Monthly Archives: March 2013

An Island Of Care In An Ocean Of Doesn’t

When I started this blog a little over 15 months ago, I had grand expectations of presenting details and facts and having reasoned discussions.  I was quickly reminded that I have a tendency to give people far too much credit for a number of things, which often comes back to bite me in the tokhes.  I tend to expect that people are going to be reasonable, responsive to new information, flexible, and interested in actual facts.  The truth is that most Americans are not actually interested in facts.  Nor are most Americans particularly responsive to new information.  Reasonable?  Nooooo.  This does not leap to mind when most people think of Americans.  Neither in America nor around the world.

Most people go into a situation with their mind already made up, and no amount of information is going to change it.  It would take an extraordinary situation or experience to create any real change within that mind.   More than that, though, it takes a rare individual.

So, for example, you have Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President (since most Americans were unable to identify him was while he was in office), and a truly evil man, who has a lesbian daughter, but maintains that, while he claims to love her, that does not mean she should have the same rights as the rest of America.  Then, you have the much more rare case of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who “coming to terms” with the reality of his gay son, decides that means his son deserves the same equal rights as every heterosexual in this country.

These two examples picked from millions that could have been chosen, illustrate the two extremes.  On the one hand, we have the much more common, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.  My mind is already made up.” and on the other, we see someone who, much to the surprise (shock even) of many, completely reversed a previous stance in response to new information.  I think that Sen. Portman still holds many positions that are wrong, but on this he puts it very well:

”That isn’t how I’ve always felt. As a congressman, and more recently as a senator, I opposed marriage for same-sex couples. Then something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way.”

Notice, in particular, that last sentence, because that is the point today.  As much as the issue of marriage equality needs to be addressed in this country, and around the world, that is not the point today.  (I have previously written on that subject, and probably will again.)  I applaud Sen. Portman for showing that he is capable of thinking a subject through, and reaching a new conclusion.  I think that this is very likely a man that while I may very strenuously disagree with his conclusions on a number of other topics, I could at least respect him.  Now, I do grant that a Senator who can’t go through this reasoned process before it hits his own family, so to speak, is not the best choice for a senator, but at least he,as a man, is eventually capable.

I want to make one final point about Sen. Portman, it is this: it is clear that these are not just words from him.  You see, Sen. Portman has previously been such an outspoken opponent that previously some students protested his being the speaker at their commencement, specifically because of this issue.  To even speak the words now is a dramatic change.  Of course, he has to follow through from here with action to be truly meaningful.  But, I am straying, and while that is an important avenue to go down, as I said, it is not where we want to go today.

So, facts rarely persuade people any more.  Maybe they never really did.  Perhaps that too is part of the “goldening” of the past that we are prone to do.  That process that humans tend to go through where we have this nostalgia for and memory of everything in the past being somehow better, and in fact, better than it actually was.


Chicken Little Say

The SCIAMAGE space has extended an offer to a number of people from a variety of backgrounds and political view points to submit pieces for inclusion in this space.  They have each been told essentially the same thing, though the specific words may have varied ever so slightly.  Basically though, regardless of the words chosen, what they have been told is their piece will undergo only slight editing, and that will only be for spelling and formatting.  It will never be for grammar (unless requested) as that comes too close to style and that would come to close to voice.  Though I might wish to comment on it, I do not wish to interject my voice into theirs.  It will never be edited for content, as that would impede on free exchange of ideas, and that would defeat the purpose.  It may not, however, include patently false information.  Oh, and only once, have I actually suggested a topic.  Other than that one time, I have left the topics wide open for the guest writer to select.

The group invited has included people of widely different political views, and very different socioeconomic and technological backgrounds.  There are, of course, a few things they each have in common. One thing is that they can all get very passionate about what they believe and hold to be true, while not making it personal.  They can also hold a reasonable conversation.  They are capable of distinguishing, typically, between fact, fiction, and belief.  They will typically be able to provide evidence to support or at least attempt to provide evidence to support their position.  Etc.  In other words, they are reasonable and intelligent people who are capable of having reasonable and intelligent conversations.

If you think that you would like to submit a piece for inclusion in this space, please contact the SCIAMAGE through the links below.

Today, the SCIAMAGE space is pleased to bring you the first response to this offer.  Jeffrey Jones, is a man of varied background.  A father, a former instructor, currently working with a defense contractor (we can’t tell you more, or we’d have to kill you under the current NDAA and justification for drone use, and we wouldn’t want to have to do that!!), a gamer (board, role, and online), educated, diverse interests, Buddhist, traveler, and much more.  And, on a personal note, a hell of a Mensch.   That’s really more than you need by way of an introduction, because the piece that Jeff has provided stands on its own without any introduction.  It could well have been written by any man, woman, or child in America today, who pauses to look around.  Any man, woman, or child who stops to think, and doesn’t forget to start again.

And, without further ado, please, enjoy today’s SCIAMAGE guest column from Jeffrey Jones.


It’s time that this rampant hyperbole about being under attack ended. It’s sole purpose is to rouse the ignorant and muddy the waters about the evolution of life for humans.

The theory goes that various groups are under attack because the way they have led their lives, or gone about their business, or the manner in which they have acted for no good reason, apart perhaps from jealousy, or fear or propaganda. It certainly could not be that these things are no longer acceptable to the rest of us.

White people are under attack because they are no longer in the vast majority here in America. But is that true? As of the 2010 census results:

Race / Ethnicity Number Percentage of U.S. population
Americans 308,745,538 100.0 %
White or European American 223,553,265 72.4 %
Black or African American 38,929,319 12.6 %
Asian American 14,674,252 4.8 %
Amer. Ind. or Alaska Native 2,932,248 0.9 %
Hawaiian/Pac. Islander 540,013 0.2 %
Some other race 19,107,368 6.2 %
Two or more races 9,009,073 2.9 %

72.4% of Americans identify themselves as Caucasian. And, they are under attack because it used to be more.  You’ll note that Hispanic or Latino is not included in this chart, as, according to the Census Bureau, “Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.”  But 16.4% of all races identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino.  In 1960, non-Hispanic white persons made up 85% of the American population, by 2042 they are projected to have lost the strong majority, only accounting for 46.3% of the population, still the largest group, but not a solid, over-powering majority.

Why is this a scary set of statistics? Why is the natural progress of life a “threat” to the comfortable majority?

Occupy Every Day

Every once in a while it is important to revisit older topics, that we’ve discussed before.  Today, I would like to come back to a couple of those, because they remain important and relevant.

If we are going to maintain pressure and relevance, then we have to continue to remember to act, right?  One of the major knocks against the Occupy movement, for example, is that it lost focus.  Certainly the occupation of major parks, and the various actions that were taken beginning in September of 2011 were breathtaking and stoked the imagination.  They fired me up.  They captured the hopes of many who were struggling to find “hope and change” in an America that had yet again been lied to and misled.

And, then, they fell apart.  As with most inclusive movements, it fell prey to its own grand ideals.  Instead of staying focused on the financial purposes that it started with, it wanted to be leaderless and then it became amorphous and had so many tentacles and purposes that it lost its relevance.  Oh, to be sure, it still exists.  The movement that is.  I believe that there are still a few active occupations.  Somewhere… Maybe.  Even I have lost track, and interest.  They lost me when they got off track.  And, yes, I admit that I boisterously proclaimed that it was the last great hope for America.  I even went so far in my fervor at the time as to say that if it failed, then I would start voting for the most evil right wing candidate I could find in order to simply hasten the fall of America.  “Bring on the burning,” I said.

I retract those words, and acknowledge my own foolishness in having said them.  I can only say that I was fired up and hopeful.  I was excited and trying to get others equally fired up and motivated.  I do still believe that it had great potential.  Had there been some strong hands to guide it and maintain focus at the core, then it could have accomplished great things.  I do think that it had impact, in changing the focus of the conversation ever so slightly.  It was not the impact though that it could have had, and the damn Tea Partiers are still holding too much sway.  Largely that is because there was too heavy an influence in the Occupy movement that simply felt that they could somehow change the system without actually being participants in the system.

There are only two ways to change a political system.  One can either participate in and change it from with in, or one can violently overthrow it.  That’s it.  There are no other alternatives to changing it.  If you play a pussy-foot, half-in-half-out game then what happens is that you wind up supporting (whole heartedly) the status quo.  That is what happened with the occupy movement.  Too many wanted to try to maintain the illusion that they were above and beyond the system, while still enjoying the benefits of that system.  They wanted the technological benefits (the iPods, the smart phones, the lap top computers, the internet, the wifi, etc), they wanted the Constitutional protections, the responsiveness of the elected representatives, and all that the system had to offer.  They screamed for and demanded their rights.  “Whose park?  Our Park!” and “This is what Democracy looks like” they screamed.  Hell, I screamed, for I took my boys and went down to the streets, too.  But, for all too many of them, they didn’t then want to exercise their responsibilities.  They didn’t want to vote, or participate in the jury pools.  They didn’t want to pay taxes or support that same government that they railed against.  They didn’t want to participate by electing the candidates that would support the views that they wanted supported.  They were only half-in.

Sanctions Against Americans

In 2004, I worked for a small company.  (At least by standard definitions.  It always seemed to me to be at least a midsized company, but then, I think those definitions are a bit whack.  Still, we’ll stick with the standards for now.)  When the time came for the annual raise process, one of the things that was said was that we should be happy because we were receiving “3 times the average raise.”  Our president and CEO went on to tell us that the average raise in the country at that time was 4%.  Now, at the time, I didn’t check, because it didn’t matter.  What mattered was that he was a liar.  I had not, in fact, received a 12% raise, and I called him out on it. The next day, I did get an adjustment and my pay raise was increased to that 12%.  It’s probably a good thing I didn’t research it, because the actual average increase was only 3.5%.)

Those kinds of things can happen in a small company and they could happen back then, too.  It was a bit before the economy nearly completely collapsed.  It appeared the economy was, in fact, booming along.

Times are different, eh?  This year, the average pay increase in America is expected to be 3%.  Even less if you are working in the public sector.  In the county where I live, those employees haven’t had a merit pay raise in 5 years.  Federal Employees, generally, continue to be on hold for raises, and many of them are facing the possibility of furloughs thanks to the game of SequestrationTM that the Republicans and Democrats you all elected are playing this month.

Do I need to remind you, yet again, that those employees are your family and friends?  We are not talking about welfare for some faceless person that you can demonize and look down on.  People that you can pretend meet your stereotype of the drug addicted, slut that doesn’t have any desire to work but rather just wants to drain you for all you’re worth, right?  We are talking about the people that are out there working for a living supporting the daily functions that you, yes you whether you like it or not, rely on for the smooth functioning of the government.  And, yes, I did say smooth functioning of the government.  I am not talking about all the BS in congress, and the bickering and backbiting of the presidency.  I’m talking about the DOT, the food and health inspectors.  I’m talking about the people who process the payments to the Medicare doctors, and the checks to the Social Security recipients.  Air traffic controllers.  So called security personnel.  The civilian employees of the Defense Department.  The Veterans Affairs department.

I am talking about 1 million or so people who are part of the backbone of the government.  Not the ugly face of politics that so many people think of when they want to criticize and withdraw from it.  I’m talking about the part that matters.  You remember that part right?

I digress from the point I actually wanted to focus on today, because this too is an important point, and one you need to remember as you allow this game to be played out in your name.  When there is pain that is felt, it won’t be at the top.  Like any sanctions, it isn’t the leadership that pays the price.  It is the rank and file.  The people at the bottom.  Maybe even in the middle.  Sanctions are a political tool designed to foment revolution from within.  Either by causing sufficient discontent among the masses that the leadership can’t contain it and relents on their own, or by causing sufficient discontent that the masses literally arise in revolt.  Allowing this sequester to proceed is a calculated move by both the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership to put sanctions on the American people with the precise same intent.

And, lest there be any misunderstanding, that is the precise reason that I am somewhat in favor of them myself.  I hope that this is a case of both parties having taken very careful aim before shooting themselves in the foot.  I hope that they have very carefully calculated this out correctly and will cause just enough damage to the people and the economy that it will finally cause sufficient discontent among the American masses to lead to an end of the far right domination of the politics in America.

I think I’ll hold my intended topic for next week.  It’ll keep.

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