Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Writing on the Wall has Become a Smoking Gun

I woke up this morning to see the article "Report to Reveal 'Smoking Gun' on Climate Change" in the news links on my homepage. A new report to be issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, produced by hundreds of climate scientists, will elucidate that
"The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak," said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant four-part report. "The evidence ... is compelling."

The real question is, "is this anything that new?" The majority of respected climatologists have been trying to direct attention toward climate change for decades now.

The earth is a complex, dynamic, living system. Climatologists and earth systems scientists study how many different factors affect one another on this lively sphere. They've developed computer models that can handle far more factors of interaction than a human mind can, and that, while far from perfect, are capabable of predicting much of what is likely to happen from given information (to show how much we rely on such models, consider that modern meteorology depends on them). One of the most striking effects of the earth system is the positive feedback loop--the effect that, once a certain process starts, reinforces change, leading to more change, which becomes a runaway process that doesn't stop until some natural threshold or factor outside the closed loop stops it. For example, polar ice caps have a significant "albedo" effect--they reflect much of solar radiation back into space without absorbing it as heat on earth. But as they melt, that effect is decreased, and arctic regions absorb more heat, hastening the melting of the ice caps. What's more, there is a significant amount of carbon dioxide in the ice that is released into the atmosphere as it melts, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. It is easy to see how such a feedback loop, once reaching a critical level, could go on and on until some unspecified limit. For the earth, that limit could be a world significantly different from the one we live in now--different from the one to which our agriculture and fisheries, populations and cities, ways of life, and even much of our technologies are sensitively tuned. While the earth has certainly in its history been warmer than it is now, it has never happened like this, especially in human history. And the few times that there have been cataclysmic climate change events have also coincided with mass extinction events.

So the point then, that I'm trying to make, is that this is something that is important--really, really important. When climate scientists started pointing to striking evidence of climate changes even possibly associated with human activity, then was the time to start taking it seriously, then was the time to start doing something about it. But we didn't. And I'm not just talking about the government. I'm talking about everyone. I'm talking about ordinary citizens, community organizations, and industry itself. Why is that? I think anyone who thinks about it a little bit can come up with some pretty good answers by themselves. I've always thought, "complacency." But you know what? That's not the answer. Complacency with something this big isn't innate. It has to be taught and reinforced.

People are still buying SUV's with horrible fuel economy compared to what they could buy that is just as practical if not in many cases more practical. People still leave lights and appliances on in their homes when not using them. Standards by and large still don't take environmental impact into account. And why? "Because there's nothing wrong with that," has said the messages we've been given. George W. Bush just made his first expression of real acknowledgement that climate change is a problem in his State of the Union address. Unless it actually leads to some changing policies, however, it's an empty gesture. Hopefully, at least, the United States government will stop actively reinforcing the message that climate change isn't enough of a problem to change attitudes or behavior.

My hope is limited, though. For one, there should be a huge acknowledgement by some people and entities that they were wrong. That would be something really effectual. People would wake up to how real climate change is if some important people actually admitted their fault, and said, "okay, I was/we were wrong, and now we need to address this." But I doubt they'll do that. Instead, what they'll do is either accept the reality of climate change while continuing to deny the risks or causes associated with the phenomenon, or, conversely, whitewash their own history of denial, and make it seem as though they were always aware of climate change and its risks. In either case, those entities won't be doing anything about climate change, only serving their image or objectives.

So what does that mean? I think it means that, as has been the case for decades, it's up to us to do something. We don't need the government to act for us. It really is up to us, and how we live--just like the resolution to many of the problems that plague our society. We need to feel nagging, persistent pangs of guilt that we drive SUV's with low fuel economy, or that we leave things on that we don't use, or that we have little regard for how much energy we use and its disparity with how much we need to use. Community organizations need to hold meetings to talk about ways that wasteful energy use by communities can be reduced. We need to ask for energy efficient designs, and if necessary, find a way to make our homes and buildings more energy efficient ourselves. We need to try to find the natural catalyst for change, that natural desire to preserve what is good and what matters to us most, that would have spurred us into action a long time ago had we not been lulled away into a false sense of security.

Here's a thought that might help with that: we have scientists who are specifically trained to study climate, who are more qualified than experts in any other other field to speak concerning it. And they are worried. Very, very worried.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Leland Stanford, and American History and Politics Rewritten

"Labor can and will become its own employerthrough co-operative association."— Leland Stanford

In my last post, I asked the question of how it is possible that the reality of the events of the nineteenth century that have come to define much of the nature of our present day political economy and corporate economic structure have become so wholly misrepresented, along with the issues themselves, that the real heart of the matter--which is workers’ controlling their own means of production and receiving their rightful benefits for it, not “central planning and control vs. free enterprise”--is kept from the debate in an almost Orwellian sense.
(“The war is between central planning and free enterprise. It has always been between central planning and free enterprise”).
In "Beyond Capitalism: Leland Stanford's Forgotten Vision," Lee Altenberg (a computational systems biologist, incidentally) asks the same question as he brings back into view the forgotten--but profoundly relevant--vision that Leland Stanford (one of the original “great capitalists”) had for a future of a just and prosperous society based on the principles of cooperative enterprise and democratic activity, a vision in which there is no conflict between capital and labor because they are one in the same. Altenberg puts forth in detailed exposition how Stanford strenuously fought for those principles in the Senate (as an important leader of the Populist movement) and in the establishment of Stanford University, and contemplates how they have been so thoroughly wiped from public and Stanford institutional memory (only to survive in the “fringes” of academic thought, like a species in refuge waiting to return again to its place in the biosphere).

If you want to understand more about how the debates of the past inform the political situation of the present, and how those debates have been obscured and rewritten by interests of power then and now, Altenberg’s essay is a resounding eye-opener. The great quotes from Leland Stanford will make you wonder how this long-departed railroad baron could have had such basic and profound insights that few of even the most prominent among contemporary political and economic commentators seem to be able or willing to address.

On a completely unrelated note:
:( RIP Saints postseason run--we came so close!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Everything you always needed to know about political economy, but were too misled to ask

“The slave and peasant knew exactly who was screwing them. The modern worker, on the other hand, feels a painful pounding sensation, but has only a vague idea where it is coming from.”

From “The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand: Corporate Capitalism As a State-Guaranteed System of Privilege”

I’ve finally been able to read Kevin Carson’s excellent exposition on the truth behind the political-economic muddyings of past and present. You certainly won’t get it from the “free”-market Right (who wouldn’t know what to do without government favors), and you certainly won’t get it from the big government Left (who aren’t much better about interests and power). It’s becoming less and less clear whether that is because they don’t want you to get it, or because, with the long decades of interest in obfuscating it, they no longer get it themselves. As I.F. Stone said, "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."

One caveat on my endorsement of this wonderfully insightful elucidation: The last paragraph makes a statement--about Noam Chomsky’s sometimes-expressed view that the state can be used in the short-term to correct imbalances in the system, until it can be dismantled--that may be true or may be insufficient. Benjamin Tucker speculated towards the end of his life that, while state-supported capitalism is the cause of the present condition (and he said it in the nineteenth century--it has become all the more ingrained since then), eliminating the state in and of itself may no longer enough to correct the now-entrenched imbalances that it has produced. (But that question leads into a different debate in anarchist revolutionary theory; the excellent case Kevin Carson makes in the body of his work is all the same... besides which he may be right--I haven't yet decided myself).

A few other thoughts of my own:

I recall listening to a discussion on the Thom Hartmann Show in which he had a discussion with Yaron Brook (President of the *shudder* Ayn Rand Institute) about the domination of the drug market by big pharmaceutical companies who aggressively seek and enforce patents and prevent the manufacturing of drastically cheaper generic drugs by smaller companies (some free market there). Thom's guest replied that those companies (or their executives) are "heroes" for providing drugs for people, that instead of criticizing them, they should be lauded for their actions.

The suggestion that "great capitalists" or large corporations are heroes for providing useful goods and services to the populace no matter the circumstance of their doing it is ridiculous. By that same line of reasoning, southern plantation owners were heroes for providing cotton to the nation, while they did it through slave labor. Which is essentially what wage labor is--slave labor. It is wage slavery because a few rich parties control the means of production, the capital, which is not a natural condition but the result of historically specific acts by aristocracy to transfer their wealth and power from manorialism to capitalism by taking advantage of tenant farmers and the peasantry. That aristocracy has continued from then until now, in the form of that small percentage of the population that holds a disproportionately large percent of both the personal wealth and functional capital. True, there is a small degree of mobility from the lower classes to the top, but all that does is make room for a few new aristocrats. By very definition in an aristocracy or oligarchy, there is little room at the top. And like the lords of old, they still profit from the labor of the vast majority while insisting it is all they who are responsible for prosperity in society. If the truth behind this myth, the perpetuation of which has framed the debate for over a century and a half, was sufficiently realized, their power would fall to the dust.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Different Kinds of Libertarians

Reason cover Posted by Picasa

(Note: The term “Libertarian” was originally used by anarchists/socialists such as Joseph Dejacque and Mikhail Bakunin, whose position was in opposition to both capitalism and state communism, and is still known in much of the world to apply to the anarchist Left. In North America since the post-WWII era, however, it has come to apply to an anti-government movement that could be described generally as being on the economic Right side of the political spectrum. This analysis is about the modern American sense of the word).

Libertarians have been described with several different idiosyncratic-sounding phrases: “Marxists of the Right,” “Individualists United,” “Republicans who smoke pot.” In reality, libertarians are, like those of many other political ideologies, harder to pin down than a simple phrase or characterization. There is less a single creed of “Libertarianism” than an amalgam of positions and worldviews that are often described together and usually work together. However, they sometimes differ from one another: there are disagreements, sub-factions, and tactical alliances, and there are different kinds of people that make up this broad group; when someone talks about “libertarians” as a broad sweeping category, it may not always be clear who he/she is talking about.

I’ve decided to post my personal analysis of the different viewpoints and strains of thought that tend to make up Libertarianism, using some distinct categories I’ve observed and expanded in my interaction and association with many libertarians, and my studies of the works of important libertarian thinkers. A libertarian may be and usually is a combination of any of these categories, and some of the differences between them are subtle but significant. The representatives I’ve chosen for each were the best I could think of for that category, although they still may strongly represent other categories as well. I’m generally not a fan of categorizing or pigeonholing people overly much; it should be remembered that these categories refer to general strains of thought that have been observed and people who have expressed those strains of thought--not (with the exception maybe of the first category) definite personality classes.

Meet John or Jane Galt. While most card-carrying Objectivists assert that they are not libertarian in name, the movement started by Ayn Rand (author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) was and is an important influence on the thought of modern American Libertarianism (Cathy Young says that “Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to Rand's ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild.”). They imagine an individualist/collectivist and egoist/altruist dichotomy and put it at the heart of their entire worldview as the supreme good vs. evil (along with some peculiar axioms like “A is A” and “existence exists”). According to those influenced by Randian Egoism, greed is a virtue, while compassion is a deadly sin. The word capitalism can stimulate a spontaneous orgasm.
They are prone to histrionics and delusions of grandeur.

Novelist Ayn Rand, her successor Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand Institute President Yaron Brook, Objectivist philosopher Harry Binswanger, Neo-objectivist leader David Kelley, economist George Reisman, psychologist Nathaniel Branden, and political writer and critic Alex Epstein. Also, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Rush drummer Neil Peart, comic creator (Spider-man co-creator) Steve Ditko, and Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan. Capitalism Magazine is an associated publication.

Business giants and empire-builders, moguls, magnates and tycoons who don’t want antitrust laws, industry watchdogs, trade unions or environmental, worker, or consumer regulation to get in the way of their ambitions. They often fund libertarian and right-wing think tanks and organizations. Silicon Valley had many Dominationist younglings in the 90’s until most of them perished tragically in the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

Newscorp Chairman Rupert Murdoch, Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, Whole Foods Market Chairman and CEO John Mackey, Dallas Mavericks owner and HDNet Chairman Mark Cuban, and Virgin’s Richard Branson (although Branson is distinguished in being an environmental philanthropist, as well as wooing both Tory [Conservative] and Labour governments).

Market Fundamentalists
Focused on libertarian theories of economics/political economy, Market Fundamentalists believe the capitalist free market is best for the common good, and any interference with said market is contrary to the common good. They frequently use concepts like “the wisdom of the market” and “the invisible hand,” etc. Austrian and Chicago schools, neoclassical economics, neoliberalism, etc.

Economists Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and political writers Virginia Postrel and Brink Lindsey. Reason magazine is an important publication.

Naïve Libertarians
This was a hard to name category (I also considered “propagandist libertarians”). Naïve Libertarians are like Market Fundamentalists, except they usually parrot Market Fundamentalist arguments and harp on “how liberals are weakening America” instead of coming up with arguments and ideas of their own. They believe hardship doesn’t befall people who do what they should do, the environment isn’t in any real trouble and environmental/pollution problems are negligible, and big corporations are really responsible and good on their own (“Greenhouse gas emissions? Those are just ‘unrequested carbon surpluses’”). They are likely to listen to/host right-wing talk radio or do/follow right-wing journalism, and usually amount to little more than apologists for the Right.

ABC journalist John Stossel, talk radio’s Larry Elder and Neal Boortz, comic creator Bruce Tinsley, New York Times columnist John Tierney, and “Junk Science” environmental skeptic Steven Milloy.

“Liberty” Libertarians
Their libertarianism arises primarily from their ideas on the metaphysics of personal liberty, around concepts like “non-aggression” and “self-ownership.” Libertarian philosophers are usually in this category, some of whom were founders of the modern American libertarian movement.

Philosophers Murray Rothbard, Robert Nozick, Tibor Machan, and Albert J. Nock, and Sci-Fi author Robert A. Heinlein.

Libertarian Republicans
More traditional conservatives; Republicans who are against neoconservative big government and/or the religious right; conservative critics of the Bush administration. They consider themselves the true conservatives, and usually base their libertarian ideas on their perspective on the U.S. Constitution. “Goldwater conservatives;” Republican Liberty Caucus.

Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and authors and political commentators William F. Buckley and Andrew Sullivan (the latter of whom calls himself a “South Park Republican”).

Crazy Libertarians
Primarily concerned about gun rights and privacy. Many survivalists, conspiracy theorists, tin-foil-hatters, etc. tend to fall into this group. They are likely to live in a rural area, with an impressive arsenal and weeks worth of food stocked up to secure against a New World Order threat.

Survivalist and blogger Claire Wolfe, Mormons who have the complete writings of Ezra Taft Benson and belong to the John Birch Society, and anyone who has ever belonged to an armed or militant libertarian group. The peeps seem to fall into here at least a bit.

Lifestyle Libertarians
Like the Crazy Libertarians about guns, but also for drugs, sex, alcohol, uncensored material, not having to recycle, driving without a seatbelt, driving without a seatbelt at 100mph, driving without a seatbelt at 100mph while receiving oral sex, etc. They are basically people who want to do whatever they want. If conservatives want government to be your daddy, and liberals want government to be your mommy, Lifestyle Libertarians want to get rid of daddy and mommy and stay up all night eating ice cream and watching after-dark cable.

Shock jockey Howard Stern, author/political writer and humorist P.J. O’Rourke, humorist Dave Barry, South Park creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone, and illusionist duo Penn & Teller.

Localist Libertarians
Anti-Federalists, they would rather have autonomy distributed to the community level, like town halls, local school boards and churches, than a strong federal government or any centralized power. More Main Street than Wall Street, they are communitarians and traditionalists, largely Catholic, often Scouting enthusiasts, people with Norman Rockwell paintings throughout their homes, etc. More compassionate and worker-oriented than other libertarians, and more likely to be concerned with local environmental problems.

Political writer Bill Kauffman.

A special category. Left Libertarians believe big, powerful government is as oppressive and bad as big, powerful corporations. They are anti-war (including the War on Drugs), pro-choice, and against government favors for corporations (or against large corporations altogether). They usually favor participatory action and mutual aid over government for social justice and environmental causes, as well as smaller, more local businesses and community-centered marketplaces. They may caucus with right-libertarians (“vulgar libertarians” is a commonly used phrase) for strategic purposes, which is the primary reason they are on the list at all. They are also likely to work with Green parties. Often Georgist on physical property and against extensive and restrictive intellectual property (and a major front behind Open Source), they are related to others of the broad libertarian left--agorists, mutualists, libertarian socialists, cyberpunks and anarchists; also “Buddhist Economics.”

Comedian/talk-show host and political commentator Bill Maher, novelist Robert Anton Wilson, cyberculture icon R.U. Sirius, psychologist and psychedelic researcher Timothy Leary, philosopher/Eastern religion scholar Alan Watts, political philosopher Karl Hess, writer Samuel Edward Konkin III, and Loompanics publisher/editor Michael Hoy.

A few notes on other prominent libertarians:

-“Anarcho”-capitalist economist Bryan Caplan could be argued to fit into the Randian, Market Fundamentalist, and “Liberty” categories (pretty much every other economist at George Mason University could, to varying degrees, be described as falling into the Market Fundamentalist and “Liberty” Libertarian categories).

-Economist and political theorist Thomas Sowell is somewhere between Market Fundamentalist and Naïve.

-Political writer Lew Rockwell, an anti-war paleolibertarian, is a mixture of Market Fundamentalist, Republican Libertarian, and a pinch of Localist.

-Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds is a mix of Naïve, Libertarian Republican, and Lifestyle.

-Extropian philosopher Max Moore is largely Randian, but also “Liberty” Libertarian. He, along with Glenn Reynolds and Reason science editor Ronald Bailey, subscribe to Libertarian Transhumanism (which I would consider a subcategory).

-Libertarian Godfather Murray Rothbard actually ventured closer toward Left-Libertarianism at one point before going back to the right (toward Market Fundamentalism), all the while being an important philosophical “Liberty” Libertarian.

Another note:
I associate partly as Left-Libertarian, which is much of the reason I care in the first place.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Emergence of Awareness, or, how I started to become an anarchist

I'm posting something that I actually wrote in April of last year. With all the personal harrowing of systems and ideologies I've engaged in since then, I found the clarity of which I was possessed in that moment refreshing. My ideas have become more elaborate and specific since then. But, reflecting back, this was the beginning of my awakening, at least in spirit, as an anarchist in many ways.

"You were given the same explanation ... as everyone else - but it apparently doesn't satisfy you. You've heard it from infancy but have never managed to swallow it. You have the feeling something's been left out, glossed over. You have the feeling you've been lied to about something, and if you can, you'd like to know what it is...." Ishmael, by David Quinn

I've been thinking a lot lately, and very seriously, as I often do. It seems that people don't do that very often. By and large, they say, "you just have to live your life," and go on, taking several important things for granted as they continue to plug into the system of life which is the only thing they know. Evaluating... that makes one ask too many questions that don't have simple answers.

Living life is a wonderful and important thing. I have nothing against living life; in fact, I'd like to live life myself. But there's just one problem. That system, the one that we as people live in and take for granted, the context in which most of our life and our way of living is framed--it's based on questions not asked. It's based on de facto compliance with authority. Is that good? Let me ask one of those unasked questions--why would a person base his or her life on that which is taken for granted, handed down by authority? The answer to that question is that there is no good reason to. Where is the inherent truthfulness and moral superiority of that authority? There is none, it's an illusion. The truth is, that authority keeps people down. It keeps them from asking questions. It keeps them ignorant. It is ignorance. But we will continue to live in it, until people are collectively moved by something to take it down themselves.

The pattern is set for many 0f us in a myth we have been taught from our youth. In most of Judeo-Christian culture, it's the first lesson. Whether taught explicitly or implicitly as a natural derivative of the story, it has its effect all the same. Adam and Eve are in a garden; it's a nice place, there's enough to eat, and they don't seem to have to worry about anything. But they are there, living their lives, without any real knowledge of anything. That is, without any knowledge except, "you can eat fruit from any tree, but this is one thing you can't do. You can't eat the fruit from this tree right here, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (of Good and Evil). To do so is disobediance. It is forbidden." So the benevolent parent, God, has set the bounds. This is knowledge that shouldn't, in the inherent virutuousness of obedience, be obtained. To do so is transgression. Natural curiousity, man's inherent desire to ask and know, is off limits in this. But an intelligent creature comes along. He is a snake. He tells the woman, "hey, deep down, you're curious about that fruit, aren't you? Why are you going to listen to him? He has knowledge, shouldn't you? There should be nothing stopping you from gaining that knowledge. Rise up, eat the fruit, throw of the shackles of ignorance that hold you bound to this meaningless life. There are no sacred questions, no forbidden fruit. You are the gods; be as them." In essence, the snake was telling the woman to take nothing for granted. She took the fruit, and gave it to her companion, the man--a truly charitable act. Together they gained knowledge; their eyes were opened, their whole outlook was different. But they were penalized, sternly, by that patriarchal figure, God. Where the snake had led them to rise up, he put them down, punished with more constraints and commandments not to be questioned, along with a world of sorrow and trauma and clothing (it turned out the body, an embodiment of self as much as is curiousity, was also evil). But man and woman had begun the acquisition of knowledge, which would ever be the dynamic force in their saga.

If there is one thing that is changed in my outlook since I learned that lesson as an impressionable child, it is the position of the heros in the myth, and on which side is the virtue. Is it on the side of snake, who encouraged them to gain knowledge, to rise up, to learn to consider themselves from an informed perspective, or the authority figure, who told them not to be curious, not eat the fruit, not to gain that knowledge? (Some do say, theologically, "wait, that's not how we believe; it was good for them to take the fruit after all." But the point is the same. It is spelled out in the lesson. Obedience to authority is right, while questioning or defying that authority is transgression).

Everything we've ever been taught that we take for granted has the potential to be wrong. And I'm starting to think that much of it is; I feel that I've been lied to, or rather made to buy into a system of perpetuating arbitrariness and misconstructions, for most of my life. This is especially the case for things that aren't normally thought about or evaluated: from parents, from teachers and administrators, from church authorities, from government figures, from law enforcers, from media and advertizing, from public service messages. When I was younger, I was taught that children are to be seen and not heard. I was taught that if the carpet were green and an adult were to tell me it was blue, I was to agree that it was blue. That did indeed warp my mind, and many people will agree that such things are too strict or just plain wrong, but that kind of wholesale buying into authority is so pervasive that hardly anyone escapes it after all. Call it the system, call it the establishment, call it the man, call it the machine, call it the powers that be, call it whatever you will. It is there, it is the ruling system, whether as a collective force or several entities. It is the vestiges of the old world, and the impositions of the new. And it is not reality. In it's many forms, it's a grand illusion that keeps people from asking questions.

It comes constantly through television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. If it is stamped by public service, persuasive marketing, or official statements in media and press conferences, it is as taken for granted as anything. How many children are raised to be at the whims of advertising and marketing? From the youngest age, it tells them what to do, what they need, what must be bought to keep capitalism running smoothly. These are the virtues, it tells them, to espouse. Be hardworking, make money, buy things. It doesn't matter if the things better your society or anyone else's society, or really even your life or anyone else's; it only matters if people want them or can be made to want them. Self is defined by occupation and possessions. Thoughts which do not readily contribute to the production and exchange of goods and services are not particularly useful thoughts.

When in school, the school is right. The school has the high ground, and the child, who is compelled to attend, is at its mercy, save for the rare parent who will stand up. If an administrator says a particular feeling, attitude, outlook or style is responsible for youth, it is responsible; if irresponsible, it is irresponsible. The school is a place to learn to conform and get ready to live in the world. More than it is a school of knowledge, it is a school of the system, and therefore, of life... because the system is life, unless you don't take it for granted that it is. I don't mean to say that all administrators and educators are doing this to children, or that those who are are wittingly doing it. But it is happening, because disciplined obeyance to authority is the primary educational practice.

In legal precepts, law is the end of justice. Anything outside that, it is not an issue of justice, because the law dictates justice. If the police are reprimanding, firing at or otherwise physically or emotionally assaulting anyone, it is because that person or collection of people are in the wrong position, the wrong side of vested authority--not that they have in every case done something morally wrong. If the sober judge, upon the high and regal stand, brings the gavel down on a ruling, that gavel has acquired a holy status. It is the law not just in this case, but of the land henceforth. If someone is denied rights that the law has not given them in the first place, then they have no reason to assume such rights, which must not then exist. Laws, law enforcers, and judiciary officials are a necessary part of our legal system, but there is entirely too much put into the positions themselves, and the absoluteness of the law, and they are too easily abused.

If authority shouldn't be trusted or obeyed by virtue of itself, then, where do we start from, what can be trusted? We have to be able to trust something. Men and women have ways to ask about, experience, learn, and evaluate truth for themselves. That's where it needs to begin, in our noble selves. We have senses with which to experience the world, and minds that can interpret those experiences. And, most importantly, learned and shared knowledge is, or should be, free to all. When something is reviewed, when it is tried and tested and scrutinized and always up for evaluation, and shown to be an accurate description of reality, it isn't begging acceptance based on authority. It isn't enough that the discovering generation tasted the fruit. Each generation must taste it for themselves, and keep tasting, to make sure of how it tastes. But there's more to life than that; we have feelings along with our thoughts, and those feelings are part of us. Morals are precious which are based on empathy, based on human experience. Hell should not be a scare tactic, nor should heaven be a manipulating reward. I believe the human experience should teach us all we need to know about heaven and hell; enough to move away from the hell that is in the world and to create more heaven in it, for oneself and everyone.

Authority everywhere is largely unquestioned and unchallenged--not always the rulings of the authority, but the virtue of the authority itself. It's even more dangerous in this society because there are dictatorships and authoritarian regimes to compare with in order to keep secured a false sense of freedom from it. People are hardly able to rise up and see, and there are few times when they actually get the feeling that they are unwittingly complicit in active deceit, negligent error, and tragic social injustice on a massive scale. But sometimes they do... and those times need to be caught onto, held to, cherished, and made into catalysts. Only if that happens, on a large scale, will the world be ready to embrace the vision of positive change that will occur by knocking down the blinders and barriers that impose themselves on society. Because while still in the framework of that illusory system...

people might think I sound crazy.