No play? What’s to be gained anyhow, right?

“So, what’s the bottom line here. I would like to see more honesty in business—at both ends of the table. Honesty in the U.S. business appears to be at its lowest ebb in history.

There are a number of reasons for that. When political leaders do not demonstrate honesty, when people lie constantly in the media—everybody gets used to the ‘Big Lie’ as a way of life. At that point, honesty becomes a quaintly outmoded concept—nobody wants to be honest anymore, because if they are, they might finish last.

I would say that today, dishonesty is the rule, and people are honest than dishonest, but the few that really control things are not honest.

I don’t think we have an honest president. I don’t believe that most of the people in Congress or in the Senate are honest. I don’t think that most people who head up businesses are honest. We have let them get away with it because we’re not honest enough to face up to the fact that we are ‘owned and operated’ by a bunch of really bad people.”

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Any guesses as to who said this and when? Answer will be posted tonight!

Unknown-2

The Real Frank Zappa Book May 15, 1989

Education and susceptibility to manipulation: The real Facebook problem.

According to the news, Facebook has found that there are people trying (and succeeding) to use the platform to manipulate the minds of Americans.  There would be no worry if Americans were not, in substantial enough numbers to matter, susceptible to the manipulation.

Whoever it is who is doing the manipulation believes that the American public is susceptible and so do those who are worried about its effects.

Many of the people, it seems plausible to believe, are of the age to vote in American elections and, as the authorities appear to believe, the manipulation from outside, has the potential to affect the vote.

While the focus is on those perpetrating the manipulation, it is as important to consider why it is that a significant portion of the American public is susceptible to it.  Advertising agencies, their clients–amongst them politicians, amongst these some of the “reputable” ones–and corporations manipulate at will and without much scrutiny or condemnation.  In fact, to manipulate well is to win and a large segment of the public accepts this as a given, a fact of life in our modern society.

Almost all of those affected by those who use manipulation as a tool to provoke action, oftentimes action that is not in the best interests of the actor so manipulated, have an education.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 93% of Americans graduate from high school.

In my mind it seems reasonable to believe that those with an adequate education would not be so susceptible to manipulation as to cause concern when a campaign to influence American minds is found to exist.  Campaigns to manipulate Americans minds are a regular feature of the societal landscape.  The worry now being expressed about campaigns to influence is not about concern that Americans are manipulable, but that they are now being mis-influenced by those who are understood to be bad actors.

But bad actors would not have a chance to succeed in their manipulations if the public was one properly prepared to deal with manipulation.  The American public is not so prepared.  In fact the American public, through most of the institutions that play a role in education the public, are intentionally made manipulable because if they were not the economic system would not work very “well.”

The danger of the manipulation of the manipulable by bad actors is a clear and present one, maybe the biggest danger our society and the world in which it exists faces.  It makes sensible governance reflective of the people’s impossible.  To use a currently popular term, it makes it possible to weaponize the will of the people against the bests interests of the people and, in a modern world where decisions made in one place can seriously be of serious consequence to all who live on the planet, the best interests of planet and all who live on it.

A good educational system for a good democracy would educate people in such a way as to make it significantly less likely that anyone would have to worry too much about bad actors or the tools bad actors use to manipulate people to the point that the manipulated people might decide to act in harmful and/or destructive ways.

We do not have such an educational system and those who have the most say in how people are educated do not want such an educational system.  The fact that there is deep concern about people being badly manipulated should be taken to mean that manipulation and manipulators should be studied in depth and critical thinking skills that cause one to recognize when they are being manipulated and for what purposes need to be developed.  That is, IF there is concern for the development of sensible governance by a people truly free to make its own decisions and capable of making decisions that are in the name common good.

Answer to privatization of schools

Oh the complexity of it all and the problematic nature of a conversation that is in bad need of a viable focal point, that point of necessity being the valid goals of education for some sort of society, the nature of that society another necessary point for discussion. I do not like the idea of privatizing schools. I do not like corporate influence in the regular public schools and I do not like schools that train students to serve a society that has been shaped to serve corporate goals. I have seen the public schools be made to serve goals that are said to be in the best interests of students because they help students “succeed” in the real world. I have watched as public schools help students fit in to the reality that exists even if that reality is a highly problematic one that needs to be fixed by citizens well informed enough and thoughtful enough to understand the problem and figure out what needs to be done to solve it.

I have seen public school programs that are little about critical thought and almost all about acceptance of what one is told by those in authority. I have watched as those in charge have eradicated creative activity and individual expression. I have seen the textbooks and the teacher manuals with their correct answers and I have seen teachers rewarded for sticking with the program even if they do not understand or approve of the real goals of the program. I have watched thoughtful teachers leave the schools because they have been hamstrung by the curriculum and methods dictated by the authorities, many of they leaving teaching because they are penalized for thinking for themselves and restrained from being responsive and creative mentors of those they so badly want to educate well. I have heard those I know to be the best say that the “well” as defined by their schools is not the “well” they know to be in the best interests of their students. I have watched as many a teacher has capitulated to demands they find odious, counter to their understanding of intellectual development and the development in students of the kinds of understandings that will allow them to make good decisions for themselves and for others as participants in the societal decision making processes of a functionally sensible democracy.

There should be no private schools. There should be a public school system that is good enough for all because it is effective in teaching students what they need to live decent lives, possessing the ability to do for themselves and their society what is necessary and right in the context of basic principles such as the equality of all and the right of all to equal opportunity to succeed.

I can name a hundred or more features of the public schools I know of and the systems in which they exist that are fowl–the competitiveness, the emphasis on blind loyalty to school, the emphasis on conformity and obedience, the lack of respect for individuality, the pervasiveness of boredom brought on by curriculum and methods keyed to goals that are more about controlling thought than provoking it. I have sat in many a classroom and watched what looked more like indoctrination than inspiration. I have seen students punished for speaking out and acting out when such would be the appropriate response of a thoughtful persons to the condition he or she is being forced to endure.

Maybe I am not seeing things well but many students and some parents have told me that they do not like what is going on in the schools they or their children attend. And I sat in too many classroom where I was bored and where students weren’t being asked to think and where their thinking was ignored because of time constraints and the large numbers in the class, all of who could not possibly be heard because if all were heard the teacher could not get through the curriculum and prepare students for the assessments that would eventually come.

So, if we want schools that are good enough so that there is no desire among those who have a legitimate desire for their children to get the education they deserve, if we want schools that are legitimized by the righteousness of their goals and by the methods that are so good as to insure that most if not all will achieve those good goals, WE NEED TO BE HONEST ABOUT WHERE WE NOW STAND IN TERMS OF HAVING RIGHTEOUS GOALS and then we can think about how we achieve them and do the proper kind of evaluation to determine whether or not they have been achieved.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHOULD BE EMINENTLY DEFENSIBLE BECAUSE THEY DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO GET WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE DONE. No sensible person should want to send their kids anywhere else and no student should want to leave the schools they are in because they are just that good.

Pleasant China amongst the masses

I have been in China since the 2nd of July.  I think a lot about the United States.  I read the news from home and I watch CNN, BBC, and sometimes CCTV and RT.  I also read China Daily.  I think a lot about the United States and I cannot say that I am any less comfortable living life in China than I am living life in the United States.  In fact, I am very comfortable here and very uncomfortable when thinking about home.  I have written some about the way I am thinking about the thoughts I have had most of my life about democracy, about popular democracy.  I was first in China 17 years ago.  This trip I have visited several of the places I visited then and on subsequent trips over the years.  This is my fourth time in China.  Over the course of 17 years China has visibly developed, developed in amazing ways in terms of livability.  I have now been, this trip, in at least four big cities (small cities here often have populations over one million), great cities with modern building and hundreds more filling the skyline, most of these high rise living units to accommodate more and more people in modern housing.  The cities have fast and efficient metro systems and the street grid has been reworked ingeniously to accommodate the ever increasing numbers of cars owned by individuals.  As I said before, one can, for what is a reasonable fair for good numbers of Chinese people, on trains that link the country together that travel at high speeds, safely and efficiently.

Literacy is growing.  Educational institutions are increasing in number.  Science and technological development projects are well funded and universities, colleges, and technical schools arise here as fast as franchise bad food places do in the United States.

There is much here that would make life in our country better.  There is much here that causes me to think of the United States as a backward country.  There is much here to make me think that while the Chinese system may not be what is best for us or, perhaps even the Chinese, it is a system that, despite what so many Americans think, a far more humane system than the one American’s consistently protect with their votes.

I may have reached the point where I do no longer believe in the American democracy.  I may have said that before.

I am ever more convinced that a sensible and human democracy cannot exist if the people of the society are not capable of making sensible, sane, and humane decisions.

There is considerable evidence to show that the American people are not so capable.  The members of the House Judiciary Committee were elected to office by American voters!  We have idiots in office because members of the American voting public put them there.

So, if I contrast the two societies as I understand them now–not so well either to say I know for certain what they are about, but as much knowledge in hand as I ever have had to make judgments about them–I can say that the Chinese is considerably more pleasant maybe because of the attitudes I sense I am encountering on the streets that is one of life is pretty damned good.  Is it?  There is much about the places I have visited to say it is.

NATO

Short note: NATO and Trump–What would more money for the “alliance” of “allies” be spent on and who would most benefit?  Such issues need be considered before judgements are made about fairness.  Too, what would the “delinquent” and “unwilling to pay their fair share” nations have to do in order to comply with the demands of the Trump administration?

Most likely, actually inevitably, the largest share of the money will go to private defense contractors, the makers of implements of war, the weapons manufacturers and the other industries that produce war materials.

In large part, the call for more money for NATO is as much about the welfare of already rich for selling the tools of death companies as it is about necessary levels of defense capability.  The merchants of death first and foremost serve their owners, these mostly those with enough money already to invest heavily in the stock markets.

The costs of increased military spending in many of the countries Trump is targeting will necessitate cuts in programs that are for the people of these countries, in social welfare programs such as those hated by our capitalists such as socialized medicine and education.  A part of what the American role in NATO is, like the role of the “benevolent” capitalist organizations such as the WTO, is to strengthen capitalism, the predatory and inhumane form of capitalism sponsored by the United States.

So, when Trump threatens to undermine NATO he is bullshitting.  Corporate America makes incredible profits off the alliance.  When liberals rise to condemn Trump for not being nice to NATO, really, if they think about it, they are lending support to an organization that IS all about the military industrial complex Ike warned of so many years ago.  Trump’s bullying is not about what is good for the American people.  It is not the American people who will benefit from a cost reduction in American military spending–the bully has already called for considerable increases.  There will be no new spending affecting the social welfare of the American people–better schools, better medical care, better transportation systems, cleaner air, for example–only increased profits for the already fat and ugly defense industry.

 

 

Spreading death for the sake of a strong economy

https://giffords.org/2018/07/gun-manufacturers-want-to-sell-more-guns-abroad-the-trump-administration-is-here-to-help/

Gun manufactures want to sell more guns abroad and the Trump administration is here to help.”  This appeared at giffords.org, a group that is an impediment to the free market.

Selling arms has been a very lucrative American business for many years so this is but a request for some help in enhancing the trade.  What sells well is what makes the capitalist economy strong.  If it kills, that is the cost to other people for business doing business.

War is good for business!  Murder of hundreds of thousands of people in the transaction makes for good scenes for movies and television and video games.

 

Baby’s health and profitable markets

U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials

 

 

There is a story in the NY Times about the USA bulling other countries to not support a resolution, based on years of research, that calls upon civilized nations to encourage parents to opt for breast milk if breast milk is an option because the research shows that breast milk makes for healthier babies.  The USA opposed the measure, it is reported, to satisfy the demands of the baby formula industry, an industry that promotes formula as equal to or better than breast milk for reasons that are all about profits and nothing to do with concern for the welfare of children.

 

The article points out that the Trump administration blackmailed other countries, mainly poor countries that receive aid from the USA, Ecuador withdrawing its sponsorship after, reportedly, threats were made.

 

This is a Trump story. But it is also a WHY Trump story and a story that is at least as much about the modern USA in the world and its inhuman manipulation of world politics to serve something far different than freedom, the common good, the welfare of people, the welfare of children. This story is about capitalism and those whose thievery is justified by it being the only concern of the government of this nation.

 

If this is not understood, if the evidence that abounds is not heeded, then there is every good reason for the world, the humane and decent elements in the world, to look elsewhere for leadership.  Capitalism will do everything it can to survive and in particular, its supporters will do everything possible to insure that no alternatives are given the chance for consideration.  It is only seems as good as it seems to people because it is backed by the biggest propaganda machine ever created, the advertising industry, its constant lies a central part of the reality by which most people live.  Paradoxically, good numbers of people know this and have come to accept the lies as something with at least as much veracity as obvious truths.

 

If one can look at a story such as this and not cringe, not consider how “normal” a part of life the notion that corporate good is more important than human good is, cannot see how wretchedly ridiculous this is and how dangerous to every aspect of life this is, than there is something very wrong with them.  And there are a lot of people with whom something is very wrong because they refuse to see that the market is not benevolent, that the market exists to fulfill first corporate “needs” and human needs only if there is a profit is to be made.  If the bad can produce greater revenues than the good, than, corporately speaking, the good is bad and the bad is good.

 

Propaganda has sold lies as a truth, deception as a necessity of life.  Trumpism is just a more virulent form.  Or maybe not.  Maybe it is just a more transparent form that allows the actors to be more visibly rotten and ugly.  Maybe Trumpism is capitalist/corporate society straight up, the mask of civility removed and everything mean allowed to celebrate itself before the public.

 

It really is amazing how much rottenness is ignored daily by those who live in modern capitalist countries, under the corporatist regime and how so many think tyranny is something they have not experienced.  I do not think it hysterical or overblown to say that the people I know and live with are blinded by a kind of artificial light that is produced that dazzles, that distracts, that recreates before the eyes a false sense of what can and should be, a can and should be that good and humane people, if they knew any better, would never allow, would fight tooth and nail against.  Somehow they believe in a system that is, by nature, if it is to “work,” cruel.

 

Trump is the ugly monster we have helped to create.  He is the real face of mothers being taught to misfeed their children.  He is the face of people being denied medical care because providing it is not “cost effective.”  He is the face of new leadership that bluntly debases people to insure corporate friends a better bottom line.  He is the anti-United Nations forces who see cooperation an evil because the game played well means winners win no matter what the cost to others.

 

An earlier post linked an article that described Obama’s plan to deal with high drug prices, not by forcing manufacturers to lower prices but to better spread the cost around the world so the manufacturers and their stockholders can maintain profit levels even if it means that some people who could be treated will not be because of the cost.

 

That is the sensible world envisioned for the world by our capitalism.  I say bad.  Really fucking bad.