Checking the Facts

Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net
By Brian Stelter

David and Barbara Mikkelson are among those trying to clean the cesspool. The unassuming California couple run Snopes, one of the most popular fact-checking destinations on the Web.

[...] Snopes is one of a small handful of sites in the fact-checking business. Brooks Jackson, the director of one of the others, the politically oriented FactCheck.org, believes news organizations should be doing more of it.

“The ‘news’ that is not fit to print gets through to people anyway these days, through 24-hour cable gasbags, partisan talk radio hosts and chain e-mails, blogs and Web sites such as WorldNetDaily or Daily Kos,” he said in an e-mail message. “What readers need now, we find, are honest referees who can help ordinary readers sort out fact from fiction.”

Even the White House now cites fact-checking sites: it has circulated links and explanations by PolitiFact.com, a project of The St. Petersburg Times that won a Pulitzer Prize last year for national reporting.

Media bias in the United States
(Wikipedia)

Organizations monitoring bias

Non-partisan

Liberal

Conservative

human connection… so rare and fleeting

human connection… so rare and fleeting

Posted on Nov 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
There is something that has been on my mind for quite a while.  Being online has continually reminded me of it.  My first online community was a MBTI forum for INFPs.  As I’m an INFP, it was a very nice experience interacting with people who thought like me.  I met one person there who had a thinking pattern that was so extremely similar to mine which was so very odd. 

The main problem with that community was that it was fairly small and like many online communities the membership was somewhat transitory.  After several people I liked there stopped posting as much, I went looking elsewhere… but I still feel like I’m searching.  I joined a dozen or so communities before I finally came to Gaia.  I’ve connected with some here, but I don’t always feel like I fit in here. 

Connecting in a genuine way is such a difficult thing.  Meeting people is easy online, but really connecting is a whole other matter.  Part of it has to do with a desire to find people with a commonality of interests.  However, its much more fundamental than that as the INFP forum demonstrated.  Even though my interests were different than most of the people on that forum, there was such a commonality of life experience that it helped to bridge those differences.

I do feel more at home here than on most sites I’ve joined.  I do suspect that is because there are more people of similar personality types here.  A thread in the God Pod showed a preponderance of Introverts, Intuitives, and Feelers (MBTI terminology).  Nonetheless, even among stimilar types, the feeling of deep connection is rare and seemingly too little valued in our society.  I do know that its more valued amongst INFPs, but even on the INFP forum it was only a few people I really connected with.  I don’t know what that mysterious element is… its either there or it isn’t.  Even lesser connections can be nice, but that deeper connection is amazing when it happens.

I remember when I first experienced this kind of connection.  It was right after highschool.  I was working at a YMCA camp near Asheville, NC.  The summer was coming to an end and I was switching to another work area.  I met this girl and we connected in a way I’d never experienced before.  She was engaged and the connection didn’t feel romantic.  Its just that we resonated so easily.  I felt relaxed and happy around her.  This was amazing as I was quite depressed at the time.  However, I only got to know her for a short period of time (maybe a week or two) before we went our separate ways and we didn’t stay in contact.  Life is strange like that.  I’ve never felt that quick of a connection ever again.

Why are connections like this so unusual and so ephemeral?  Our longing for connection seems greater than the limits of mortal reality allows.  Maybe the longing for connection is more important than the connection itself.  In this, I’m influenced by the Sufi emphasis of longing itself.  God, if he is anything, is this longing.

Sometime later, maybe the following summer after the YMCA, I was working at the Grand Canyon feeling even more depressed and wishing to escape the world.  I met a real nice guy.  He was around 50 or so which put him at approximately the same age as my parents, but he seemed younger.  He was one of those old hippies who still was trying to live a life of freedom even as age was catching up with him.  He was from Arizona and in his after highschool years had fallen in love with nature.  He wanted nothing other than to hike and camp.  He had been down in the Grand Canyon many times before, but now he was like me working up on the rim making beds and cleaning bathrooms. 

I remember one time we went for a walk along the rim.  We were away from the village and we stopped at a quiet spot.  He was looking out at the Grand Canyon with such longing that I could feel it.  That longing is something that has become a part of me and he gave form to it during a particularly despairing time of my life.  He couldn’t take the longing unsatisfied any longer and he quit.  It was torture for him to be able to see the Grand Canyon without being able to go down into it, to explore it, to follow those endless canyons.

I can tell you that I was feeling disatisfied myself at this time and so very lonely.  I was tired of the way the world was.  Part of me also wanted to just disappear into nature, to escape all the tired expectations of family and society. 

After a while, I too decided to quit.  I knew someone who was also considering quitting and who had a car.  I convineced her to leave with me and go on a road trip since we both planned on heading back to our respective homes which were in the same general direction.  She had a friend that she had come to the Grand Canyon with and he wasn’t happy to see her go.  He told her that “people need people”.  It seemed like such a silly thing at the time, but its stuck with me after all these years.  Its true though… people do need people.

And, yet, people are always leaving.  No relationship lasts forever.

I’ve become very cynical as I’ve aged, but I must say I was already developing my cynical side as far as back as grade school.  Its just become more pronounced with life experience.

A few years ago, I decided to do everything I could to turn my life around.  I’ve always had this side of me that just wants to be a simple good person… a noble endeavor indeed.  So, I put myself out into the world and took risks, but it was a struggle even with antidepressants and therapists.  I met many people and it was moderately nice despite a part of me that is eternally dissatisfied with all of existence.

I even fell in love for the first time in my life.  I wanted to fall in love, but I think I could’ve made a better choice for the object of my love.  It wasn’t exactly mutual.  Thusly, I came to very intimate terms with my own frustrated longing.  Well, at least I know that my longing will always be there for me.

This blog is linked in three different threads.

OM posted it in the Collective Wisdom pod:

http://pods.gaia.com/collective_wisdom/discussions/view/369016

Meenkashi posted it in the Gaia Networking pod:

Blogs on Community, Interaction, Communication

I posted it in the God pod:

Community: blogs and threads

Access_public Access: Public 34 Comments Print Post this!views (371)  
Nicole : wakingdreamer
about 5 hours later

Nicole said

The internet is a real mixed blessing in terms of connections. It’s easier than ever before to meet people quickly with whom you resonate, but also easier than before to lose people.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

Yep, Nicole. 

The internet, in its present condition, seems to be more of an experiment.  I suspect, as the internet becomes more immersed into everyday life, we will see less of this transitory style of relating.  It already is something like this for the youngsters these days.  They don’t as clearly distinguish their online and offine lives. 

The main thing that leads to the transitoriness is probably the anonymous factor.  Most people feel they don’t have to act as they normally do because the internet is mostly a separate world from their everyday life.  That is the other thing about the younger generations.  They seem less concerned about anonymity.

However, connecting is always challenging no matter what the situation.  Can’t blame it all on the internet.

starlight : StarLight Dancing
about 10 hours later

starlight said

hey ben…i think fear keeps us from connecting better than we do…sometimes it is a healthy fear i suppose…and when it is on the internet, it is difficult b/c you don’t have that face to face thing where you can actually look someone in the eye and see their expressions…but to be honest, i have difficulty connecting with others, many times b/c of the diversity of our beliefs and interests…but it is very nice when you actually do connect with someone and a friendship blossoms…

hope you are well…always, star…

Marmalade : Gaia Child
about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

I’m well enough.  I’m just in a space of assessing my reasons for spending time online as it relates to what the intenet actually is able to offer.  My experience is that dissatisfaction comes from having unrealistic expectations, but humans seem to thrive on unrealistic expectations.  Our whole civilization is built on unrealistic expectations.

I’m thinking that genuine connection beyond the transitory is too much to ask of the internet.  I have good relationships already in my life and so I’m not lacking in that department.  Really what I’m looking for online is commonality which may or may not include a deeper sense of connection.

I’m glad to see software being developed for social networking sites that makes it easier to connect with similar people.  Gaia’s resonance engine is designed for this purpose, but it hasn’t worked for me.  The people the resonance engine shows me tend to be those who are no longer active which is just depressing. 

Other sites have some cool functions for connecting.  I like what Netflix and Amazon are doing.  Netflix gives you the percentage of similar ratings to every other member and allows you to compare your individual ratings with those of others.  Amazon has something similar using your buying history and a tags system.  Both Netflix and Amazon also have very active online forums.

Its getting easier and easier to find people to connect with even if only on the level of common interests.  Helping people connect on a deeper level, however, is beyond the capacities of any internet site.

starlight : StarLight Dancing
about 11 hours later

starlight said

i was a member on a spiritual forum that began about six years or so ago…it was the bomb…some of the ones of us that were there in the beginning still stay in touch…many of us formed deep friendships…when the site shut down, there was another that started; it has not been as successful, nor is the atmosphere the same as in the early days of the first one, but there are some of the same people that still post, and so in that sense it still feels connected…so it is possible…i learned so much on that site and will always be indebted to the dear ones that i met during that time…it was an awesome experience…but i doubt that there will ever be anything likened to it again…who knows though…lol…*

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Your spiritual forum sounds like my INFP forum.  I still visit the INFP forum, but I get the sense that it isn’t as active as it used to be.  The last time I visited, someone mentioned that the administrator had been MIA for quite a while and the lunatics had taken over the asylum.  Fortunately, the lunatics there are of the good-natured variety.  I just emailed a friend from that site.  She isn’t active there anymore, but we stay in contact.  I was telling her that I wish I could gather all the interesting people I’ve found around the net and put them in a single place.  My site would be called: Marmalade’s Cool Friends.  It would be the best site ever!  :)

starlight : StarLight Dancing
about 12 hours later

starlight said

what would be the focus of such an endeavor?  lol…

that’s what happened to SDF…the guy that created it fell in love and stopped hanging out, and the lunatics took over…it came to a tragic end…for a while he still kept it intact as an archieve, it had some awesome info on it…but you can’t even go to it anymore…that reminds me, i still keep in touch with him and i have been meaning to ask him why the link no longer works…he had given me my own forum basically, within the forum, to post all my material…i posted so much on that forum it wasn’t funny…and i really would like to have access to it still, for that reason, and to read all the informative threads…a real wealth of info really…towards the end though it became like a big soap opera…drama, drama, drama…and of course i was right in the middle of it!  LOL…memories…haha…maybe i tell you about it sometime…it’s really pretty funny now, but it wasn’t then…always, star…

mikeS : Ha!
1 day later

mikeS said

there seems an underlying sadness in your essay. But then, there always seems to be an underlying, rather incoherent, undefinable sadness in all relationships, no matter how connected or close. Most tend to deny and distract from that low lying heaviness, but the weight of it pulls at us nonetheless.

It does seem that no matter how close we become, I can never fully share your experience of living, nor can you share mine, since words and physicality never quite close the distance. I have experienced this in my own marriage. reflecting truth in the old adage “so close, yet so far away.”

I also agree with starlight, that there does seem to be a fear in too much sharing of experience, in the recognition of the actual limits of that sharing and maybe that reflects the underlying sadness. In this sense we are all truly alone.

In recognizing the limits, I suppose we are resigned to share what we can and maybe this is why no relationship lasts forever since the sharing must always be limited. Even those relationships remaining in close proximity change, never to be what they once were and always resistant to fully become what they could be. I suppose this was why I turned to spirituality in the hope of finding an answer. Not yet, though.

It seems your commentary on your own experiences of relating, is really a commentary on all relationships. If we are all alone, maybe at least we can be together in that experience.

Thanks for the honesty, it was a pleasure to read…

mike S

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
1 day later

1Vector3 said

Oh, Ben, again I am blown away, and anything I might respond seems trivial by comparison to your sharings. But then I always feel superficial when INFP’s start doing their thing…… But I do recognize the depth, and in fact I can go there, too.

I can remember times in my life when all I had was the yearnings, the longings, for relationships and for something ineffable in or about life, and I found comfort and identity in the yearning itself.

One time I had a really indepth conversation with a good friend comparing our deepest subjective experiences and we managed to convey each to the other in such a way that we were blown away by the differences. After that, it has seemed a miracle to me that anyone can entertain the illusion that they understand or empathize with or grok anyone else’s inner experiences. Under the veneer of language agreements, lurks vast oceans of uniquenesses. [This does not contradict what I say below. Under the vast oceans is Oneness. Shall I say, they are all WATER !!]

It’s really true in this culture people are intimacy-phobic and intimacy-impaired by their upbringings. I believe there are cultures where this is NOT so. I don’t see this as a human issue, but a cultural issue.

Of course, and permit me to go woo-woo now, it is true IMO as you alluded, no human connection can come even close to the experience, the knowing, the BEING of “One Being in many forms” which those folks not in the illusion of separation can abide in. That is ultimately what we long for. Nothing in the world of form can provide that. That is our longing to simply be in full awareness of our own Ground of Being. In that awareness, we are automatically one with every other form in that we all are pieces of the Ground of Being. But we have our differences, on another level.

There are human experiences of “merging” energetically with another person, both feeling the separate self disappear into something or someone much Larger which yet paradoxically contains the smaller self, and this is sometimes spontaneous and sometimes cultivated, as through Tantric practices. These are pretty awesome. But they are also not states that can stay in the foreground of our awareness as we do the grocery shopping.

I have had experiences like you mentioned with the girl you were so [my word] comfortable with. I don’t think we achieve those; I think they just happen, and the basic cause is probably too woo-woo to go into here. I do think such a relationship CAN last a lifetime. I think profundly deep good relationships CAN last a lifetime. That’s “forever,” to most people. There are many examples of couples who grew old together in the most loving and intimate connection on ALL levels of their being. Who could read one another’s thoughts, finish one another’s sentences, etc.

Some of that can be cultivated in a relationship, but some has to be there from the beginning.

I myself don’t think of the REALLY worthwhile “connections” as having much to do with common interests. More with common values. Even more with common senses of life. Communication via the  Internet can only begin to hint at such things about a person.

I believe that true intimacy or closeness requires of both people the courage to be self-expressive, to be transparent, and to receive the other’s expressiveness and transparency in allowing, accepting ways, not judging. You have all that in spades. Thus, your chances of a truly deep relationship are better than average, IMO !!!

One way of conceptualizing or modelling connection or intimacy or whatever we are talking about is to use the physical model of RESONANCE. We resonate with other people, in various ways to various degrees. We are always hoping for more ways with more degrees from one person !! [The strength and areas of resonance possible in person are exponentially greater than via the Internet or writing or phone…..]

At one point in my life I gave up thinking I would find complete resonance for all aspects of my own vibrating/Being in one person. I will always feel “fragmented,” therefore. Never able to share ALL that I am in full resonance with any other ONE person. I have just accepted that. [As you said, expectations create disappointment, frustration….]

What, with age, I have no tolerance any longer for, is adapting. If i am going to be really close to someone, we have to be quite comfortable with one another just the way we are, from the beginning. The person has to fit me “like an old shoe” from the beginning. Exactly as you described how you felt around that girl.

You said
a part of me that is eternally dissatisfied with all of existence

and I’d like to ramble a bit about that. I see that as the root of depression, probably for you, perhaps for everyone. And that dissatisfaction with all of existence is something Buddhism describes very well and at great length, perhaps starlight can give some examples or references.
 
As long as we live within the illusion of separateness from the One Being in many forms, we will have that eternal dissatisfaction, nay, even a primordial terror which it hides from our full awareness, the terror of believing or experiencing separateness, because that separateness is not our normal, natural, true state of Being. It is an artificial and temporary creation – a project for a purpose – by some Beings, whom we are creations or parts of. But deep down we know there is “something wrong with this picture,” and the resulting sense of life is most unpleasant/dissatisfying/terror-filled/depressing.

Makes perfect sense to me that some folks like you are not willing or able to numb themselves to this “existential” condition of (common) human consciousness. Depression is inevitable. It is in fact sadness, IMO. Sadness is different from depression, because sadness is about something, it has an object or cause. In this case, IMO, the “cause” or “object” is the experience of being separate.

I have to add a caveat that to me separate and distinct are not identical. People can feel distinct and individual even after they awaken from the illusion of separateness.
 
One other way of being “eternally dissatisfied with all of existence” is to be a perfectionist. I am one of those, down to the atomic level of my embodiment. There is never a moment of perfect satisfaction with the way life is, I am, things are. That perfectionism is based on illusions, though, and in fact I am mostly healed from those. But I thought I would mention it, as it’s a different source of “eternal dissatisfaction with all of existence” from the separateness-sense I just described.  

Well, thanks for allowing me to blather on. I was able to put into words some things I had not been able to articulate before, so thanks for the opportunity. If my words are meaninful or even useful to anyone else, that would be very pleasing and satisfying to me !!!!

Blessings, OM Bastet

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
1 day later

1Vector3 said

Gotta edit this for precision:

I said
even a primordial terror which it hides from our full awareness, the terror of believing or experiencing separateness,

I meant to say
even a primordial terror which it hides from our full awareness, the terror which is an inevitable consequence of believing or experiencing separateness
— not the terror OF believing, but the terror FROM believing

Say this is a dynamite thread about such a common human concern. OK with you if I donate it to the Collective Wisdom library??

Marmalade : Gaia Child
1 day later

Marmalade said

Yeah, Mike, there is an underlying sadness.  I’m sure my relationship experiences aren’t unique.  In the examples I gave, I was mostly focusing on a transitory stage of my life.  I’m much more settled now, but the feelings I felt then aren’t really different than what I feel now.  Even in less transitory relationships there is still a gap.

And I also agree with starlight about the fear thingy.  Thats become clear to me in recent years.  The desire and fear of intimacy go hand in hand.  I’ve observed it in myself and in others.  I sense some kind of truth in the longing to connect, but I can’t say that I know what it is.

Marmalade : Gaia Child
1 day later

Marmalade said

Om, I’m sure nothing you share will be trivial.  I completely agree with what you say about lurking vast oceans of uniqueness.  I tend to think of it as a fundamental truth, but there is a cultural component.  Its hard for me to imagine what a society would be like that didn’t have intimacy issues.  Sounds like a nice place.  I’d like to visit there sometime.

I like using the word resonance.  The fragmentation you mention is something that I feel within myself whether or not a relationship is involved.  That is something I didn’t mention in the blog but which I’ve thought about recently.  The disconnection between people is akin to the disconnection between aspects of the self.  I don’t know if that makes sense.

Related to this is dissatisfaction.  Longing to connect corresponds to the dissatisfaction felt withn.  These are two sides to the same coin and I see it as spiritual.  Buddhism has it right about life being fundamentally dissatisfying.  Dukkha is often translated as suffering, but it makes more sense to think of it as dissatisfaction.

You’re description of this is perfect.  Calling it dissatisfaction is an understatement and maybe that is why dukkha gets translated as sufering.  Whatever it may be, its a profound experience.  Primordial terror… those words get at the sense of it.  I understand your interpreting it as being a result of the illusion of separation, but I’m not sure what that means.  Its disconcerting.  What is the feeling of separation?  And what caused it?  I’ve felt inklings of a deeper unity, but I don’t remember a time when I ever experienced it fully.  I do have the sense that something is wrong with this picture… which implies there is something that is right.

I’m pretty sure you’re correct that sadness isn’t the same as depression.  But Its hard for me to distinguish them in my own experience.  Depression is such a complex thing.  What is causing what I do not know.  What I do know is that my depression has always had a component of loneliness, of something missing.  Do I have a depressive personality that leads me to be open to that experience of dissatisfaction?  Or has the experience of dissatisfaction after enough years led to a depressive way of being?  Or something entirely different?  Its all confusing to me.  I could imagine being depressed without being sad or being sad without being depressed, but its all mixed up for me.

I guess that this is a decent thread.  You can donate all you want. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
1 day later

Marmalade said

I have a previous blog which relates to some of the views being discussed here.

Zen Great Doubt, Existentialist Angst, and Gnostic Longing

starlight : StarLight Dancing
2 days later

starlight said

hey ben and all…that link had some very relevant context…something to really think about, and of course i did…and here is what i awoke with today…maybe it will be helpful, maybe not…

that longing we feel, is the longing to connect beyond surfaces…the dissatisfaction occurs when these connections do not materialize in the way that we had hoped…or when they do, but do not last…those emotions are processed and stored, and can really prevent us from making another effort at connecting beyond surfaces or beyond our safety zone…and can once again leave us with that melancholy longing to connect…but the fear of remembering can keep us at that precipice…and so we get comfortable in our limited condition…even when it has unpleasant aspects…simply put, we remain on the beach b/c we KNOW there are sharks in the water, we’ve been bit before, and so we don’t JUMP IN…or make the effort beyond a certain point…we sometimes even convince ourselves that we are just fine getting a tan on the sand…while we watch from the sidelines…others swimming, having fun, touching, laughing, living, breathing…loving…each other…

i have found that it is much like anything else…we connect every day…on surface levels…like the internet…it is really up to us to try to connect at a deeper level…sure there is always the risk that you will run into a brick wall…but it is like anything else…when you turn your computer on and it does not connect right away, do you give up and throw your laptop against the wall, or do you keep trying?  it always comes down to it being our own choice…

the most difficult thing for us to do it seems, is to do something different…but that is where the potential for creativity comes into play…and great works of art manifest…

in my experience, it has become very easy to remain in my own little bubble of bliss…even though, periodically, i feel the lonliness…

since i am not a buddhist, or a member of any other religious organization, and i rarely go any where, except online…i have learned to be content with discussing things of intellectual interest with those here at gaia that seem to think along the same lines as i do…and i write my poems…i am attracted to realistic and critical thinking…but i am not without my spiritual being…i just refuse to label it and put it in a box, and so, i am a loner of sorts…

but that is my choice…and until i decide to take a chance and venture out of my own little box…there is no way to make deeper connections…afterall…awareness is not going to slide them under my door…LOL…much like your link suggests…i have to dive into the abyss…feel to heal, and keep it real…diving in the abyss, or living ones life amongst the living…brings opportunities to face more conditioned behaviours…which brings opportunity of more awakening and freedom…

there is one thing i will say concerning suffering…it is much different then pain and sadness…we are humans…being…pain is to be felt…so is pleasure…getting trapped in those feelings is what brings suffering…

much of the time it comes down to this:

i have to just put my big girl britches on…and walk through the fear…

thnx for this thread Ben…your honesty on these subjects helps to open up and shine a light on those tendencies within us all…if we are willing to look at these things honestly within ourselves…then that reveals the potential to do something different…where a deeper connection is always possible…much joy, always, star…

starlight : StarLight Dancing
2 days later

starlight said

check this out ben…just a view from my box…LOL

http://tlcoriginals.gaia.com/blog/2008/11/connecting

thnx for all the inspiration on this thread…always, star…

Marmalade : Gaia Child
2 days later

Marmalade said

I read your comments here and I read what you wrote in your blog.  I’m too tired to give any detailed response, but I can say that I didn’t disagree with any of it.  Everything you said generally resonates with my own view.  I don’t think I can add anything further that would be insightful.  :)

I do have some other thoughts that have been on my mind, but I don’t think they particularly relate to anything you mentioned.  Maybe I’ll try to write about them later.

Nicole : wakingdreamer
3 days later

Nicole said

Ah, those sun-filled days. That blog seems like such a long time ago on this cold winter’s day filled with snow. I have enjoyed our blog chats so very much, my friend Ben.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
3 days later

1Vector3 said

You asked some questions I need to respond to, but for tonight all I can manage is to post this link to the donation of this blog+comments to the Collective Wisdom library.

Blessings, OM

Albert  : Warrior
3 days later

Albert said

Ben, this is really a fascinating consideration.

Other types like in the Reiss profile could be added. Or whtaever.

Its always isnt so far away from so called real F2F world.
A new kind of vireality is emerging. German iInternwet Entrepreneur Paulus Need once described it this way. True intimacy is a process of crstyllization. Of deep values. Of timing in ones bio according to the life cycle one goes through….
And it may change through the years.

According to ones individuality. See for example the label “Integral” Is suggest some homogenity of people who use it. If we would choose randomly 1000 people from across the globe ..we would see 1000 different fingerprints of using it.

Then checking this cohort after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 years again:

The picture will have changed radically.
To be honest, genuine and open, authentic and in connection with ones own purpose and authentic case..will ALWAY bring people in connection. Sometimes in unpredictable ways.
Bon voyage, Ben!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
3 days later

Marmalade said

OM – I hope this discussion lives up to being collective wisdom.

Albert – Surprised to see you here.  Did you see this thread from OM’s linking to it? 

Anyways, no need to “bon voyage” me quite yet.  I’m still here and I’m not rushing to leave.  I am looking around at other options.  One thing I’d like is to have a blog that gave me more control of the format.  Some networks give you the ability to create categories for different subjects or for differing levels of security.  Even if I did blog elsewhere, I’d still come back here to visit.  I won’t abandon ship entirely.

I hadn’t heard of Reiss profiles.  That is a new one to me.  Thanks for telling me about it.  I did a quick search and it looks interesting.  Would you mind telling me more about it?  What is your interest in it?

I dig what you’re saying.  Its a different perspective than what I was focusing on, but is equally relevant.  I particularly like what you say about “connection with ones own purpose and authentic case”.  Yep!  I like authenticity in myself and in others.  For sure, life is unpredictable… like it or not.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
3 days later

1Vector3 said

What the heck is “vireality?”Sounds  ominous or interesting.

Ben you young whippersnapper, are you questioning my judgment????? This thread is already collective wisdom or I would not have put it into the library. So it doesn’t have to “live up to” worthiness on your HOPE !!!!  (stands with arms akimbo, glaring and with fondly smiling glint in eyes and playing around mouth.)
 
Know what you mean about formatting options on blogs. I’m getting into creating my church’s blog on blogspot, and I do appreciate the incredible creativity possible there. For example, a palette of colors for each of over a dozen elements of each blog! Even slideshows, just select the gizmo and put in the pictures !!!! Of course, it’s all a matter of funding here, our devs are working as hard as they can.

I’m very happy to NOT be appropriately wishing you Bon Voyage. Just Bonne Nuit, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

OM

Albert  : Warrior
3 days later

Albert said

Ben..lol..I just randomly picked up the thread.

Bon voyage simply means for me pursuing ones own odyssee. No matter where and in what realms. Every single day is a voyage in itself…

We need new maps for communication and connections of all kind. This hyperspace has so many dimensions. And I have given up the search for a TOE in communication. I love the unfolding mystery and simple experience of it..

A business partner once offered me to make a Reiss Profile. It reveals interesting points. However as I know dozens of typologies…they are not really triggering me. I am interested to see how reality is manifesting itself. And how deeply people are aligned to their authentic self.

If necessary even in a crazy and non consensual way. Spiritual, poltical and sexual correctness is bad and limiting syndrom for me. Maybe necessary for some mainstream consensus.

Your post is relevant as it opens even the door to questions about communication and comunion. As KW does in some writings. So it should not surprise you to see me here. …)

Albert  : Warrior
3 days later

Albert said

OM,

vireality is the Moebius stripe like interconnectness of virtual and real worlds. Emerging and evolving not as alternate realties but  as DNA like Double Helix.

Kevin Kelly has lots of it explored though not naming it this way.

The quote of Paulus Neef can be found in the inspiring book of German writer Bernhard von Mutius:

Die Verwandlung der Welt

www.dieverwandlungderwelt.de

Do not know if it is translated into English already.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
3 days later

Marmalade said

Partly because of my mood recently, I’ve been visiting some of the other groups I belong to.  The first groups I belonged to were typology and they’re still some of my favorites.  I know quite a few people from the very first community I belonged to and one of my favorite people happens to be visiting there right now.  Typology forums create an interesting environment where many people end up being very open about their personal lives.  It can make it easy to get to know people very quickly.

One of the people I know from the INFP forum is now mostly a pen pal meaning we mostly only communicate via e-mail.  She actually visited here once and even posted briefly on the God Pod, but she is too busy to spend much time online.  I was talking to her about how I was feeling about online communities.  Because she lacks the time, she understood how difficult it is.  She was saying how it takes a lot of effort to really connect to a community.  I know that trying to belong to multiple communities to satisfy all sides of myself takes way too much effort.

All of this made me think about two general categories of communities.  There are very focused groups that limit themselves to a single subject or to a single type of person.  And there are more general groups that emphasize the social networking aspect.  I suppose Gaia sorta falls somewhere in between, but probably a bit more on the focused side in that the original purpose of Zaadz was very focused and this influences the type of person that joins.  I guess most communities are focused in one way or another.

I prefer focused groups overall in that its easier to find people of a common interest.  But it leads you to interact through that one dimension.  On a typology forum, everything can turn into a typology discussion.  Gaia is more diverse, but even here not all sides of myself get satisfied.  Then again, no group probably exists where all sides of myself would be satisfied.

However, there are more general networking sites that contain focused groups.  Gaia somewhat achieves this with its pods, but its active pods represent a fairly narrow focus.  Bigger sites like Live Journal or Ning are the best examples of general groups.  On these networks, you can potentially meet anyone who has joined, but you can get as focused as you want by deciding which groups to joiin.  Ning, for instance, has groups for almost anything.  Ning has some small groups and it has some very large groups.  The groups I belong to at Ning include two integral groups, a philosophy group, and Netflix’s official forum.

However, I don’t know how well Ning does in encouraging people to connect across groups.  Gaia does this fairly well, and there are some other companies that specialize in this.  I believe that SocialGO and Multiply are networking sites that help individuals to more easily connect beyond mere group participation.

 Meenakshi : ~
3 days later

Meenakshi said

Ben, I came here through the collective wisdom pod.

Your blog is wonderful for me,as you can explore and share your feelings so clearly. This is one aspect of my life that grew later for me. In fact, it is still not grown, as I find maybe one person I can really open about feelings. Like starlight, at heart I am a loner. Or perhaps a lONEr. Interesting how that is, eh? One surrounded by left and right?

A large part of it, is because when we feel, we come fully into one experience. I have to be fully Meenakshi and only me; as you have to be fully you; and we are then separate and different.

When this happens, and we feel separate, others rush in [in a manner of speaking], and fill in the picture. Nicole comes with her warmth, Albert with ideas, and so on… As I read each comment, some resonate, some don’t, but seem like distant parts of a universe to which I belong. They show me paths to explore further when I am in a bon voyage mood–in the way that Albert describes it. So for me, community fills in the aspects of the wholeness that I leave to come into my feelings. When I look around me from the ground, I see all the people that I am or can be or won’t ever be or was; and I know that all this is that wholeness that OM has described so beautifully that it completely resonates. Because she wrote what she did, I don’t need to do that, and that helps me to go into another aspect.

So within the world experience, I know that somewhere there is deep loneliness, and I know that elsewhere there is deep communion.I use my inner guidance to “connect~don’t attach” to these experiences, feeling each as seems called upon.

 In loneliness, I connect to others who are lonely; which changes the energy to communion at a higher level. In communion, I hear the voices of loneliness, and can connect to that in healing. So as these feelings help with the flow of energy, all those philosophies make sense, each feeling seems relevant and having no-one to fully relate to; is exactly what helps me to relate to ONE.

Bowing deeply to you all, for this connection.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
3 days later

Marmalade said

I skipped over Nicole’s comment.  I’m getting too many commentors (with some long comments) to keep up with them all.  Yes, Nicole, that blog does feel like it was a while back.  It resonates quite well with tis one, but it didn’t get as many comments as this one.  I just realized that some of my most popular blogs are those where I complain about community and relationships.  I guess community is a favorite topic in this community.

Welcome to the discussion, Meenkashi!  At heart, I’m a loner too.  My best friend is also a loner and we often enjoy being alone together.  :)  Oddly, I’m more social online.  :))

 Meenakshi : ~
4 days later

Meenakshi said

I guess community is a favorite topic in this community.–good 1!

HeyOK : Bridgebuilder
4 days later

HeyOK said

Hello there Ben-
You say, “I guess community is a favorite topic in this community.”  That sums it up so nicely.

Wanting to connect and using the means available to do so, wondering what the connections mean and lead too.

I’m thankful for the points you’ve made and the sharing it’s brought.  Thank you for that!

Blessings, David

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
4 days later

Marmalade said

Hey HeyOK!  lol  I couldn’t help myself.

I’m glad people have enjoyed this blog and the discussion.  For me, this is something that is often on my mind.  I seem to be always thinking about relationships both on the small and large scale.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
4 days later

Marmalade said

I’m a fan of really long threads and so I’m going to add some more slightly related comments even though I’m sure I could start another blog at this point.

I’ve been perusing reviews and comparisons of the many social networking and related sites.  Its partly out of curiosity, but it definitely goes beyond that.  This all relates back to the subject of this discussion.  I originally picked Gaia to blog because of its community aspect.  Blogger and WordPress have better blogging capabilities, but they’re not community oriented.

My recent research about blogging sites has been more thorough because I widened my focus.  The first time I was looking for a place to blog, I only compared the few most popular sites.  The one that competed with Gaia in my attentions was Live Journal.  Some of the people I know from the typology world are on Live Journal and I do have an account there.  Gaia edged out Live Journal on one account.  The people here are maybe overall older and along with this maybe with more serious discussion such as with the Integral sector of this community.

Many of the more socially oriented sites cater to those of the younger generation.  I haven’t seen statistics, but I’ve heard people say this in reviews and it resonates with my own sense of such communities.  Similar to Live Journal is a blogging site called Xanga.  I’ve heard some people say that Live Journal isn’t really a blogging site, but I don’t know what they mean by that.  Maybe they mean in the way you can just keep your writings private.  Anyways, Live Journal is mostly like a social blogging site which is what Xanga is.

Okay… so, why am I bringing all of this up?  The thing is that I like to write, but I also like to have responses with some depth to them which can only come from getting to know others.  Its a balance in that I’m writing for my own purposes, but have come to enjoy the interactive aspects of being on a forum.  Social blogging seems like a happy medium.

However, everything is a tradeoff.  The blogging sites that are less social have the best blogging capabilities.  A place like Gaia has its advantages, but in many ways is a smaller community with a more limited focus.  The social blogging sites are very attractive in that they strike a balance between a large network and small groups, between blogging and social interaction, but they attract a younger less mature crowd.

Xanga stood out to me as having some potential.  It sounds like it emphasizes the social side of blogging more than any other site out there.  The concept of it is very innovative, but supposedly its filled with adolescent girls who write about adolescent girl types of things and without all that fancy punctuation and stuff.  But some people like it and if your friends are already on it, then the masses of youngsters wouldn’t be too bothersome.  Like anywhere, you certainly could find some very good bloggers there… and you’d just have to ignore the rest.  Then again, what good is the ability to socially connect easily if you don’t feel similar to most of the other bloggers?  The cool thing is that you can personalize your blog and connect your blog to blog rings of people of similar interests.  So, blogs can become more interactive.

If I was only interested in my own writing, I’d almost certainly go with Blogger.  Its easy to use and has a lot of flexibility.  Gaia is nice in a social sense, but the people I know here are mostly people I’ve met here.  The advantage of Live Journal might be that I know many people there who are members of other forum sites that I enjoy.  Ning is another one that interests me because I know some people there and already belong to several groups on it… besides, its the best network that does what it does which is a lot, but I’m unsure if its a place where bloggers connect with eachother much. 

I do have to choose, but choices don’t need to be absolutely exclusive.  I could blog at Blogger for purposes of giving me greater flexibility with my writing, but I still need to explore because Ning and SocialGO may give even greater flexibility as blogging can be integrated into a multiple page site that can also be a group network.  Whatever is the case, where I blog doesn’t have to be where I socialize.  I can connect my blog to the sites where I socialize.  For instance, I have my Gaia blog linked in the tag line of my posts at several of the forums I visit.

My writing is my main interest even before the enjoyment of being a part of a nice community of interesting people.  Most simply, I just want to write and community can even be a distraction from that.  And yet I’m drawn to connect maybe even because its a distraction from being too lost in my own thoughts.  Balance is key… I guess.

Ain’t life funny?  Oh, the dilemmas!  It probably doesn’t matter too much.  Maybe I just like endlessly considering my options to no end at all.  lol

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
4 days later

Marmalade said

I just had one other thought.  I promise… its the last… for tonight that is.

A big thing for me about a site is the feeling of it.  This can have a lot to do with how the site is set up, but its more about the social aspects itself.  What is the purpose of the site, the purpose of the person(s) who started it?  What are the rules and how do the moderators keep order?  What kind of person does it attract, how do they interact, and what do they discuss?  What is the culture that has developed?  Is it stable and are the people committed to it?  Does it have cliques or is it friendly?

My assessment of Gaia is that its one of the most open and welcoming of communities I’ve belonged to online.  Its very laid back.  The only site that compares is the INFP forum.  Both of the sites have people who are very self-moderating which translates as that they attract people who value as much how they relate as they do what they discuss. 

That magical element of self-moderation is extremely rare.  Even many ‘spiritual’ forums I’ve been on lack this.  I know from experience that less laid back forums can just be tiring even in the most basic of interactions.

The challenge in exploring new sites is that you often can’t know the feeling of it until you immerse yourself in the community for some length of time.  Looking at reviews and comparisons can only point me in the directions of possibilities, but I still have to directly explore those possibilities.  I’m just going to have to play around and feel it out.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
5 days later

1Vector3 said

I have only a moment to spare this morning, Ben, but a couple of responses: I have often wondered about the other social networking sites others find valuable or interesting, but I feel SOOOO monogamous with Gaia Community I haven’t gone exploring. I really appreciate your doing the legwork and reporting back your perceptions !!!!! :))

Endlessly exploring possibilities…. Hmmm….. I vaguely recall that might be an Intuitive thingy?  :))))) Or you might be a Gemini. We do that too. I feel claustrophobic without options – even though as I just gave an example of, I can sometimes settle on one and be quite loyal……. Most of the time I just love exploring possibilities, but then I end up ranking them for usefulness for some purpose, and seeking to apply or implement. That’s why I am Sensation and not Intuitive…..

On Thanksgiving Day, I include you amongst my blessings.

OM

Marmalade : Gaia Child
5 days later

Marmalade said

Yep, OM.  I understand the monogamous attitude.  I felt entirely at home with the INFP forum which was the first I joined.  I thought of it as my online home, but it had obvious limitations for my interests.  Unlike Gaia, it was smaller and less active, and with a less stable community.  Using your metaphor, my monogamous partner wasn’t always in the mood and so I went looking for others to satisfy my needs.  I learned polygamy has its advantages.  lol

You are correct, though, that endlessly exploring possibilities is more of an Intuitive thingy… in particular, an Extraverted Intuitive thingy.  (Its a blessing and a curse.)  But nope I’m not a Gemini… Sagittarius in fact.  Sagittarius are of the travelling sort, so they say, which can either mean travelling in the physical sense or the intellectual sense depending on the whol Extraversion/Introversion thingy.  I cover immense territory… in my mind.  :)

Blessings to you as well… and blessings to the turkeys on this day of their massacre.

Marm

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
5 days later

Marmalade said

Along with OM adding this discussion to the Collective Wisdom pod, Meenkashi also added it to a new thread she just started in Gaia Networking.  This is explicit advertising for Meenkashi’s thread.  Go there and add any other blogs on community, interaction, communication.

Blogs on Community, Interaction, Communication

Web Participation

Web Participation

Posted on Nov 15th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
From the blog Personalize Media by Gary Hayes:

Humanity Slowly Returns to Creativity – 64% of teenagers engage in content creation

Web 2.0 and the Myth of Non-Participation

A commentor responded to the former blog with a disagreeing blog response:

kakotopia

And another blogger linked to their blog where I noticed this paper with a more cynical viewpoint:

User Generated Content: From Participation to Exploitation
By Søren Mørk Petersen

Access_public Access: Public What do you think? Print Post this!views (115)  

Interesting Stuff on the Web: 1/13/10

Jesus Had A Cat [PIC]

This is, of course, assuming that Jesus himself wasn’t a cat.  Anyways, a lion-maned savior “walking on water” isn’t any great surprise for those familiar with astrotheology.

The Americanization of Mental Illness

It’s because of this kind of in-depth article that I appreciate The New York Times so much.

This is an area of study that fascinates me.  Mental illness and culture are topics of interest on their own, but combined they offer much insight.  As an American, it is easy to forget how different the world looks from the point of view of other cultures. 

Sadly, not only is ecological diversity dying out but so is cultural diversity.  I truly hope that Americanization never becomes entirely complete.

Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?

The view presented in this article should confirm what many intellectual elite liberals already knew, but it may seem counter-intuitive or morally questionable to certain conservatives (i.e., those who think it’s a criticism to call someone intelligent and well-educated).

That insight led Mr. Martin to begin advocating what was then a radical idea in business education: that students needed to learn how to think critically and creatively every bit as much as they needed to learn finance or accounting. More specifically, they needed to learn how to approach problems from many perspectives and to combine various approaches to find innovative solutions.

In 1999, few others in the business-school world shared Mr. Martin’s view. But a decade and a seismic economic downturn later, things have changed. “I think there’s a feeling that people need to sharpen their thinking skills, whether it’s questioning assumptions, or looking at problems from multiple points of view,” says David A. Garvin, a Harvard Business School professor who is co-author with Srikant M. Datar and Patrick G. Cullen of an upcoming book, “Rethinking the M.B.A.: Business Education at a Crossroads.”

Learning how to think critically — how to imaginatively frame questions and consider multiple perspectives — has historically been associated with a liberal arts education, not a business school curriculum, so this change represents something of a tectonic shift for business school leaders. Mr. Martin even describes his goal as a kind of “liberal arts M.B.A.”

“The liberal arts desire,” he says, is to produce “holistic thinkers who think broadly and make these important moral decisions. I have the same goal.”

Considering multiple perspectives, dismissed as relativism by conservatives, is something that liberals excel at.  Liberal arts education lost it’s favor in recent decades.  The only thing students cared about was getting careers that made lots of money and so they got degrees in business and management.  The problem is that our democracy was built on the ideal of liberal arts education.  Having a widely educated public is supposed to make for a better voting public, but it turns out that it makes someone a better thinker in all areas of life including business.

This reminds me of how I once had some unintentional influence.  I believe it was sometime shortly after highschool.  I argued to my dad about the importance of critical thinking in that the human ability to use logic is one of the few things that truly differentiates humans from the rest of nature.  My dad was a professor of business management at the time and it just so happened that he was participating in a discussion about the curriculum of business majors.  Based on my argument, my dad suggested that logic courses should be included and I think his suggestion was accepted.

This article doesn’t provide any grand insight, but apparently it’s an insight that many people in the business field have so far lacked.  My dad was a proponent for teaching ethics to business students and I think it’s clear that ethics is inseparable from critical thinking skills.  It’s too bad that it took an economic downturn for leaders in the business field to figure this out.

Let’s Talk About Faith

The author made starts off with some decent points, but then offered some questionable analysis about the specific incident in question.  On the other hand, I did appreciate some of the comments.

13. Ken: Mr. Hume is a news host/reporter on FOX News. He is not a guest theologian who is invited to compare religions. Should Katie Couric over at CBS proclaim her religious views? What about Sawyer at CBS, Williams at NBC, etc.? Mr. Douthat should be astute enough to know that Mr. Hume was playing to the religious/cultural tendencies of his audience. As I am an Evangelical Christian, I would love for Tiger Woods and all people to come to Christ. However, the misuse of public airwaves, and the put down of Buddhism, exhibited by Mr. Hume is not the way to win converts.

107. jj: This column is a somewhat disingenuous, face-value analysis. I don’t think the problem with Brit Hume’s statement was any factual debate over whether Christianity offers a forgiveness or compassion that Buddhism does not. What I found outrageous was the arrogance and implied superiority Hume exhibited, in holding up his religion as a model for someone else.

I think that the tendency – even requirement, as you noted here – to proselytize is one of the most repellent things about Christianity (the same can be said for any religion that actively seeks to convert non-believers). Hume’s statement reflected the same condescension and patronizing arrogance that missionaries world over practice, in taking their beacon of light into the benighted lands. Buddhism is not a missionary religion.

The only forgiveness that Tiger Woods needs is from his family – certainly not from us, and not from someone else’s god. And theology is not the most important debate there is, particularly for those of us who are non-religious. Morality is.

126. Gloria Endres: I think what bothers people most about the Brit Hume comments is the hubris he showed in denigrating the Buddhist religion from a one sided and very public national forum that most of us do not have.

He was not a theologian or clergyman having a nice philosophical discussion about the merits of his faith with another theologian, but a talking head engaged in a one sided condemnation of another person’s personal beliefs. It sounded exactly what it was – bigoted and rude.

If Mr. Hume really had Tiger’s salvation at heart, he could have offered to meet with him in a private conversation and offered him his counsel for improving his situation, man to man. Woods would have had the option of politely accepting or declining the invitation. The shock of it was that Hume decided unilaterally to make the suggestion publicly and with no chance at a “no, thank you” from Woods.

Coming from someone who is neither a pastor nor personal friend, it sounded crass and highly offensive.

127. Rob: I’m not bothered that Mr. Hume voiced the opinions he did — I strongly defend his right to free speech and free opinions. However, I’m very bothered that we all refer to him as a “news analyst” on “Fox News”, instead of as a “commentator” on “Fox Opinions”. The latter is accurate; the former is a dangerous blurring of the very thick line between objective news analysis and evangelizing.

 Religion and Women

A nice op-ed piece about the relationship of religion and human rights. 

It can’t be denied that many holy texts and many religious histories offer examples of atrocious beliefs and behaviors.  Religious people aren’t wrong when they quote their favored text to support slavery or oppression of women because there are passages that directly support such things.  Monotheism in particular has clear messages in support of slavery and oppression of women… which goes back to the 10 commandments (it states that you shouldn’t covet you neighbors property with ‘property’ being defined as including your neighbors wife and slaves; and that is the very same 10 commandments that Christians would like to have put on the walls of courthouses and schools).

This reminds me of two things.  First, Derrick Jensen’s book The Culture of Make Believe is an awesome book that analyzes this in detail.  Second, I was reading about the beginnings of the culture wars. 

The culture wars began with anti-communism and the Republican fight against the New Deal.  At one time, Republicans were supportive of some civil rights and they criticized the KKK.  However, when the Democrats embraced civil rights, the Republicans turned their back on the poor and took up the Southern Strategy to steal the Democrat’s southern base.  This worked for the Republican party, but this led to odd results.  In poor states, the rich vote for Republicans and the poor vote for Democrats.  In rich states, both poor and rich vote for Democrats.  The swing states are the middle income states and the swing voters are the middle class. 

The interesting part is that Republicans became the party that was against communism and socialism, and the two were seen as the same.  As the socialists in this country were for civil rights, the Republicans became the party that opposed government intervention into civil rights issues.  This seems odd at first glance considering that the Southern Strategy also made the GOP the party of the religious right.  You’d think that Christians would be for helping the poor and underprivileged, but that isn’t the case for the religious right because the fear of communists/socialists was greater than their love of the gospel.

How News Happens: A Study of the News Ecosystem of One American City

The study, which examined all the outlets that produced local news in Baltimore, Md., for one week, surveyed their output and then did a closer examination of six major narratives during the week, finds that much of the “news” people receive contains no original reporting. Fully eight out of ten stories studied simply repeated or repackaged previously published information.

And of the stories that did contain new information nearly all, 95%, came from traditional media—most of them newspapers. These stories then tended to set the narrative agenda for most other media outlets.

I’m not surprised, but it does dissapoint me.  The newspapers do a mediocre job of reporting.  The failure of our political system largely rests on the major media such as newspapers that set the narrative agenda.

What dissapoints me is that the newspapers aren’t creating most of the new information, but they are creating most of the new information that gets read by most people.  There are many organizations that report on various issues.  These organizations often focus solely on a particular issue or area of study and they do very detailed investigations.  Newspaper reporters depend on these kinds of organizations to discover news stories that exist outside of press releases. 

Newspapers are shrinking and doing less investigative reporting.  The fact that the public is so dependent on them is a sad state of affairs. 

What papers do well is less about offering new information and more about offering information that has been filtered and analyzed.  If you want to consider simply the factor of new information, twitter beats all of the news media combined.  Even news media watches twitter to discover emerging trends and breaking news, but the average person doesn’t want to follow thousands of twitterers in order to discover random bits of new information.

Two defense contractors indicted in shooting of Afghans

I don’t know too much about this incident, but I have researched some of the history of Blackwater.  This incident seems to be systemic to the entire organization as this isn’t an isolated event.  I always wonder why upper level officials are rarely held accountable.  The way Blackwater employees acted would appear to be grounded in how they were trained and the general policies of the company.

This is similar to other types of organizations.  Consider the case of the FBI vs Judi Bari.  The FBI agents involved were found guilty, but it was obvious that the responsibility went beyond just some low level employees.  The FBI upper level management were simply untouchable by the court system.  Or consider the torture situation.  It was obvious that many people in the military and in Washington knew what was going on at various military detainment prisons, but those who were ultimately culpable never were charged or even investigated to any extent. 

There are hundreds of examples like this.  A number of US politicians and military leaders have been charged of crimes against humanity and yet they walk free.  And just consider the enormous number of corporate crimes and how it’s rare for wealthy people to spend much time in prison (if any time at all).  Some corporate criminals have stolen more money by themselves than all of the thiefs held in prison combined.

We don’t live in a just society.

A Fight for the Homeless and Against Authority

This guy is the kind of libertarian that I’m so fond of.  If you actually want to help the poor and homeless, there is no way to do it but fight those in power.

“I believe he truly does care for the people he takes in,” said Bruce Gibson, the outgoing chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors. “And there’s only one thing he cares more about. And that’s fighting with the county.”

Mr. de Vaul admits to enjoying battling local officials, but he also says he has been shaken by his prosecution.

“What I’m saying is that I’m in over my head,” Mr. de Vaul said. “And because I don’t like authority, I’m not going to give up.”

Millennials: They’re Younger – But Their Preferences Aren’t That Different

There was one detail about this survey that caught my attention.  Millennials and GenXers are on the same page when it comes to technology and the internet.  These are the two generations that are now taking over the work force and positions of leadership.  Because of various reasons including economics, Boomers have been slow to leave the work force and positions of leadership, but it’s inevitable that the Boomers will be leaving in large numbers in this upcoming decade. 

We are in a transition right now.  Once that transition is complete, the entire work force and the positions of leadership will be filled with the technology embracing generations.  I don’t know if that is good or bad, but there are massive changes on the horizon.

This is why Republicans are so worried [PIC]

From looking at demographics, I already knew that the younger generation was liberal to moderate on most issues.  All of this is interesting as the conservative movement has been fleeing the moderate position and attacking all moderate Republicans.  If the GOP simply stopped catering to extremists (most of them being of the religious variety) and returned to an egalitarian form of libertarianism, they could quite possibly attract many of these younger voters.

Her GOP Critics Unleashed, Will Palin Fire Back?

Palin is joining Fox News and speaking at the first tea party convention which is the movement backed by Fox News.  Palin, Fox News, and tea party leaders have been attacking many GOP politicians. 

Within the tea party movement, many of the Ron Paul libertarians are critical of their movement having been taken over by Fox News and the Beckheads.  In the near future, the real libertarians are going to start causing problems for the career politicians like Palin who simply want to take over the GOP.

It makes me excited.  The conservative movement is going to get really ugly when all these folks turn on eachother.

The former Alaska governor’s memoir did, in fact, outrage many people involved in the McCain-Palin operation. They saw in the book an array of the same qualities they had come to discern in her during the two months of the general election: the self-serving habits, the vindictiveness, the distant relationship with the truth. For McCainworld, all the old feelings toward Palin came back in a rush. But except for chief strategist Steve Schmidt’s concise dis of the book (“fiction”) and communications adviser Nicolle Wallace’s somewhat more lengthy refutation on The Rachel Maddow Show, virtually everyone else in the McCain-Palin orbit abided by the Senator’s wishes — keeping the secrets of the campaign secret.

Until this week, that is. With the publication of our book Game Change and the appearance of Schmidt on 60 Minutes in a piece discussing our reporting, much of the truth about Palin has begun to emerge. The questions are how she might respond and what effect the turn of events will have on her future — a future that now includes a gig at Fox News.

The picture presented in Game Change of Palin’s emergence as national phenomenon — and the real Palin behind her public persona — is often startling and sometimes shocking. The scantness of the vetting she received before being placed on the Republican ticket. Her substantive deficiencies, even more dramatic than those that had previously been reported: her lack of understanding about why there are two Koreas, her ignorance about the function of the Federal Reserve, her belief that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. The fact that, at her lowest moments during preparation for her debate against Joe Biden, some senior McCain aides worried that she was mentally unstable. And, ultimately, their fears that she wasn’t up to the job of being Vice President.

Adding to the picture are the revelations that Schmidt brought forward on 60 Minutes — in particular, her habitual shading of the truth in ways that exposed the campaign to extreme political vulnerability. “You know, it [was] the equivalent of saying down is up and up is down,” Schmidt told Anderson Cooper on the program. “[She routinely said things] that were provably, demonstrably untrue.”

No Seat for Wall Street at Tea Party

Judson Phillips, a Tennessee attorney and organizer of the convention, says the tea-party movement, disparate as it is, includes many people “who believe that Congress pays far too much attention to Wall Street and not enough attention to Main Street.” Tea-party rallies, he says, draw a lot of small businessmen and women frustrated at their own inability to get capital while big banks prosper, and thus inclined to think the deck is stacked against them.

Asked specifically about Wall Street bonuses, Mr. Phillips replies: “I think the reaction of most people in the tea-party movement is going to be this: If a company is doing well, they don’t have a problem with it. Most people in the tea-party movement are capitalists….If the company in question is one that received a government bailout — totally different story. Most people in the tea-party movement don’t believe in the concept of too big to fail.”

Would a transnational mega-corporation such as News Corp that is behind Fox News support the tea party movement if they thought it was against the financial interests of transnational mega-corporations? The tea party was originally the party of Ron Paul. Many Fox News pundits such as Glenn Beck criticized, ridiculed, and dismissed Ron Paul. After undermining Ron Paul’s movement, Glenn Beck (and Fox News in general) has attempted to take over Ron Paul’s movement and call it his own.

Many in the tea party have as much faith in the market as they do in God. It goes back to the earliest Christians who came to America. They believed that being rich was an outward sign of being saved. This is why the lower middle class tea party movement trusts the rich and distrusts those even more poor than they are. This same mentality has led the legal system to be tough on crimes of the poor all the while going easy on the crimes of the rich.

The problem with the government we have right now is that it’s neither capitalism nor socialism. It’s a soft form of fascism where the line between govt and capitalism is so blurred as to almost not exist at all. The bailouts are a problem, but just focusing on them would be to ignore the real problem. If a free market is to exist, the influence of big money needs to be taken out of Washington. I don’t know what the exact solution is, but the government we have doesn’t serve the average person of any political persuasion.

Free markets only can be held accountable if the general public can have direct influence on the companies they work for and have money invested in. When companies become transnation megacorporations, they become so big that they can’t be controlled and instead usurp control. Free markets like democracy only work on the small level of direct participation of the citizenry and direct accountability to specific communities.

The problem of our system is that there is a deep inconsistency. The political system was set up with divisions of power because it was assumed that individuals aren’t to be trusted with too much power. On the other hand, the mainstream has had naive trust in capitalism based on an assumption of enlightened selfishness. The problem is that these two beliefs are at odds. Many people in politics were once worked for or owned private corporations, and many people working for or owning private corporations were once politicians. There is a revolving door between them.

The tea party’s trust of capitalism and mistrust of government makes absolutely no sense. What makes an individual trustworthy when they are privately employed but use their personal connections to influence politics but untrustworthy when they become a politician with personal connections to private corporations?

There are very few political groups demanding that corpoations be held accountable to their shareholders. And one of these few are the socialists (such as Noam Chomsky). Socialism is in reality the complete opposite of big government. Instead, with socialism, companies are directly accountable to the people who work for them and to the communities they effect… and, of course, to their shareholders. Neither democracy nor free markets can exist on a large scale. When companies and governments become too big, they can’t be controlled by the people and instead act to control the people. Whether we are ruled by big government or big business, it’s all the same.

Socialism is simply the counter-balance to libertarianism. Libertarians believe that the powers that be should quit meddling with our lives and communities. Socialists believe that we as individuals and communities should take personal responsibility to force those in power to be accountible. However, if libertarians merely take power away from government, big business will fill the void and simply become the new political force. And if socialists put their faith in the present faux democracy, the government will continue on as before.

The tricky part is how does power get put back in the hands of individuals and small business owners, of communities and workers. Basically, what this is about is the need for grass roots activism that can fight against being taken over by big business astro turf. Grass roots activism has to be rooted in communities. People have to know and trust eachother and have to be fighting for a common cause.

Unfortunately, the tea party at present doesn’t fit the bill. There may be some factions of genuine grass roots within the tea party. Instead of fighting outside forces of the evil Democrats, for right now the grass roots activists should be fighting to take back their movement from Fox News and the GOP.

The difficulty these days is that grass roots can’t easily be differentiated from astro turf. Even astro turf movements have genuine grass roots activists. That is exactly what the astro turf manipulators want. The real grass roots activists lend the astro turf movement credibility, and then propaganda and spin is used to manipulate the movement. The interesting thing about astro turf is that most people in such a movement don’t even know who is in control.

Even the government used to be in the business of astro turf. The FBI had its COINTELPRO where they’d infiltrate grass roots organizations. Once infiltrated, they’d either destroy the organization or take over positions of leadership. The average person wouldn’t even notice anything had changed. The same techniques used by the FBI are essentially what private companies use as well. The difference is that this kind of activity became illegal for the FBI to be involved with, but it’s perfectly legal for private corporations.

Interesting Stuff on the Web: 12/28/09

Cat Cams: What DO Cats Do Home Alone?

Based on the photos, about 22 percent of the cats’ time was spent looking out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact with other family pets and 8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.

[...]  The 777 photos studied by Villarreal showed the cats looking at a television, computer, DVDs or other media 6 percent of the time and hiding under tables 6 percent of the time.

Coming in at 5 percent was playing with toys; eating or looking at food finished at 4 percent.

There goes the theory that cats just lay around sleeping all day.

Lessons from Obama’s first year

A decent analysis of Obama as a person and a president.

As books go beyond printed page to multisensory experience, what about reading?

A fairly extensive article on the developing technology of reading.

Adding Fees and Fences on Media Sites

People who have studied the problem argue that charging online would work only if consumers were offered a much-improved product with the convenience of access anywhere, on any digital device — the core idea behind the magazine consortium and its planned online store.

By that standard, much of the talk of wringing more money from Internet users rings hollow, said Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University and a prominent blogger on media subjects. “People who really think we have to charge or the industry is sunk would be more persuasive if they said at the same time we have to add more value than we’ve been adding,” he said.

And, most industry experts agree, entertainment will be easier to charge for than news. It may be hard to prevent free distribution of an episode of “The Office” or “NCIS,” but the product is unique, with no substitute being created by someone else.

A small number of publications already charge for Internet access, including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Newsday, Consumer Reports and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. But they tend to be either specialty products or near-monopolies in local markets, and they generally do not charge enough to fundamentally alter their profit pictures.

But for most general-interest news, any paid site would be competing with alternative versions of the same articles, delivered by multiple free news sources.

“One of the problems is newspapers fired so many journalists and turned them loose to start so many blogs,” Mr. Mutter said. “They should have executed them. They wouldn’t have had competition. But they foolishly let them out alive.”

I’ve never had a subscription to a newspaper or even any mainstream news magazine.  Even with speciality magazines, I only by them rarely and have only had one subscription in my adult life.  When I go to work, there is are various local newspapers laying around that I read sometimes, but that was true before the internet as well.  I actually read the newspaper more since the newspapers have gone online.  If I read a an article in a physical publication, it’s not unusual for me then to visit the article on the web to see if there are comments.

I’m not willing to pay nor will I ever be willing to pay for most publications.  However, I might be willing to pay for a site that provided access to a wide variety of publications.  At the moment, the only online products I’m willing to pay for are Netflix, Rhapsody and certain tv shows available from Amazon Video On Demand.  Oddly, though, I spend maybe most of my time watching Hulu which is a free service supported by advertising. 

I agree with the article that there is, however, a big difference between news and entertainment.  There are plenty of free online news sources and many of them are quality, but I actually enjoy quite a bit the online news sources that only came into existence after the internet.  As long as quality free news reporting, I won’t feel very motivated to support large news organizations that have high overhead.  The only way I’d feel overly motivated to pay for access to a news website is if they offered massive investigative reporting, long interviews with experts rather than just professional tallking heads, and in-depth analysis and commentary.  At present, the major paid news sources aren’t offering anything worth paying much for.

Gay Candidates Get Support That Causes May Not

Some political scientists say the rise in openly gay candidates’ winning public office is a better barometer of societal attitudes than are the high-profile fights over same-sex marriage.

“Gay marriage ballot measures are not the best measure,” said Patrick J. Egan, a political scientist at New York University who studies issues surrounding gay politicians. “They happen to be about the one issue the public is most uncomfortable with. In a sense, they don’t give us a real good picture of the opinion trend over the last 30 years.”

For instance, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago has been polling people since 1973 about whether homosexual behavior is morally wrong. In 1973, 73 percent of the people polled described it as always wrong and only 11 percent as “not wrong.” By 2006, those saying homosexuality was “always wrong” had dropped to 56 percent, and 32 percent said it was not wrong.

One reason for the shift in attitudes, some political scientists contend, is a rising number of gays acknowledging their sexual preference openly in various walks of life, from workers on factory floors to Hollywood stars.

“More and more people have been coming out,” said Sean Theriault, a political scientist at the University of Texas who tracks gay politics. “Ten years ago, you could talk to a lot of people who didn’t know a single gay person, and now, especially in the cities, you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know anyone who is gay.”

Yet, most of the openly gay politicians who have won races recently have done so by avoiding being labeled as single-issue candidates, several gay politicians said.

[...] their opponents are often unwilling to attack them directly about their sexual orientation, though smear campaigns often are carried out through proxies, as happened in Houston.

[...]  One key to victory for gay politicians has been building reputations in their communities as candidates well qualified for the job. Voters who may be uncomfortable with homosexuality in the abstract are often willing to vote for a gay individual they feel they know, political strategists said.

[...]  “It’s like anything else,” Ms. Valdez said in an interview. “When it becomes close and personal, it’s not hateful anymore.”

Despite the politicians and the news media focusing on divisive wedge issues, homosexuality has become socially acceptable and normalized.  The wedge issues will remain potent political fodder for some time to come, but they’ll become ever less useful as campaign platforms.  The problem the GOP is experiencing now is that their focus on divisive issues is dividing the party itself and so many people have stopped identifying as Republicans.

Interesting Stuff on the Web: 12/25/09

I sometimes feel critical of the New Atheists, but Dawkins seems rather moderate and reasonable in this video.  But, even with his more liberal use of the term ‘atheist’, I’d still consider myself agnostic.

Dreamy Sales of Jung Book Stir Analysis

This gives me hope for humanity.  The book that Jung considered the expression of his soul is selling extremely well.  It’s rather expensive, it’s the most massive book I’ve ever owned, and it’s as far opposite of light reading as a book can get.  It helps that The New York Times has been hyping it up, but the question is why has The New York Times published several detailed articles about it.  Carl Jung isn’t exactly a big name outside of the intellectual elite.  Even those who know of him rarely actually read his work and this book is a more challenging read than any typical book written by Jung.

I think it must be one of those signs of the times.

“I think that when times are tough, the people are very aware of what is ethereal and also what is peripheral, like all the little new toys that come out,” said Barbara Meade, an owner of Politics and Prose, an independent bookstore in Washington that has sold 25 copies. “Somehow books seem to be something that is a lasting value.”

The Power of Magical Thinking

“You want to find a balance to lets [children] be open to possibility but also to question,” says Dr. Woolley.

Fantasy play is correlated with other positive attributes. In preschool children, for example, those who have imaginary friends are more creative, have greater social understanding and are better at taking the perspective of others, according to Marjorie Taylor, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon and author of the book “Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them.”

I love reading about this kind of research, but I’ve already read about similar research before.  I know a while back I posted about some research that correlated 3 factors which I think were maybe imagination, empathy (or emotional intelligence), and spiritual experience… or something like that.  It’s interesting how certain traits correlate.

From my studies of personality, the results of this kind of research is far from surprising.  But there is one aspect that does offer some possible new insight.  In MBTI terms, imagination and empathy would be considered separate functions, but from a pairing perspective our society often associates N with F and the NF types are the most imaginative and empathetic of the types (NFs certainly would be the kids with imaginary friends).

There was some other research I came across recently, but I can’t remember where I saw it.  The only part I recall was that there was a correlation between people who think in pictures and a lack of empathy.  This actually makes sense.  To picture something it is to externalize it which is different than imaginative role-playing where the perspective is inhabited.  So, it probably is important to distinguish imagination from mere visualization.

I noticed some nice comments to this article:

Scott Hadley: My kid knows the garbage man is real because he’s been looking at him as long as he’s been able to look out the window. The garbage man is the guy with the truck that has the hydraulic arm dumps the bins into the back. No mystery there.

He does have one helluva imagination though.

On an unrelated note does this research remind anyone of the movie Blade Runner?

I hadn’t thought of Blade Runner while reading it, but now that you mention it…

PKD was concerned about how empathy relates to understanding what it means to be human. Also, the androids had false memories installed which allowed them to experience themselves as human. Instead of having imaginary friends, their whole identity was imaginary. But oddly this allowed for the possibility that the androids could in some sense experience (or feel) even more intensely (such as the last scened with Roy Batty).

It’s in imagining that we learn what is real. Those who are deficient in this ability never fully learn to understand reality outside of their own limited experience.

Laurence Gebhardt: Related research suggests we go through three stages in belief development.

A first stage is time of naivete where in childish ways we literally believe in reality concepts told to us by adults and authority figures. Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, the magic star over Bethlehem, flat earth, ancient wisdom, fundamentalist concepts, etc. Some people get stuck in naive literal-realtiy beliefs throughout life.

A second stage is critical thinking where we discover that some naive beliefs are not literally true or real for us. Sometimes people get stuck in this stage and become cynical, as atheists, about anything that cannot be empirically-analytically and 100% proven to be ‘truth’ when suspected to be a false belief teaching of self-serving authority figures. Climate change may be considered a naive belief when critical thinking reveals that not 100% of scientists agree on precise causal factors.

A third stage around beliefs and reality may be called post-critical naivete. In this stage we recall belief in Santa Claus as naive after our critical thinking experience but then discover the profound truth about a spirit of giving to others symbolized by Santa Claus. Or the Tooth Fairy is an early-stage Bar Mitzvah rite of passage to be continued with our own children. Much ancient wisdom, scientific hypothesis not yet fully understood, and prophetic voices in all times and ages reveal post-critical profound truths that we should neither naively accept nor critically reject but rather search for ultimate reality as a strong basis for thinking and living.

Jared Diamond’s book Collapse describes societies that became stuck in both naivete and critical thinking when they failed to discover and take action on profound truths of reality in slowly-changing phenomena. Dr. Suess’ story The Lorax is a yet another fable of environmental overload but with profound truth in an age of consumerism in a linear (non-sustainable) material economy and global population growth.

Research and theory in this area is fascinating.

I’m personally a fan of Spiral Dynamics which is a similar model. It can be applied to both individual and collective development.

Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too

Just a nice article about how scientists are learning that plants aren’t as mindlessly passive as we once thought they were.  Whether or not they’re conscious in a human sense, plants are aware of their environment and respond to it.  When you go to pick a plant to eat it, the plant does it’s best to defend itself.  Like any life form, plants try to avoid death.  And, as plants can’t move very easily, they’ve become quite inventive in fending off predators.  This also reminds me of how scientists are starting to learn that more plants act as predators in a carnivorous fashion.

The Body Electric

Now this is very very interesting.

Two years ago, in his book “Rocketeers,” Michael Belfiore celebrated the pioneers of the budding private space industry. Now he has returned to explore a frontier closer to home. The heroes of his new book, “The Department of Mad Scientists,” work for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as Darpa, a secretive arm of the United States government. And the revolution they’re leading is a merger of humans with machines.

The revolution is happening before our eyes, but we don’t recognize it, because it’s incremental.

I’ve noticed that about the incremental nature of technological development.  I live in a house that is more than a hundred years old and it’s filled with all kinds of new technologies, but even so the structure of the house remains basically the same.  Wires, cables and pipes run through the walls where once the walls were empty.  A kitchen, for example, doesn’t look that different from a kitchen in the past because new technologies are built to fit in with the old.

Climate Change: How Fast Is the Earth Shifting?

Writing in a paper published Wednesday in Nature, scientists describe what they call the velocity of climate change, or more specifically, the speed of Earth’s shifting climatic zones. As global temperature rises over the next century, the scientists argue, Earth’s habitable climatic zones will start moving too, generally away from the Equator and toward the poles. That means many species of plants and animals will also have to move in order to survive. Whether or not they do will depend on several factors, but two of the most important are how fast a species can adjust its habitat range, and how quickly that range is moving out from under it.

Until now, ecologists have mostly focused on these factors as they affect individual species, but the new paper takes a more global view. By combining temperature projections on a very fine scale with global topographic maps, researchers have predicted change not for specific species, but for the climatic zones they need to keep up with.

Indeed, because global temperature is rising now, ecosystems are already on the move.

[...]

More than intuitive, this new index could also prove very useful, especially to conservationists who work to keep species from extinction. While the average velocity of climate change may be a bit less than a half-kilometer per year worldwide, according to the paper, it can be significantly faster or slower depending on the local topography. In deserts and other flat areas, such as the Amazon basin, climatic zones will move faster, while hilly or mountainous terrain will slow things up. “In the Northern Hemisphere, for example,” explains lead author Scott Loarie, “north-facing slopes tend to be cooler and wetter than south-facing slopes.”

In short, opposite sides of a mountain may have different climates, even though they’re close to each other. In areas with varied terrain including lots of hills, therefore, hospitable conditions might be available relatively nearby. “That was the unexpected message,” says Loarie, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University. “There’s lots of buffering capacity in heterogeneous landscapes.”

That is fascinating.  The problem with countering such global problems is first to try to understand them using clear models.

The conclusion presented here makes a lot of sense.  I can think of a local example from the last global climate change.  There is a species of snail that lives in certain types of caves in Iowa.  This species was previously thought to have gone extinct after the end of the ice age, but it survived in small pockets because of the “heterogenous landscapes” around here.  Parts of Iowa are very hilly with cave formations, but these caves are unique.  The way they’re structured they capture ice in the winter and the ice slowly melts the rest of the year.  It never fully melts and so the caves remain very cool which is the ecological niche that the snails need.

However, with global warming, this ecological niche may disappear.  The article brings up the issue of whether scientists should try to move species in order to save them since “only 8% of the world’s national parks and other preserves will retain their current climate over the next century”.

Banks Bundled Bad Debt, Bet Against It and Won

This article is just one of the many ways American culture has been corrupted.  Unfortunately, these issues will never get as much press focus as they deserve.  The financial interests who own the news are tied into mega-corporations that include these types of banks or else are tied through other various interested parties who have much control.

A major problem at present is that the the extreme rightwing is attacking any attempts at government regulation and so are making the problem worse.  I suspect nothing is going to change unless there is a revolution, but the extreme rightwingers most loudly calling for revolution are the mostly ignorantly clueless group in America.  Ignorant masses, manipulated voting public, controlled media propaganda… American democracy is dead in the water.

At this point, it’s probably too late.  If you try to reinstate regulation, the bankers and other powers that be will manipulate the bills as they get passed and will continue to game the system.  Big business and big government have essentially become indistinguishable and so any regulation becomes a pretense.

A culture war cease-fire

In this highly partisan year, we did not see a sharpening of the battles over religion and culture.

Yes, we continued to fight over gay marriage, and arguments about abortion were a feature of the health-care debate. But what’s more striking is that other issues — notably economics and the role of government — trumped culture and religion in the public square. The culture wars went into recession along with the economy.

The most important transformation occurred on the right end of politics. For now, the loudest and most activist sections of the conservative cause are not its religious voices but the mostly secular, anti-government tea party activists.

Especially revealing is the re-emergence of former House majority leader Dick Armey, a prime mover behind the tea parties and a longtime critic of the religious right. He once said that James Dobson of Focus on the Family and his allies were a “gang of thugs” and “real nasty bullies.”

I think what has happened is that the culture war has become muddied.

The rightwing Evangelists, Mormons and Catholics have banded together; and all of these true believer moral conservatives have courted the financial conservative libertarians and the anarcho-libertarian paranoid types. There is no single theme holding all of them together except a sense of outrage. These diverse groups (who oddly seem opposed to America’s diversity) have been forced to call a truce between their differences in order to attack a common enemy (which apparently is a vague, mixed-up sense of ‘Them’, the ‘Other': mainstream media, Hollywood, intellectual elites, big government, big brother, illegal aliens, poor minorities, socialists, fascists, communists, Nazis, etc).  A black Democratic president has simply been a convenient symbol to focus all of this outrage.

However, the culture war of values isn’t over.  Those values may have lost their outward clarity in certain ways, but the emotional power of outrage has a way of focusing a group’s sense of it’s values (even if rationally they can’t be articulated).  They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore… that’s pretty much their message.  Between the Birthers, Climategate, and Death panels, they’ve proven they’re not overly concerned about objective facts.  Objectively defined and rationally defended values isn’t the point.  When you get down to the details, these groups disagree on many issues, but for now the details don’t matter.

Two things will happen with this extreme rightwing movement:

  1. It will magnify as the demographics increasingly shift (i.e., the shrinking of the fundamentalist white demographic).
  2. The movement will fall apart into competing groups as this demographic shift happens.  The libertarians and the paranoid fringe will continue on as before because they’re not limited to the fundamentalist white demographic.  The fundamentalist whites, however, will become louder and more violent as they shrink.  They’re our homegrown terrorism waiting to happen (as both the Bush and Obama administrations have realized).

Former NFL star Dave Pear is sorry he ever played football

This might seem like a peculiar story, but it can’t be dismissed as just a whiny former star athlete.  This is just representative of the general sense of disgruntled outrage that the American public is feeling.  People are beginning to realize that bankers and health insurance companies don’t give a rat’s ass about the average person, the citizenry is realizing that politicians don’t actually represent them, and even star athletes are realizing that they’ve been used and abused by others to make large profits.

Wake up, America!  It ain’t Obama’s socialism/fascism/communism/Nazism that you need to be worrying about… it’s the entire system which is controlled by the 10% of the population who own 85% of the wealth.  The labels of liberal and conservative, Democratic and Republican are mostly meaningless.  If you want to support real change that helps real Americans, then protest about real issues rather than idiotic issues such as birth certificates.  And if you’re going to vote, then vote for third parties.

From John Birchers to Birthers

Next month will mark the 45th anniversary of the publication by Harper’s magazine of Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” a work that seems to grow more relevant by the day.

I was not always a fan. When I first read it two decades ago, I thought Hofstadter was being needlessly insulting by equating political views with mental illness — despite his insistence that he wasn’t using the word that way. Besides, I thought, who really cared about the strange notions that occurred to members of marginal groups like the John Birch Society? Joe McCarthy’s day was long over, and even in the age of high Reaganism, I thought, the type of person Hofstadter described was merely handing out flyers on street corners.

As the historian himself admitted, “In America it has been the preferred style only of minority movements.” Why bother with it, then?

How times have changed! Hofstadter’s beloved liberal consensus has been in the grave for decades now. Today it would appear that his mistake was underestimating the seductive power of the paranoid style.

This reminds me of a book review I just read about another prescient work: The True Believer by Eric Hoffer.

When I first read Hoffer’s classic book, “The True Believer”, as a graduate student twenty years ago, I was shocked. I was astonished that a writer could openly suggest parallels among Christianity, Islam, fascism, and the KKK, and survive to write another book. Yet I was riveted by Hoffer’s observations, which seemed to jump off the page in spite of his straightforward and unembellished prose. But I also recall thinking that Hoffer was a bit too brash in his assertions; that he ought to have tempered nearly every statement with a qualifier–a disclaimer that left open the possibility that he was mistaken.

Upon reading Hoffer again, as a middle-aged and somewhat less idealistic professor, I find that several things have changed. First, Hoffer’s observations seem even more keenly relevant today, post 9/11, than they did in the post-Vietnam era.

Glenn Beck, Cult Leader

Democracy Corps did a series of focus-groups with movement conservatives in Georgia and found them happily living in their own special reality. “Democrats may joke that Republicans seem to live on a different planet sometimes,” their report says, “but in some important ways, these Republicans would happily agree.”

If you haven’t read the results, I suggest you take the time (PDF). It’s only a few pages long and confirms a theory I’ve held since last summer: the conservative movement has become a cult, and Glenn Beck is their cult leader.

More than half of the respondents in our conservative Republicans groups indicated that they try to watch or listen to Beck on a daily basis, with some going to great lengths to ensure they (and their families) do not miss a thing. (Emphasis mine)

Cults are personality-based, and therefore a natural fit for a movement built on charismatic politics.

I think the author is over-emphasizing the cult interpretation, but still it’s a good point he is making.  Research does show that the personalities of conservatives tend toward group identity and loyalty.  When this group mentality becomes exaggerated it can take on aspects of cult-like behavior, but that is different than actually being a cult.  Cult or not, it provides insight about the more worrying attitudes of the far right.

In the report itself, I noticed the following comment near the beginning:

Instead of focusing on these intense ideological divisions, the press and elites continue to look for a racial element that drives these voters’ beliefs – but they need to get over it. Conducted on the heels of Joe Wilson’s incendiary comments at the president’s joint session address, we gave these groups of older, white Republican base voters in Georgia full opportunity to bring race into their discussion – but it did not ever become a central element, and indeed, was almost beside the point.

I’ve only skimmed the report, but this particular statement seems to miss some underlying issues.  Yes, overt racism isn’t central to the far right as it once was.  No, racism hasn’t disappeared as a major influence on politics and society in general.  The far right doesn’t talk directly about racism any longer (except when calling liberals racist), but they do use racist codewords (‘white culture’, illegal aliens, welfare queens, etc).  Some prefer to call this racialist rather than racist, but the label you give it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that it has a major impact on public debate.

On the other hand, the report pointed out how sensitive they are about being called racists.  This sensitivity is a positive sign.  There is a lot of unconscious prejudice left in the American psyche, but it is slowly decreasing.  In another generation, along with the shifting race demographics, racism/racialism even in this subtly pervasive form will be much more rare.

I came across an interesting set of facts:

The conservative Republican base represents almost one-in-five voters in the electorate, and nearly two out of every three selfidentified Republicans. [...] But liberal Democrats are outnumbered by moderate Democrats (36 to 61 percent of all Democrats)…

I was trying to think what this means.  At first, I thought it shows how more moderate, how more centrist is the Democratic party… and, by implication, that Democratic policies more closely represent the general public at present.  However, this may be skewed as less people identify as Republican now and so the moderate Republicans may be the people who left the party in droves.  Still, that is important.  Obama did win the popular vote which included many moderate Republicans and conservative independent swing voters.

However, I wonder how these numbers may or may not change in 2012.  At present, the Republican party is doing little to court moderates (not to mention the large numbers of ‘minorities’) and so it doesn’t look optimistic for them.

The last part was heartening because the independents were differentiated from the conservative Republicans:

The independent voters in our groups clearly viewed these issues very, very differently. They share the conservative Republicans’ disdain for the current Republican Party, but their critique is not that the party has abandoned its conservative principles but instead that it advances the interests of the rich and big businesses at the expense of the middle class. They worry about the Democratic Party’s proclivity to spend tax dollars and provide ‘freebies’ to those who do not do their fair share, but they appreciate the Democrats’ focus on ‘the little people’ (among which they included themselves) and the fact that ‘it’s not all about the money.’

The real hope here are the independent voters because they seem to understand the real forces at work.  I consider myself an independent and I feel somewhat aligned with this sector of the movement.  It’s quite interesting that independents are more afraid of the Republican party than the Democratic party.  Even if Democrats sometimes have bad policies, at least they more often have good intentions towards ‘the little people’.

They view FOX News as another media outlet, decidedly conservative in its point of view but no more or less biased than any other media outlet; their assumption is that every outlet has a bias that reflects the interests of its own bottom line. FOX is no different, and certainly not a source of special insight and information that cannot be gained elsewhere. They generally laugh at conservative commentators such as Limbaugh (‘overbearing,’ ‘egotistical,’ ‘idiot’) and Beck (one man called him a ‘crybaby’).

I can somewhat agree with this view.  I’m not a fan of mainstream media in general.  But I disagree that the biases are all the same.  I do appreciate that these independents aren’t swayed by the far right pundits.

When it comes to Sarah Palin, there was almost universal agreement that she could never be elected president, with most citing her inexperience and baggage as obstacles too great to overcome. But even more important to them, most felt she was ultimately driven by greed and ambition more than anything else and would rather use her newfound fame to enrich herself than improve the country.

This demonstrates a split in this movement between the independents and the party conservatives.  I hope this split becomes more untenable because I think the independents have more in common with non-party liberals (and the more impartial Democrats who are critical of Obama).

All of which underscores how much the conservative Republicans are a world apart – with big consequences for the Republican Party.

Hell yeah!

Conservatives roar; Republicans tremble

Many top Republicans are growing worried that the party’s chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives.

Congressional leaders talk in private of being boxed in by commentators such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh — figures who are wildly popular with the conservative base but wildly controversial among other parts of the electorate, and who have proven records of making life miserable for senators and House members critical of their views or influence.

Some of the leading 2012 candidates are described by operatives as grappling with the same tension. The challenge is to tap into the richest source of energy in the party — the disgust of grass-roots conservative activists with President Barack Obama and their hunger for a full-throated attack on his agenda — without coming off to the broader public as cranky and extreme.

I wouldn’t mind these rightwingers taking out the GOP, but I’m too cynical to think that this would improve Washington politics.  I’m hoping that a strong libertarian candidate will run just to force real debate.

That last video makes me feel nostalgic.  That so perfectly captures a typical interaction of young boys… and then puts a hilarious twist on it.  I remember kids doing this hand vagina thing back in the 1980s when I was in elementary school.  It’s probably even older than that.

It reminds me of some books I’ve read about the culture of childhood.  Many of the songs and games that children play have existed for centuries and exist in various forms all over the world.  No one teaches kids to do these things other than other kids and older siblings.  It’s amazing how culture gets passed on… even low-brow culture.

Interesting Stuff on the Web: 12/24/09

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