Reflections from the other day

The wind has the trees enthusiastically cheering today. Flags snap to an up-tempo beat. A murder of crows locate haven in a big fir tree’s lee alongside the walking path ahead. I approach. At a silent signal, they rise without cries. The wind’s sounds mask their wing noise. Almost all break for the street’s other side, momentarily forming a crow arch over the road. But a third find the wind’s stiffness too much and retreat into the pine’s coziness. The other two thirds seek shelter down between houses. One brave individual alights on the swaying telephone line over the street and makes a one note announcement.

I can’t blame the winds for my tumultuous thoughts. I usually walk and think, what will I read write? Who is on stage? Lights, please. Today, I go through the characters and situations without settling on a direction. I’m adrift with thoughts on our society and its violence. Then they came for me, I remember, thinking of how many hunker down without thought about America’s escalating gun violence. Most police victims, it’s said, deserved it, even it it sure looked like I'd be found guilty of murder if I did it. But then I'm not the police. They have an expanding different standard than me.

The police tell us because their victims were thugs, or high on drugs, or suspected of a crime. Even when it's the wrong person. Shoot now and ask questions later. The dead don't lie. Many times the police officers just feared for their lives from their victims, who, armed with a toy sword or toy gun, twelve years old, twenty years old, sometimes unarmed but on a cell phone or reaching for their pants, were still a threat to the fearful police, so fearful that officers don’t shoot just once but multiple times, hitting their victims in their arms, abdomen, head and chest, but often with many shots somehow landing in the backs of these people they feared. Or they taser the victims and put them into choke holds, ignoring their human protests that they can’t breathe, ignoring it when they fall unconscious, bent on protecting themselves and advancing justice.

It’s a real fact not an Internet fact with uncertain veracity, that an increasing number of blacks are being killed by the people paid to protect them, an affront to America's advertising campaign that we value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, particularly that life one. Hard to be free and pursuing happiness from the morgues’ cold tables. I stand with them, the blacks and poors and others suffering these deaths. How can I enjoy my freedom when so many fellow citizens have their freedoms handcuffed with fear?

I remain amazed that the right to bear arms has managed to propel itself to the second most important right or privilege in America, the first being the right to turn a profit. Stunning how both of these have overturned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We need first and foremost, apparently, to have guns. I guess being armed that does fit into the fearfuls’ psyche and their need for security above everything else, even above the right s of others to live.

 

We’re marking a solemn anniversary today. Well, no, not solemn. It was an act of war. Not really solemn. I guess some will say our solemn observances are over those who died, not over what was done when another nation attacked us over 70 years ago. Japan, the attacker, is now our staunch economic ally, just like the other enemies in that war, Germany and Italy. This is different from the communist cold war results with the Soviet Union and China. China emerged as an economic powerhouse and we see them as a continuing threat, ala Asimov's wonderful Foundation series. Russia emerged as a major power out of the Soviet Union's breakup and continue seeking more power, which bugs America, since we want all the power.

We weren't pleased when Japan attacked us and we vowed, Never Again. Despite that vow and our arsenal, some other group, pissed at what we’re doing to others and deciding to take us down, attacked us in 2001, sadly scaring us even more. So we live in fear, the most armed and deadly nation in the world, killing our own and declaring ourselves free. Meanwhile, the sniff tests are starting to say another revolution might be in the air in America. I wouldn't expect it to happen soon, but as more and more Americans sing about their poverty woes, and more importantly, have no way out because of the rising costs of education and the jobs moving overseas, the chances of violence would seem to increase. Isn't it the nature of empires to destroy themselves from within? The Powers, and we all know who that there are those with Powers who want more power, who want it all and don't believe others deserve anything because the others are lazier, have been reacting by applying more pressure. That's the best thing to do as pressure grows from inequality: apply more pressure. That's the American Maxim: if some is good, more must be better.

I wonder if there's a doomsday clock somewhere, ticking down toward midnight in America.

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The Water and the Net

Must admit that I was a bit frustrated, and ended up channeling some of my wife's frustrations.

My wife's frustrations are about water and water rights.  She and I watched as cities, counties and states sold their watering rights to others, like Coca Cola, for a bit of money now.  "Why, look at all the water we have," they laughed.  "And those fools are going to pay us.  We'll use all that money to build schools and improve our roads, subside civic improvements.  Woo hoo, we're rich!"

Fast forward a few years and those same places are running out of water.  Doesn't matter how much money they have;  they can't get water.  Sure, they still have a lake full of it, a cistern, a stream, but they don't have the rights to it.  They sold those rights so companies can use their water to profit. 

Here in Ashland, our water comes from mountain snow packs.  People like to ski on mountain snow packs.  Companies like to build places to use for resorts to house those people in luxury and offer them food, drink and entertainment, like shows at night, when they're not skiing.  So a local association wanted to expand their ski resort.  "It won't affect the water supply at all," they assured everyone.  "And having a resort will bring in more tourists, create new jobs and add money to the local economy." 

My wife and I were like, are you nuts?  You're going to risk your water source for a few extra dollars?  "Sure," almost everyone replied.  "It won't hurt anything."

Fast forward just two years from when that measure was narrowly defeated.  The resort didn't open last year.  No snow.  Enduring extended drought conditions, we're close to water rationing.  And people still see no reason not to expand the ski resort. 

She's frustrated that they can't perceive the gaps in their logic.  It reminds us of our warnings about the dot com burst, the housing bubble burst, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  We had good reasons for worrying about these things and we were ignored until disaster stared people in the face.  Then they asked, "Who knew?"

Well, we knew, damn it.  And you didn't listen. So we get frustrated.

This is where my frustration comes in.  A friend sees no problem with going forward with ending Net Neutrality.  "It'll work out," he says.  "We should let them charge for faster service.  Why should a medical record and a movie being downloaded have equal footing?"  My response is that under the proposed systems, it would have nothing to do with whether it's a movie or a medical record.  It depends upon who is willing to pay more for greater speed.  In that sense, to me, it has a direct corollary with wealth inequality. 

He didn't see that at all.  To him, it would all be about establishing priorities based on content.  Movies and amusement would have lower priorities.  No;  that's not what's being proposed, I told him.  It's a simple, pay what the market will bear principle. 

To me, an open Internet is critical to a well functioning democracy, equality and a free market place.  In my mind, which can be a scary place and where I have been demonstrated to be wrong many, many times, there is one Internet and if you start charging people more for faster downloads, you're going to squeeze people out because they won't be able to afford it.  Pshaw, he said, in effect.  It'll work out.

Yes, I've heard those words or similar before. 

The war in Iraq will be a cake walk.  It'll pay for itself. 

There is no housing bubble.  The market will self correct.

There is plenty of water.  We will never miss it. 

Such confidence that "it'll all work itself out" seems weak and misguided to me.  Nature works itself out.  The rest of us sweat it out.  And when we don't, we pay the consequences. 

It frustrated me, talking to him, just as it frustrated me when I protested the planned invasions, warned people that a housing bubble was on the horizon, and winced as they said, a ski resort will not affect our water supply.  They're expressing blind confidence that I just don't seem to have.

Now let's talk about GMO crops.....

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