The Farcebook Farce

Gee, I haven’t ranted about Facebook for a long time. It had become quite irrelevant to tell the truth as the site is basically garbage and I haven’t been doing much of anything with it. So let’s back up and see how today is going.

After nearly killing myself yesterday by smashing up the ice on the driveway and then splitting more wood, I wake up today to:

1). Four inches of new snow;

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Today

2). No Internet connection;

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3). Dead battery in Jojo;

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4). A moronic message from Farcebook saying I can not post or comment for 24 hours due to my offensive posting. What offensive posting? It seems they took exception to a nasty remark I made about them and their incompetent Artificial Intelligence post parsing. How dare I write in German! How dare I use Sarcasm! 

That whole thing started as a bunch of my friends and I were laughing at the fact that now that all the Farceboook employees have been sent home to die of COVID-19 in peace only their idiotic AI is employed to check up on what people write. You can’t complain about any violation of TOS as you get this dumb message:

FBMESS

But in the meantime their Anti-Intelligence algorithm is deleting posts about the forerunner of Jaguar cars because “SS” (Swallow Sidecars) is of course a Nazi term only. Someone noted Chevy Super Sport cars, which also use the initials, managed to get past but not the origins of Jag. It’s okay to be a Nazi as long as you’re an American Nazi?

The irony here being that when acting on an alleged offense to sensibility, specifically ‘promoting Nazism’, they in fact act like Nazis themselves. Hence I commented “Hail victory”, in German, and got banned because German is all Nazi all the time according to Farcebook’s AI. Can anyone not see the irony? It’s drowning in it! *Cue Alanis Morisette* (There’s an extra dimension to that which I won’t go into.)

Meanwhile actual Nazis on Facebook go about their daily abuses uninterrupted – because the AI can’t comprehend intent, only content. Words are not in themselves offensive; only how you use them can be.

In future I shall remember to insult Facebook only in English, so they can better understand what I think of them and their dilapidated failure of a social media web site. If FB dies of coronavirus I won’t cry any.

In the meantime I’m not having a good day. Fortunately I wasn’t planning on going anywhere anyway, except to get a new battery for Jojo and check the mail and … Look, it was going to be my one day out this week. Oh well, guess not.

 

The Last Word on The Virus

(I promise to stop writing about COVID-19 soon. Really. After this piece upsets everyone who bothers to read it there won’t be much left to say, unless something significant happens in the world.)

Here we are, almost three months into the outbreak and the government is just starting to do things about it. The wrong things of course, because after all it is the government doing them.

Now they’ve got it into their heads to shut down … well, nearly everything. The idea is if no two people get together the thing can’t be transmitted from one person to another. After all it does not spontaneously generate, although some people don’t seem to understand this. For example we’ve had zero cases in this area, but people are still acting like it’s rampant in the streets (inexplicably taking their kids out of school, hoarding toilet paper, et cetera).

Let’s try to apply some sense.

First, we’ll start with my own test results which were negative. Yes it took over a week to get them back. Right there is a problem; you literally would be over the disease by the time you find out you have it. Strangely the PM’s wife got her results in a day. No inequality there, no sir! Any sense there was went out the window, however, as certain members of our community decided I was infected anyway (despite their utter lack of knowledge about the situation) and spreading it all over. This is known as “lying”, and my attorney assures me it’s actionable. The MLA and the hospital both had to put out statements saying there are NO cases in the area, but people still refuse to believe it. They want Armageddon.

So much for sense.

Now about this plan of closing down everything. There would be sense in that if they’d done this first. As it is they may be doing it last. You stop the spread at the start, when it’s only affecting a few people, not after it’s reached pandemic proportions. Consider Trump’s absurd travel ban plan: restrictions for everyone from Europe – except for citizens, et cetera. As if viruses check your passport before infecting you.

Again, so much for sense.

I think the main problem with this ‘barring the barn door after the horse has bolted’ tactic is that people do not understand in the first place what is important and what isn’t. So we have the sensible precaution of stopping entertainment events, a non-essential part of life, held on par with the idiotic overreaction of closing schools which are an essential part of life. Businesses and Government offices obviously need to be kept open. Legislatures? Well you can joke about how we’re better off when they aren’t doing anything to us, but really they should be doing their jobs now if they ever do them at all. They won’t and indeed can’t because this is a time when we need smart people who know how to handle the situation, but all we have are politicians who can’t even comprehend the basics of it.

Hey if you want to shut down something to stem the spread of misinformation, you’d better suspend Facebook’s servers. That has become the primary distributor of lies on the Internet (unless you count Trump’s Twitter feed). This applies to more than just the virus situation of course.

There are some characteristics of the infection that give us clues as to what actions we should take. The current proposed measures attempt to isolate and test the entire population, which is impractical in the extreme. Witness the fact that test kits are already in short supply, as are surgical masks (although the latter for no sensible reason). Instead we should isolate the most vulnerable segments of the population; those with other health problems who are at greatest risk of dying from the virus. This is a significantly smaller proportion of society and therefor much easier to look after. They can be effectively isolated, and anyone going near them tested in advance to be sure they are not infectious.

Meanwhile the rest of the populace can take sensible precautions, such as eliminating unnecessary travel and yes shutting down inessential gatherings for a while. It won’t eliminate the economic damage entirely, but it will reduce it and keep society running until this pandemic has passed. It is important that life goes on and that we understand some people will still get sick from this, and yes some more people will die. It is impossible to avoid this; we can only minimize the inevitable effect, including the disruption of daily life. (BTW the “social distancing” practice advocated by some professionals falls apart when you realize they say “1 meter” when we already know the airborne transmission range is nearly twice that.)

While we’re talking about life, let’s mention this mysophobic preoccupation with sanitizing every surface. The compounds being used for this are rarely effective against viruses (except in the form of physically removing them with the liquid used), but they do work on bacteria. Unfortunately not all bacteria are bad, and some are vital. Yes there really is a problem with over-cleaning, and it could be an environmental time bomb. Never mind the fact this is how MRSA developed or that an area free from bacteria can be an unrestricted breeding ground for viruses to mutate in. Yes, you could be making things much worse with all that cleaning.

Meanwhile the economic chaos being wreaked on the investment market should have been stopped with a total shutdown of all exchanges after the first 10% drop. Not some temporary “circuit breaker” interruption, but a permanent closing until the crisis has passed. Sure people would scream about that and complain that it’s “illegal” (it isn’t), but the alternative is proving to be even worse. If the markets were locked down for a couple of months the time could be used to pass legislation that would overhaul the way they work, eliminating the rampantly speculative aspects of investing as it is now.

On that same subject, if ever there was proof of the inequities of the existing financial structure it has come about from this pandemic. The idiotic plummeting of the markets, the massive disruption to business, and the fragility of the economic infrastructure laid bare before us all prove we need a better system. It’s somewhat amusing in fact to see that the people who complain about hourly wage workers and social assistance recipients are now taking it on the chin because those on the lower end of the economic scale aren’t spending their money to keep the wealthy rich. For any economy to work, the money (in all its forms) has to stay in circulation; anyone hoarding it makes everyone poorer, including themselves.

Speaking of hoarding, why are people doing this? I guess they don’t understand that from infection to symptoms is two weeks and from there to clear is another two weeks. In other words, the worst you’re likely to be holed up for is a month. Six weeks tops. The things they choose to hoard are another mystery, which points out they weren’t listening about symptoms or prevention and they also have basically no knowledge of how to manage their daily life without the disease, never mind with it. I strongly suspect there are millions of households out there with cupboards and freezers full of stuff who still have to go out and buy something to eat every day because they don’t know how to handle an inventory, even when it’s their own. Not everything keeps forever, you know. Not even frozen goods. Not even things intended for long-term storage.

Ah, it seems some of the hoarders are doing so to try and create artificial shortages so they can take advantage of their fellow citizens by selling them essential goods and obscene prices. Good ol’ price gouging! I mean entrepreneurialism!  These are one of the kinds of people our sustainable society could do without; the ones who take advantage of others in a crisis. The stores could and should have shut down this hoarding behaviour the moment it was detected, but chose not to. Perhaps we can have an inquiry as to why they didn’t.

What we’re really seeing here is society tearing itself apart. Not from the effects of war or famine or disease, but from the incredibly stupid reactions to a single, relatively insignificant virus. There have been outbreaks in the past, and they were handled better. But we did not learn from them and so when this latest infection came along we still had no plan ready, and this time we haven’t handled it so well. In fact it’s been a bloody awful mess. Even the healthcare professionals are making major mistakes, and the politicians in charge are totally at sea as usual.

It isn’t a matter of “letting the disease run its course” as “let” doesn’t enter into it: we have no choice. Without a vaccine to stave off further infection it is going to pass through the whole of society, effecting everyone to a greater or lesser extent (dreadfully it seems to have only two effects; either flu-like symptoms you get over, or death). We can slow it down a bit to mitigate the damage as much as possible and keep some semblance of sanity as life goes on, but we can do no more beyond that.

The good news is: 1). the virus is not that easily transmitted (it is not classified as “airborne”*) and; 2). 98% of people will survive it (the places where the death toll has been much higher have other factors causing the increase). The bad news is viruses don’t just go away because you survived the outbreak; until there is a vaccine the cycle will not be broken and COVID-19 remains a threat year after year.

Contrary to desires, we can not enact any plan that will give us 100% safety and effectively put us back to where we were before. It simply isn’t possible. Life does not have certainties, it has odds. To some extent we can control those odds, play the percentages and improve the probabilities, but never to 100% success. Unfortunately if you say to most people “Here is a wheel with 36 numbers on, you can pick 1 of them. What are your odds of winning?” most of them would say “excellent!” Then when they don’t win they’ll whine it was unfair and the government should do something about it.

All we can do now is accept the situation and learn from it. We see more people “telecommuting” and “tele-learning”, which they should have been doing all along anyway. Conferences as well need not be handled “in person” (especially not those taxpayer funded “working vacation” type meetings politicians are so fond of). We see industries devastated by shutdown, and need to evaluate whether they should alter their fundamental nature, have an over-inflated value to society that needs to be addressed, or indeed are necessary at all. Now is the time to re-evaluate every aspect of our world, and look to a future that makes more sense. Remember: viruses mutate into new forms; surviving this one just means we’re available for the next version. If we don’t learn the essential lessons, we’re still vulnerable. As it is the measures we take are just buying time; without a vaccine to break the cycle COVID-19 remains a threat. (I know I’ve said that twice.)

And yes I realize the likelihood of all this restructuring happening is about the same as that of winning the lottery. Perhaps not even that good. Probably around 7 billion to 1.

(Nota bene: students of history will recognize certain parallels herein to what happened from the Black Death in the 14th century. They are not coincidental.)

Editor’s note: I’ve proof-read, spell-checked, fact-checked, and edited this thing a dozen times already and I’m still not happy with its limited information, awkward structure, and omitted points. But not many people are likely to read it, it won’t change anything even if they do, and no one is paying me to write it so … buggrit.

*The size of the corona virus is large so it does not remain suspended in the air like the smaller rhinovirus does (this is the difference between aerosolized and airborne). This is why it is easier to catch the common cold; it can linger in the air after being exhaled by someone who has since moved from the space. Primary infection of both virus types is by inhaling them, with surface transmission to the respiratory tract secondary (the additional steps involved in moving the virus from an infected to a non-infected person increases the likelihood of removing or killing the virus before transmission occurs).

COVID could be good

The COVID-19 virus outbreak is having the right effect on the world.

Unfortunately it is doing so for all the wrong reasons, and the effect is only temporary. Once the ’emergency’ is over everyone will forget the lessons they should be learning and it will all go back to business as usual. Which is wrong.

So what is good about it?

Let’s start with improved hygiene. Face it, much of the ‘ordinary’ viral illness spread every year could be prevented if people followed the basic procedures they are observing now. Not the ridiculous extremes some people are touting, but the simple acts of cleanliness like washing your hands. It’s somewhat appalling to realize they haven’t been doing this all along anyway. Rhinovirus that causes common colds by the score can be greatly reduced by washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and wiping off dirty surfaces. Never mind the reduction in bacterial transmission. And if you don’t know the difference between bacteria and viruses please learn as it is important. For example that hand sanitizer that is currently selling for $200 an ounce has no effect on a virus, but will kill off bacteria. It’s still just glorified rubbing alcohol, though. Likewise antibiotics will not cure a viral infection, but are sometimes given to stave off a likely secondary bacterial one. In the short form, nothing is really efficacious against a virus save your own immune system, and a few things that would be have a damaging effect on you as well as the germ.

Another benefit has been a great reduction in travel, even locally. What’s so good about that? Less fuel consumption and resulting lower pollution. No, really. The social shutdown is actually showing up already on views of emissions and climate change. Amazingly positive effect in a really short period of time. It really gives you hope for the future of life kind (only we know … it hasn’t got one).

The third major benefit is probably not so obvious, because it looks like an unmitigated disaster: the stock market decline. What’s good about that? Well in the first place no real wealth is affected because real wealth is fixed at the resources available to a given society and that doesn’t change just because of some arbitrary numerical evaluation. No, it doesn’t. What does change is that basically the rich people are eating each other alive financially, and they deserve it. The only reason they are so rich is because of the poverty they’ve inflicted on others. This isn’t some sort of socialist-communist rant, is a factual observation of economics that only con artists try to deny: no one gets rich in a closed resource system (which is any and all of them) without someone else getting poor. Wealth is not “created” (except in terms of falsified statements to convince banks to loan you money by proving you don’t need it), it is redistributed. The billionaires are reverse Robin Hoods, robbing the poor to give to the rich – themselves – like Dennis Moore. (There is a weird paradox that goes along with this wherein the richer they become and the poorer they make others the still richer they must become to be “as rich” because the uneven distribution stifles the economy and drives inflation, making the value of their money go down as the quantity of it goes up.)

There is a fourth part as well, and it starts with this Wall Street Syndrome. The fact is that the stock market and its various forms are no longer a means of investing but instead have become the biggest casino on Earth. It’s gambling, not investing. If the profits from the company this quarter aren’t as large as expected (instead of merely present), the stock value goes down. People even wager on that and ‘borrow’ stock they haven’t got to sell at top prices as they expect to cover those sales once the value drops. Almost 2/3 of “investing” these days is really speculation, and not based on any solid financial standing of any given company. The whole system needs a drastic overhaul, with much of the current accepted practices outlawed. This would stabilize the economy as nothing else could, and begin to change the economic mindset from constant demand of ever greater quarterly payouts to long-term consistency and planning.

From there we go to spreading that idea across the whole of society. Not just economically, but holistically. We should realize that the first industries hardest hit by the irrational social effects of this truly insignificant viral outbreak are the ones that need to be re-examined for their sustainability or indeed actual need. (See my earlier piece on a Sustainable Society).

None of this will happen, of course, as the virus is no place near as bad as the hyperbole makes it out to be. So far the world-wide infection rate has been less than 1/100,000 of the population and the unlucky few who have contracted it have a 98% chance of survival. By contrast, influenza which can largely be avoided by vaccine still manages to kill about 300,000 people per year. In more localized statistics, places like Italy and Iran are much worse off and you have to then consider what underlying differences there are to make their infection and death rates so much higher than the ‘norm’.

Once coronavirus is out of the news by dint of its lackluster staying power or is pushed aside by the start of World War III or something everyone will go back to business as usual and we’ll still have the same major problems we had before this insignificant one came along and got promoted as the new Black Death by an ignorant, nay stupid populace. COVID-19 is no place near as dangerous as the idiotic behaviour it has triggered.

Addendum: the amount of utter nonsense I’ve been reading about this and other viruses of late makes me wish it was going to wipe out half the population. Preferably the stupid half. Even when you explain the reality of it, people steadfastly refuse to believe the truth no matter how well-documented the facts or what qualifications the conveyor has. It’s like they have a built-in need to be wrong, or to be scared by something. It’s like with a zombie invasion; you can’t convince them that is impossible either. It is for that reason that I am not uttering one word about my own legitimacy in presenting this essay as factual, because no one would accept any. I can be just as trustworthy as anyone else spewing nonsense on the Internet.

Except in this instance it’s not nonsense.

What’s that phrase they always use? Oh yes: “do your research!” *LOL*

Or to paraphrase Pogo (Walt Kelly): We have met the enemy, and it is us.

 

Sustainable Society

Shifting from my usual discussion to something that came up in conversation with another. The COVID-19 paranoia that is all we hear about today has affected travel to and from many places, including if not especially China. I happened to remark to a friend that this might end trade with that country, thereby achieving a worthy goal albeit by the wrong means.

This is when the discussion got interesting, as I explained (once again) why we should not be doing business with China. The virus isn’t even on the ‘top ten’ list, to be honest. You can start with the fact the government is totalitarian and corrupt, move on to the utter lack of safety and environmental concerns of their industries, continue with the fact people there are considered a disposable commodity, and end up with the proposition that if we’re trying to be ecologically sound (as Canada alleges it wants to be) the pollution cost of hauling goods halfway around the world are pretty enormous.

From that point we jumped ship and got on to the issue of how much of the world would change if it actually were possible to get our collective act together and try to minimize the damage we’re doing to our planet and indeed to ourselves. It would require a pretty sobering plan of action.

Never mind what type of government or economy you think is best: the fact is any of them will work, up until the point they become corrupted. A benevolent king looks out for all his people and sees to it everyone has the necessities of life. Rarely has a monarchy actually managed to do this, and in many cases they haven’t even tried. Our so-called social democracy is supposed to be so much better a system for doing this, yet it still fails to achieve the goal. This monograph isn’t about that, though.

Never mind that we have billionaires who claim they “earned” their money. The math doesn’t support that. You’d have to work for 50 years at an average wage of $10,000 an hour to get a billion dollars gross, never mind net. No one’s skill-set is worth that kind of money. (The Approximate Math: 40 hours per week * 52 weeks per year * 50 years = 104,000 work-hours. $1,000,000,000 divided by 104,000 = $9,615.38 per hour.)

Never mind that politicians continually tout increasing the population as though that’s a good thing instead of the sure-fire recipe for devaluing humans and lowering their standard of living. It affects low-end workers the worst, of course. Can’t make it on minimum wage? It’s not because that wage is too low, it’s because the cost of living is too high; ever greater numbers of workers in your income bracket puts pressure on the value of everything you need to live, driving those prices up. We have known for the past fifty years that overpopulation is the cause of every problem we face, and yet we continue to go forth with the “breed for the Fatherland!” ideology. China has this in spades with a population of 1.4 billion, which is why they don’t really care how many die or what from. It only becomes an issue when it either affects leaders (as it has in Iran) or more usually interferes with wealth. Then it’s a problem. Ten million peasants could die and so what? Unless there suddenly was no one to serve their tea or the sales of products dropped off enough to affect their profits.

Enough background information. Argue about it if you like, but it won’t change anything. Neither will what I’m about to impart. Why? The answer to that comes at the end.

Now to bring about this sustainable world society, what needs to be done? First and foremost, everyone must contribute to the society they take from. Marx said “each producing according to his ability and consuming according to his need” which is correct. Except Marx knew nada about human nature. We are by our DNA greedy, selfish little users who will consumer whatever we can get while doing as little as necessary to get it. Since you can’t change human nature, you have to deal with it instead. That, unfortunately, is the first step in everything getting ugly. It’s why the communist revolutions inevitably fail, and why innocent people die in the name of “the cause”.

But we do have a segment of society that we know consumes without contributing: the convicted criminals. They sit in their cells, possibly for life, costing $50,000 (a pretty good wage) a year while doing nothing in return. Obviously some better way of dealing with them is necessary, such as executing the hopelessly violent sociopaths and possibly gainfully employing the others. They used to do this, prison work it was called, until the non-criminal labourers objected as it took away jobs from people who hadn’t actually broken the law first. You can see their point, but still there should be some better way of handling the situation.

There are other segments of society who don’t pull their weight as well. The aforementioned billionaires for example. Or other over-paid people who work in certain businesses which aren’t really essential to society.

Now let’s stop and discuss what is “essential”.  When I was a lad we learned there were three basic necessities to life: food, clothing, and shelter. Arguably clothing and shelter might be considered the same thing as they both protect us from the elements. We could arguably add “health” on to the list of necessities, because no one is going to get much from food or clothing or shelter if they’re sick – although it’s easy to get sick without the food, clothing, and shelter. We’re after sustainable life here, not just barely existing until a premature demise.

That said, how much of our society’s actual needs are fulfilled by ‘fringe industries’? It doesn’t take an expert in economics to realize a large part of the economy revolves around things which we in fact do not really need. It is a curious paradox, then, that these inessentials are often the richer part of the personal budget as well as the social one whereas the essentials are on the other end of the scale. To put it simply, we spend more money proportionally on things we don’t need than on things we do. At the same time, people working in unimportant industries get paid more than those doing the truly vital tasks. Let me reduce that last one some more: celebrities get more money than farmhands. You can’t eat movies, people.

At this point someone is going to start arguing about “what is the value of life without art?” and someone else will come in with “well okay, but should we be paying that much?” and then another person will say “yeah I’m an artist and I’m starving” after which the dullard of the group will come up with “free market economy!” or something of the sort which ‘justifies’ the status quo using faulty economic models. It’s all so much marsh gas when you’re looking at the hard numbers and not the philosophy.

Now let’s imagine some of the changes made to improve life in general across the board. You understand that in order to improve life for one person someone else is going to have to share. Oh dear, that sounds like communism again doesn’t it? Let’s try it this way: the only reason some people are very, very rich is because a lot more people are very, very poor. No, don’t argue; I already proved it is impossible to earn that kind of wealth and I already pointed out how burgeoning populations devalue human beings with the lowest-paid getting the worst of it (as usual).

The first thing that would need changing is education. What we have now is indoctrination: learning by rote to follow the norms of society, even though we know those norms are wrong. Education needs to be practical and teach critical thought so that people can recognize a lie when it’s dressed up as a campaign promise. This would mean no more school systems designed to turn out obedient soldiers who blindly pledge allegiance to the State while practicing war games in the guise of sports under the subterfuge that it is ‘physical education’. No more school sports, no more pro sports. Teaching violence is not good for society.

While we’re on the subject of sacred cows, there are a number of other industries that don’t really contribute. Multi-million dollar movies? Cosmetics? Fashion? All these superfluous adjuncts that pander to the rich or the wannabe-rich do nothing for improving the human condition. Many aspects of them are leftovers from the olden days and have just clung on refusing to die for no reason other than stubbornness. Perfume came from the days when bathing was an irregular thing at best and soap largely unknown. It has lingered not only in its original form, but by infiltrating the practices meant to supplant it (i.e. perfumed soap, shampoo, detergent, et cetera). Certainly cruise ships, which developed out of the need to make ocean voyages less tedious and became a destination substitution when air travel began to supersede boats for travel, have no real purpose in the world today. As for the aforesaid air travel, I’m reminded of that haunting phrase from the World War II era: is this trip necessary? And at the other end a host of tourist industry only businesses would also be looking at termination.

At this point you are probably screaming about all the people being put out of work, and well you should be since one of the underlying premises of this posting is that everyone needs to work and contribute to justify their consumption. But so many of the occupations are superfluous, and really only relate to the richer classes who have an excess of money anyway. In that sense you could say they are businesses meant to redistribute wealth by taking it from those who have too much (in exchange for something of dubious value) and spending it back on necessities. Or you could call them parasites *wink*. In any case we have to question their value as it only exists as a result of the initial wealth inequity.

All right, hammer out your own details for the sustainable society. Argue among yourselves as to what is truly necessary and what isn’t. Adjust the parameters as many times as you like. See what you come up with, and write your own piece – which will be just as ignored as mine. If you think there’s no truth at all in this premise, have a look: https://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/satellite-images-show-dramatic-drop-in-pollution-over-china-amid-coronavirus-outbreak-1.4833713 There you have evidence that reduction in certain industries such as travel and manufacturing has a positive environmental effect. Wrong reasons to do it, right results from it. And of course the economic fallout is still there since this is an unplanned change. No matter how you look at it, our current consumerism economy driven by the desire for ever-greater profits, more economic “growth” (a fallacy in itself) and increasing population is unsustainable in the extreme. In fact we passed the point of no return about 5 billion people ago.

Where I got depressed was when I did this logistical experiment and examined what we had left. It looked terrifyingly like an old feudal system, with the displaced workers taking the place of mechanized farming. Imagine everyone having the chance at a PhD on the one hand, but having to till the soil on the other. Not slaves, which are owned, but workers whose education does not necessarily match their employment because all jobs need be filled. You’d have the guarantee of needs met creating a paradox with having to work. Any way you try it, you find flaws – just as with any system that’s been tried before or is in place now.

Now here’s the real killer: even if it could be worked out, it won’t matter. Physics rears its ugly head and tells us no closed system is infinitely sustainable, and this applies to a society as well. We’ve seen microcosms of this throughout history, if only we’d bothered to pay attention. The U.S. Social Security system was built on the basis of those paying in ‘now’ would finance those drawing out ‘now’, balanced by the notion that the population would ever-increase in the working age range while inevitably decreasing in the retirement range. A few things went wrong with that, such as ignoring inflation (according to economist Lester Thurow, this would be self-correcting given an educated consumer – good luck with that) and that the working demographic would not always increase nor the retired one always decrease – or at least not by so much thanks to improved healthcare. Never mind too many people thinking it’s an IRA that they’re “entitled” to take money out of because they put money in (it’s not, they’re not, and we’re talking about rich people who don’t need it anyway). Whole civilizations have risen and fallen due to their failure to understand the inevitable need to adapt to changes, or the impossibility of them doing so at the time. Nothing new has happened to social sensibilities since then so the dictum stands. And at this point it is coming down to inevitable entropy no matter what we do. Sorry, Greta, but your generation would have been in trouble even if the previous ones had got it all right.

In the end we have – the end. Nihilism is an accurate stance, and there’s only about 3 generations left before the world becomes unlivable. Yet is it not said life is delaying the inevitable (death), so why are we not at least trying? Surely there’s something we could do to slow it down?

Yes there is, but no one will do it. Too many people are getting and remaining too wealthy off the status quo (see previous comments about human nature) or enjoying their current power or blindly trying to force their nonsensical ideology on everyone else. The larger the number of people involved in an endeavor the more difficult it is to get them all to agree on anything. Just imagine how many would need to agree to make any progress on a world-wide effort for a population of seven billion and climbing.

The last thing I’m going to annoy you with (if anyone is still reading this) is a salute to the brainless complainers who like to pretend that the Baby Boomer Generation is responsible for everything currently wrong with the world. No, we’re not. We invented not only all the wonderful devices you like to use to display your stupidity to the world, but also environmental awareness – which subsequent generations decided not to be aware of. More so than any other generation we made it possible for people to be so willfully ignorant of how good they have it that they can deny this is the case. We didn’t elect Trump either; you did. There aren’t enough of us left to give him his 26% or take any significant amount away from the Democrats, and we aren’t all Americans either. Stop being so self-centered. Learn something. It’s too late to make a difference, but better to die smart and right than dumb and wrong.

Well I guess that ought to offend just about everybody on the planet. My work is done.

On Billionaire Politicians

I’m not going to name any names here; you know who you are. And to that I think I can say with 100% certainty you are not reading this. Even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. Anyway this is more to enlighten others watching the gong show that politics has become all over the world.

Exactly how much you are worth and by what means it is measured is irrelevant. You have a lot of money. The amounts most of us can’t even fathom well enough to dream about. And for some reason you wish to spend it running for office. Especially, but not limited to, the office of President of the United States of America.

Why?

One would hope it was because you have a sincere desire to make things better for your fellow citizens. No doubt that is the reason espoused to the public. Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself it is true. But a critical analysis of facts shows that is a lie, and in all likelihood you know it. Really you want that office to feed your own ego; to win against a fellow wealthy competitor. It’s all one big board game to you people, and the pawns are just there to be slaughtered as needed in order to advance your goal of winning.

For one thing, despite the delusion to the contrary held by some of the holders of that esteemed office, the President doesn’t wield that much power. Within the confines of the Constitution, everything he does is kept in check by the Congress and the Supreme Court. The most autonomy he has is with Executive Orders, and they apply only to existing legal structure; they are not decrees from an absolute ruler. They can in fact be overturned by the Supreme Court. It has happened. Real changes are voted on by Congress and signed into law by the President, and still subject to constitutional review by the Supreme Court if a challenge is made. No law is made by the President alone, so he can neither take credit nor blame for such alterations to the legal structure.

This assumes that the government follows the Constitution. If any branch ignores it and the other branches do not act to correct it then that venerable document is in abeyance. If Americans still had to pass civics exams they would know that their basis of all law has been abused many times over the years, and it seems with increasing regularity and seriousness of offence. Some people in office treat their branch as a personal kingdom, and rule it with power that the Constitution does not grant them.

If all you billionaires want is a chance to sit in on this Machiavellian game of liar’s poker then that just proves my point that the government is no longer functioning as it should. The truth is you have more power to affect change from outside office than from within. What would a truly benevolent billionaire do?

Well he wouldn’t donate the occasional truckload of money to some momentarily popular cause to get his name in the news again and try to massage his ego and appease his conscience over the obscene quantity of his wealth. He would do something real, something effective, something lasting. He would stop being a billionaire, in fact.

Look, it is not logistically possible for anyone to earn a billion dollars. It would require you to work all your life at an average wage of $10,000 an hour. No one has that kind of skill set. It isn’t humanly possible to be worth that much. The only ways to acquire that amount of money are either criminal, unethical, or morally wrong. Accept that. Admit it. Move on to being a better person.

In fact I can show you how to have a decent life on a fraction of what you spend now. It’s all a matter of adjusting your priorities and realizing that having lots of stuff isn’t making you happy. Money tied up in wealth is taken away from the economy, and every $1 million you have in your bank puts one family out on the street. The reality is you’re not happy, and you are making others miserable. Somewhere in your subconscious you know this, and the guilt of it is part of what makes you unhappy.

So what should you do? Just give it away? No, because free money causes indolence. Anything not earned has no value. The purpose of charity is to overcome need, not to supplant ethics. But there are things you can do that will help.

Fund the Team. If the stated goal of your political campaign is to take the seat from the opposition, then understand that one office alone does not rule. You can contribute to campaigns all over, helping to unseat not just one incumbent but dozens. Instead of just you as president, you can help put your party in power. After all, you aver that its position on issues is the right one that will help all of society, don’t you? If not, fund a party that will. The whole point of any society is to look after all its members, not just an elite few. Otherwise you don’t really have a society, just a gang taking advantage of all the other people.

Refinance the Programs. As a member of the opposition, you should take the view that budget cuts made by the current administration are wrong as it takes spending priority away from what you feel is needed. You have billions. You can set up trust funds to provide income to keep these devastated departments going despite the lack of government dollars flowing in. One billion dollars can reasonably provide $50,000,000 per year income, and that can save a lot of lives.

Start new Initiatives. You can see what’s wrong, develop private programs to correct it. You can get a lot of help from wealthy celebrities who seem to have plenty of time and money to devote to complaining about social problems but do little to make any real advancement. Again this is because they too do not want to give up their lifestyle of excess. It is a paradox that not only do the extremely poor never miss what they haven’t got, but so the ultra-rich do not fathom how much they have – and can’t imagine being without it. You don’t think so? A recent survey showed a majority of people would rather do without food than Internet access. Think about that. Society’s priorities are terribly skewed, and it affects all income levels.

Sue the Bastards. I mentioned the tendency for Constitutional law to be ignored by those whose purposes it does not suit. Ultimately such illegality has to be challenged in court, and that is expensive. How difficult would it be to hire some young lawyers looking to make a difference to do the research on each violation and present the cases? And if it turns out the Supreme Court is politically corrupted then the evidence can be presented to the public. Elected and appointed officials need the occasional reminder that there are three ways they can lose their jobs, and the third one is the least pleasant.

I know this whole article is nothing more than catharsis for myself as it will be seen by few, ignored by all, and never ever noticed by those who need to have it shoved in their faces repeatedly until they learn the lesson. But then I’m having trouble shaking this latest downside cycle I’m in, and the venting may help. Not you or anyone else, just me. For your sake I’m stopping now before I go into extensive details and start getting really snarky about specific people.

So this is Christmas

The day is here, and here is the day: I’m unwrapping no presents and eating leftovers.

No, I’m not some poverty-stricken derelict who’s poorer than Bob Cratchit. We don’t really “do” Christmas in our family, because it’s a holiday for Christians. Or at least it should be. The way it’s been commercialized is absolutely sickening, and if Jesus were here today he’d be going into the malls with the bullwhip. What sort of society have we built where everything is about money? Even the charities get in on the game, with most of the donations going to “expenses” rather than actual needy people.

Strangely enough I’m a charitable guy. Not just the hundreds of cameras I gave away (that story is getting old, I know). This year there were a couple of local tragedies, and we ponied up because it was real need ‘right next door’ so to speak. Today I’ve heard our Prime Moron tell us it’s the season for giving, and I’m forced to wonder why there is a season for that. If you’re going to call yourself Christian, or even human, then the “season for giving” is whenever the need exists and that is all year. Anything less is just balm for your own ego.

And what about my own desires? Surely they exist? Yes, they do. But the things I want are impossible. For example I’d like at least some of the idiocy in this world to go away. No, seriously. “Peace on Earth” is not just ‘the thing to say’ because it’s expected of us: I really get frustrated and aggravated living in a world run by morons who think wind turbines emit fumes or the world is flat or climate change isn’t real or vaccines cause Autism. I’ve got a head full of education and it turns out to have been a complete waste of time, effort, and money. I could have skipped it and been stupid like everyone else and not be so upset over their idiocy.

Then there are the tangible things I’d like, which also don’t exist. Like a reasonably priced 32mm lens for the Canon. Okay, you knew that was going to get worked in here somewhere.

I look at a lot of things that do exist, and tend to dismiss them. Would it really bring me pleasure? For how long? Enough to justify the expense? Usually they don’t meet the criteria, and often because they come with extra ‘features’ which add to the price but not the product – or even detract from the product.

The truth is I’m too old and too worn out to fight battles anymore. I’m not sure the younger generations will be any better at it either. After all, my lot made huge strides in improving the human condition – only to see much of it reversed under the guise of making things better. We even get blamed for it, even though there aren’t so many of us these days. Okay boomer? Stuff that. We were the greatest generation; do not judge us by a handful of bitter old morons who somehow have been allowed into power and are working hard to undo all the progress we made.

After today things will not be much different. That is true of every day. Maybe I’ll check the post-Christmas sales and treat myself to something inexpensive and largely useless but mildly amusing. Or maybe I won’t. For me there is both no future and a future, and the future is largely the same as the present – but not at all as good as the past.

Someone wrote about leaving your mark on the world. Well if I haven’t by now I never will. I suspect in my case it’s more of a smudge than a mark, but at least it’s not a stain.

borgtree

This time it’s political

I like reading photography blogs. Seeing others’ perspective on the art and science of it is always good. Some of the blogs I follow for reasons such as their writing style or because they come from a different culture which has a different point of view than my own. It never hurts to broaden your horizons and learn something. Yes, even an old man like me can still learn things. It’s just that I forget them again, very quickly.

A few of the postings are unintentionally funny, such as when people get things wrong. They’ll learn too, eventually. Some are dull to me because they are aimed at learners, but that doesn’t make them less valid and especially not less valuable. Besides I’d be a hypocrite to chastise such writers as a lot of what I do is instructional as well (if you can get through the layers of silliness).

However in my random perusing today I came across a blog written by someone who is in fact the staff photographer for the legislature here. Now I did not comment on the post at all because that would give the wrong impression: I’ve nothing against him. I wish him well. I could argue about his style or quality but that is entirely artistically subjective; he could make just as many, or even more, objections to my work. I do notice he has a lot of really nice (expensive) equipment. I’m not envious of that exactly, except in the form that as a taxpayer I paid for it, so to speak. This brings us to the real problem: the job itself.

Why, in this day and age when everything every member of government says or does is covered by a plethora of media representatives, do we even need a position of Staff Photographer of the Legislature? It seems to me to be an utter waste of taxpayers’ money, and a job that exists only to stroke the already overgrown egos of elected officials.

Now let me give you a little perspective on myself so you’ll understand how this is not envy. I knew a fellow years ago who was Official Staff Photographer at the local college. Was that a waste of money? No. Many events went on at the college that needed official photographic documentation and were unlikely to be covered by the press. If he hadn’t been there firing off his Nikon a fair amount of history would have been lost. I’m not in favour of losing history. For the clincher, my own father was the official photographer (in addition to his main duties as head of Quality Control) at the company he worked for. Again documenting all sorts of events and things that they needed a record of which no one else would have done.

This is not the case with the Legislature. As I said, the news media covers them like scum on a swamp and I doubt there’s anything the official photographer would catch that a dozen other cameras didn’t as well. Frankly the number of images captured by the average citizen with their smartphone probably would have the job covered even if no professionals showed up. We are in the age of cameras everywhere, after all.

Which brings us to the ironic aspect of the job: this man’s artistic talent is clearly being wasted. I seriously doubt the officials he aims to please can tell the difference between the shot taken with a Fujifilm X camera and something caught on a cheap cell phone, never mind if he puts some artistic effort into the composition. I think the best thing that can be said about it is that at least one photographer has a job and gets to pay his bills. I have known several who were not so lucky, despite their talents, and I fear that the latter state is more likely to be the future for photographers everywhere.

IMG_2141
A Winter Scene

Putting the case for reform

Warning: boring political talk.

Canada has just held a national election, and the wrong man won. In a clear demonstration that there is something (many things) wrong with our system, Justin Trudeau was returned to the Prime Minister’s office – despite the fact Andrew Sheer won the popular vote. Ironically in the previous election Trudeau had insisted he would instigate election reform for proportional representation. He reneged on that promise. Had he followed through with it he would not have won this time.

Let’s look at the problem by the numbers. Canada’s House of Commons has 338 seats shared among its 10 Provinces and 3 Territories to represent the population of approximately 35 million people. That should be 35 million divided by 338, or roughly one MP for every 103,550 people. Now look at what happens when you go to the actual by-province numbers.

Prince Edward Island, the smallest of the provinces, has 4 seats and a population of about 146,000. That’s one MP per 36,500 people. Meaning its residents count almost 3 times as much as the national average. Let’s look at the more populated provinces.

Quebec has 75 seats for nearly 8 million people, or one MP for every 106,395 people. This is only slightly above the national average. Ontario has 98 seats for its 13 million, or one MP for every 136,459 people. That’s almost 1/4 what PEI has. British Columbia comes in with 28 seats and about 4.5 million people, or one MP for every 163,000 – somewhat less than Ontario. Alberta really gets short-changed, having 21 seats for 3.7 million or one MP per 180,000 people.

If we were to adjust every province to the national average, some would gain MPs and some would lose MPs and the latter group would complain a lot. PEI would have one MP, and Alberta would have thirty-five. British Columbia would have forty-three. Ontario would have one hundred twenty-five. Quebec would have seventy-seven.

On a percentage basis PEI would go from 1% to 0.3%, Quebec would be relatively unchanged, Ontario would shift from 29% to 37%, British Columbia from 8% to 12%, and Alberta from 6% to 10%.

Now here’s the thing: not all provinces have the 103,550 averaged population, but you can’t let them go unrepresented. The lowest populations are in the territories, with Nunavut having a mere 33 thousand. If we adjust all the provinces on a “one-per-thirty-thousand” basis we would need to expand the legislature drastically – to 1,166 seats. Who wants the expense of that? If you propose consolidating population centers – such as merging all three territories so one MP gets to represent them all (113,000 people) and make the rule one per 100k you again will have complaints from all over.

Of course we have complaints from all over now. They’d be different complaints if the House was divided up more fairly, but it would be a more accurate representation of the population.

One of the other representation problems is that the Senate is a bad imitation of England’s House of Lords; every senator being a political appointee representing whatever party put him there and not the area he’s allegedly assigned to. Thus there is no “balancing up” provided by a provincially representative ‘upper house’ as there is in the USA. Further to that, the MPs are strictly party-bound as well. In fact we do not elect representatives of the constituency so much as cheerleaders for our favourite dictator. A ‘free vote’ in the legislature is a rare thing, and perhaps that is the first reform that needs to be made.

If I were to list out the four most important reforms Canada needs they would be these:

1). free vote for all MPs on every issue; 2). more equitable representation of the population by the House of Commons; 3). reformation of the Senate as a by-Province elected body; 4). directly elected Prime Minister instead of party leader dictatorship.

The likelihood of any such change happening is near nil, as the people who would have to vote for the changes are the ones in power and rarely does anyone in a position of power voluntarily abdicate that power in favour of fairness and the risk of losing that power.

But they might want to remember the other method of political reform, which is even less pleasant.

Ready for the war?

Amazingly just as gasoline suppliers switch over to “cheaper to produce” Winter Blend there is suddenly an attack on a Saudi oil installation that knocks out “half production capacity”. Neatly this is blamed on Iran, because certain parties want a war with them.

Couldn’t be anything to do with wanting higher oil profits, could it? Couldn’t be a small bit of explosive barely damaging anything exaggerated to epic destruction, could it? Couldn’t be an excuse for a certain moron to start a war for political gain, could it? Couldn’t be the public being lied to yet again like so many other times in the past re oil and war, could it?

Mmmm … could be.

Could be that a certain president who borrowed tons of money off the Saudis needs to repay them. Could be that a certain president who is controlled by and owes money to Russia needs to give them a further boost (they sell oil too, you know). Could be that a certain president needs to win another election and what better way than to have a war so anyone who stands against him automatically becomes a traitor.

You’re going to get hosed, people. I guarantee it.

The only thing working against this transparent conspiracy to rake in cash and solidify political power is that the ‘man at the top’ is such a stupid, incompetent, bungling moron he can’t possibly pull it off no matter how much foreign help he gets. All of his businesses have gone bankrupt (the reason for borrowing millions from Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China) and all his prior attempts to start a war have failed. This is one of the hallmarks of the true terrorist: being so bad at it they don’t actually succeed at their supposed goals.

Nevertheless we’re all in for an uncontrolled sleigh ride down the frozen slopes of Hell, and we can only hope for the sudden natural deaths of a large number of people to prevent it.

What’s that you say? It would be impossible to keep such a conspiracy secret? What makes you think they’re even trying to? They only have to fool some of the people all of the time to get away with it.

Why do I think this? Because I’ve been around more than half a century and I’ve seen it all before.

And we’re seeing it again: Oil Price Jump

Remains of the day

Greek find called earliest

Wow. How bad reporting is that, eh? This is the sort of thing that makes scientists look like morons. The “chunk of skull” becomes a “fossil” and then it just gets worse. Business Insider SA and others call it “a 210,000 year-old skull” when it’s just a piece of one. It’s only when you get into the posts from actual scientists that you see the appropriate caution being used:

“As with any challenging new find, the appropriate initial reaction should be healthy scepticism, even when my own name is on the paper.” – Chris Stringer

What’s missing is corroborating evidence, such as more pieces of bone of the same era. Also there is no accounting for other possible explanations for its presence, such as having been moved to the location at a later date. We had this same problem when a ‘black’ skeleton (a few remains of one) was located further North than it should have been; so many people started declaring it factual that Africans had been in Europe much longer than anyone knew and it was absolute proof of the migration.

Really? Since when does science base its conclusions on a sample size of one?

It’s bad enough we keep getting ‘health reports’ that draw absolute conclusions based on some obviously flawed meta-analysis (the most recent one blamed sugar for cancer), misleading people into changing their life without any actual explanation of why they should (and yet they still ignore making changes that have been proved), but here we corrupt science and history – all because ‘journalists’ can not understand what they’re reporting on. Or maybe they don’t care: “news” these days tends to be sensationalist rubbish designed to grab attention rather than inform. The frequent disassociation between headlines and article content is proof enough of that.

Then when someone points out the mistakes and flaws (such as ridiculously small sample size) they get attacked. After all, it was “in the paper” so it must be true. Well ha, ha. That one has never been true ever since someone invented newspapers. Digital media is simply a faster way to spread lies. (And we can all laugh at the fact the biggest complainer about this is himself the biggest abuser.)

Instead we have people claiming vaccines aren’t safe because of falsified studies and rare instances, ignoring the huge body of positive results. We have people drawing cause-effect conclusions based on coincidence with no proven interactive mechanism. We have people reveling not in ignorance, which is a lack of knowledge, but in stupidity – which is the rejection of knowledge. All exacerbated by media reports constructed by those just as foolish and only marginally better-skilled in writing.

How does the world end? Not with a bang but with a whimper.