Maybe We Didn’t…

I just wanted to highlight this story.  I first saw it reported by the Associated Press.  The story – this version presented by the UK’s ‘Telegraph’ – is that Russian hackers breached voting systems in as many as 39 states.

One thing we can say we “know” with confidence is that if the US government had absolute, 100% proof that the Russians had actually flipped votes in favor of the Donald, they wouldn’t admit it.  We’re told that policy is intended to “protect the integrity of the vote” but I suspect the real intent is to maintain party control of the electronic voting machines.  The parties want to keep the Russians out but they want to ensure their own ability to get in…

So, if the powers that be in the US won’t admit the depth of the Russian breaches (and they won’t) but we suspect that, perhaps, the Russians breached further than we’re being told (and we do) perhaps we didn’t actually elect Donald Trump President.

I’ll tell you this: it won’t change a thing.  He’s still going to run rampant over the Constitution and put the final nail in the coffin of this once-great nation.  But it DOES tend to restore a bit of faith in my fellow Americans that we would NOT, in fact, “elect” such an unqualified, petty, and vicious person to the highest office in the land…

The New Dark Age…

When I read history, I like to think about the events behind the events.  I imagine the movers and shakers of the day and how they influenced things…and why.  I can’t necessarily point to specific findings as “proof” but all the pieces are out there and they sometimes come together for me in unexpected ways.  One example of this is the period in history known as the Dark Ages.  The Dark Ages occurred between the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Enlightenment.  To sum up, it generally refers to a period in Europe when everything was crap for most people.  It’s almost as if when Rome fell, European civilization itself fell with it, as if by magic.

But it wasn’t magic and it was no accident, either.  When Rome fell, the subsequent power vacuum was filled by the Catholic Church.  The church went on a mission…to remove books.  They went out of their way to find any books they could, keep one copy for themselves in the Vatican, and destroy the rest.  With information disappearing, people got dumber…and the church gained power – and money, of course.  Services were given in Latin – which most people no longer spoke.  People had to take the priests word for things and the priests words had an unerring tendency to earn for the church.

I pin the Dark Ages to the church because they only happened where the church was and they didn’t happen where the church wasn’t.  In fact, the Dark Ages finally came to an end when church warriors known as Crusaders discovered a vast library that had been maintained by Arabs.  The Crusaders brought the contents of the library back to Europe, information began to spread again and the Dark Ages gave way to the Enlightenment.  (Now would be the time to acknowledge this is a bit of a simplified telling of events but it’s essentially accurate…)

The reason I’m thinking about the Dark Ages these days is that I think I see another era on the horizon.  We currently live in what’s known (euphemistically, as it happens) as the information age.  Because of computers, we the species have access to vast stores of information.  There’s no way a single entity could ever bottle up information the way the Catholics did fifteen hundred-plus years ago.  But, in a way, ours is the opposite problem.

The information age has been flooded with bad information right along with accurate information.  The result is the same as when all the books were eliminated: people are getting dumber.  When bad information is presented alongside accurate information and looks just the same – just as “official” and legitimate – people get confused and are readily deceived – even otherwise intelligent people.  When one cannot discern between accurate information and “fake news” (actually, “lies”) ALL information becomes useless.

Without solid, trustworthy information, society is…slipping.  We make poor choices about policies and politicians because we don’t know what’s real.  Our infrastructure is failing because we don’t know it’s condition.  Preventable sickness and diseases are on the rise – because of poor information.

No, I’m not calling our current situation a dystopian hellhole similar to Europe in the throes of the Dark Ages – but I fear we’re on the leading edge.  As day-to-day information becomes less accurate, less useful, things are failing around us and I don’t think it’s an accident now any more than it was after the fall of Rome.  I think the hyper-wealthy in this once-great nation have a vested interest in “dumbing down” as many of us as they can and for the same reason the Catholics did it – power and money.

I’ll tell you this: if the masses don’t learn to discern between real and fake information, and quickly, history shows that the future is going to be a less than pleasant ride for most of us…

NOTE: Edited to correct a typo.  I wrote “as if my magic” at the end of the first paragraph when I meant “as if by magic.”

Another Dem “Win”…

Hey, the Democrats won again!  Okay, so their candidate doesn’t get to go to Congress, which I count as a loss but THEY seem to think coming in a close second in a two-horse race is the same as a win…because they lost by a smaller margin than they expected to lose by.  Nice.  I predict they’re going to continue to lose, too, or, win without gaining the prize…

I have to say, if your hard-on for ripping on Bernie has continued for more than four months, it’s REALLY time to see a doctor.  Bernie offered, has offered, is offering, the solution: speak to worker and progressive values.  The DNC has preferred the more-of-the-same, incremental baby steps approach that has served them so well…

Currently, there’s no home for progressives and it shows at the polls.  Conservatives have the Republicans and/or the Libertarians.  Those two seem to have merged, though, so now they might be called the “Republitarians.”  Democratic Party loyalists will still support the Democrats even though the Dems have moved to a center/right position.  That’s all of the major parties defending conservative values to one degree or another but the Dems won’t commit fully so they’re not pulling conservatives and they’re alienating progressives.  It’s no good.  Sure, there’s the Green Party but the Greens seem to think they can Kumbaya their way to victory and most people don’t buy that, either.

I’ll tell you this: SOMEBODY needs to invite progressives back to the party, if you will.  It’s not going to happen with more Neoliberal bullshit.  If the Dems want progressives back, they’re going to have to include progressive values and bring progressive ideas into play.

Or, they can just keep collecting those second-place “participant” trophies…


The Fed hiked the rate by a quarter point this month.  It’s the second jump this year.  Traditionally, the Fed boosts rates to cool inflation but economists seem to agree that inflation isn’t a problem right now, so why the hike?  I have an informed, well-considered hypothesis – in short, a wild guess – but if I was to put a single word to the why, that word would be “anticipation”.

While everybody is fixated on the latest antics of our national embarrassment, Congress critters are doing their thing, which means serving the specialized interests of the privileged elite.  Hey, another round of tax cuts for the wealthy!  Maybe it will work this time!  (Spoilers: it works EVERY time, assuming one’s goal is to make a few rich people richer at the expense of everyone else…)

The American Health Care Act is moving forward.  (It’s perfectly named, too.  “Health care?!?  Screw you, we’re Americans!”)  No, I haven’t read it.  Apparently, neither has anybody else.  The Republicans aren’t letting anyone near it.  But the speculation based on what’s floating around out there right now is that it cuts 24 million Americans (or more) off from health insurance in order to give a few rich people a tax cut.  And THAT’S before they get to work on “tax reform” so they can give a few rich people a tax cut!

“Crazy Paul’s Tax Cut Emporium” (Nee: Congress) is hard at work cutting, cutting, cutting.  “C’mon down to Crazy Paul’s Tax Cut Emporium where our slogan is: ‘No tax rate is too low if you’ve got the dough!”  I get it.  The evidence is in and it’s pretty clear – indisputable, even.  The more the taxes are cut for the wealthy, the more money the rich people hoard.  The more money the rich people hoard, the less money there is flowing through the economy.  The less money there is flowing through the economy, the harder day-to-day living is for everybody who ISN’T rich…so why wouldn’t one cut taxes?

It’s like that kids game ‘Duck, Duck, Goose!’ except this is ‘Cut, Cut, Crash!’  Cut.  Rich people don’t spend because they’ve long-since acquired everything they might possibly want/need.  Cut.  Poor people don’t spend because, well, they’re poor and they don’t have anything TO spend.  Cut.  The middle class?  Well, the middle class has been gutted to the point where they’re not economically strong enough to carry the weight of the nation any longer but THEY stop spending because they fear for their positions.  Businesses stop spending because everybody else stopped spending.  CRASH!  …and it’s pandemonium!

That’s when the Fed steps in.  One of the tools in the Fed bag of tricks is to lower interest rates in an effort to stimulate the economy.  But the Fed has been lending at or near zero interest for a long time, now – all in response to the weakened economy brought about by previous games of Cut, Cut, Crash!  So where do you go when you’re already AT zero?  (Yes, they CAN drop to “negative interest” but that literally means paying people to borrow and it’s not solid economic policy…)

So rates are rising.  Slowly, to be sure, but pretty much as quickly as the Fed thinks they can do so without harming the economy themselves.  And what was that word?  Oh, that’s right: “anticipation”, as in, the Fed is anticipating a crash in the near future and working to position itself to respond.

I’ll tell you this: if the Fed sees it coming and is moving to protect its position, you might want to take a cue and do the same…

Reality Going To Jail…

Well, Reality Winner, the NSA contractor who leaked the document about the GRU supposedly going on a phishing expedition against a company that makes voting software, is probably going to go to jail over it.  They caught her – and she confessed – right away.

The thing that struck me about the document was that it was the first implication that someone – ostensibly the Russians – intended to hack into voting machines.  The official word, of course, is “no.”  “They” didn’t succeed.

I used to be a techie guy, running IT departments.  Back then, I was excited by the possibilities technology could bring to voting – easing access, for example.  But for every upside of technology, there’s a downside.  My thinking on the topic was limited to the application of the technology, not the application of nefarious intent by interested parties.  (Hey, I was young…)

But then we got George W. Bush in a disputed “election” in which many districts were seen to have “voted” in ways other than the exit polls predicted.  The thing was, the districts in question were computerized voting districts.  Then we were treated to online videos showing how ridiculously simple it was to hack into the machines and flip votes.  They’re essentially spreadsheets.  Simply switch the contents of one cell with the contents of another and you’ve changed the outcome of the “election.”

The companies who made the voting machines – the same companies that make ATM machines – insisted it was impossible to make a machine that created a paper trail.  The “official” message was that Americans needed to ignore exit polls since they’re largely inaccurate.  It was a stupid message in view of the fact that exit polling is and has been the gold standard of polling since it’s inception but that was the message.

It put me off computerized voting.  I noticed that nobody did anything about it, or even tried to.  Sure, there was some lip-service paid to fixing the problems but there was no concerted effort to stop using the voting machines until people could know, with one hundred percent certainty, that the machines were secure.  My suspicion is that the parties each thought being able to hack into the machines and “control” the voting was a GREAT idea.  I have no evidence to support that assertion – it’s just a gut feeling.

I use over-arching precepts to guide my thinking.  When there’s a problem nobody does anything about, there’s a reason.  We first saw it in Florida, in 2000.  Nobody did anything about it.  Then, people trying to sound the alarm among the electorate TOLD us it would be Ohio in 2004 – and it was.  Nobody did anything about it.  Truthfully, I didn’t see it in 2008 or 2012 but not so much, I think, because “my guy” won.  I think in order to be effective, the “election” needs to be close and those were not.  But strange doings were again afoot during the 2016 Democratic primary.  Another close race, more “ignore the exit polls” bunk.

Through it all, the “official” position is that there’s nothing to see here, everything’s okay.  The refrain we hear over and over is that it’s important to “maintain the integrity of the vote.”  Can you tell by the fact that I can’t write “vote” or “election” without “quotes” that I no longer trust the “integrity of the vote?”

It’s easy to see how each of the “two parties” might have come to the conclusion that, from now on, the REAL “elections” would take place between two rooms of techies each hacking into machines and flipping votes, racing each other, flipping one way then the other, until the final gun.  Whoever flips most effectively “wins.”  But what if there was a third room?

The document Reality dropped indicated that the Russians were interested in accessing the machines.  What if they got in?  Our own government would NEVER acknowledge the fact even – perhaps especially – if it meant We, the People had “elected” a person so incompetent, it’s a wonder he can move about on a daily basis without supervision, let alone run this once-great nation.

I’ve never accepted the story about Russia affecting the “election” by flooding social media with information critical to Hillary.  I mean, so what?  I saw TONS of information critical to Hillary.  It never crossed my mind it might be coming from the Russians.  I thought it was coming from the GOP just like it had been since the world first heard the name Hillary Rodham-Clinton.

I vote absentee.  I do it because, well, let’s be honest, it’s easier and more pleasant.  But in addition, it creates a paper trail – a way to do a recount.  (Did you know it’s not possible with the machines?  They only keep a total, not a record of individual votes…)  I think everybody should vote absentee.  Yes, I know there are ways to cheat with paper but they’re not as easy as the invisible voting machine hacks.

I’ll tell you this: I want to know if the software company the Russians are said to have tried to access wrote the software for any of the machines used in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania.  But in the meantime, Reality goes to jail…

It’s Just Crapitalism…

It seems as though, everywhere one looks these days in these United States, one finds delay and decay, all in the name of the almighty dollar.

The reason the fossil fuel industry is producing so much nonsense about the damage their products do is simple: money.  It’s pretty clear where technology is headed: away from centralized control over power.  When it comes to providing power, it doesn’t really matter if it’s coal or oil or natural gas.  Either way, it requires big, centralized plants and equipment to make it all go.  A VERY few people have control over those systems and, from time to time, can just turn part of it off and charge the masses for the “shortfall”.  But then comes the sun.

They can’t just turn off the sun or the wind or the waves.  We see the centralized power folks trying to build centralized solar farms and immediately realize those facilities come with their own environmental impacts nobody wants.  The next – the ONLY – logical step is to put the power production onto and into every building that already stands, that is, already produces an environmental impact.  Why exacerbate the situation?

But that move eliminates your local electrical producer.  More importantly, it eliminates their ability to shut down parts at critical times (you know…for “maintenance”…) to keep shareholders happy.

Capitalism says the newer, better technology should, by rights, replace the older, outdated technology.  Build a better mousetrap, the old line goes, and the world will beat a path to your door.  But Crapitalism says otherwise.  Build a better mousetrap, says Crapitalism, and moneyed interests will buy up and bury the technology because they’re invested elsewhere…

We see it in the battle for healthcare, too…well, healthcare insurance, anyway.  Do people REALLY not see that socialized medicine is a boon to the people who have it?  It costs less money to the individuals (who are, yes, paying higher taxes), it costs less to the overall society, and it provides better outcomes.  Of course they see it, that’s WHY they fight it.  They can’t force you to trade your financial life for your actual life if they can’t force you to trade your financial life for your actual life.  (Tautology at its best…)  Crapitalism blames everything – anything – except the love of the lucre for the situation, another sure sign the love of the lucre is the true culprit.

“Free market” Capitalism, they call it but there’s nothing “free” about it.  Where possible, it’s a captive market and the natural progression of the free market is from good to bad and from bad to worse – all in the name profit.  Generally speaking, I can’t think of anything that gets better under Crapitalism, can you?

There’s a reason people capable of understanding that Democratic Socialism is honest Capitalism are embracing Democratic Socialism: because it’s honest Capitalism.  Sure, it has a stupid, misleading name.  It SHOULD be called ‘Social Capitalism’.  But then, ‘Free market Capitalism’ is a stupid, misleading name, too.  THAT should  be called ‘Crapitalism’.

I’ll tell you this: if Crapitalism means I’m forced to live with the very worst of everything for as long as Crapitalists can force it on me, I, for one, am over the “free market”…


It’s A Fair Question…

Sean Spicer insists that 45 and “a small group of people” know exactly what 45 meant when he tweeted “covfefe”.  I’m not leveling any charges, here, just asking a question but couldn’t “a small group of people” be Putin, Kislyak, and Lavrov?  (It could.)  Is it really a good idea to even hint that perhaps the so-called “President” is tweeting secret codes to his Russian counterparts?  (Note: I have ZERO evidence the so-called “President” is tweeting secret codes to his Russian counterparts…)  Let me put it another way:

When your maladministration
is currently under investigation
for potentially illegal collaboration,
Shouldn’t one’s cogitation
tend toward mitigation
rather than exacerbation?