Namekagon Notebook 

  By James Richard Bailey

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October 19, 2017 (originally posted 1/23/14)

The demise of liberalism

 

(Based on 'Death of the Liberal Class' by Chris Hedges)

There have traditionally been six pillars of the liberal movement in America.

  • Universities and colleges

  • Churches

  • The Democratic Party

  • The press

  • Popular culture

  • Labor

It is easy to make the case that all six have been entirely taken over by big money. They have had their teeth pulled, been marginalized, or have been completely taken over by the 1%.

The institutions of higher learning used to be hotbeds of liberal thought. I was in college during the height of the Vietnam War, and the school was steeped in anti-war, racial equality and women's rights action. Now, universities and colleges are increasingly modeled along corporate lines. Unlike the days when a college education could be had at low cost, even no cost in some cases (GI Bill), it now comes with an unhealthy side dish of student debt that isn't even discharchgeable via bankruptcy.

In an article called How the American University Was Killed, In Five Easy Steps, ”this is how you break the evil, wicked, leftist academic class in America.”

(a) First, you defund public higher education.

(b) Second, you deprofessionalize and impoverish the professors (and continue to create a surplus of underemployed and unemployed Ph.D.s).

(c) You move in a managerial/administrative class who take over governance of the university.

(d) You move in corporate culture and corporate money.

(e) Destroy the students:

1.  Dumb down the curriculum.

2. Make a higher education insanely costly, so that the only students who can

graduate debt free are those who were wealthy to begin with.

These days in the political arena the only religious voices being heard are those of the fundamentalist Christians. They are climate change denying mouthpieces for the fossil fuel industry. They hijack the political debate through the use of anti-abortion and anti-LGBT rights stances. Religious broadcasters have turned worship into big business. It is a rare day when you hear from leftist theologians who advocate for compassion.

The Democratic Party has been taken over by big business and wealthy individuals just like the Republican Party has. This has been the case ever since the Democrats achieved corporate fund raising parity with the Republicans during the Clinton years.

Even with Barack Obama in the White House, things have only gotten worse. No bankers went to jail for their criminal activities that derailed our economy in 2007. Health care reform turned into a gift to the health insurance industry. Civil rights have been severely eroded. On the international stage, the U.S.A. has accelerated it's illegal drone strikes against Middle Eastern countries. State legislatures have been hijacked by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a front for the billionaire class.

Where were any prominent Democrats when the Wisconsin Uprising took place? Nowhere to be seen. What about the famous Obama quote?

And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.

All we got out of him was a Tweet on the day before the 2012 recall election.

The press no longer even acknowledges the existence of people power. Newscasts always feature business news. We have a Nightly Business Report. Where is the “daily labor report?” When I was growing up, there was a major radio station in Chicago: WCFL. Those call letters stood for the Chicago Federation of Labor. It no longer exists in that form.

Businesses act in their own self-interests, and in the interests of their shareholders.   Big media companies are businesses -- $360 billion worth.   They want a cultural, labor, legislative, regulatory, and judicial environment that allows them to maximize profits.   But progressive politics are an immediate and tangible threat to their interests.   In what alternate universe would big media companies permit a liberal bias in their own programming?!   'Liberal media bias' is more than a myth -- it's an absurd lie echoing from media corporations themselves, and resonating with the ignorant among us.” http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Myth-of-Liberal-Media-by-Larry-Butler-130428-804.html

My generation remembers protest songs as hallmarks of the times. Popular culture was once a powerful force in the liberal universe. Music, literature, movies, TV shows and art carried powerful messages that bridged the gap between consciousness and reality. The song War by Edwin Starr was probably the most popular protest song of all time in America, reaching the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970. Other songs, like those of Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, and John Lennon dominated the thoughts of the 1960s and '70s youths.

The book Catch 22 by Joseph Heller was so wildly popular that to this day the phrase “catch 22” is embedded in our lexicon. The TV show Mash used tragedy and comedy in a gripping mixture with its message about the stupidity of war. Songs like Free Your Mind by En Vogue, A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke, Blowin' in the Wind by Bob Dylan, Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, and I Am Woman by Helen Reddy addressed racism, the environment and civil rights.

These days pop culture is all about narcissistic gratification of material desires. That and the gratuitous satisfaction of violence found in video games and movies.

Unions were once the proud voice of labor. I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was the quintessential manufacturing town. At 7 a.m. We could hear the factory whistles all over town, heralding another day for union employees at American Motors (AMC), Anaconda American Brass, Snap-on Tools, McWhite Wire Rope, Tri-Clover Ladish and Jockey International. On Labor Day, the annual parade included marchers and floats in a mile long procession. The AMC plant alone employed some 8,000 workers, supporting about 25,000 households.

Union membership is about 1/3 of its level during the heydays of the 1950s. The portion of private sector workers in unions fell to just 6.6 percent last year, from 6.9 percent in 2011, causing some labor specialists to question whether private sector unions were sinking toward irrelevance. Private sector union membership peaked at around 35 percent in the 1950s.

The biggest segment of labor union membership is now in the public sector. Teacher's unions have come under particular fire as the move to shift education dollars from public to charter schools has picked up steam. “Right to work” laws have been passed in 24 states. Auto manufacturing plants now pay people about half of what they did when unions were dominant.

All of the above factors have collectively meant the end of the liberal aspect of American society. One in four children live in poverty, and we have the highest prison population in the world. Even our prisons have been privatized. They are now big business.

According to Wikepedia, there are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.”

We are a permanent war culture, with civil rights on the run. I feel that the pendulum must soon begin to swing the other way. As our devastated economy and environment deepens, a new generation of Americans must rise up and take back our land....by any means necessary.

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An Explosion of Creativity

Spawned by Computers

 

When I took the dog out to greet the morn today, I thanked the Creator for another day of life on this planet with those I love. Than I sat down to my computer. “Here we go,” I thought. “The sun is up, I've got my coffee, and I'm ready to write.”

Writing is the wellspring of my creativity. It's like breathing. I couldn't live without it. Even when I address topics that are serious, sometimes brutal, I still enjoy the writing and sharing my thoughts with you, the reader.

While I could imagine writing this with pen and paper, I can't imagine sharing it with you so easily without the Internet and my computer. I'm a photographer, too. Here's a shot of some Indian pipe plants I took yesterday while walking Janus down by Lake Nothing. Poof, it is there before you on your computer screen, brought to you with all the magic of a Star Trek transporter.

 

 

There was a day when I used to send film down to the Milwaukee Journal on a Greyhound Bus. It got there in 24 hours, then they had to develop it and choose which shot to use. No way to query me about who was in it or a background detail. I just sent them the film and the information about the pictures on a wing and a prayer.

Computers, the Internet and the digital age have made for an explosion of creativity. People used to be limited by their wallets when deciding how many pictures to take. The only ways to share them were either to have prints made from negatives, or to have them published.

These days, everyone is a photographer. Digital imaging is forgiving. You can look at the picture as soon as you have taken it. If it's not right, just take another. Or Photoshop it. Back in the days when I ran a darkroom at work, I spent long hours carefully developing black and white negatives, and then making prints with an enlarger. There were techniques that only a select few photo nuts knew with which to darken an area that was too light, or the vice versa; to crop a picture; to soften the focus or superimpose one image on another.

Now, “to Photoshop” is a verb, just like “to Google”. Do you want to know some quick fact, say how to spell Greyhound? Is it gray or is it grey? Google it. In a split second you'll get your answer. Often the search result is sufficient. No need to even follow the link. In this case, I went to a site called grayorgrey.com. For goodness sake, is there no end to the answers I can get? This is in itself addicting. But, it's also educational. Now I know “It is spelled grAy in America, and grEy in England”. Clever. And, I'll never forget it, either.

All of the arts have benefited from the computer and the Internet. Music is another example. There has been an explosion in that field. Hundreds of thousands of people are making music these days. I do it myself. When I decided to delve into it, I found a program called Mixcraft that puts a recording studio in my hands. I downloaded a free trial version and used it for a couple of months, testing it a bit. Called a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), it is an entire virtual recording studio, and a cheap one at that. For $69 (update $89 now) I got the full version and I was off and running. With just a microphone, an inexpensive Yamaha keyboard, and a guitar I crafted a song that a friend of mine wrote and sang. We even copyrighted it with  the Library of Congress . . . on-line, of course.

You can hear it while viewing the video on this website. (Hint, turn up the bass.) Just go to the Main Menu and click on Dave World Music. This is a website that I made with open source software called Joomla, which I downloaded for free. Then I made the video with Windows Movie Maker, a free program that is built into the Windows operating system. The video is also on YouTube and Vimeo. On and on it goes. I learned all of this with the help of on-line forums, where the answers are all there if I ask the right questions.

Computers are a fount (or is it font?) of creativity and education. Without them, the Internet would not exist. Without the Internet, there would be no social media. It's not just [f]Facebook I'm talking about. There is YouTube for everyman, and Vimeo for those who are really into video creation. Let's not forget Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, Reddit et cetera.

What many folks overlook is the fact that these are interactive educational websites, especially Vimeo. The latter is for a very large community of film makers. Or should I say videographers? Vimeo is a showcase for original works, a video making school, a forum for sharing knowledge, and even a way of organizing video festivals.

Our interactive, computer-filled world, far from reducing literacy, actually has increased it. Oh, I know, in some ways it has contributed to a downgrading of language use. There is a profusion of the ever present use of Textlish. You know, tnx instead of thanks, r u ok? instead of are you OK? In some ways, though, it is actually the birthing of a new language.

Textlish is also a code, intelligible only to the initiated. There are little pictographs made with letters and other QWERTY keyboard symbols. Of course, there is the ubiquitous smiley face :), or :-), or :-D . On and on they go. From a heart <3 to the more gross fart F<3 to the more elaborate <(ovo)> (which I just now created).

It gets more interesting yet. How about converting text to Morse code? The previous sentence would then be .... --- .-- .- -... --- ..- - -.-. --- -. ...- . .-. - .. -. --. - . -..- - - --- -- --- .-. ... . -.-. --- -.. . ..--.. No kidding. There's a site for that. How to find it? Just Google “convert text to printable Morse code” and you will find http://www.onlineconversion.com/morse_code.htm . Or, if you would you like to make the Morse code into a sound that can be played on your computer (a WAV file to the initiated) go to http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/7791 . Try looking up a binary code converter, you know, the basis of all computing. The phrase “basis of all computing” would then be 011000100110000101110011011010010111001100100000011011110110011000100000011000010

11011000110110000100000011000110110111101101101011100000111010101110100011

010010110111001100111.

I once got a message like that on [f]Facebook. I was a bit puzzled, but quickly found this site http://www.roubaixinteractive.com/PlayGround/Binary_Conversion/Binary_To_Text.asp It is a fun trick to play on your [f] friends.

It can get really addicting, this ability to find the answer to almost any question through the use of a search engine, of which there are many more than just Google. Although Google, Bing, and Yahoo are the big three, the first one I ever used was Alta Vista with the Windows 95 platform. There are many more customized search engines, though. Find a list of them at http://www.thesearchenginelist.com/ One that's kind of fun is omgili, which stands for “Oh my God, I love it”. It is a search engine specific to forum topics.

This Internet thing is the greatest library the human race has ever known. It connects us all to one another in a way never seen before. Language translation is available from the simple Google Translate to various professional services.

And yes, I know, there is also rubbish galore on the Internet. One can even waste a lot of time using a computer without being on-line. From the very beginning there have been games like Solitaire and Minesweeper. There are violent video games and pornography around. Such is the scope of the human mind.

Nonetheless, lives are changed. One of my best friends has been blind since birth. He's adept at Braille, the language of little bumps arranged in squares created to be read with the fingertips. He is also a musician, and was happy as a clam when Rolling Stone magazine came out with a Braille edition for a while. That ended, but scanners combined with programs that read text aloud came to pass a while later. Now the blind can read anything. See (or hear) what I mean?

Sometimes I despair over the fate of the human race. It seems like our world is collapsing in a big pile of rubble due to greed, hatred and violence. Our infrastructure is getting old, and the money to fix it is used up by war and pointless consumerism.

But I also realize that we are on the cusp of a new age of mankind. Young and old people alike are able to put their minds together to solve problems. This new explosion of creativity is a double-edged sword. Which way will it cut? I have to think that clever, generous, well meaning folks will triumph over the greedy, selfish, power crazed types who just don't get it.

Here is a post by Laura Priebe that I copied from [f]Facebook.

"There is a synergy among artists, local arts organizations, and creative communities where each fosters and sustains the other,” says arts scholar Bill Cleveland, director of the Center for the Study of Art and Community. “Artists bring money to their neighborhoods, knit the community together, and increase its capacity to overcome economic challenges."

Challenges are there, but so are solutions.

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BOOK REVIEW

eaarth

I come late in the game to the works of author Bill McKibben. He has written more than a dozen books since he first published The End of Nature in 1989. Thanks to my local public radio station, WOJB-FM, I recently was inspired to read eaarth , the most recent of his string of remarkable volumes.

The fundamental principle that he espouses in this book is that our idea of geologic climate change is based on a flawed assumption.  It is commonly believed that it takes millions of years for changes to occur to our planet's climate and the ecosystem that depends on it. In this, his latest book, he makes the case that mankind's activities can indeed alter earth's climate, and that in fact we already have altered it profoundly in a very short time.

McKibben is the founder of the organization 350.org. The number “350” refers to parts-per-million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth's atmosphere, the number which we must not go above. This goal is nothing less than the saving of human civilization. Saving it from what, you ask? From being ravaged by the consequences of global warming. So what? A couple of degrees warmer. Big deal.

Yes, it is a big deal. A very big deal. In the first half of eaarth the case made by McKibben is based on hard science by unbiased, top ranked organizations such as NASA , the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Summary of findings: Through analysis of rock and ice samples we know that since human civilization began, atmospheric levels of CO2 have averaged about 275 parts per million (ppm). This is the status quo that we have always been used to. It is this level at which the conditions of the last 2,000 years have allowed for the stable climate, the backdrop against which we have built everything we know.

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution when we began burning large amounts of coal and petroleum, we've been adding about 2 ppm to the atmosphere per year. We now are at 390 ppm of CO2.

Already the worlds oceans are warming up and getting more acidic. Glaciers are melting, adding large volumes of non-saline water into the oceans. We are on the brink of altering our climate irreversibly. And that is just the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun).

Lurking just around the corner is a sneaky devil called methane, a potent greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than CO2. There are vast amounts of it locked up in arctic permafrost and the ocean depths.The following quote is not from McKibben's book. I've called it into play in order to augment the points that I wish to make in conjunction with this review. It is excerpted from the website Think Global Green (see link).

Many climate scientists think that the frozen Arctic tundra is a ticking time bomb in terms of global warming, because it holds vast amounts of methane. Over thousands of years the methane has accumulated under the ground at northern latitudes all around the world, and has effectively been taken out of circulation by the permafrost acting as an impermeable lid. But as the permafrost begins to melt in rising temperatures, the lid may open with potentially catastrophic results.” http://www.thinkglobalgreen.org/METHANE.html

During the early Cenozoic Era, when atmospheric CO2 was at 450 ppm, ocean levels were 200 feet higher than they are now. That is because the atmospheric carbon kept the planet sufficiently warm that there were no polar ice caps or glaciers. We face this reality as a possibility during the lifetime of our children.

McKibben's premise in eaarth is that we are already at the point of no return, where some amount of these climactic changes is a certainty. It will be hard enough to adapt to living on a planet like nothing humans have ever lived on. But, we have no choice. It is a fait accompli, a done deal. The new planet he has dubbed eaarth is spelled with an extra “a”.

Global warming is a stark reality that has been brought about by the activities of man. I don't merely believe this, I know it because the reliable information on the subject is so overwhelming as to constitute proof beyond a shadow of a doubt.

These are just a few of the hundreds of published reports on the matter:

  • NASA Study Links Severe Storm Increases, Global Warming”, Pasadena Star News, Jan. 23, 2009

  • "Arctic Treasure, Global Assets Melting Away" Eban Goodstein resource economist at Bard College in New York state

  • Mason Inman, “Arctic Ice in 'Death Spiral',” National Geographic News, Sept. 17, 2008

  • Mike Stark, “Climate Change, Drought to Strain Colorado River”, Associated Press, Dec. 5, 2008

  • Solomon et al. 2007, Stott et al. 2010, and Min et al. 2011

  • American Meteorological Society statement on climate change Feb. 1, 2007 [link http://ametsoc.org/POLICY/2007climatechange.html]

Extreme weather events fill our news reports. The tornado outbreaks, drought, dust storms, and wildfires of 2011 come to mind, as do the hurricane that hit the from New Jersey to New England, the Halloween snowstorm in that same area, and the recent “snowicane” in Alaska

The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change is so concerned that it just released a first-ever Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. The key words in that lengthy title are “managing”, “risks” and “adaptation”.

The SREX report was divided into two sections: how human-caused climate change has already affected extreme weather events, and predictions on how these events will change during the rest of the century.

In the second half of eaarth McKibben says that adaptation is now the name of the game. We must adapt, he says, to the new reality that our planet is rapidly becoming a foreign body. We have landed on a different planet than that of our origin. Our adaptation needs to take two forms.

  1. We must change our manner of living in order to hold the line at 350 ppm of CO2 in order to limit the damage we have already done, damage that cannot be undone. The CO2 in the atmosphere, along with the methane, nitrous oxide from fertilizers, and our deforestation of vast stretches of continents will continue to roll along for hundreds of years even if we completely disappeared as a species. There is no going back. The warming will itself increase the greenhouse effect as methane is released. Population will continue to escalate, causing further burning of fossil fuels.

  2. How we conduct our affairs will change whether we like it or not. We'll have to find ways to adapt to drought/desertification in some places, and excess precipitation and flooding in others. Agriculture will be disrupted, the cost of recovery from cataclysmic weather events will eat up financial resources that should have gone to infrastructure repair and construction, and political interactions will get increasingly hostile as factions fight for survival.

At this point McKibben's writing becomes somewhat hopeful. Our reckless, hurried spending of this planet's fossil fuel capital will of necessity be throttled back, and as that occurs, he foresees societal changes leading to a healthier, more sane manner of living for humankind. Local production of food and hard goods. A slower pace of life. Community building. Sustainable practices. Independence from centralized control. These changes, he states, will be fostered by the information revolution and result in the growth of democracy.

I urge Namekagon Notebook readers to get the book eaarth by Bill McKibben and read it through, including the 25 pages of footnotes. It is the latter that underpins the truthfulness of the whole book

In the final analysis, there is hope that mankind will come through this rather lengthy rough patch better for the experience. We will be forced to become more local in our food and energy production, many of the societal structures we've come to perceive as the only possible realities will be blown away. Eyes will be opened. I like to say that we must form islands of sanity and sustainability.

In historic terms, if humankind survives the upcoming turmoil, it could be the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. But I think it will take a while, perhaps seven generations, to be realized.

*                *                *                *                *

"The laws of physics are eternal and cannot be changed with additional research, venture capital or majority votes." Ulf Bossel, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara

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