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A lesson learned by many on Sept. 11, 2001.

7:53 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

In a world that had become more and more repressive at the hands of the elite and their allies.  That with all their high technology and monstrous armies,  a handful of people armed with only the most basic of weapons can inflect serious and long lasting physical and emotional harm upon these elites that their military and intelligence apparatus cannot prevent or fight against.

This lesson will be no be forgotten  by those who feel repressed, ignored and intimidated.

Why Have Our Young Become So Docile ?

2:25 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Ever wonder what happened to the fiery young people who used to march and protest in the 1960s ?  You know the ones who knew all the words to Phil Ochs songs and Country Joe and The Fish and The Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers ? Bruce Levine has some ideas why today’s young people seem so passive. He is a clinical psychologist and author and writes for the Huffington Post as well as Alternet.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?
1. Student-Loan Debt: Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force.
Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt.

When you are in hock up to your eyeballs, it is very difficult to rationalize taking part in anything that might keep you from getting a job. This is especially true these days where a degree is no longer a guarantee you will be employed. So you play it safe and keep your head down.

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance.

In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD).

In short drugged into submission. Like in Girl Interrupted meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.  Instead of actually parenting their children and talking to them and seeing what the problem is, they are medicated into compliance.  And these are the kids of boomers and before who somehow forgot that rebellion and anti-authoritarian behavior is part of growing up. So as to keep them from being disruptive.

3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy: Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.”

And oldie but a goodie.  But this has been the case – at least in primary education – from the get go.  This country still engages in the Elizabethan concept of Children should be seen and not heard. And seen as little as possible.   Schools have become more like penitentiaries than they were when I was young.  And this incident where a simple prank gets a HS Senior 8 years in prison is one of the best examples of just how paranoid this country has become.

4.No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”: The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society.

Training grounds for The Hitler Youth. What can I say.

5. Shaming Young People Who Take EducationBut Not Their SchoolingSeriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.”

I have to admit I tolerated school mostly.  I would set in the back and pay just enough attention to the teacher as to not get in trouble all the while reading Popular Electronics, Electronics Illustrated, Radio TV Experimenter and any other magazine on radio and electronics I could get my hands on. School for me was at best breath takingly boring.  it was still mostly rote memorization of disconnect facts most of which seemed to be propaganda.

6. The Normalization of Surveillance: The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s e-mail and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes.

All I can say is this is horrible. When ever I read of something like the school board that was snooping on some kids computer, it just makes my skin crawl. But it does not surprise me.  I was lucky as I grew up in the country and romped about all over the woods and elsewhere. Biked to where ever I please and nobody checked up on me. Do that now and you get your sorry ass locked up someplace.

7. Television: In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).

I was never that big on television. I liked the science shows and science fiction like Mister Wizard and Science Fiction Theater. Saturday morning cartoons but spend most of my time in the summer out doors and in the winter in my room doing radio stuff. Beside the TV was my parent’s domain for the most part. How this would turn out now, I do not know. But I still watch very little TV.

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism: American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways.

This is so true.  There is a book out called Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman. Where he thinks that we are headed to a Huxleyist society of non-thinking drug and gadget addicted automatons who willingly do what we are programmed to do. Combined that with religion – hey people…there is no magic man in the sky or happy place when you die. Dead id dead. Deal with it.  But we drug ourselves with drugs and technology and some long disproved mythology.  What is worse we are doing it to our kids. Talk about child abuse.



Our Adolescent Culural Discourse or Twitter Me This

8:00 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

When I was in Jr. High there was a fad. It was called Nosy Books.  Usually a legal pad they we passed around and in which we wrote down sill little things about ourselves.  We now currently have the high tech version of this called Twitter.  Now I will admit that it has played an important roll in certain situations as a communications medium. However I cannot help but wonder how it can have any positive effect on our cultural discourse to broadcast every little detail of ones life and/or physiology to the entire world. E. J Dione enumerates the point here.

At what point do we decide that a political system has become decadent?

The breaking point for me was the Anthony Weiner story. I mean, really. Perhaps it is old-fashioned, but I have been suspicious of politicians tweeting from the moment it became vogue. Do we really need to encourage them to limit their thoughts to 140 characters or make them think we want the same details about their lives that we expect from pop stars and marquee athletes?

And now social networking has taken us where human nature always threatens to go: downward. Thus, the fastest- and loudest-talking member of the Democratic opposition is caught out for sending lewd pictures of himself to strangers. He lied about it, he finally came clean, and then he choked up.

Weiner’s self-destruction is a terrible blow for cable television bookers and causes a certain sadness for liberals who are short of troops willing to take it to the other side from one five-minute news cycle to the next.

All the negative adjectives being thrown Weiner’s way are justified. “Icky” will do.

Indeed. At what point did everyone’s indiscretions become some some cause de celebre to consume the national dialog ? Where this discourse mostly resembles what one would expect from some 8th graders during recess.

Now, I am always wary of those who do what I’m about to do next: Take a tawdry sex scandal that people read about because we like to read about tawdry sex scandals, and then use it to make some larger point. But the Weiner episode struck me in a way the others have not. It marked the culmination of several months during which sideshows that also involved outrageous male behavior dominated news coverage—for starters, John Ensign and John Edwards—at a moment when our country’s future really is on the line. (Bill Clinton’s scandal played out when we were in very good shape, which is one reason he survived.)

Add to this the political media’s tendency to prefer covering personalities that the media created in the first place (Sarah Palin and Donald Trump above all) to those taking the trouble of running for president and thinking through what they want to say.

I have no particular sympathy for the political views of Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty or Rick Santorum, but at least they are doing the hard work of politics. Thus: Palin’s unusual comments about Paul Revere got far more attention than did Pawlenty’s economic speech this week. It fell to policy bloggers such as The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein to take Pawlenty’s ideas apart. Thus: Palin’s bus trip to the New Hampshire seacoast got at least as much attention as Romney’s announcement of a real, live candidacy.

But it’s not all the media’s fault. Nor is this just about politicians who conduct themselves badly in their personal lives. Much of what passes for debate right now consists of irritable ideological gestures. The recent disappointing economic news has not changed the set-piece Washington deficit debate one bit. Big numbers are thrown around—Sen. Jon Kyl said Tuesday that Republican agreement to raising the debt ceiling would require $2.5 trillion in cuts—with little inquiry as to how such reductions would affect actual people, future economic growth or our capacity to invest in ourselves. Ah, but trying to answer such questions would distract us from the Weiner story.

I would like to think this is all nothing but some theatrical diversion.  After all there was a time when this kind of thing would never gotten beyond some supermarket tabloid. Because if it’s not we really are in trouble as a culture. And maybe we should become a protectorate of some other country for our own good. Like maybe New Zealand or Papua New Guinea.



Our Great Economic Disconnect or Recession Part Deux

5:34 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Well the administration has given the same old BS about the economy vis-a-vis jobs trying to spin it in a positive manner. Will we ever get the truth about what is going on ? I seriously doubt it. But here is an oped I came across recently that does.

“The good news is that the much-feared double-dip recession is not going to happen,” they said on CNN on Oct. 28, last year. “After completing an exhaustive review of key drivers of the business cycle, ranging from credit to inventories and measures of labor market conditions, we can forecast with confidence that the economy will avoid a double dip.”

“We will not have a double-dip recession at all,” said Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire investor called, by his fans, the Oracle of Omaha, back on September 13, 2010. “I see business coming back almost across the board,” he told an assembled group of bankers.

And of course, there was Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who actually acts on his presumed wisdom, saying, on June 8, 2010, “”There seems to be a good bit of momentum in consumer spending and investment,” he said at the time. “My best guess is we’ll have a continued recovery [but] it won’t feel terrific.”

Even a Vistage Survey of CEOs, conducted release last Oct. 4, showed the confidence index respondents, all top executives at public companies, saying there was “no evidence” for a double dip back into recession in the nation’s economic future.

So much for expert opinion.

This week we have seen new unemployment claims top 400,000 for the eighth week in a row, as the official unemployment rate (about half the actual rate) rose to 9.1%. The latest figure for job creation, 54,000 for May, is just half of the rate needed to keep up with the growth in the number of working-age Americans. Manufacturing has fallen to where it was in 2009, the respected Case-Shiller Housing Index has declared that the housing price collapse has gone into a second dip, with home prices nationwide now back down to where they were in 1999 and still falling, and consumer confidence, according to the Conference Board, is down to 60.8 (in 1988 it was at 100, and 90 is considered “normal”), a serious slump in a nation where 72 percent of the economy consists normally of consumer spending.

Okay, we’re not in a second round of recession yet, but with economic “growth” slumping into to 1.8 percent for the first quarter of this year, and nothing up ahead to suggest it will get better, there’s every reason to think we could move into negative territory before long.

During the hay day of Mad Magazine in the 1960s they did a piece call Goodnews/Badnews and the panel this reminds me of was the one that had “Bad news is hearing good news when you should be hearing bad news.” The problem is that for those that are in the higher income brackets – making around 100 grand or more – thing are looking just fine. It’s a disconnect not unlike the disconnect that was taking place in regards to the black people living in the slums. As long as your life was OK and you never went to the slums, everything was just fine.

But it’s not fine, it’s lousy and getting lousier.

Also, this stuff about recession is a bit nebulous anyhow. A recession is defined as two back-to-back quarters of negative growth, but when you go from 3% growth — the bare minimum in theory to have jobs being created at a rate sufficient to employ all the new workers entering the job market — to 1% or 2%, it might as well be called a recession. Some companies may still be making profits by operating at a lower than capacity level, but unemployment will be rising, people will be getting poorer, more homes will be going into foreclosure, schools will be laying off teachers, and the general level of misery in the nation will be rising.

Incumbent politicians might try to call that a “recovery,” but that’s really stretching the English language.

So how did all these supposedly smart people get things so wrong?

Any fool ought to see the problem. The Americans who own their own homes have seen what they thought was their major asset shrink in value by at least a third. Don’t even talk about what meager savings they might have had. Back in July 2008, before the markets crashed, Americans had a total indebtedness of $2.5 trillion. The average American was reportedly saving less than $400 per year and had a negative net worth. We were living on credit, not saving. Those who did have some money saved and who had been investing it saw it lose 43% of its value almost overnight.

Sure, some of those people, who left their money sitting in the same equities they had been in before the crash, got most of it back this year, but an awful lot of those people cashed out at the bottom, not wanting to risk losing any more. Their loses are permanent. Others cashed out because they lost their jobs and needed the money. Their losses are permanent.

This is what the too-smart economists, politicians and CEOs simply don’t get. In their world–the one that just looks at P&L statements, shares words of “wisdom” over golf tees, and profits from illegal but routine insider tips on investment opportunities the rest of us don’t learn about–things look pretty good. Companies are profitable, having laid off huge swaths of workers, bashed unions, won pay and benefit “give-backs” from employees and tax breaks from politicians, elected officials have been re-elected, thanks to friendly backing from the corporate media, and plenty of lucre from corporate PACs, and the tax breaks for the rich that were enacted under the prior Bush/Cheney administration have been extended by the Obama administration, so the well-heeled don’t even have to pay much in taxes.

And this is the whole point. How can you even talk about the economy when you don’t experience but a small part of it or spend most of your time cloistered in some private educational institution playing with numbers. You need to get out and see how everyone else is doing. FDR had Elenore do this and she reported back to him. Obama has Michael go shopping for christ sakes.  What kind of input do you get from inside a dress store ?

In our world, though, there are higher taxes, higher gas prices, higher food prices, increased bank charges, miniscule interest or no interest at all on any savings, higher tuition and less in financial aid for our kids, no jobs, pay cuts, and if we’re laid off, there’s no more health care.

So where do the happy-talk forecasters of “recovery” get the idea that we ordinary Americans are going to get out there and spend? Where do they get the idea that the great consumer “engine” that powered the economy for the last three or four decades is going to rev up again?

These idiots should go walk around a few shopping malls. What a dismal experience that is!

They should go stand in an unemployment office application line and talk to a few of the newly laid-off. Of better yet, volunteer at a food bank and talk to the people coming in for food assistance (at least that way these parasites would be doing something useful while they did their research).

If they did a little of that real research, they might not be so quick to make jackasses of themselves again, predicting confidently that there’s no double-dip recession in the cards for the US economy.

I’m not holding my breath, but whether they take my advice or not, I’m ready to offer them a challenge: let’s check back this time next year, and see who was right, them or me.

I can tell you from what I have seem, nothing is getting better except the bonuses given to the bankers.


The Death of Common Sense and the Rise of the Clever Sillies

10:54 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

It works for politics as well.

Although it appears that the country…even the world has gone off it’s rocker and the the inmates are currently running the asylum,  what really maybe happening is that we have jettisoned a very basic part of the human condition while perusing with great gusto the fruits of intellect and knowledge. That which was an innate part of the life experience call common sense

Merriam-Webster Online defines common sense as beliefs or propositions that most people consider prudent and of sound judgment, without reliance on esoteric knowledge or study or research, but based upon what they see as knowledge held by people “in common”. Thus “common sense” (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. According to Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase is good sense and sound judgment in practical matters (the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way).

Which leads, hopefully to wisdom and good judgment. 

Wisdom is a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act or inspire to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time, energy or thought. It is the ability to optimally (effectively and efficiently) apply perceptions and knowledge and so produce the desired results. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action. Synonyms include: sagacity, discernment, or insight. Wisdom often requires control of one’s emotional reactions (the “passions”) so that one’s principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions.

Bruce G. Charlton gives an explanation of this lack of common sense in those with higher intelligence, though I think this may also apply to those of just above average intelligence as well.  He calls them “The Clever Sillies”

In previous editorials I have written about the absent-minded and socially-inept ‘nutty professor’ stereotype in science, and the phenomenon of ‘psychological neoteny’ whereby intelligent modern people (including scientists) decline to grow-up and instead remain in a state of perpetual novelty-seeking adolescence. These can be seen as specific examples of the general phenomenon of ‘clever sillies’ whereby intelligent people with high levels of technical ability are seen (by the majority of the rest of the population) as having foolish ideas and behaviours outside the realm of their professional expertise. In short, it has often been observed that high IQ types are lacking in ‘common sense’ – and especially when it comes to dealing with other human beings.

He goes on to state that high intelligence, though necessary for solving the problems of quantum mechanics and molecular biology, falls short when dealing with people and everyday problems.

As examples of how IQ may help with evolutionary novelties, it has been abundantly-demonstrated that increasing measures of IQ are strongly and positively correlated with a wide range of abilities which require abstract reasoning and rapid learning of new knowledge and skills; such as educational outcomes, and abilities at most complex modern jobs [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] and [11]. Science and mathematics are classic examples of problem-solving activities that arose only recently in human evolutionary history and in which differential ability is very strongly predicted by relative general intelligence [12].

However, there are also many human tasks which our human ancestors did encounter repeatedly and over manifold generations, and natural selection has often produced ‘instinctive’, spontaneous ways of dealing with these. Since humans are social primates, one major such category is social problems, which have to do with understanding, predicting and manipulating the behaviours of other human beings [13], [14], [15] and [16]. Being able to behave adaptively in dealing with these basic human situations is what I will term having ‘common sense’.

And there is a strong tendency for those with higher intelligence to favor this above the use of common sense. When dealing with social issues, this is can lead to erroneous results.

So, the greater cognitive ability of higher IQ is also accompanied by a somewhat distinctive high IQ personality type. My suggested explanation for this association is that an increasing level of IQ brings with it an increased tendency to use general intelligence in problem-solving; i.e. to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense.

The over-use of abstract reasoning may be most obvious in the social domain, where normal humans are richly equipped with evolved psychological mechanisms both for here-and-now interactions (e.g. rapidly reading emotions from facial expression, gesture and posture, and speech intonation) and for ‘strategic’ modelling of social interactions to understand predict and manipulate the behaviour of others [16]. Social strategies deploy inferred knowledge about the dispositions, motivations and intentions of others. When the most intelligent people over-ride the social intelligence systems and apply generic, abstract and systematic reasoning of the kind which is enhanced among higher IQ people, they are ignoring an ‘expert system’ in favour of a non-expert system.


Indeed, I suggest that higher levels of the personality trait of Openness in higher IQ people may the flip-side of this over-use of abstraction. I regard Openness as the result of deploying abstract analysis for social problems to yield unstable and unpredictable results, when innate social intelligence would tend to yield predictable and stable results.

In the past if one survived long enough, one would gain the experience needed to acquire common sense and hopefully the wisdom to use it regardless of ones intellect.  Now a days people have the ability to avoid this experience to the detriment of their overall understanding of life and society. And championing some intellectual ideology that is best left in the classroom.   Unfortunately we seek out these people for our leaders and representatives, confusing intellect with wisdom.
Worse yet we now encourage our youth to pursue knowledge an intellect over experience and wisdom, when they all are necessary.