"I am also a citizen, and I love my country and the people... and I feel that if I am a writer then I must write about the people… I must speak about them, and about their sufferings, and their future… speak about science, the rights of man, and so forth and so on, and I do… I speak about everything; angrily urged on from every direction, I dash from side to side like a fox being chased by the hounds... as I see life and science always getting farther ahead and farther ahead."

Anton Chekhov; The Seagull

General Thoughts

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Let's actually treat corporations like people. Currently it seems that increasing shareholder value is considered the primary function of a corporation, and perhaps it is. But in the same way, when you strip off everything else, the primary function of organisms, which includes people, is to procreate. So subordinating all other corporate considerations to making money for shareholders is the same as a person being guided primarily by their sex drive. But we expect more from people, and we should expect more from corporations. When we talk about people, we are concerned with their higher functions, what are called emergent properties... those things that only appear when all the parts function together. A corporation is more than its shareholders; it is also management, workers, suppliers and customers. All of those parts make up a whole, it is time we acknowledged that each of those parts is critically important and combine to form an emergent corporate personality. We require people to act not only in their narrow, sex-driven self interest, but in the interests of their neighbors and the community. There are sex addicts and sexual predators, but they are not our most honored citizens; they are not considered good people. A good person is kind, and he is responsible, we know what a good person is. It is time that what we consider to be good corporations control their shareholder greed and became evolved higher functioning organisms; if they are people, they should be good people.

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Ownership;

I was just considering an experience I had years ago.  As a surveyor in Alaska, I would measure and record data which placed individual locations and areas within a grid.  I almost said imaginary grid, but that's not right… the UTM grid is an agreed upon system, so is no more imaginary than democracy, math or grammar.  Anyway, we would take the measurements, compile the data and make the computations which accurately specified each location.  One day I looked down from an isolated hill called Donnelly Dome onto an area we had just surveyed and realized nothing had really changed.  Each tree was still where it was when we started, each bear and each eagle still patrolled the same territory, and each moose was being bit by the same number of mosquitos as it was before we started. I had it in my mind that we had been imposing order onto the wilderness, bringing it under human control.  It suddenly seemed like illusion; an illusion of ownership.

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I have read a few books recently which seem to have a common theme; "shit happens".

1.  The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall, by Mary Elise Sarotte.
2.  The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England, by Marc Morris.
3.  Phantom Terror: Political Paranoia and the Creation of the Modern State, by Adam Zamoyski.

In all cases, very smart, competent people tried very hard to control events; and in each case events got away from them.  The book I just finished, Phantom Terror, ends with the birth of the Second Republic and with French King Louis Philippe fleeing Paris in disguise… frightened that he would follow Louis XVI to the guillotine.  After Napoleon had been shipped off to St. Helena, every powerful leader in Europe had been attempting to quash any remnant of revolutionary thought; and in the process brought about the very thing they were trying to avoid.  It was a nice reminder that no one is really in charge.

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No empire or edifice was ever built with each of the participants “following their bliss”.

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Motivation is the central problem of society. The web of the society is dependent upon many individuals trying many different things (and, necessarily, most of them failing) in order for a few to move the human experience forward.  The central problem is not how to support those who will ultimately succeed (though not knowing who they will be), but how to keep the great majority of people trying and failing so that those few who will actually impact the human experience have an opportunity to develop.  Thats why money is king, hippy communes are few and drugs are illegal.  We need all those people expending effort day after day until someone among them comes up with something that will make everyones life better.  All the stuff of living; the bonds of family, comfort (shelter, clothes, food), self regard and social status; are simply prerequisites which allow people to expend energy toward improvement of the general human condition.  Having all those people want to expend that significant effort over the necessary time is the central problem; people don't like to fail, and we don't want them to like it.  Therefore society provides them with many irrelevant and rather inane ways to feel successful; fantasy football, watching a TV show knowing how it will end, and video games, to name a few.  Most of the competition we encounter every day does not drive innovation, but does effectively keep us at cross purposes.  Most of us never throughout our lives advance humanity in any way except, possibly, by procreating and increasing the pool of possible innovators.  Although history records only great kings and successful inventors, everyone else who lived are not irrelevant; but just ultimately, inevitably and individually unnecessary… we just can't know that we are. 

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Our refusal to get drawn into the quagmire of Syria perhaps has broken them of the ancient, established tradition of their hiring of (we) infidels to do work which is beneath the Saudis; like liberating Kuwait, removing Saddam, and opposing Iran.

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When hope and ambition smashes and breaks hard against walls of unowned talent and unavailable opportunity, it gives rise to that disappointment and despair which breeds criminals.

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Since there are gray areas as to what is child abuse and neglect, I have walked away when I have seen things I personally thought were wrong.  No longer.  From now on, I am writing down the vehicle license number or address and calling ICPS (260-458-6100).  I may be labeled a busybody or a nuisance, sticking my nose in where it does not belong… too bad!  If there is even a chance I can help prevent something like this in the future, I am going to do it.

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Guns give us the illusion that we have at least some control over our lives. Between ubiquitous and ever larger corporations, complex activities of financial institutions, concerns about crime, and a large and invasive government we feel that we are primarily under the control of entities outside of ourselves. Although we likely will never use a gun, it represents a last and final vestige of individual power. God made man, but Colt made us all equal.

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Greed is a form of competition, and competition is the most prevalent American sickness. In competition we expend most of our effort at crossed purposes, instead of cooperating to better our lives and solve our problems. Since the affluent make their gains on the movement of money, our competition allows them to make a profit from each of our competitive interactions, whether any of the direct participants benefits or not. Greed is simply a way of keeping score in a competitive society where the real winners pull their fees by providing the field on which it is played.

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Climate Change:

I despair for the future. That a species could evolve to have such mental, social and technological power and have such a large number of its individuals still remain convinced that it is so special that it has nothing in common with the rest of the environment, it is only a matter of time until we destroy our home and everything on it.

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Punishment has two goals; (1) To dissuade, before they act, the perpetrator or anyone considering something similar from doing the act, and (2) to exact a cost from the perpetrator so they are forced to consider that actions do have consequences. Would the father have showed the same lack of care in clearing his weapon had he considered he may go to jail for his failure? I think that would be far less of a consideration for him than the loss of a child. What cost does society want him to pay for his carelessness? Again, any further consequence for his action pales in comparison to his own irretrievable loss which he is responsible for. I submit that sending him to jail serves no purpose, either for him or to dissuade others from similar errors.

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Here are two ways I control my spending:
1. I always keep something I really want on my Amazon "Wish List" (call it Item A), then when I see something I want to buy (item B), I ask myself if I really want it as much as item A, and even if find that I do, I know that have done without item A for this long, so I can obviously do without item B.
2. I try to avoid what I call "Big Man Syndrome". If I find myself wanting to buy something I ask myself if I am just buying it to feel important or impress someone else… am I doing it to play the Big Man. If so, I remind myself that what others think is really not very important, even if they notice or care, and it's almost always not worth the expenditure.

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General Thoughts

Letter to the Editor

I would like to urge your readers to please consider carefully their position on Indiana Senate Bill 562.  Please fully question the intent of the bill, and whether it gives necessary additional guidance to teachers, or whether it introduces intentionally non-scientific subjects into science classes.

I vote Republican; this is not a partisan matter, but a matter of education.  I believe the legislation is unnecessary to promote critical thinking or science education in Indiana schools. Indiana's state science standards already promote critical thinking throughout science education. The standards earned a grade of A- from the last evaluation of state science standards by the Fordham Foundation in its 2012 evaluation of state science standards.

If, however, the intent of SB 562 is to encourage the unconstitutional presentation of faith views like creationism, then it should be rejected on those grounds. It's no reassurance that the bill specifies that it can't be construed to promote religious beliefs, because creationists -- whether they accept "creation science" or "intelligent design" -- insist that their views are scientific. And
the bill offers teachers and administrators no way of resolving such a disagreement.  Individual educators would be permitted, under SB 562, to tell their students that the scientific information in the state science standards and state-approved textbooks, which they are trained, paid, and expected to teach is, basically, not worth knowing.

Other states have successfully defeated this ill-advised legislation.  Since 2004, legislation promoting creationism has been introduced at least than 50 times in 17 states.  Only Louisiana and Tennessee have passed such legislation -- in both cases, over the protests of state and national organizations of scientists and of science teachers. A call for the repeal of Louisiana's law has been supported by over seventy Nobel laureates.

I would urge your readers to contact their elected officials, particularly their State Senators and instruct them to vote against SB 562.

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In the book Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma, an interesting desertion occurred at the end of WWII.  Two german soldiers deserted and hid in a dutch farmhouse.  When they were discovered by the allies, they were placed with the mass of german units which were then surrendering.  Because there were not enough Allied units to effectively control the surrendering germans, the german command structure was kept in place and german military law was enforced within the surrendered units.  The two deserters were tried and found guilty.  The german commander asked for weapons to execute them, and, the situation of the Allied forces being what it was, the weapons were provided and the german deserters were shot.

That has fascinated me since I first read it.

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The sheer volume of information keeps corporations and government from effectively monitoring what I am doing.  Should I care if a drone takes my picture?  That's just a waste of the corporations’ time and resources, I say go for it!  I may not be particularly comfortable knowing that my use of the internet puts more information out there than I consciously intend, but I'm also not completely comfortable flying in an airplane; so discomfort and actual vulnerability are two different things.  I have had to get a new credit card because of some criminals misuse, but I have not stopped using credit cards. Perhaps the right to privacy is an antiquated notion.

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Abundance, Order, and Meaning are the requirements for human flourishing. Abundance includes sufficiency of food, clothing, and shelter. Order includes physical safety and status/event predictability. Meaning refers to the internal "why" as actions are taken or situations are endured. Human tragedy can be found in failures of one or more of these three basic requirements, and recovery from such tragedy can be found in them as well.

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Just as affluent people continue to benefit from the efforts of their fore bearers - regardless of their own current level of effort - so too members of the general society should benefit from the efforts of past generations. All that effort by all those working class people developed the structure and assets which our general society now enjoys. Built on those efforts, they do not belong to the rich, they belong to all of us.
We are at a level of development where automation will continue to make more and more people economically unnecessary. Prospective employees might gain all the education they can find but there simply will be more people than jobs; the supply-and-demand market in labor has already begun to break down. So are poor people ENTITLED to food, clothing, shelter and security just for being human? The answer is yes.

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On Car Driver Carelessness.

Since by far the primary mode of transportation in the US is the automobile, most drivers are completely oblivious to anything on the road that does not present the same potential danger to them than another car does; this goes for bikes, motorcycles, and pedestrians. Again and again drivers fail to see, and then hit, these other users of the public roadways, and no amount of education will change the attention of a driver who rarely encounters a smaller non-car conveyance on the roadway. America is not Holland, where a primary means of daily transport is the bicycle and where seeing them is common. I ride my bike and my motorcycle often, and with the full understanding that automobile drivers can't be trusted. Such tragedies are as unnecessary and stupid as they are predictable.

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The disconnect between the Government and the People of the United States is widening; the government "by the people" no longer exists. For the citizens, government works best when it is closest to the governed and that is what most individuals who live in the United States want. A desire for an effective government is expressed by the public in the pervasive drive to reduce taxes, limit the powers of the federal government, and devolve those powers to the individual states. Such activities clearly benefit the citizens, but they undermine the viability of the United States as an entity. The United States must exist in a world with other powerful centralized nations. To be effective in the modern world, the constitutional responsibilities of the federal government to conduct our international affairs and provide for a common defense must now include the monitoring of communications as well as finance and trade control measures. This brings the general good of the federal government in conflict with the direct good of the citizen. In addition, the common citizen is unable to effectively exert any influence due to the control of federal government policies and activities by monied interests with international rather than national concerns. This produces a growing conflict between the federal government and the citizens which cannot, by the very nature of each of them, be bridged. The disconnect and conflict can only get worse.

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Change

The thing that has changed all of our lives is how technology allows real power and wealth to be drawn to fewer and fewer individuals. Although we all have ready access to information, we have no effective means to act on it; the slow death of the Occupy movement and other ineffectual protests have taught us that. Bread and circuses keep us distracted, and our comments and emails are monitored. So don't expect that knowledge of the problem will lead to a change of direction. We will, however, find a way to live in the new order of things. We will have food and entertainment enough to preclude mass riots, and the social tide will continue until something completely outside of the control of even the most powerful (like a massive natural disaster or a madman with WMD) produces enough suffering to cause the entire social system to fracture. None of us will avoid the pain that will cause, but unfortunately that's the only way, I believe, real change will occur.

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The Long View:

It seems the reality of the situation is that the value of capital will continue to increase over the value of labor. Everything is moving in that direction, including the recent Supreme Court ruling that money is speech. The reality is that affluent folks will not be taxed (and pay) at an 80% rate, and their influence will continue to gain (in both political parties) at the expense of the majority. Even if we do enter a new era of feudalism, the lower class will be much better off than in past similar eras. It may even become fashionable again for the affluent to exercise the lost value of noblesse oblige. The great unwashed masses survived past feudal periods, and we will survive this next one.

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My Groundhog; A Christmas Story

I will call it My Groundhog, because the more accurate "the groundhog which decided to live in my yard" is 7 words longer. I would refer to it as "he" or "she", but I have no idea which to use; so I will use the demeaning "it".
In the spring I did nothing to encourage it to stay once it began to set up residence, as I questioned the wisdom of digging a winter home within 30 feet of a very active railroad line. (How is it going to sleep through the winter?) Of course I bought a house within 150 feet, so who am I to judge. I didn't trap it or fill in the burrow, and since it's all I can do to cook an egg, I wasn't going to shoot it and eat it. The cedar which it has dug underneath of seems none the worse for wear. Now that it is clear my Groundhog is staying for the winter, I've been setting out some apples, which it seems to enjoy.
Groundhogs are often considered pests especially by farmers, and for good reason; a tractor can plunge into a groundhog burrow and break an axle. I imagine this has happened quite often, and it got me thinking. The farmer is out in his field, hard at work doing what he does, providing for his family. The groundhog is is digging his burrow, hard at work doing what he does, providing for his family. Suddenly; KA-THUMP…CRACK!!, and everyone's life has changed for the worse. There is no victim and there is no villain, the situation simply is. At that point the Groundhog and the Farmer don't like each other very much, but neither is to blame; they were each doing what they were supposed to be doing.
And that brings me to current events. How does that bring me to current events? you may ask… well, I'm not going to say, 'cause just writing about it will make trouble; and we already have enough trouble. Next year My Groundhog may decide to live somewhere else, and that may be a farmer's field.
Peace On Earth, Good Will To All Groundhogs.


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