For context, look up popular American news articles for March 12th, 2016.
Raja Yoga (the Hindu philosophy of using physical movement to achieve a higher spiritual state–called simply “yoga” by most westerners) seems to have arisen out of a collection of movements and postures practiced as part of human life. From bowing to a king, to taking a wide stance in preparation for delivering a sword blow, to stretching in the morning and evening to alleviate muscle and joint pain, to picking up a baby–this is a system of kinetic learning intended to explain and teach the human condition and how to function within it.
Humans are loving. Humans are powerful. Humans fight for survival, spend their days gathering resources; humans follow leaders; humans battle for control over the followers and means of acquisition. (Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably seeing you as their follower…) This method of teaching translates literally to “royal yoga”. As profound as it once was, it fails to teach apt governance or understanding in the absence of the cultural understanding that could only be truly had in the more revered and wealthy circles of the ancient world.
What would such a system look like, if it were created out of the successful strategies of governing and being governed within our own society? Are there any motions that we can still use to universally increase our usefulness and success as a part of the human meta-organism? Today, we crave a method that works for almost everyone, and mourn the absence of any such thing that can make us happy. There is currently no “one size fits most” method for anyone born after 1980, or, perhaps, before.
In politics and religion, alike, we are bereft of truly effective guidance. We celebrate the death of “storge” love while complaining about lack of agreement in public matters. (This is a contradiction.) We seek ancient wisdom that hardly translates to how to make a real living, today. We are amply taught, in school, church, home, and in casual society everything but what is known to be truly, universally effective–because nobody knows of any universally “human” means of survival that has, itself, survived the test of time.
In the last decade, much of the world has awoken to this predicament, and we are fighting each other because nobody can figure out how to make things work, again. The information age arose out from Pandora’s box, and our greatest minds have yet to tame it in a way that lets everyone live happily, who is willing to keep trying.
Or maybe that is the nature of the human condition: as the Buddhists say, “suffering exists”, and it’s up to us to figure out how to deal with that.
It is a part of human nature to fight. We committed genocide against every human species that came before us, until only Homo sapiens remained. (A chilling thought, but true, according to archeologists, evolutionary biologists, and anthropologists.) A new way of living will one day emerge out of the ashes of analog society and the minds of those who, like Homo erectus, failed to adapt (despite having a larger brain). In the mean time, let’s limit our battles to the ones that actually matter.
If an idiot or a fool gets elected president, let them show us how not to do things.
Some arguments can only be won by letting your opponent win, and then realize, on his own, that he should have been wiling to compromise (A.K.A. “adapt”). We decided in the late 40s that killing all the stupid people is wrong, so if such people end up running things, and we don’t crash and burn because of it, we will have proven that the antiquated morals of centuries past–survival of the fittest, when you boil it down enough–are truly not as good as the softer ones we revere, today.
And if letting stupid people self-actualize turns out to be a problem, we can always decide that Hitler had the right of things and commit genocide until all the stupid people are extinct, and we evolve into a species that’s better than Homo sapiens. (Personally, I don’t advocate this method.)
Seriously, folks, don’t get into physical fights over political beliefs unless you think we should silence, cage, and eventually extinct all the imbuciles–including, possibly, you.
Trump and Sanders fans, I’m looking at you.
“However, a much older Near Eastern origin is suggested by a near equivalent in the 6th century BC Proverbs of Ahiqar: ‘a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying’.”
I love finding proverbs that have somehow survived 25 centuries of linguistic translations and societal changes. Such proverbs are almost certainly somewhat accurate (in the right context), because the only way people would keep saying them for 2,500 years is if they feel like they have a decent reason to do so, themselves, and to teach their children to say them, too.
A.K.A. “You heard it here, first!”
This started off as a Facebook post, about a week ago. Many of the people who replied to the original post are of a liberal persuasion, and some took umbrage to my assertion that Sanders isn’t as intelligent as some of the other candidates. The second half of this essay is a response to those objections. As with all my posts, I take no offense at being disagreed with, but do request that any disagreements be presented respectfully and intelligently.
As a self-described centrist, I’ve watched the most recent Republican and Democratic presidential primary debates. I’ve noticed some striking differences that have influenced my opinion substantially, at this juncture.
1) Right or wrong in her policies, Hillary Clinton is the most intelligent person in the running.
2) Sanders is the only one who seems to care about or understand the major concerns of the millennial generation. He is, however, extremely vague (compared to Clinton) about how to fund any of the changes he wants.
3) The Republican candidates disagree with each other a lot less, but they don’t go into as much detail about their positions, or how they intend to accomplish their goals.
4) The Democratic debate facilitators ask much harder questions. Their candidates often dodge the question, but have stayed on topic better than in past elections. Republican debate facilitators ask much easier questions, and their candidates don’t dodge them as often.
5) The Democratic candidates put more focus on how they intend to do things, and are more specific about what they intend to do. The Republican candidates focus more on who they’re angry at.
6) Governor O’Malley makes much more concise, salient remarks, and asks harder, more intelligent questions than the facilitators or other candidates. He seems to lack the assertiveness to lead effectively at the presidential level, but he adds much to the election by way of keeping the other candidates honest.
7) Sanders and Trump are more childish than the other candidates, in their mannerisms and speech patterns. Trump is extremely so, to the point that I wonder if he suffers from a neoteny-related disorder.
8) Bush made more sense than any other Republican candidate, and seems to have some understanding that issues that have yet to be solved are unsolved because they’re complex and are trade-off centric. Clinton has a much better apparent understanding of this than any of the other candidates, including Bush, although Bush may be catering his responses to the less detail-oriented format of the Republican debates.
9) Sanders and O’Malley seem to be the least corrupt, in terms of taking money from special interests.
10) Sanders and Clinton get almost all the attention, and are rude to O’Malley when he tries to speak.
11) Trump really is an idiot. He has basically no understanding of politics, diplomacy, foreign affairs, economics, the economics of immigration, etc. (Research early 20th century immigration and it’s effects, if you don’t believe me.)
12) Sanders is also pretty stupid, but he has a handful of ideas that could basically save my generation if he implements them with sufficient foresight (which he may or may not possess). If elected, he would screw a lot of stuff up, but maybe fix the things that most need fixing. He also doesn’t understand foreign relations, many aspects of economics, diplomacy, etc. In other words, a vote for him is a vote for sacrificing a lot of things that (mostly) work in favor of fixing a few things that are severely broken–if he’s clever enough to pull it off, which is worth questioning.
13) Clinton would hold down the fort with stunningly apt alacrity, but not seriously work on our country’s most severe domestic problems. She would make small, incremental improvements, and do a darned good job of that…slowly. Under her rulership, we should expect small, consistent improvements across the board (barring unforeseen circumstances). She has foresight, leadership ability, and genius-level I.Q. She’s one of the greatest diplomats alive. What she lacks is out-of-the-box thinking on some pressing issues.
14) I’m sad to admit that, in spite of my centrism, I can’t see any of the Republican candidates’ proposed solutions as being very sapient or realistic. Sorry, guys: you’re going to lose, this year.
15) Clinton listens intently to each of her opponents and nods appreciatively, apparently to herself, when they say something particularly intelligent. I expect that, like Obama, she’ll ask some of her former opponents to join her cabinet. Sanders is an ideologue who is too busy concentrating on making his next point to listen very well. (Referring to active listening, not hearing loss.) He may or may not have the wisdom to hire his former competitors.
16) Sanders has an annoying demeanor. Those I was watching the debate with (stalwart democrats) kept turning him down because he was a “loud mouth” and a “hot head”, which mostly speaks to his presentation, rather than his ideas. If people can’t stand listening to you, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are.
In conclusion, either Sanders or Clinton will most likely be our next president. I like what Sanders is trying to do, but his demeanor is unpalatable, and he lacks the intellect to do a good job, on most fronts. He has admirable compassion, but precious little logistical sense, and would end up a lot like Jimmy Carter, in the eyes of history, were he to win. Clinton will probably be our next president, and will almost certainly do a very solid job of it, taking into account the quirks specific to her party (fixation on gun control, LGBT/race/female issues–all of which are sometimes sensible, and often not), and a penchant for small, safe changes, rather than large, riskier ones (some of the latter we seem to need). To put it simply, we are probably in safe hands, this time around, and the big changes will probably have to wait.
“But I like Bernie Sanders, and I think he’s smart!”
“He’s been working for decades to do what he claims to want, so shouldn’t we give him more credit?”
I don’t doubt that Sanders is sincere, or that he’s been working toward his goals for a very long time. He is, indeed, very committed. My concerns about his intellect come from a variety of things about him, most of them small and hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t also noticed it. Here are a few that seem relatively easy to communicate.
1) He stays “on message” a lot more than the other candidates. When asked about gun control, he talked about Wall Street. When asked about digital security and Constitutional concerns, he talked about Wall street, and then, eventually, about terrorists. When asked about racial inequality, he talked about Wall Street. Yes, the financial sector (which is larger than just Wall Street in New York City!) needs to be sat on for the way they have screwed up our economy and some other stuff. Yes, they’re crazy rich, while their employees are just getting poorer. They’re on my “sh*t-list”. They are not, however, the cause of every evil in the world, and changing how we interact with them isn’t going to solve most of our problems. That’s lazy thinking. He’s been on the job for long enough to know better…but he apparently doesn’t.
2) His vocabulary is limited.
3) He’s reactionary in the same way as people I know who have a fanatically-held set of beliefs, but who lack the wherewithal to justify those beliefs saliently to others. He gets upset, raises his voice, interrupts incessantly, gesticulates to get attention, etc. This is another sign of a weak mind.
4) His facial expressions are very limited. This one is a bit harder to explain, but I’ll try. For illustration, watch Trump speak and count how many distinct expressions he has. That’s an approximate number that can be used to extrapolate his range of emotions. People who have only, in the extreme example, “happy” and “sad” make you think of what group of people? According to psychologists, what is the average IQ of people with that kind of disorder? (Down Syndrome sufferers are one example. They have an average I.Q. of 80, whereas “normal” is ~100.) A person without nuanced feelings is probably incapable of understanding partial victories, mitigated defeats, trade-offs, moral gray area, etc.; if they did understand these things, they would have a decidedly more developed range of emotions, which would result in more unique facial expressions. Trump regularly displays fake sadness, sullenness, child-like delight, and anger–and not much else. Now, watch the same length of video and count Sanders’ unique expressions. There aren’t many more. Now, take a look at either of the Clintons (who have approximate IQs of 138 and 140, respectively). Do they look sideways in amusement? Do they smirk, wink, look ponderous, etc? You bet they do. They have also been shown to understand things like partial victories, mitigated defeats, trade-offs, moral gray area, etc. I know this might not make a lot of sense unless you’ve already noticed it, but here’s hoping…
5) He doesn’t seem to know when he has made his point, and people have stopped listening intently.
6) When he was asked whether he was raising taxes on the middle class to pay for universal health care, he prevaricated for over 2 minutes, apparently without realizing that everyone with half a brain cell would see that he was doing so. If you boil it down enough, his answer was, “Yes, I’m raising taxes on the middle class, but the savings from medical costs will be bigger.” For many, including me, this is probably true. However, anyone with a little life experience knows that some people get sick and/or go to the doctor more than others, so for the latter group, the math doesn’t add up. (I go to the doctor more than most people.) Having worked on this problem for several decades, he should know better than to make such a brash assumption, but either he doesn’t know better, or is lying. It’s been previously agreed (by most in the conversation, so far) that he’s genuine; therefore, he’s stupid.
7) As obtuse as Congress is, if he were even a little bit good at explaining his ideas in a way that made other people who knew about the subject matter agree with him, he would have gotten the Democratic Party leadership on-board with his plan, after all this time. Overwhelmingly, his colleagues seem to think of him as being unrealistic. Often, when he seems to have “stumped” his opponent with a response, the expression on the opponent’s face isn’t one of concession or sullen disappointment about being bested in an argument, but of bafflement that he would even say such a thing. How do you deliver a snappy retort to a statement that’s factually incorrect on a dozen different levels? If you think back to a time when someone made such an argument to you, that debate dynamic will become painfully clear. As previously mentioned, he consistently dodged Clinton’s questions about his previous voting record, and likewise refused to explain in any detail how he intended to mitigate the negative side-effects of his proposed changes. Many of the bills he authored are only a couple of pages long, and make no effort to state, in practice, how they are to be accomplished, if made law. Valid questions include: How do you enforce it? What are the specific rules that businesses, individuals, and government agencies must follow, in day-to-day life? Are those people actually able to follow those rules without it putting them out of business or turning everyone into a criminal–technically or judicially, depending on enforcement? A 2-page bill can’t address these concerns, and Sanders repeatedly presents such bills, trying to make them into laws. They are consistently voted down by his peers. (Yes, he has managed to pass a handful of laws in the 25 years since he first got elected to Congress, which means that he occasionally writes a law that his colleagues don’t think is asinine.) To my understanding, his biggest accomplishments as a member of Congress center around adding a little “heart” to bills that others have written–which makes him a decent Congressman, but doesn’t qualify him for the duty of vetoing poorly-written laws.
I could go on, but this should provide a little justification for my assertions about his intellect. Again, I think he has a few really good ideas; but I doubt that he has much understanding of what the side-effects of those ideas will be. Therefore, I’ll reassert that a vote for Sanders is a vote for sacrificing a lot of things that (mostly) work, in favor of fixing a few things that are badly broken. This comes down to the priorities of an individual voter; but be warned: some of the things he wants to change will make essential goods like food, fuel, clothing, and building supplies more expensive. Will his other ideas counteract this by making you richer? Will you be made richer in a way that doesn’t prevent industrialists from making those goods at a reasonable price? Maybe, if he’s smart enough. Do you care to roll the dice? Vote according to your mind, heart, and conscience.
I started using the Internet in the early ’90s, back when almost nobody had a computer, and few of them had an Internet connection. Since then, I’ve never once made a purchase based on unsolicited Internet advertisements, and here’s why.
I started building computers at a very young age, and have since spent a large portion of my life fixing other people’s machines when they break. The number one problem is malware, which includes (but is not limited to) viruses, spyware, and pranks; with the first two being the most common. Malware usually exists for one of three purposes, with the first being true of almost all malware: (1) someone is trying to scam/steal money from you; (2) someone wants to annoy you for fun/revenge; and/or (3) someone wants to make a political statement (vis carrying out a Denial of Service attack on someone whose political/economic activities they don’t like). The number one source of malware is web sites trying to scam money out of you. The number one way they do so is by advertising to you (often in ways that make you think they’re NOT advertisements), such that you visit their site; and WHAM! whether you know it it not, your computer is now infected. (Sometimes just visiting a site gives you malware, and sometimes you have to download and run something from that site that they claim is good/harmless, but isn’t. Beware any file ending in .exe, .bat, .com, .msi, .dmi, as well as anything that can be “installed” or “run”. Yes, this includes “FREE GAMES!!!!!!!”)
If every person whose computer I fixed because they clicked on an ad paid $100 for it…wait, what am I saying? They DID pay $100 (or so) in repairs for every ad they clicked on! That, in a nutshell, is how computer repair shops stay in business: people who don’t know that ALL Internet ads are extremely likely to infect their machines with viruses, spyware, and so on–such that they will soon have their sensitive information stolen, and their computers rendered useless–do something they don’t know they should NEVER do on the Internet, and then bring their computer into the shop to have it repaired. (Note: sometimes hardware fails, Windows/Linux/Mac OS screws up of its own accord, or someone falls victim to the dreaded PEBKAC error. Usually, though, it’s because of Internet usage failure.)
This is why, in theory, movements in favor of allowing “respectful” ads and blocking all other ads (example: AdBlock Plus–a great browser add-on that everyone should have, despite its failures) are ultimately not realistic. Even if an ad doesn’t play obnoxious sounds/videos at you, flash distractingly, open pop-up windows, take up half the page, etc., there’s never going to be any absolute guarantee that the content behind the ad isn’t fraudulent, in some way. Nobody is capable of policing every advertisement on the web, so those who try to come up with software to detect “annoying” behavior and block only that, rather than truly investigating every web page that advertises anywhere on the Internet. That’s just not realistic to expect from anyone.
So, what’s that mean for ad-based revenue? You can probably guess: as more computer users realize that clicking on ads (and things that don’t look like ads, but really are ads) is what’s causing them to shell out money for computer repairs, and take effective measures to avoid doing so, it will become decreasingly profitable for web pages to host web ads, at all. Sadly, almost every page on the Internet can only exist because of advertisements, so we’re left with quite a quandary: how do we support worthwhile web pages (like this one, I hope…) without becoming easy targets for dishonest people looking to harm us for personal profit?
One solution that’s been proposed is to have every web site screen its web ads. Unfortunately, ads just don’t work that way, and here’s why: webs are served up by companies who are “aggregators” of advertisements, such as Google (AdSense), Facebook, AOL (not dead, yet!), NYTimes, CBS Interactive, Ad.ly, and many, many others. Almost nobody has the resources to get enough companies to buy enouch ad space from them to cover all of their expenses, so they instead let these aggregators post web ads to their pages in exchange for a small cut of the profits (and I do mean small). “Well, make the aggregators censor out fraudulent ads!” Sounds great! …But again, the problem is volume. How does a company of “only” 30,000 full-time employees (most of which don’t sell ads, but do other things, like programming Gmail and GPS maps, designing driver-less cars, and so on) thoroughly investigate 100,000 ads a day to determine which ones lead to pages that will never ship purchased products; will attempt to infect some types of computers with viruses (dependent on OS and software versions); ask for sensitive information that they will sell to their “partners”, three years from now; and so on? The short answer is that it’s just not possible to turn a profit by selling advertisements if you try to do this. So, what we’re unavoidably left with is a stinky, seedy, smarmy Internet full of paid advertisements that nobody should ever click on.
So, again, where does that leave us? I don’t know, and neither do web-centric economists (professional or hobbyist). Most will acknowlege, if pressed, that ads are a blight on safe computing, and almost anything would be better than the digital cesspool we have, now. But, like democratic forms of government, it’s the only option we have that seems not to utterly break at the drop of a hat. So, instead (like any nominally-working form of government), it’s breaking slowly, and nobody is very certain about what we can do to fix it. In fact, most people who have tried at all to deal with it are utterly befuddled with the problem.
So, what do you think the solution is? Maybe the right kind of genius is reading this ad-supported web page, at this very moment… 😉
It’s amazing how many adults don’t know how to do this, so consider it a “post-kindergarten education” for all of us grown-ups. Someone you know probably needs to see it, so please share!
1) If you had control over the thing that went wrong, then it’s your fault. If someone else also had control over it, then it’s ALSO their fault…but that doesn’t make it “not your fault”, so it’s time to fess up and take responsibility for your part in letting things go wrong. Step one is to admit you screwed up–to yourself, first, and then to whomever you caused trouble for. Don’t try to play down your responsibility (and don’t exaggerate it, either), because that will destroy trust and make the next steps harder. Don’t ask for forgiveness, yet, because at this point, you haven’t done anything to fix the situation.
2) Do everything you can to fix what went wrong. If you can’t fix it, try to compensate the person you wronged in an appropriate way. Money is typically NOT appropriate compensation, unless you deprived someone of physical wealth that they otherwise would have had/acquired. (This includes breaking something that belongs to someone else, or which is yours and would have benefited someone else.)
3) Ask for forgiveness. Keep in mind that unless you literally fixed EVERYTHING that went bad because of your screw-up (which is usually not possible), what you’re actually asking for is MERCY, not justice. Nobody is obligated to give you mercy (by definition!), so be grateful if they do. If they don’t, be understanding and act like a decent person, regardless.
4) Strive not to screw up in this way, again. The more you repeat your mistake, the harder it will be to make amends, in the future. If you ever completely fail to make amends, your relationship with a person will be permanently damaged.
As a final note, this also applies to things that people like to claim “just happened”, like scheduling conflicts, not having money with to pay someone what you promised them, and so on. If you booked the appointment/promised money/spent too much money, you had control over that event. Please be brave and make amends whenever it’s needed! Your social- and family-life will be much better for it.