited an article by Frank Bruni in the New York Times. Before he was a political columnist he wrote a food column. He shares many of my food loves including Katz's and Hill Country Barbecue. I want to have dinner with him.
The flies are pretty much gone. There are a few but not many. It's time to take down the fly strips. I'll keep the clear panels on the windows. The strips are gross. The only reason they are still up is that handling them is even grosser.
I got a great response to my request of digital copies of my lost CDs. Yesterday I listened to my favorite Red Molly album, Love and Other Tragedies. Now I'm listening to They Might Be Giants. I now have plenty of Renaissance, Dar Williams, and Christine Lavin. If you'd like to contribute to rebuilding my collection there's a link to my Amazon Wish List at the bottom of the entry. I haven't removed what I got today yet. That's rough when I can't see well.
My primary response to the vision was eating before I sat at the computer. I can see well enough to cook and eat. I made grits ala Horvendile, the sausage variation. This entry is a regular sausage party. It came out extra good and I'm not sure why. The key to making grits is to add lots of fats. My recipe calls for two eggs, cheese, butter, and either sausage or ham. The grits form a substrate for the savory items. Don't be afraid to experiment. I'm sure there are vegan fats and protein you can add.
I'm going to finally tackle a large political/sociological/psychological topic that's been on my list for over a year. The problem is organizing it. I want to say everything simultaneously. I'll apply some chronology but that distorts the picture. The order I'm going to discuss things is also a distortion. It's not that one thing is more important than another. Everything I'm going to discuss affects everything else I discuss. Society is a large hypercomplex system; all explanations are oversimplifications. This is just a handle to help you think about it. At least it helps me think about it.
I started down the path before Trump was elected but Trump is a good place to start. How did we get to a place where Trump could get elected, albeit losing the popular vote? It's about trust, and the lack of it. It's the loss of faith in authorities and experts.
A large part of this goes to the events of the late sixties and early 70s. As Nanci Griffith sang in the 1960s we had Disney and Cronkite and Martin Luther and we believed. Then came the release of the Pentagon Papers closely followed by Watergate. The Vietnam War was already unpopular then we discovered how much we were lied into the War. Then with Watergate we had a president that proved unscrupulous in pursuit of power. That planted the seeds of distrust which then spread like a plague.
The Pentagon and Watergate were uncovered by press, specifically the NY Times and Washington Post. It took a long time but eventually the mainstream press/corporate media became a whipping boy of both the left and right. Right Wing talk radio, Fox News, and Breidbart and its kin taught conservatives to trust no one but them. In the years leading up to Trump people could find on the internet and the thousands of cable stations news outlets that catered to their beliefs. Sources that didn't were distrusted.
The contagion spread to science. Scientists were always near the top of the most respected professions. During the Nixon administration, the right still respected science. The EPA was created. The threat of atmospheric ozone was not debated by people ignorant of science. The rise of the new Republican coalition, the old pro-business with the religious right changed that. The first chink was evolution. Yes, back in the 20s the religious right, then Democrats like William Jennings, fought the teaching of evolution but that was a local issue and not the mainstream. That faded, with the launch of Sputnik being against science became unpatriotic. In the late 70s and early 80s the right started to move against it. Important Republicans in power could deny evolution. They could deny environmental hazards. Eventually it became politically dangerous for them to not deny them and with the rise of climate change as an issue, denial became Republican orthodoxy.
As too often happens this then spread to the left. People decided that when it came to climate change scientists were respected experts who dedicated their lives to increasing our understanding and boldly defied the energy giants and titans of industry. But when it came to genetic engineering they were total cravens following the Monsanto company line. That's what happens when you lose trust in experts. You then can pick and choose what you want to believe based on your prejudices as you don't have the expertise.
People without understanding of economics didn't trust the economists. This was worse in Europe than the US where the "technocrats" didn't listen to the people with technical expertise. They followed a policy of austerity that devastated the economy and many people blamed the experts.
Experts and professionals are not always wrong, they make plenty of mistakes, but they do better than people who are ignorant. Everyone feels that nobody understands how complicated their job is. You hear this from cops, doctors, teachers, soldiers, administrative assistants, musicians, and servers. I've heard it from just about everyone I know. Yet people think they understand other people's jobs better than the people that do them.
This feeling that nobody in authority knows what they are doing gets echoed from all directions. It's not that some problems are difficult; it's always someone's fault. This is what led to Trump. You ask how can people still trust him? Can't they see he's not looking out for their interests? They feel nobody is looking out for their interests and the fact that experts and "elites" hate him is not a cause for doubt but a reason to believe. He might be lying but he's making others feel just as powerless and lost as his followers. It's about punishing everyone else. Maybe if you bang the TV set enough it will start to work.
Some of the people most against Trump empower him by demeaning the press, and scientists, and economists, and civil servants. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That's how they feel.
I'm wary of anyone that offers simple solutions to major problems. The authorities are not stupid and they aren't all corrupt. Some problems are just difficult. If they gain power they will be in the same position as Trump, "Who knew that health care would be this difficult?"
There are some things where there's a consensus between experts of both the left and the right; The home mortgage deduction is harmful. Why don't we just get rid of it? The politics is what's complex. There are huge vested interests in the status quo. We aren't talking vast secret cabals. We are talking middle-class homeowners. How did the Rube Goldberg ACA come to be? Pelosi learned from the Clinton health care initiative and got the vested interests, the insurance companies, and those that get insurance from their jobs, on board.
Another part of the problem is that people are uncomfortable with probability and percentages. I tried to explain to a friend that when you read a news article that says some medical or dietary theory might be true to not put much faith in it. Most possible discoveries don't pan out. It's the nature of science. It takes repeated experiments and metastudies to verify them. Zer response was that we can never believe anything 100% so zhe would believe what she wanted to. That's a common attitude.
If CNN or the Times gets one thing wrong Trump will trumpet, "Fake News!" He'll make one mistake destroy all credibility. Everyone makes mistakes, nobody is perfect. It's like saying that if LeBron James has one bad game that proves he's not a great player. No, it proves he had one bad game. You have to look at the long record to determine how great an athlete is and how trustworthy a news source is. "All politicians lie; Trump is no different than any of them." That ignore show often Trump lies compared to others and the magnitude of his lies. No one else is close. As for all politicians lie, all people lie. I have no idea if politicians lie more than others. People don't keep track of how often others lie. Everything most people say is not recorded or even remembered. Don't say, "but still politicians lie more." That's like saying "Blacks are lazier than whites, or, "Women can't do math." A common prejudice is still a prejudice. It doesn't make a difference how many people believe it.
I still have so much more to say but I'll cut right to the core of my political/social philosophy. Two things come before all. "Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you," and, "actively fight your own motivated reasoning." If everyone followed those two rules the world would be a much better place. Love and reason should rule the world.
Love and Reason - July 27, 2017
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