Why do we accept fraud?

This post is the result of a convergence of four things. The first being the two hours I spent during Friday and Saturday reporting fraudulent Ebay listings. The second being a post by fellow blogger Chuck Miller mentioning how a satirical piece by someone else about a politician ended up getting that person’s post pulled (which sounds a lot like a free speech violation to me). Third was fellow blogger Jim Grey’s mentioning a similar on-line ‘debate’ over the issue of what is free speech or not in respect to a now infamous social media platform. And fourth would be my own recent suspension by Farcebook over their AI’s inability to comprehend context and thus thinking my statement of fact that the punishment for sedition is death is the same as threatening to kill someone. Good ol’ AI: lots of Artificial, not much Intelligence. Considering that people are infinitely smarter than computers and yet still not up to managing these tasks it’s more than a little stupid to put the machines in control, eh? Oh we can toss in fellow blogger Dan James’s accidental foray into the area of vision, perception, and psychology for added spice (although he didn’t mean to do this I’m sure).

Let’s start with the Ebay fraud. It was rather annoying, because the criminal involved dumped dozens of new listings of a certain camera I am interested in onto the site all at once. Having to wade through a sea of schlock to try and find any legitimate offers was not fun. How do I know they were fraudulent? Because no one suddenly has dozens of high-end cameras available which they are willing to offer at very low starting prices on short-term auctions. This is entirely outside the realm of probability. Plus I recognized some of the photos from earlier fraud listings. Oh and the idiot reused images, including between the three fake ‘seller’ names he was using. We’re talking Canon 5D, 6D, and 1D as well as full-frame Nikons and yes the Pentax 645 cameras were back again. So obvious it’s painful. I can’t imagine anyone falling for it, yet they must else why continue to perpetrate the scam? Like being threatened with arrest via pre-recorded telephone message (you must have gotten that call, haven’t you?)

Now how does this fraud work? I’m not sure. One way would be to drag the legitimate bidders up in price using sock-puppet accounts (all-too-common on Ebay) and then once the maximum has been determined and gone beyond simply offer the item “second chance” for the last legitimate bid price to all who participated and see who bites. I was recently subjected to this version and ignored it. But this presupposes the merchandise is real, and I doubt anyone has a hundred top-end digital cameras sitting around waiting to be sold cheaply.

More likely the bid is brought up and up and a sale is made. The seller collects the money, and buggers off. Fake accounts and all just disappear until they decide to risk discovery again and repeat the scam. This is one of the undoings of many scammers; they don’t know when to take the money and run, converting their ill-gotten gains into legitimate investments and living the easy life like any other politician would.

Really to police this Ebay would need three moderators per user to stay on top of the scams. That’s sort of how it is on the Internet, no? And not just with sales sites either. Facebook and Twitter are loaded with fake accounts and the scams aren’t always about business. Let’s face it, we’ve just come off four years of having a two-bit con artist masquerading as president of the United States (if you believe Donald Trump you seriously need psychiatric help, I’m not joking). And when the lies are proven they deny it even harder. Well he’s gone now and it’s time to get rid of the rest of them.

“Don’t lie” we tell our children. Then we give them stories about fictional beings and make up elaborate ruses to pretend they are real. Maybe if we explained what Santa Claus truly represents instead of insisting he’s an actual entity our kids would not be grounded in the idea that lies are not only acceptable, but preferable to the truth. Why else do we have so many people insisting on “alternative facts”? As a scientist it absolutely boggles my mind that reality has become optional and fantasy is an acceptable alternative. That’s the definition of insanity, people; refusing to accept demonstrable facts, holding on to delusions, and becoming violent when challenged. It’s bad enough seeing this in the drug addicts on the street (at least they have a chemically-induced excuse for their madness), it’s quite another kind of horror to see it in the people who are running your country. What’s their excuse? Perhaps we should remove the “win at any cost” attitude from our sports programs as well.

Finally about that bit that got me in trouble with Farcebook. How dare I suggest traitors should be executed in accordance with the law, eh? Isn’t that what they’d want, though? As they pretend to be about law and order; give them what they demand. In reality you’d be doing society a big favour. You can not educate crazy people, and these people are crazy. It’s a type of zealousness found in many cults and it leads to social destruction. We’ve just seen it try.

We know there are people out there who will grab a hold of any cause, no matter how noble, and corrupt it for their own purposes. Often this is no more than the thrill of the power they feel when they destroy something knowing they’ll get away with it because the blame will fall on everyone. They are anarchists, which is the worst (arguably the only) threat to society. The disbelievers of reality set themselves apart and proudly wear their anti-societal banner, proclaiming themselves to be the problem and being proud of it. What the hell kind of way is that to behave? Your mother taught you that, did she?

It’s amusing the number of them who think being asked to wear a mask to protect against spreading germs to others is some kind of infringement on their rights. They think this is a totalitarian society? Brother, if it were they would have just disappeared in the dark night never to be heard from again. Rather a lot different than a mere fine for being an idiot.

Not just the ones who violate the law in the extreme, but the ones who aver no law applies to them if they don’t happen to like it. They go on about “god-given” rights or “fundamental” freedoms. There’s no such thing. The only rights and freedoms anyone has are those granted by the society they live in, and they are always subject to change. If you don’t like the way the society is structured, there are legal means to change it. Attacking the legislature by force is not one of them. Nor is making up lies and insisting you won “by a landslide” an election you lost – sixty times over.

There are too many people in this world, there is no need to accommodate those who don’t want to be a part of it. There is no place in this world for popular-opinion based reality, nor the people who advocate such nonsense. So this old protester hippy leftover from a generation soon to be gone will take up his own mantle of anarchy profess that these are the very people that need to be permanently removed from among us. We need to execute them (Farcebook be damned).

And we need to teach our children better.

A cold and cruel world.

Random Cats and Neglected Social Issues*

Attempting to get ‘normal’ pictures of our cats only reinforces the notion they are not normal. Not surprising since the world itself is far from normal.

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Her name is Boots

I could go on at length about the world situation right now, but to what end? In over half a century no one has listened to my opinions despite my being proven right repeatedly. So, random thoughts. (The words aren’t important: it’s about the cats. It’s always about the cats.)

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His name is Hannibal

And just like that, suddenly Colin Kaepernick was right.

Until it’s no longer fashionable to be anti-racist, that is. Then it will be business as usual again.

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Her name is Squeak

If you want to end racism you have to execute people of a certain kind.
The problem will not respond to any other methodology. Sensitivity training isn’t going to do it, and as long as their type are around (never mind in power) nothing changes. I’ve seen vast improvements in social conditions in my lifetime, and then saw them all but vanish in a few years. Why? Because the people who benefit from the hate were still there, lurking in the shadows and awaiting the opportunity to take advantage of fear. All they needed was a champion. No, not a champion but a figurehead; a symbol of authority to put the official stamp of approval on reprehensible behaviour. Even if that approval was only implied and not blatant.
If you’re not willing to end the lives of the people whose very existence causes everyone else trouble, you’re not serious about tackling the issues. We’ve fought wars over this.
Remember: they are perfectly willing (and indeed eager) to kill you to advance their cause.

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Boots, as normal as she gets

The prevalent economic system in the world today isn’t capitalism, it’s anti-socialism. All forms of government are some type of socialism. All forms of socialism involve equitable distribution of resources for the common good. Anti-socialism involves inequitable distribution for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. That’s why feudal systems and dictatorships inevitably fail. You can see the signs of anti-socialism in CEO’s having their compensation cut to a mere $5.8 million during the pandemic when the people who actually did the work of the company are having to survive on a $2,000 per month government handout (that the government can’t afford to pay).

Remember that “socialism” and “society” have the same root word. If you don’t have one you don’t have the other; you have chaos and anarchy.

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Hannibal, sleeping as normal

57 police officers resigned in support of their comrades who beat up a 70+-year-old-man. That’s 57 job openings welcome. It also shows that every law enforcement agency (and indeed legislative body) needs to be vetted for these bullies, whether racist or just power-crazed, so that they can be permanently removed and given restricted social standing. Yes, let them feel what it’s like to be a minimum-wage slave for a change. Bar them from voting too, so they can’t build a political power base of abuse. Again.

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Squeak, who normally sleeps under the covers

Lessons from the pandemic include:

All false medical practices need to be stopped and outlawed.

People who actually do work are more valuable than unskilled and interchangeable executives who earn lots of money for contributing nothing to the company.

Symbolic gestures are just as useless and damaging as riots.

Gasoline that cost $1.38/L before the lockdown still generated a profit at $0.89/L. Because the law of supply and demand is based on greed, not some magic ability for more money to make a product appear out of thin air in an instant. Same goes for PPE.

Reality is not a matter of public opinion to be voted on.

Politicians are least able to deal with crises because they are the least qualified in any given field, yet are put in charge of everything.

No country should allow itself to become dependent on another country for essential goods of any kind.

The ecology actually is important. A lot of businesses are not.

If you are wounded, look for a man with scars.

Don’t do business with anyone who doesn’t share your ethical nature.

The current crises will all blow over and everyone will go back to doing things the same as before. Oh wait: that’s not a lesson from the pandemic, it’s a lesson from a long life.

I’m too old to deal with this stuff, to fight the battles, to try and educate the young. So I’m just reverting to my “selfish” lifestyle and I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, my life, or my opinions.

*The title is an adaptation of Edward Gorey’s “Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses”

Lessons we should have learned

There has been much revealed by the pandemic. All of it having to do with human behaviour and what’s wrong with that. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things we should take note of.

1). Never let your country become dependent on another for vital goods like food, clothing, housing, energy, or medical supplies.

2). Viruses happen. This was not the first outbreak nor will it be the last. It is possible to have plans of action at the ready to prevent the level of severity we’ve seen with this one, and a few basic precautions would reduce the effects of all sorts of diseases we normally put up with as a matter of course.

4). Even though only about 25% of people are staying home (over and above the number who normally do), pollution levels have dropped drastically around the world. HINT, HINT.

5). When it comes right down to it, essential workers don’t include CEOs.

6). A lot of what we think is necessary in our lives (and indeed in our society) really isn’t. Most of what we’re doing without is superfluous to our existence anyway.

7). The economy exists to serve people, not the other way around.

8). Hoarding is just another sign of selfishness, ignorance, and stupidity. It doesn’t matter if it’s toilet paper or money that is hoarded.

9). There are no rights other than those granted by the society in which we live. Society has the obligation to make rules it deems necessary for the continuance of the society, and it’s not totalitarianism to require people to refrain from behaviour that is damaging to themselves or others. In fact all law is based on that principal.

10). Putting morons and/or egomaniacs in charge of your country is a really, really bad idea. To further democracy, some form of intelligence test should be required for office holders and voters.

11). People who take advantage of others during times of crisis are the lowest form of humanity and should be permanently eliminated from society upon discovery.

12). The average citizen is really bad at managing an inventory of their own household. No wonder countries have difficulty keeping emergency supplies on hand.

13). If you think there’s things more important than being alive, you should take your own … advice.

14). There are entire industries we do not need at all; they serve only as detriments to society despite their appearance as having a positive effect.

15). Cities are a bad idea. The worst hit places during this pandemic are those with the highest population density. This is a microcosm of the world problem in general.

16). People are slobs. Things like single-use plastics are not a problem in and of themselves; only the improper disposal of them after use is. If it’s just tossed on the ground it doesn’t matter what kind of trash it is, it will do damage.

17). The concept of “economic growth” is a myth which has contributed greatly to the current over-all crisis, including facilitating the spread of the disease. Earth’s resources are finite, and only a few can be recovered once used. That recovery requires input of more energy, most of which comes in the form of fossil fuels which are also ultimately finite.

18). An economy based on the sale of new consumer items is idiotic and doomed to failure. Nothing is more damaging to the world than “throw-away” consumerism.

19). Everything has two ecological costs: the ‘capital’ and the ‘operating’. It is wrong to assume they are interchangeable or easily equitable. Encouraging people to buy new cars, for example, by offering bonuses to trade in “clunkers” falsely assumes the operating ecological cost improvement offsets the capital one.

20). Manufacturing of products that are out of sync with social goals is majorly detrimental to the world: e.g. “supercars”, which have no practical real-world application and therefor should not be in production.

We have a unique opportunity right now to recognize our failings and massively re-align society into something more sustainable. Inevitably we won’t do it as it will be far easier to fall back into the same sad habits that caused the crisis in the first place.

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This is why we can’t have a nice world

Addendum:

About a week and a half after Easter our new cases numbers here suddenly spiked. We went from having less than 30 new cases every day for four days to 71 in one day. This coincides with the predictions of results based on the number of people who decided to ignore the distancing rules and go play on the holiday. We are expecting continued high numbers from now on. Thank you, idiots, for not following the rules. The next holiday in May is likely to produce a similar upsurge, and will no doubt bring it into our area here. At that point it will be extremely difficult for me to avoid it, and I’ve only got a couple of N95 fire masks left.

It’s been fun. Ciao.

 

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).

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.

The stupidity of smart phones

Note: this posting is only vaguely related to photography, in that you can use smart phones to take pictures. Mostly it is about using them as phones, so if you’re looking for another photography article … well this isn’t it.

Consider the following scenario: I’m in the big city, going to the airport to pick up my returning wife after an absence of nearly three months. I’m waiting in a parking lot for her to ring my cell phone and say she’s arrived so I can nip to the pick-up zone and whisk her away. Romantic, eh?

My phone doesn’t ring. It’s way past time for the plane to arrive. I try calling in the other direction, and am told that my “plan” doesn’t have the ability or credit to do that. What? I’m sure I’ve called her before, even from the city to our little town. Now it doesn’t work when we’re both out of town but still in the same city? The one day in three months I need the phone to work, and it doesn’t!

Herein the background: I don’t use my phone much. About once a week when I’m in town doing shopping I check in at home to see if there’s anything that’s been forgotten. This possibly makes me unique in all the world. Certainly it is within my family, as they (like so many others) all seem to have had their phones surgically grafted to their hands. Oh and my phone is an old Samsung Rugby; rugged and dependable but not ‘smart’. I hardly use the thing, and when I do it is only as a phone. As such, my “plan” is pay-as-you-go with automatic monthly top-up. Frankly for the amount I use it I’m getting ripped off anyway, and I’m sure they count the minutes faster than any clock does.

DSCN1587

What I have is more than I need and costs more than it’s worth. Especially when it doesn’t work.

Suspecting the problem was the “plan”, I went looking for an alternative plan. One that specifically mentions ‘long distance’ usage, for example. I looked at different carriers, different plans, and different phones. It came down to the basic Canadian problem of “up yours, consumer!” which we experience in so many things. All the carriers offer the same poor choices of bloated, expensive plans fluffed up with “services” that in reality cost them nothing more to provide. Services I don’t need and don’t want, such as text and data. Like E.T., I just need to be able to phone home when I’m away. Even the so-called “emergency” phone plans were crap – no different than what I’ve got and no cheaper either. Quite the racket they’ve got going, eh?

When you see the phones offered, you understand why. The only non-smart phone is an awful quality Alcatel thing that has nothing but bad reviews everywhere. The companies all but demand you buy a smart phone, because that’s what they make the most profit on.

Well I won’t, because I’ve seen too many of them and the results of their use. They are poor quality, cumbersome to use, and fragile as a thin-shelled egg. Almost everyone I know has one, and they all have tales of broken screens, dead batteries, and failed functions. In the meantime, as they go through phone after phone with repeated expensive upgrades to the ‘latest and greatest’ model, my Samsung keeps working (except when the service provider decides to not allow it). It’s got dents in it, people. Dents that would be instant death for a smartphone. That’s the kind of conditions it has to endure if it’s going to be my phone. (Related: the contractor I worked with last year had a cracked screen on his; said he has to get it replace three or four times every year when it finally gets to the point of not working.)

As with the plans where they minimally hike service and maximally hike prices, so are smart phones and endless road of meaningless “upgrades” dedicated to emptying your bank account faster than you can refill it. They have made the technology addictive to the simple human mind, convincing people that smart phones are a necessity to life. So much so that people forgo food and rent rather than do without the latest improvement. It’s the electronic equivalent of crack cocaine, and when you challenge the phone addicts they become defensive and angry in just the same way. Try it and see. They’ll trot out all the good aspects of having a cell phone, insisting those justify their expense, and ignore how over-blown the contribution to society really is.

That slab of silicon silliness you laid out hundreds of dollars for (or got ‘for free’ when you signed the deal with the digital devil – think about that) is worth a fraction of the price in terms of both what it actually contains in equipment value and what good it does. There’s nothing to it like as insidious in some sci-fi story about purposefully programming the way into the human mind; there doesn’t have to be. The marketing heroes of technology have just pushed the usual brain buttons and got the results the shareholders want: millions of addicts willing to spend any amount of money to be “up-to-date” by the artificial social standards set by the companies selling the drug.

And they don’t take good pictures either. 😉

Addendum: got a message saying they’d whipped more money from me and ‘refilled’ my minutes. Number of minutes used last two months: ZERO. I’m so glad I’m paying for that.