De-Nuclearization (May 9, 1986)

Mensa writings (1985-87), Uncategorized

 

Chernobyl:

“Besides injury and loss of life, we can expect a general demoralization about the future. There may be major dislocations to the Soviet economy which in turn could jeopardize international stability, international economic relations, cultural exchanges, the peace effort, and so forth. More likely, it will have the opposite effect, allowing us to cooperate and help one another rather than confronting each other as adversaries.”

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Anti-nuclear activists now have some dramatic evidence to place before the court of public opinion. A fission nuclear power plant at Chernobyl near Kiev, The Ukraine, has apparently “melted down” and burned out, with catastrophic release of radioactivity over an area inhabited by millions of people. It is almost a “worst-case scenario” from the standpoint of theoreticians who have attempted to determine the potential hazards of the nuclear industry.

A few years ago, there was an article in Scientific American analyzing potential harm from such accidents. For that writer, the case of a nuclear warhead being exploded directly on a nuclear power reactor facility with on-site storage of spent fuel rods was determined to be the worst possible case of nuclear disaster. The spent fuel rods consist of highly radioactive plutonium, strontium, cesium, and other elements of great longevity, and their vaporization and dispersal over a wide area might result in millions of deaths and the total abandonment and quarantine of thousands of square miles of land — for decades or centuries to come.

Although the Soviet reactor accident is of lesser consequence, it is one of the worst possible disasters short of those involving nuclear weapons. Because it was a graphite, water-cooled design now known to be inherently unsafe, many advocates of nuclear power will want to claim that their own designs are safe, and that nuclear power is a viable energy strategy. This could be a fatal error. One never knows everything that could go wrong until it actually does go wrong. Only then can it be called “an accident” or “a catastrophe.”

It was the combustion of the reactor pile, releasing huge volumes (hundreds to thousands of tons) of highly radioactive fuel rods, coolant, and reactor assembly in the form of smoke and steam that made the Chernobyl disaster so great. This type of reactor utilizes huge masses of graphite to moderate the nuclear reaction (graphite absorbs neutrons, thus slowing the “chain reaction” of uranium fission). But graphite is combustible, and must be cooled — in this case, by ordinary (light) water. (So-called “heavy water” is used as a moderator, as well as a coolant). This may have been the fatal flaw, for when a coolant pipe broke, that part of the reactor overheated, made steam of the water, which reacted with the graphite in burning, and released explosive hydrogen as a by-product. It is thought that a hydrogen and/or steam explosion destroyed the building.

It was not, per se, a nuclear explosion, but the effect was to disperse huge quantities of highly-radioactive materials into the atmosphere. The smoke and steam from the combustion of the reactor provided a mechanism for a continuing release of large quantities of radioactive materials over many days. If there was a total melt-down, much of the heavier uranium metal would have liquefied, pooled, and burned its way into the ground. This material would burn down through any structure into the earth until sufficiently diluted to cool down. It is believed that the initial contact with ground water by this fissioning molten metal would cause a steam explosion, venting another huge dose of radiation into the atmosphere and contaminating the ground water for miles around, including a nearby lake and rivers at Chernobyl.

Besides injury and loss of life, we can expect a general demoralization about the future. There may be major dislocations to the Soviet economy which in turn could jeopardize international stability, international economic relations, cultural exchanges, the peace effort, and so forth. More likely, it will have the opposite effect, allowing us to cooperate and help one another rather than confronting each other as adversaries.

In the early years of the “nuclear age,” scientists, philosophers, statesmen, and other concerned citizens attempted to determine the value and feasibility of “harnessing the atom.” Although nuclear weapons were obviously bad, and a matter for international concern in order to limit or avoid their use, nuclear power and other “peaceful” uses of nuclear energy were welcomed as being “modern,” “futuristic” applications of “high technology.”

Thousands of scientists and engineers soon found employment in the nuclear industry. In Europe and the socialist countries, state enterprises embarked on nuclear power generation programs, often integrated with the production of nuclear weapons. Even in the United States today, it is the Energy Department which finances the construction of nuclear warheads, along with providing vast subsidies and “regulation” for the nuclear power industry. This is dominated by large corporations such as General Electric and Westinghouse, along with a number of engineering and construction firms, defense contractors, etc. Literally hundreds of billions of dollars of scarce public money has been spent on nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation since the 1950’s. It wouldn’t have happened if governments hadn’t favored it, and heavily subsidized those economic interests which stood to profit from it.

On purely economic grounds (where one usually finds nuclear power defended or advocated), there is very little to be said in favor of it. Present projections are that nuclear power is considerably more expensive than conservation or small-scale, renewable technologies. The rigorous studies by Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado advocate discontinuing nuclear power generation with all reasonable haste. When we consider the future costs of decommissioning reactors after 30-50 years, we find that the present generation is benefiting itself at the expense of its own children and grandchildren — who will have substantially more people and fewer resources to deal with the problem. Expensive as nuclear power plants are to build, the costs of tearing them down and safely disposing of the radioactive structure and spent fuel (which must be done, eventually) is likely to be even greater. Indeed, there is still no foolproof strategy or technology for safely disposing of the radioactive materials! No community in the country wants to serve as a nuclear waste repository, nor is there any acceptable marine disposal strategy. Whatever mechanisms are employed, they must be secure for hundreds of centuries, and are sure to be incredibly expensive.

The risk of a catastrophe like Chernobyl has been the least tangible objection to nuclear power generation up to now. The “experts” could always say: “Nothing’s going to happen, and if it does, it will be someone else’s fault — not ours!” This kind of thinking is not consistent with scientific understanding or the utilization of potentially catastrophic technologies. Accidents happen. They cannot be avoided. And if the consequences include the deaths or injury of millions of people, the tech­nology poses a threat which must be avoided and prohibited in every case.

The fact that nuclear energy is also uneconomical gives lie to the nuclear industry’s claims of “benefit” and “necessity.” Astronomical costs, soaring utility bills, and a very few hazardous jobs are the most obvious “products” of our nuclear industry. One suspects that the vast pro-nuclear lobby is relying on a superstitious awe in the minds of voters and politicians rather than a frank appraisal of costs and benefits. Our future survival may require an outright moratorium on nuclear weapons and power plants for 50-100 years. If “safe, reliable, economical” nuclear technologies are ever developed, our descendants can decide for themselves whether or not to use them. We have no right to make that choice for others, depriving future generations of all options including survival, itself.

-Paul Stephens

Schooling for all the wrong reasons

Education, Uncategorized

Schooling for all the wrong reasons….

Writing a comprehensive “Critique of Public Education” has turned out to be my life’s work. Not by choice, mind you. I wanted to be a nuclear physicist or astronomer, as well as paleontologist in my early years. But the “public schools” made sure I’d never get there.

I did an undergraduate “thesis” at UCLA on the economics of public education – i.e., what sort of funding and political status should it have? My experience came from a town which was deeply divided between traditional Catholics and other ethnic minorities/faiths who wanted to maintain their own schools, and a public system which was excellent, but intent on destroying all competition. Originally, it was also intent on making sure that “liberal secular values” were maintained, along with “mainstream Christianity” which would be presented as only one of many valid belief systems or cultures..

I began to run afoul of this “progressive” system early-on. I wasn’t athletically-inclined or even very well-socialized, having spent my first 6 years almost entirely in the company of adults on a ranch, 8 miles from the nearest store or school, and none of whom were particularly sane or contented with their present status.

High school seemed like a bad joke. Although I had always tested very high – among the highest in my class, and I was often the most “intelligent” person in a particular classroom, including the teacher. Looking in my 10th grade Roundup (yearbook), I found a comment by an English teacher, who said I was the best student in her class! Did I even get an A from her? I’ll have to look it up.

By 8th grade, I had learned not to argue with the teachers, or with the “pets” in the class, and to basically say nothing. A few teachers recognized my superior learning and understanding and tried to make it work for that class, but that didn’t happen very often. It was not until I was a junior in high school that I finally formed a “peer group” of similar intelligence and status, but they were all “over-achievers” and active in many school activities, although usually not sports beyond one they thought they might need for a scholarship.

In any case, they were in the honors and AP classes, while I was not, because my “aptitude tests” had no effect in the social pecking order of the high school, which tracked the high achievers and socially connected (e.g., children of teachers, doctors, lawyers, political & business leaders) while trying to exclude dissidents and “trouble-makers” – especially those who might be gay, minorities, etc.

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Why I never read Ivan Illich’s De-Schooling Society until after 2000…

Whatever happened to Ivan Illich? The last most of us heard was that he finally succumbed to a facial tumor about the size of a grapefruit which he refused to have treated because of his fear of the medical profession, as a consequence of “Medical Nemesis”, probably the greatest single indictment of “modern medicine” out there. Others have since told me that he was simply letting nature take its course, and he was happy to die of a natural process rather than from chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

I doubt that Fr. Illich “feared” the medical profession as such. He simply didn’t support the high-tech, drug-and-scalpel style of medicine, along with millions of other Americans, Europeans, and other highly-educated and scientific people.

His views on education are parallel in all respects. What the public schools provide is anything but “education.” It is the prevention of education; the creation of a class society of “workers”, “managers”, and “professionals” along with an “investor class” which ultimately owns and controls everything – especially the mechanisms of the state, whether local, regional, or national governments. And this “State” exists by force and confiscation, most of which ultimately goes to protect the wealth and power of those presently in control, and to expand the control of the State over any part of society which isn’t presently monitored and controlled by its police powers.

Any idea of a “welfare state” is likely to be a fiction, and vastly unpopular in any case. It is only by constantly offering more “services” and “protection” that the ruling two-party system can maintain its position and support. In other words, we are all “bribed and coerced” to support the status-quo.

Although I heard of Illich when I was first exploring the anarchist tradition c. 1970, I was then a free-market libertarian and anti-religious, so Illich’s work didn’t much interest me. My father, who was then working for the Department of Indian Affairs in Canada, was immediately receptive, and subscribed to the CIDOC publications (explained below), and we discussed Illich a few times in the early 70’s. He was also extensively published in the New York Review of Books, which I would later subscribe to for a couple of decades, and still read on-line, but where I first read Illich extensively was in Stewart Brand’s Co-Evolution Quarterly. That was my Bible (the Whole Earth Catalog and associated projects) in those days (the 1970’s).

I didn’t actually own a copy of De-schooling Society until after 2000. For one thing, I never saw one in a book-store. It seems to have been censored from the outset, since it completely undermines the whole basis for one of the largest “industries” – public schools and universities – in the modern world. The same is true of Medical Nemesis, and how it has been totally ignored or suppressed in all the discussions of “health care reform.”

— Paul Stephens
Here is the introduction to “De-schooling Society” and a link to read the rest of it or download it for future reference. It is probably the greatest statement of education reform of the 20th century, if not any century. Paolo Freire worked closely with Illich for many years, and many of his insights are included…

http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

DESCHOOLING SOCIETY
by Ivan Illich
INTRODUCTION
1. WHY WE MUST DISESTABLISH SCHOOL
2. PHENOMENOLOGY OF SCHOOL
3. RITUALIZATION OF PROGRESS
4. INSTITUTIONAL SPECTRUM
5. IRRATIONAL CONSISTENCIES
6. LEARNING WEBS
7. REBIRTH OF EPIMETHEAN MAN

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ivan Illich was born in Vienna in 1926. He studied theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a Ph.D. in history at the University of Salzburg. He came to the United States in 1951, where he served as assistant pastor in an Irish-Puerto Rican parish in New York City. From 1956 to 1960 he was assigned as vice-rector to the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, where he organized an intensive training center for American priests in Latin American culture. Illich was a co-founder of the widely known and controversial Center for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and since 1964 he has directed research seminars on “Institutional Alternatives in a Technological Society,” with special focus on Latin America. Ivan Illich’s writings have appeared in The New York Review, The Saturday Review, Esprit, Kuvsbuch, Siempre, America, Commonweal, Epreuves, and Tern PS Modernes.

Ken Burns’ Civil War -worth the time

Uncategorized

Ken Burns’ Civil War – worth the time
4-7-11

Honorable men, resolving their differences in the most destructive way imaginable… How can we understand, let alone forgive them? Yet, we are reminded of these “passions” in today’s news – racial killings still happen as a matter of course…

I’ve been glued to the TV for the re-broadcast of Ken Burns’ The Civil War. In light of much recent discussion about Confederate flags, and whether the war was really “about slavery” or various people’s opposition to it, I thought I would comment on it. Looking through my files, I find that I wrote a very good review of this series in 2011. So, I’ll reprint that, here.

Also, I can mention that Ken Burns and most of the historians involved seem to be Southern sympathizers. We knew that, right? But it’s very well “balanced,” and some of the worst war criminals, among them General Sherman and (Confederate) General Bedford Forrest, are not so portrayed.

Gen. Forrest is given “credit” (if that’s the word) by other historians both for summarily executing any black Union soldiers captured, and for being the founder of the Ku Klux Klan after the war (along Masonic lines). None of these “facts” appear in the film, or haven’t so far. But the real merit of the film is to show both sides as highly flawed, with very few people actually wanting a war like this, but none being able to stop it. – PHS 9-11-15

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It seems almost incredible that the PBS documentary, The Civil War, was first released in 1989, the Montana Centennial. Among other things, it brought Mark O’Connor, the fiddle player who once performed with the Great Falls Symphony, to international fame. One can get very tired of this theme over a period of 12 hours or so.

The real value of the series is Shelby Foote, a Southern revisionist historian who wrote the multi-volume history upon which this documentary is based. And there are hundreds of rare and never-before-seen photographs – not just the “official” Matthew Brady and other Federal photographs we usually see. There are hundreds of Daguerrotype portraits of the people whose letters are read, to give us a real history of the rank and file soldiers and civilians whose stories are incorporated in the film. It is almost as though we had “movies” of the actual Civil War.

I don’t know Ken Burns, but I’ve heard him speak live here in Great Falls – for the Lewis and Clark film he made more than a decade later – after Baseball, Jazz, and some other huge successes. He has become an institution in himself, or maybe a “growth industry.” Still, the public interest in history and culture has probably never been lower. For every ten people who watched Baseball or Jazz, you can bet that one or less watched The Civil War with the same attention. And since it is now so “old,” few people under 30 probably remember it at all – hence, the re-issue and re-broadcast of this classic series.

I taught history to high school and junior high students for awhile. It is more than a daunting task. Having grown up in a family which was both well-read and historically conscious (my grandparents and father, in any case), I started reading biographies at an early age, for biography is the most important part of history. In those days, of course, there was little or no “radical” or “revisionist” history. It was all glorification of our own history, while disparaging most other nations and peoples of the world. And the reading of biographies, in those days, was nearly pure hagiography – “the lives of the Saints” – whom we were to learn from and emulate.

And so, I ended up with something like racist, “America Firster” attitudes. I still cringe at the thought of what I said about Vietnam as a college student – that “we had a right but not a duty to be there.” After all, we were “fighting communism,” and communism was bad, right? The only argument which either myself or my father could come up with to oppose the Vietnam War was that it was “too expensive” – both in lives and dollars, but of course we didn’t count the costs to the Vietnamese, themselves. Still, we did consider the costs to our people and country, and soon came to oppose the war. It seems that most Americans, today, won’t even make that calculation and forcefully oppose the same kinds of wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Libya and Yemen.

Which brings us back to our own Civil War. It was another “holy war” – a war against “slavery”, although virtually everyone, both North and South, would have opposed the war forcefully had it been presented as such. Abraham Lincoln was very much like more recent presidents in concealing his real motives behind a shroud of moral legitimacy. He claimed to be fighting to “preserve the Union” – that is, the United States and Manifest Destiny as a global super-power, not to “free the slaves.”

Now that we are entering upon the real sesqui-centennial (150th anniversary) of the commencement of the Civil War, the Smithsonian Magazine has undertaken to follow, in each monthly issue, the events of 150 years ago. In the current issue, there is a good account of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the Civil War, in which, amazingly enough, no one was killed until the final salutes of mutual respect in the surrender of this facility by Federal forces, when a cannon exploded and killed two of the (Northern) gunners.

A few years ago, I read the original biography of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy and the most strident defender of the institution of slavery as a U.S. Constitutional mandate. My interest in him was piqued by the hypothesis that we are descended from a common ancestor, a Revolutionary War captain, also named Alexander Stephens, who served directly under George Washington. And having always been a libertarian, I could hardly imagine how anyone could defend slavery.

It turns out that “Little Aleck” was orphaned at a young age, and only got an education and his later leadership positions because of the intervention of a kindly minister, who sent him to seminary to become a minister. So, Stephens’ defense of slavery was largely Biblical (as well as Greek and Roman – slave-owning societies all). In all other respects, he seems to have been a very astute and principled – even kindly – man. And there were many others like him, including Jefferson and Washington, among the slave-owners.

The South has alway insisted that the Civil War was not about slavery, but about State’s Rights (or State Rights, as it was known in those days). The main point is that since each state voluntarily joined the Union by a majority of votes within that state (only a quarter of the adult white males being qualified voters, of course), each state had the right to secede, and “nullify” any Federal laws which violate the U.S. Constitution and the original principles upon which our country was founded – one of them being Slavery. Had slavery never been mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, things might have been different.

Racism and slavery

Who started the American Civil War? And which side was “right” (or “left,” for that matter)? It pretty much depends on what part of the country you grew up in. Northern schools tended to teach that the Civil War ended slavery, that it was part of America’s necessary destiny (or even part of Manifest Destiny), etc. But it was the election of Abraham Lincoln, who had the support of Abolitionists, which drove the South into secession. At any time, the war could have been stopped. Let the record show that it was Northerners like Seward who consistantly opposed such resolution, and claimed that only by shedding the blood of patriots could slavery be ended.

A very different view prevails in the South. Apologies for slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, the Ku Klux Klan, honoring Confederate soldiers and leaders, etc., leave a very bad taste in most people’s mouths, including most black people now living in the South (or whose ancestors lived there as slaves). And yet, most of them don’t hesitate to support American imperialism, and its support for dictators and slave-drivers in every other part of the world. What gives?

Was slavery and racism restricted to the states “in rebellion?” Of course not. Most people in most parts of the world believed that blacks were inferior, if they weren’t blacks or other people of color who owned slaves, themselves. Noble as the crusade against slavery might have been, it was not restricted to the American Civil War, and that War was not a particularly good example of ending it, or of mitigating the damage which slavery has done.

Most historians believe that simply reimbursing every slaveowner for the value of their slaves would have cost 1/10 or less than the Civil War actually cost, without bloodshed, and we would have long ago had a just and integrated society which we still lack, 150 years after that war began. The British ended slavery throughout the Empire with a version of that strategy, 30 years before our own Civil War broke out. It continued in Brasil and a few other Western countries for some decades after our Civil War. Yet, institutionalized racism kept blacks in an underclass for another century, and more. Then came the Spanish American War, which marked the full-blown embrace of Imperialism by most of the American people (Jack London and Mark Twain excepted).

Why we need Anarchist Self-government

Uncategorized

Anarchist discussion
1-30-15 (expanded and posted June 2015)

Why are the Anarchists constantly under attack for opposing tyranny, violence, and oppression?  We’re the good guys, here – like the Peace Corps or religious missionaries trying to save the bodies and souls of a benighted people – the US Congress and its many corporate sponsors..

“Philosophy Talk,” a public radio program from Stanford University, tackled the issue of anarchism, which they more often called “anarchy” (a state of being) rather than a philosophy, or “ism.” It wasn’t bad, and good in that it got me thinking about some new issues, or maybe ones I had long since forgotten. I actually do read and discuss anarchism regularly, and have since college. It is one of the few intellectual constants in my life.

My deepest conviction is that we own ourselves, and have the complete freedom to do any socially beneficial things which are not intentionally offensive. And as a corollary, the State is an oppressive fiction, little different from a mafia-style extortion/protection racket. We are forced to work, fight, or be confined against our will. And that is a real problem which demands a real solution.

Unfortunately, our collective problem-solving mechanisms, social doctoring, engineering or whatever you want to call it – is at a low ebb. The simplest government programs and policies are constantly under attack, as though the TEA’s, ALEC, and the rest of the (corporate) welfare state wrecking crew were constantly trying to “prove that socialism doesn’t work” or it’s “too expensive” or oppressive, totalitarian, etc.

Not too many people agree with me about this, but I have the experience of having grown up (intellectually, at least) surrounded by “free market fundamentalists” and a wide spectrum of political libertarians, from no-property anarchists to “anarcho-capitalists” (yes, I agree that is an oxymoron, but many people called themselves that, over the years, most of them followers of Murray Rothbard). And there are answers – good ones – to every question.

The only reason we need a state is to start wars and oppress its own citizens while wreaking havoc on other tribes, nations, and political systems. It seems very strange that anyone would defend such a regime, when you put it that way.

Those with a lot of wealth and status use the state (and its police and military power, as well as the ability to “write laws”) to protect themselves and their “assets”, which is why they pay more taxes, but not nearly in proportion to the benefits they receive from the state.  I once proposed a “Freedom Tithe” for everyone whose net worth was over, say, $10 million.  They would pay 10% of the total each year in cash or property, until such time as the “National Debt” is retired.  Whatever these guys are doing, we want it to be cash up front from now on…..

Why are the Anarchists constantly under attack for opposing tyranny, violence, and oppression?  We’re the good guys, here – like the Peace Corps or religious missionaries trying to save the bodies and souls of a benighted people – the US Congress, the Criminal Justice System, and most of the rest of the “leadership class.”

Anyway, my basic advocacy for anarchism rests on the IDEA of anarchism, not someone’s self-proclaimed “definitive theory” or practice. And we’re talking, “compared to what?” What could be a greater horror than these dystopian police states we’ve created – mostly since Vietnam. That was the last time there was any serious resistance to the insanity of our government. Now, everyone just bends over and hunkers down – no hope for anything but cybernetic madness.

What is really striking about the present situation is the total breakdown of any sort of ethical judgment – except against those who can’t fight back. [See my previous essay, “Ethics First!”] https://greateco.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/ethics-first/

The biggest crooks, the most ruthless and “pragmatic” politicians are practically worshipped – literal “Godfathers” to “their people” who work tirelessly to elect them. And this is better than nothing? I don’t think so.

The fact that we need some of the mechanisms of the state doesn’t mean we need the state. How do we define the state? Does it have the power to tyrannize an individual, to suppress the reporting and testimony about its own crimes, etc., etc.? And we know what the CIA and other “black ops” do – they provoke wars so that our military-industrial complex may have “careers” and profits. No, they don’t actually want to go out and kill people, and perhaps be killed or disabled, themselves, but this is what they are ORDERED to do. It’s part of the deal for taking such a huge share of GDP, technology, etc. Or, it is simply the cost we must bear because we surrendered our peace and self-government for a mess of military pottage.

The Commander in Chief can stop it in a heartbeat. He doesn’t have to consult Congress or anyone else. Withdraw, cease fire, care for the wounded and damaged, and come back home. Those are the orders, IF WE REALLY HAD A “STATE” (or a Commander in Chief). We don’t. We have a captive state, a usurped state, a criminal state – whatever you want to call it, and a President who either lacks all moral judgment, or is being held hostage by the agents of “Secret Government.”

Any social philosopher will probably agree that a regimented and coerced society is neither healthy, stable, nor profitable for very long. You don’t want to concentrate power and decision-making – especially concerning war and foreign policy. These cliques and gangs of the rich and powerful will never get it right. Just like our two party system of denial and blame, they relish making the other guys look bad, rather than moving the country forward with something like Green values or whatever might be imagined to be universally beneficial.

Anyone who understands that there are answers – much better alternatives – to nearly every policy and practice which The State undertakes – must defend the principle of reason, and stand against the present regime. When Bush was President, most of us agreed we needed “regime change.” Obama, unfortunately, has proven himself to be part of the same “regime.”

The American people are now largely terrorized into submission. And in those places where there is still a connection with the land and sustainable living practices (mostly indigenous people with strong survival skills who haven’t yet been displaced or “converted” to modern ways), there is a real crisis of faith, often resulting in mass suicides and other responses of people past the breaking point.

We’re really living on Borrowed Time, and some of us have been aware of this since the Constitutional Convention of 1972. The politics resulting from that process – of writing and adopting a State Constitution by ordinary citizens, with only a few real experts in the field – well, maybe we ought to loosen up the process and try it again.

Obviously, the polarization between environmentalists, farmers and ranchers, and “Christian conservatives” in general is more pronounced, now, than ever before. And the power of the state and the professional class which profits from it has redoubled, with the integration of colleges and universities into what is little better than a prison/national security state with more people imprisoned than most of the historical totalitarian gulags.

Oh, sure. We treat them better (unless they’re juveniles or mentally ill). But they are there for little reason other than to provide jobs and control over the people who might want to do something other than follow the leadership of a state which doesn’t anything we want to follow.

Any kind of system requires that people already know and want to practice virtue – following the rules, treating others as ends in themselves rather than our prey or victims or even meal tickets. We all have souls. We’re all unique and important. If you don’t understand that, there is little use to talk of government, but if you do understand it, and can communicate it to others, that’s nearly all of what government can and should do – help people instead of tyrannizing them.

Many other cultures have an anarchist tradition. Taoism may be the best example. Buddhist values tend towards the anarchistic, too – self-discipline, rather than being disciplined by others. Compare that to our soul-less system, which actually passes laws and builds more prisons so that the prison industry might profit from it. You only need about 5 examples like this (public education would be another) to absolutely conclude that we don’t need a State. We need an involved, respected citizenry which is open, self-governing, and more or less democratic (and not driven by greed and hate).

To the extent that we send our money and delegate our rights and powers to a tyrannical central government, we are feeding the monster which consumes us. It’s not the Welfare State which needs to be starved. It’s the Warfare State and the Police State and the “Criminal Justice System” rackets. That’s far more than half of the government we have, today, and we also imprison 5-15 times as many people, per capita, than any other “free” country.

What we need is a whole lot more of anarchism. And co-ops, collectives, schools and libraries which teach freedom instead of technocracy and “nuclear deterrence.” Anarchism is the heart of the peace and justice movement. We just want to be left alone. We don’t want to be part of your state and army. We want to serve our local community, make our own rules, and live in peace and harmony with others and with nature.

Is that such a bad or “militant” or “subversive” thing? Obviously, it isn’t. While never giving up the right of self-defense, we don’t want to fight anyone. And that includes our “adversarial” legal system, labor-“management” disputes, and our whole culture of conflict and the quest for “victory.”

[Most of the above was written in the early weeks of the 2015 Montana Legislature session…- PHS]

Ethics First!

Uncategorized

Those of us who have been involved with numerous “non-proft” organizations know the importance of a name.  Instead of “Earth First!”, maybe we should try Ethics First!

Ethics First!

Everyone thinks we need an ethical society – most notably, an ethical government (one that doesn’t lie, steal, and torture us) and an ethical economy based on voluntary cooperation, self-management, trading real VALUES (goods and services, social relations, the environment, etc.) – not threats, extortion, and the commands of a totalitarian military-police state.

Most of the skills of a sustainable statecraft are well-understood. We CAN manage ourselves, on whatever scale, successfully. But we have to stop denying the wisdom of the ages (the principals of ethical behavior), and violating them at every turn. In religious terms, so long as the sinful are driving the people ever-deeper into sinfulness and the consequent disasters, things will only get worse.

Or, on a practical level, the ignorant are driving the people into ever-greater ignorance and helplessness, destroying our public institutions, and ultimately everything that makes us human. We will be some mixture of animals and machines.

It’s all the same thing. We all understand this, right?

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Here’s an earlier attempt to deal with this issue, which I saved in my WordPress file to post, but somehow never did.  This might be my first post this year…

Modeling learning behaviors…

The eclectic and mostly practitioner-oriented (local administrators, psychologists, counselors, etc.) pedagogy classes I took in the 1990’s proved very useful. Working teachers and administrators, with a bent towards reform or “expanding educational opportunities” are often very good at it, and I learned a lot, and actually made some lasting friends (for 10 years or so, anyway, reflecting my drift away from – not to say fleeing – the Liberal Establishment).

Of course, I’ve always known and practiced “life-long learning.” Learning is what we do. When we stop learning, we wither (or bloat) and die. I lived in a family of teachers – including my mother’s mother, so she had the same attitudes of the small community school, where everyone learns and shares what they know. It’s a game. It isn’t to pass tests. It’s to pass LIFE.

A lot of the courses I took were geared to K-5 teachers and counselors. There is where you learn the importance of what they call “the affective domain” = feelings, impulses, the stuff of everyday behavior by “ordinary people.” Since I was isolated from my peers until entering 1st grade, and resident in a highly neurotic family.

“The fairy-tales work in our universe” is how I once put it, “and days are like scenes in a play.” That was probably a Wilma-era poem – I’ll see if I can find it. It was more about Montana than our family, but one seems to be a metaphor for the other, and this outlined some of the commonalities.

How can we teach families to read and discuss things together? Ah, there’s the rub. We did it endlessly, each adult confiding in me the sins and shortcomings of her siblings, nieces and nephews, and other grandchildren. My grandmother Stephens had apparently made a Jesuit-like deal to have me for the first 5 years, and then my parents could fight over me, which they proceeded to do. She always claimed to have rescued me from the orphanage, but it’s doubtful she would have done so if I hadn’t been her grandson (and my best guess is that I am not, biologically).

My name was not even on my birth certificate filed at the Courthouse (maybe that’s common) but it was on the one we got from the hospital, with a footprint (like fingerprint) for identification. So I was able to “write my own ticket” at the age of 15 or whenever I first looked it up. Unfortunately, I wrote in what my name had always been – Paul Howard Stephens, son of James Howard Stephens. I probably already had a Social Security card by that time, too, so it would have been a pain to change it.

Besides my mother growing up in gangster-era Chicago (she was born 1912, in Roundup, MT), my grandmother Stephens (Paulson) grew up in Black Eagle (as well as Belt and Sand Coulee), where her mother ran a boarding house – it’s the front-piece to the red Black Eagle history published in the 1980’s, I think. She was a actually born in a railroad camp in Montana Territory, at a stop called Zurich. I have a picture of her standing in front of the railroad station at Zurich.

I don’t have a copy of the Black Eagle history (my grandmother’s sister, Mary, is also in the Belt one), but I see them here and there. Fortunately, the Montana Room at the Library keeps all that stuff, although they also discard a lot of stuff that should be there. I’ve tried to place important Montana books there several times, without any luck. Apparently, they have standing orders never to listen to anything I might say… That’s another Great Falls tradition, apparently. Send your tired, your poor, yearning to be free, to Black Eagle, along with any books or history you want to give up…

The actress, Jean Arthur, was my mother’s first-cousin, and we actually visited her when I was about 9 years old. That was about the only thing I knew of to distinguish us, but on the Stephens ranch, there was a rich history of public service and learning, to which I certainly attribute most of my future interest in these things, although the GFPS made a good effort to stamp it out, along with everyone else’s sense of freedom and independence. Charlie Russell, we must remember, got little or no respect from the kind of people who run our city and state, today. The travails of the Russell Museum bear witness to that.

Modeling Learning Behaviors.

In everything you do (as a classroom teacher, and for that matter, in the rest of life), DO THE RIGHT THING. Don’t try to hide and get away with stuff. Kids can recognize a lie or manipulative, harmful behaviors in a second. They see right into your soul, so there better be something that inspires them, there, instead of filling them with fear and loathing. It’s SHOW and tell – I can see better than I can hear. I’m looking at the facts of the situation, not what you want to tell me with all of your mercenary, ulterior motives.

Always assume your listeners are “intelligent” – they can understand things on a deep and complex level. But they can’t always explain or defend it. They know something is wrong, but they don’t know what it is. Your job as a teacher is to help them understand, and in the manner of respectful “do it your way” and “figure things out for yourself,” not “that’s the way it is so get used to it.”

I like to go back and read some of the great pedagogues of the 20th or earlier centuries. The New England Transcendentalists still loom large – John Dewey and John Muir were both disciples of Emerson, and Thoreau, the Alcott’s, Margaret Fuller, and others were major figures in their own right, while belonging to the same intellectual circle. That’s how learning really takes off and reshapes a nation and civilization.

Montessori is ever-fresh. The House of the Child. Teach the child how to live and care for his Oikos. What could be more natural and good? But only the somewhat wealthy and enlightened seem to recognize it. Montessori has done well in Montana. Perhaps the OPI should hire a Montessori Specialist to apply some of this to our present public education system. After all, that’s what it was designed for. Put them on every Rez immediately, I’d say…

My father read A. S. Neil (Summerhill) when I was a child, so I benefitted from that knowledge and his respect for my moral autonomy and giving me responsibility for the effects of my own actions. I did my share of juvenile crime, and he often told me stories about his own activities in that regard. It seems to be a kind of “rite of passage” like stealing a horse from another tribe, or whatever. Now, I would be cast into a system which has no exit but higher-security prisons. The military, instead of being an option for first-offenders who needed “discipline” and “a sense of purpose” is completely closed to such young adventurers and future conquerors of Damascus, or whatever. That’s another way we fall behind the “international norms.” Religion is the common levener (like yeast). It ferments, it explodes, it creates vast over-emissions of CO2 – but it also holds people together, and keeps them full of hot air..

Enough metaphors for this morning. Montana will rise, again..

Fragments inspired by Phil Salin’s “Freedom of Speech in Software” (1991)

Uncategorized

Popper, Hayek, and Philip K. Salin’s essay, “Freedom of Speech in Software”

– by Paul Stephens

Here’s some stuff I wrote last February, along with a quote from Popper, and then my college room-mate, the late and everlasting Phil Salin’s famous essay on “Freedom of Speech in Software,” arguing definitvely against software patents (but not copyrights). Software, like music, is a language – a form of writing, and the author can protect the integrity of his or her work that way – not by preventing others from traversing the same intellectual territory.

I’d forgotten how totally good this was – mainly because most of this stuff was already worked out when we were both undergrads at UCLA.  I was taking Hayek’s seminars which first presented “Law, Legislation, and Liberty”, and at that stage of his career, Hayek was discussing Popper a lot – very much in agreement with him, too.

Phil’s grandfather, a famous German-Swiss economics philosopher and historian, Edgar Salin, knew both Popper and Hayek – indeed, they were “rivals” as Salin was basically Frankfurt School and one of the last stars of the “Historical School”, more or less derived from Marx’s historical analysis. So, even though it was I who turned Phil on to this stuff, he already had much better connections to it than I did.

Phil was a libertarian when I met him, and even more involved in the science fiction “fandom” culture.  We also shared a knowledge of General Semantics and actually met at an Ayn Rand group at UCLA, where I would later be the Chair, only to resign as Hayek’s influence took hold…  (People find this very strange, since they think that Rand and Hayek had the same views or “ideology”).  –PHS

 A question of ethics…

Ethics is no substitute for a faith in God….

I just got a DVD of the film, Contact, starring Jody Foster, James Woods, as well as local Hack David Morse (he was also in “The Slaughter Rule,” filmed around Great Falls) as her spirit-father. This was from the novel by Carl Sagan, which I read voraciously when it first came out in the 1980’s. “Billions and Billions,” as he liked to say, whether of stars of of dollars.

The film sticks fairly close to the book, as I recall (haven’t dug it out to re-read, yet), and the dialogue is excellent. One line sticks in my mind. As the discoverer of the signal from Vega, this leading female expert and CETI activist claims the right to go and see who was calling her. The first mission is sabotaged by religious fanatics, after Foster is passed over (in a Congressional hearing) by her boss, who is willing to (falsely) admit to a belief in God, while Foster is only able to say that she is “ethical” rather than religious.

Of course, this is the position taken by most secular humanists and atheists or agnostics. In fact, the Foster character actually echoes Ayn Rand in opposing Agnosticism as “waffling” or failing to take a stand. It isn’t a question of not knowing. It’s a question of scientific evidence, and there is very little of that in favor of an omniscient (let alone ominipotent) Being who is concerned about our individual moral welfare. Yet, we still see it argued – almost daily – even on public radio and TV. Many see science (or philosophy- especially metaphysics and ethics) as a substitute or even superior form of religious dogma.

Remember how the Christian Fundamentalists once tried to ban “secular humanism” from the public schools on the grounds that it was really a religion? Secular humanism, of course, includes all of history, science, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, etc., etc. The study of Man, Woman, and others humans in the context of material reality – and even spiritual reality, if you want to go there, and Foster’s character does. She ends up marrying the preacher, so to speak – the religious philosopher who also serves on the board to select the Emissary to Vega. And has a mystical experience to boot – more or less along the lines of “soul travel.”

===========

Volkswagen in Chatanooga – where unions defeat themselves…

(This was a response to the strange case of Volkswagen insisting that its workers be unionized, and the “right to work” people talking the workers into rejecting a union, which they did by vote! )
Another Category Mistake-
Unions against the taxpayers…
No unions against corporate employers…

It occurs to me that the major labor action strategy is moral suasion, as well as that kind of “passive-aggressive” suggestivism where one always does the wrong thing, or tries to get the opponent to do or say something stupid in order, presumably, to demonstrate the failures of the present system and social order.

For example: Why are you, the boss, getting not just twice or 3 times more than the average worker, but, say, 600 times more? Twice as much in a day as we make working for an entire year of our lives! I mean, shouldn’t that cause outrage? And then we can’t even get food, shelter, or health care when that rotten system discards us? Is this what you’re seriously advocating, and even acting out as “role models?”
================
Orwell and Rand:
How Dystopia became a positive political programme

In one of his last books, Leslie Fiedler, the great mid-century literary critic (and reluctant Trotskyist) posed the question, “What was Literature?”

Or more specifically, what was the Novel? A 19th century invention of great importance. An alternative universe made out of whole cloth – bridging classes, nations, and finally even species – like Moby Dick. Imagine a to-the-death struggle between man and whale. You don’t have to. It was written more than 160 years ago.

Most religions categorically rejected “fiction” as a diversion and waste of time, if not a positive moral danger. I grew up as a reader of non-fiction – science and biography, mostly. I wanted to learn about the external reality as well as how others had coped with it, and somehow succeeded. I could hardly imagine such a course for myself. I grew up in surroundings sufficiently intelligent to know how grim our prospects were in the aftermath of WWII and the nuking of two cities. How could we (let alone the Japanese) ever recover from that?

I started with historical fiction (well, actually comic books and sci-fi )- Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Burroughs (Edgar Rice, not Bill), and assorted others. They had nice readers in 6th-8th grades in those days. We actually read a lot of things with enduring value, and were encouraged to read as much and as difficult as we could. A good librarian could send us on an adventure which lasted over years – not that any did that, for me, but my family were quite literate, and knew a lot more than most MLA people I’ve met, today – at least insofar as literature and school enrichment goes.

Give a high school or college student a book, today, and they’re likely to be insulted by your action. “Do you think I’m stupid?” might be the thought behind it.

===========

Karl Popper
“Thus when those who praise commitment and irrational faith describe themselves as irrationalists (or post-rationalists) I agree with them. They are irrationalists, even if they are capable of reasoning. For they take pride in rendering themselves incapable of breaking out of their shell; they make themselves prisoners of their manias; they make themselves spiritually unfree, by an action whose adoption we may explain (following the psychiatrists) as one that is rationally understandable; understandable, for example, as an action they commit owing to fear – fear of being compelled, by criticism, to surrender a view which they dare not give up since they make it (or believe they must make it) the basis of their whole life. (Commitment – even ‘free commitment’ – and fanaticism, which, we know, can border on madness, are thus related in the most dangerous manner.)”
Karl Popper, ‘The Rationality Principle’ (can be found in ‘Popper Selections, ed. David Miller).
=============

Freedom of Speech in Software
by Phil Salin 7/15/91

http://www.philsalin.com/patents.html

The following text is derived from the transcript of Phil’s article as it appears in this message by John Gilmore. In this message, Gilmore says about this article

Phil Salin opposed software patents on free speech grounds, claiming a government monopoly over the use of certain ideas in software was exactly equivalent to censorship of literary ideas. This was the first application of the concept of freedom of speech to software.

To: Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce
(E.R. Kazenske, Executive Assistant to the Commissioner,
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Box 15, Washington, DC 20231)

From: Phillip Salin, President, American Information Exchange Corporation
2345 Yale St., Palo Alto, Ca. 94306 (415) 856-1234

Re: Request for Comments, Advisory Commission on Patent Law
Reform (56 FR 22702-02)

Title: Freedom of Speech in Software

Date: July 14, 1991

The following comments relate to point I. “Protection of Computer Related Inventions”, subpoint c) “The Supreme Court has found that new and useful computer program-related inventions are eligible for patent protection. What rationale, if any, exists in law or policy for Congress to now remove patent protection for this field of science and technology?”

SUMMARY OF POSITION.

1. Computer Programs are Writings. As such, they should be subject to copyright law (narrowly interpreted) or trade secret protection, but not patent law. As writings, programs should be protected against any attempt by government to license what can be written. This includes well-intentioned but mistaken legal or policy arguments which create de facto censors and censorship under another name, viz. patent examiners and patent examination.

Such censorship and restraint on freedom of expression of software writers is anathema in a free society, and a violation of the First Amendment. That software patents are a severe violation of the rights of speech of programmers has not yet been widely recognized; this is perhaps in part because most lawyers, judges and politicians are still insufficiently knowledgeable regarding computers to realize that writing a computer program is in fact a form of writing, not significantly more arcane than writing music, mathematics, scientific papers, or for that matter, laws. All of these forms of speech, including writing programs, deserve full protection under the First Amendment.

2. Central Planning or Licensure of Good Ideas in Software Won’t Work. Just as any attempt to centralize or classify all original (or “non-obvious”) literary, musical, or scientific writings in the patent office would fail, so any attempt to centralize information regarding all innovative software programs will also fail. No human can know all of software relevant to any large subject, just as no human can know all that has been written on any large subject, and for the same reasons. Current and near-term innovations in the writing of software will cause the amount of software developed every year by the one million professional programmers in the U.S. to grow at an ever-increasing rate. As a result, the burden of central licensing of innovation by the patent office will grow steadily more onerous, creating unnecessary and costly barriers to software progress.

3. Patents on Writings Discourage Trial and Error Perfection of Ideas. Rather than allowing government to restrict different expressions of the same important idea, by patents or otherwise, public policy should recognize that the more important the idea, the more important it is to support the freest possible variation of expression, in order to rapidly perfect the idea. The intense competition of commercial software in recent years, and the rapid improvements in software practice which the free market in software has hitherto engendered, strongly validates this theory in practice.

ELABORATION.

1. Computer Programs are Writings.

Anyone who has ever written both a program and an essay knows how similar these complex endeavors are. Both require use of all one’s skill and knowledge. Both involve continual invention and creativity. Both require constant revision. Both evolve with time, as one’s knowledge grows. Both are written in a language which has a vocabulary that can be used in an infinite variety of ways. Although software is often a less direct method of communication than prose, in that there may be many intermediaries between a particular programmer and the end-user of an application which uses a piece of his or her code, the same is true for other forms of expression. Theater goers, for example, don’t directly read theater scripts, but see and hear them acted by intermediaries (actors); nonetheless, the scripts are writings.

Neither essays nor software are written with primary attention to “What has someone else said?”, much less “What has the official licenser/patent examiner pronounced?” Rather, both are written with attention to solving a particular problem or achieving an objective of importance to the writer. In both cases, any similarity to the works of others normally comes about because of similarity in the problems which are being addressed, and not because of slavish copying of either ideas or implementations of others.

Writing programs today is no more esoteric than writing prose once was, and writing music still is. Until a few hundred years ago, literacy was a rarity. Acquiring the ability to write prose took training. It still does, but nowadays we teach writing to everyone in schools. Other forms of writing, such as writing music or writing computer programs, are treated as optional, but we still recognize them as writing. Even though the notes don’t sing by themselves — they have to be played — we recognize the writing of music as a form of speech or expression.

Similarly, although a program has to be run to be used, before it can be run it has to be written. There are now millions of individuals in the U.S.A. who know how to write a computer program. It is an absurdity to expect those millions of individuals to perform patent searches or any other kind of search prior to the act of writing a program to solve a specific problem. If others wish to purchase a program, as with the sale of written prose and written music, absolutely no patent restrictions should be placed on the ability of authors to sell or publish their own writings. To do otherwise is to confuse the player piano (which is patentable) with the specific arrangement of notes on a specific player piano roll (which is indeed subject to copyright, but not to patenting).

Regrettably, the courts have allowed the patent office to be placed in the position of promoting de facto censorship of the work of over 1,000,000 employed writers of computer software, along with the several million additional amateur writers of computer software. All these millions of citizens are now asked to censor their own writings, or have them reviewed and censored by third parties or the courts. Whenever and wherever the patent office issues a software patent, software authors must now plead with patent holders to grant – for a price – licenses to speak as they choose; and the patent holder is under no obligation to grant these licenses.

Suppression of free thought and speech in software (writing, or publishing) is an evil, even when only a small number of individuals recognize that speech is being restricted, or what the costs will be if this harmful censorship-by-another-name, viz “patent licensure”, is now allowed to expand unchecked.

The grant by any agency of government of the exclusive right to speak in software, and the enforced branding by government of all alternative expressions of the same or similar ideas (algorithms) as illegal is inherently harmful. It is to say, in effect, “Don’t try to solve problems and invent solutions as you see fit; you or your software agents might independently write or invent something which the patent office’s licensers have placed on the Index of Banned Algorithms; in which case, at their discretion, they can force you into an expensive, traumatic legal Inquisition…”

Under the First Amendment, the freedom to speak or write may not be abridged by any branch of government or by any government licensee. This holds regardless of the good or bad intentions of those who argue otherwise.

2. Central Planning or Licensing of Good Ideas in Software Won’t Work.

Requiring writers of software to know all potentially relevant patents is the same as requiring writers of literature to have read all potentially significant works of literature before ever setting pen to paper. It is not possible; and even if it were, it is not desirable.

The main costs of software patents are not in the past or present; they are in the future. As programming literacy increases, and as Object-Oriented Programming, Genetic Algorithms, Neural Networks, and Computer Aided Software Engineering techniques expand, the volume, breadth, complexity, and scale of software written will continue to expand exponentially.

As this happens, the percentage of all that is worth knowing about software which can be known by a single person will continue to drop exponentially. This applies to software writers, and also to software readers, users, and reviewers, including patent examiners. No one can know much of what is non-obvious and innovative in software, even today; tomorrow, the problem will be even worse.

We are now entering the era when programs can write and edit other programs, and where it will simply not be possible for anyone to know which programs have evolved or been automatically revised to the point of similarity with other programs, innovative or not. Furthermore, new programs and algorithms will be written at the rate of the computer programs running to create them, not at the rate of the computer programmers typing code line by line.

At this point, software patents will go from being unworkable to being widely and deservedly recognized as impossible. For not only will they become impossible to enforce; they will become impossible to comply with. In the meantime, real companies will have to pay real lawyers increasing sums to try to avoid lawsuits, negotiate otherwise unnecessary cross- licensing agreements, and continually waste time, money, attention and energy on these and other defensive, rear-guard activities which will add nothing to America’s productivity or actual stock of inventive software.

Allowing patents in software is tantamount to asking each individual programmer to know what all the other millions of programmers on Earth are currently doing or have already done. Requiring such omniscience by software writers is a sure way to force them into civil disobedience, if not intentionally, then after they find that they increasingly and unwittingly are nevertheless violating patents of which they cannot adequately remain current or aware. When the law begins to tell people to do what is impossible, disobedience and disrespect for the law are the inevitable result.

Thus, the only thing which software patents can do is create increasingly arbitrary and costly roadblocks to progress, including crucial progress in using new tools and techniques for writing software.

Since promoting innovation is the primary rationale for patents, and since patents instead serve to impede innovation when it comes to software, and will increasingly impede innovation as the volume of software continues to expand, it is quite clear that patents should not be applied to software writings for this reason alone, independent of the First Amendment issues discussed earlier.

Similar considerations argue against a broad interpretation of copyrights, including broad “look and feel” claims. The burden of proof should always be on the copyright holder to prove substantive and thorough copying or reverse engineering. Like writers of literature, writers of software should not be expected to constantly look over their shoulders out of fear that someone someday may try to sue them due to partial or accidental similarities with the works of others. Broad interpretations of copyright are even worse than patents in this respect, because claims of copyright infringement can be made by almost any party in any field, without significant time limit, and without any requirement to state publicly in advance exactly what aspects of one’s work are sufficiently unique to deserve copyright protection. As a result, the idea of copyright protection, coherent when applied to a specific piece of writing, becomes incoherent and requires de facto omniscience if applied to all possible variations on all existing pieces of writing.

Because the focus of this analysis is on patent law and software, further discussion of the dangers of broadly interpreted copyrights should take place elsewhere.

3. Patents on Writings Discourage Trial and Error Perfection of Important Ideas.

Whenever a patent is granted on a particular expression of an idea in software, it will have a chilling effect on everyone who is considering writing software to solve similar problems. They must now tread gingerly lest their writings be later judged to overlap with the area that has had exclusive title granted to the patent holder; this holds even if their expression was independently derived, and even if it is a superior solution to the same problem. Given the manifest unpredictability of court decisions, many people will prudently decide not to innovate in areas in which someone has already been granted a patent. This is a perverse way to encourage invention.

Favoritism by a government official towards “non-obvious” (i.e. important) software innovations is like favoritism by government towards specific religious writings or specific commercial products in the marketplace: it’s an inherently bad idea. The idea that one party’s writings on a subject shall be certified by the Executive branch of the government, and all other expressions suppressed, would appear very strange to those who wrote the constitution.

Like a work of fiction, the value of a sophisticated work of software is not in the simple plot idea, but in the complex telling of the tale. It is only those unfamiliar with the strong feelings, beliefs and preferences which exist among writers of software regarding alternative expressions of the same software ideas who could believe that differences in expression of the “same” idea are unimportant to those who write software, or to those who use software written by others.

Imagine if, for 17 years, only one author was allowed to write about the plot line “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl”. Or that once some consortium of artists has invented rock and roll or string quartets (and produced an initial “reduction to practice”), no one else could write music in those styles for 17 years without their permission. Or that once the first mathematician has invented a technique for dividing numbers, all other mathematicians must for 17 years request permission before inventing their own techniques, for fear of accidentally reinventing or coming too close to reinventing what another mathematician has also thought about. In each of these cases, imagine the arrogance of someone claiming a right to bring before a court of law and convict of a civil crime all others who choose to think for themselves and write independently.

Any assertion that some one individual or organization can ever rightfully establish exclusive ownership of the use or refinement of abstract ideas – obvious or non-obvious, important or unimportant – embodied in a work of prose, music, mathematics, or software, should trouble the conscience of everyone whose creative work is built, as it necessarily must be, in part or in whole, out of ideas and techniques discovered and developed by others.

The notion that the better the idea, the better it is to grant one author a monopoly over all possible expressions of that idea is perverse. It is precisely the most important ideas which deserve the most varied and thorough exploration. The more important or innovative the area of discourse, the more important it is to avoid government favoritism or censorship of thought or expression. Letting the government grant monopoly licenses to only the most important (“non-obvious”) new ideas does not make such licensing better, but worse.

In addition to being harmful to the freedom of expression and experimentation with ideas by others, patents on software are also unnecessary. As with any complex novel or movie, significant works of software necessarily involve significant complexity and detail. Barring direct copying, which can and should be prevented by copyright law, the expertise and judgement involved in creating and continually improving any complex piece of software provides inherent protection against would- be competitors; those who invest in writing such complex software master the intricacies of the problem they are solving far better than any pure copycat competitor is likely to achieve. Asking for more protection than this, however, is asking too much. In all walks of life one makes investments which one would like to protect. But where granting protection for some involves imposing licensing requirements on others, we should always err on the side of forbearance. Software which is complex and original enough to deserve patent protection doesn’t need it; and software which is simple enough to require patent protection doesn’t deserve it.

Like censorship of religious speech in the 17th century, the issue here is not what the original justifications were (software patents as incentives to invention, etc.), but rather, how we can eliminate a dangerous, but avoidable, error: restrictive licensure of software; and how we can, instead, re-establish full freedom of speech in the writing and publishing of computer programs.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.

These comments have benefited from review and suggestions and assistance of many colleagues, including: Ravi Pandya, Mark Miller, John Walker, Marc Stiegler, Chip Morningstar, Chris Hibbert, Chris Peterson, Eric Drexler, Eric Tribble, Nick Whyte, Gayle Pergamit, Roger Gregory, Robin Hanson, Michael McClary, Paul Baclaski, Rick Mascitti, Kimball Collins, and Bob Schumaker. Any error or inelegance of expression, however, remains the responsibility of the author.

The ideas in these comments have been evolving over a period of years, and may be to some extent original with the author. However, there is a wider intellectual climate within which they are shared. Several colleagues who share the general views expressed in this document have attached their signatures. They are almost all writers of software.

Authors of non-software whose writings have heavily influenced my thinking regarding the severe dangers and foolishness of even attempting to centrally plan or license spontaneous areas of human endeavor such as the writing of software, are: F.A. Hayek (Law, Legislation, and Liberty); Karl Popper (Conjectures and Refutations); and Michael Polanyi (Personal Knowledge).

As President of a small company which is currently working day and night on developing an innovative software-based product, I do not have much free time to participate in public policy issues. I had not until recently planned to attempt to write my views on the subject of software patents and copyrights until a few years from now, when I would have more leisure to fully research, critique, and elaborate on them. However I have decided to make these views public at this time, in somewhat “raw” form, as a contribution to regulatory proceedings which I consider to be of the utmost importance.

I apologize for any lack of familiarity with the fine points of current patent law as it is currently being applied to software. My whole point is that any such details are necessarily irrelevant once one recognizes that patents should not be applied to any form of writing, including the writing of computer software.

—Phil Salin, July 14, 1991.

We the undersigned are in substantial agreement with the argument here, and hold that for these reasons as well as others, patents should not be granted in computer software.

Eric Drexler
President
Foresight Institute

Roger Gregory
Chief Scientist
Xanadu Operating Company

Robin Hanson
Artificial Intelligence Researcher
NASA Ames Research Center

Chris Hibbert
Manager of Software Development
Xanadu Operating Company

Richard J. Mascitti
Manager, Hypermedia Software Development
Autodesk, Inc.

Michael McClary
Software Quality Control Tools
Xanadu Operating Company

Mark S. Miller
Co-Architect
Xanadu Operating Company
Co-Director
The Agorics Project
George Mason University

Chip Morningstar
Vice-President of Software Development
American Information Exchange

Ravi Pandya
Co-Architect
Xanadu Operating Company

Gayle Pergamit
Manager
American Information Exchange

Chris Peterson
Director
Foresight Institute

Bob Schumaker
Macintosh Programmer
American Information Exchange

Eric Dean Tribble
Co-Architect
Xanadu Operating Company

Eleanor Marx and The Feminine Mystique

Uncategorized

Is Feminism fundamentally wrong? 5-11-14

Crazy missile launch officers and lawyers

Is there a women’s law, science, philosophy, literature, etc?

How can it reconciled with the earlier view – “man”, “the father” etc. as the primary human being?

I’ve always been a “feminist”, whatever that means. So I was a bit surprised in reading a recent review of a biography of Eleanor Marx (Karl’s daughter and main assistant) that her “feminism” is in question. That would be true of many other famous women’s leaders and advocates. Was Joan of Arc a feminist? Obviously not. Is Phyllis Schlafley a feminist? Few would say she is. How about our own Jeanette Rankin? I believe she might have been one, although a recent Montana-made film about her (with an actress playing her) got the response it probably deserved by one of Montana’s leading Marxist women – she threw it in the trash-can.

Women’s liberation, sexual equality, even sexual freedom (to have non-marital sexual relationships), and self-ownership (as opposed to being owned by father, brothers, husband, or even sons, which is the case in some cultures) are the foundations of what we think of as the correct “feminist-gender equity” principle embraced, for example, by the Green Party. I was the one to suggest that we change simple “feminism” (one of the original 4 Pillars of the Greens) to “feminism and gender equity.” I was surprised to find it still included that way on the GPUS website.

The problem with modern “liberal feminism” as maintained as the strictest sort of dogma is that it includes several things that are inherently offensive or criminal to conservative sensibilities. That would be such things as abortion and equal legal status for non-traditional marriages. And that has become the paramount political issue. No one cares about the environment, foreign wars, a vast and out of control “criminal justice” prison racket, or Food Stamp cuts when they can worry about taxpayers paying for abortions or providing benefits for gay or lesbian partners. These “family values” issues truly incense maybe half or more of the population, in a way that no war or anything short of healthcare access can accomplish.

The public demand for accessible and affordable healthcare, without the “consequences” of losing our homes or bankrupting us (never mind being excluded from the system entirely because of an inability to pay for it)  was overwhelming. So, what did the Democrats, let by our own Pharma-addicted Senator, Max Baucus do with this once-in-a-century opportunity to slam-dunk the Republicans? They introduced and forced down our throats the failed and exploitative Heritage Foundation Romneycare – written and produced by the “health insurance” extortion racket, so that not only are we stuck with this “model”, but forced to pay for it – at some 4 times the actual cost of competent and comprehensive health care for all Americans, “legal” or otherwise.

Meanwhile, the Republicans now call the ACA “socialized medicine”, and reject it unanimously. It should have been the Democrats who rejected it unanimously, but of course they’re not that smart, and they don’t care about “objective reality” – just “jobs” for their friends and supporters, and thus the need to win the next election, no matter what the policies or success with them.

More money will buy more votes. The Democrats obviously believe this even more than the Republicans. It’s just that no real Democrats can support their party anymore, so it’s run on Republican money, with predictable results. Right, Secretary Kerry?

In the 1950’s, the Age of The Feminine Mystique (a strange title, in retrospect – Ayn Rand loved it, and sold it at her lectures), we often spoke of “the Battle of the Sexes.” My extended family followed this to a T. And somehow, I was early-on pegged to “hang out with the women” rather than the men. I actually went to Tupperware Parties and the like when I was in grade school, and even into junior high, I played Canasta (Samba and finally, Bolivia) with my grandmother’s friends. But of course I wasn’t a jock, but I was a farm kid who did all that kind of stuff with my grandmother and her friends.

In these “traditional cultures”, there was a lot less gender-stereotyping than there is in modern techno-culture, although we’ve obviously made up a lot of ground since the 1960’s. I actually remember an Econ prof at UCLA saying something like “98% of the girls at UCLA are beautiful. The other 2% are Econ majors.” And they thought that was funny! Even less so since that professor’s daughter (and none too attractive) was an Econ student, there.

Eleanor Marx obviously had the same problem, although her father probably loved her deeply, and told her she was beautiful or whatever good things applied.

So, that’s one axis of the problem – beauty vs. intelligence, sexuality vs. modesty and loyalty, and other aspects of women’s character which are prized by men. Not usually bellicosity (war-mongering), stubbornness, or even attractiveness to other men. We want to be “the only one” – a view more often ascribed to women.

Traditionally, the whole complex of “women’s issues” – child-bearing, home-making, and even the creation of what I call “interlocking social directorates” or social networking is largely the province of women – especially those, I was going to say, in the middle and upper-classes.   Come to think of it, the woman is just as often “the person in charge” in working-class (and of course, single parent) households.

Women in Combat

One of the strangest turns in recent feminist history was the co-option of the Women’s Movement by militarists. Pat Schroeder, a Congresswoman from Colorado, seemed to set the pace for this, followed by “G I Jane” Harmon, from the very District where I lived in Los Angeles – gerrymandered to include vast aerospace and other military facilities. And there’s Madelein Albright, the former National Security adviser to Pres. Clinton, and the first woman Secretary of State. A disciple of that last great Cold Warrior, Zbigniew Brzynski, and a rich divorcee, she basically bought her job with contributions to the Democratic Party.

Her great “triumph” as a Holocaust survivor (adopted by a non-Jewish family to conceal her Jewish parentage) was to mount an assault on the one anti-Nazi part of Jugoslavia – Serbia, costing some 1800 civilian lives and hundreds of billions in damage to be restored by NATO- member contractors.

Following close on her heels, and with the same or similar intellectual pedigree, was Condoleeza Rice and Susan Rice, apparently no relation. And so, we are now poised for war against the Russia which already surrendered to international capitalism, and should apparently still be punished for that stupid and unnecessary capitulation.

Suffering and Virtue

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Is suffering required for Virtue?

I’m watching a show on Global Voices,
“My So-called Enemy.”
About teen-age girls,
Christian, Muslim, Jewish,
but divided by being
“Palestinian” or “Israeli.”
Nationalism rules.

These girls looked about 12-16,
and all had suffered in
the 2002 Intifada.
At the time, it seemed like a sacrificial
warning NOT to attack Iraq,
and for Israel not to join in
on this crude vendetta.

Hadn’t we done enough damage
already, with Clinton doubling it
with “No Fly Zones” and sanctions,
and bombing missions daily.
And then “the Big One” –
using the UN inspectors as spies
to target whatever military capability
Iraq had left,
telling them to get out
and then blaming Saddam
for “expelling” them.

The end result was killing
a million or more civilians
“half of them children”.
This was the finding (by some UN
Agency or other international authority
on humanitarian disasters) which
Madeleine Albright so cheerfully defended.

That wasn’t good enough
for the Republicans,
wanting to put the (other) War Party
back in power,
and do it all over again
on a totally different scale.
Not to defeat an enemy,
but to destroy a country
and its people, killing
and displacing millions.

The very definition of “genocide,”
I’d say….

Hey, not to worry.
This is the good old USA.
All we’re doing
is helping folks. You know,
protecting them from terrorists.
That’s really all we do.
We hate the oil companies
and the weapons makers,
the vast sums wasted on a military
which is far from “worth it.”

Bush II cut a deal
with the Neo-cons:
Elect me President
and you’ll get your war,
and the liquidation of that pesky
Saddam Hussein, our former client.

This is Blackjack, isn’t it?
Double down again!
Remember, this was 2002,
a year before the Invasion
actually happened.
Giving the whole world
time to organize and stop it,
which we gladly did.

The greatest peace demonstrations
in history. W, being a man of his word,
flipped them the bird and said
“Mission Accomplished”
before the real invasion/occupation
had even begun…

He must have forgotten
how to give the order:
End the war
right here and now.

Or was there, perhaps, a coup,
with his daughters held hostage
to some Holy Crusader against Islam.
Bush did say “crusade” once,
and was slapped down for it.
Overall, he had much better
personal relations with Islam
than President Obama ever did.

And don’t forget that
“House of Bush, House of Saud”
connection.
I’ve read that Osama bin Laden
actually visited the Bush ranch
in Texas
while we were still fighting
on the same side
against Soviets, or whatever.

We all hoped and prayed
for peace,
no matter how obtained
or what the terms.
Anything is better than war,
and we always have a choice.

Anyone who doesn’t think peace
is preferable to war, and
the vast disruptions and destruction
it entails – well, that person needs
to be locked up.

We dismally failed
in the last great manifestation
of peace and justice.
Nie wieder Krieg!
How can they keep doing it?

We forgot:
War is contagious.
It builds on itself,
and it is well-nigh irreversible
once it reaches a certain frenzy.

The press, the media,
you fed that frenzy.
You stifled dissent and reason.
You must have thought,
like William Randolf Hearst,
that war sells papers.
I got that in Viet-nam.
It became a back-lot for the
American Media Machine
in all its glory.

That’s why they’re saying,
The present crisis is the most dangerous
ever – more, even, than Cuba
which had a status-quo
which could be maintained
through trade-offs and negotiations.

Still, it’s an example
of what is happening now.
No one knows,
or apparently even cares,
what might happen
as a consequence of embargoes,
sanctions, ultimatums,
and undeclared “black ops”
which today aren’t even denied.
Everyone now knows
they happened, and are happening
even as we speak.

Who can say, “Enough!”?
How many times have I said it?
This was Occupy’s message,
and that of the Hundred Just Men (People)
who continually warn us of our peril.

Noam Chomsky, the late Gore Vidal,
a whole great website and magazine
called “Counterpunch.”
Paul Craig Roberts, Reagan’s economist,
who truly understands “both sides.”
“The Anti-Empire Report,” Bill Blum’s
longstanding account,
and 100’s of others – some
not political at all,
but merely, like John Driscoll’s
Steward Magazine,
“a human place.”

They say you can find
good people in every party.
And every “nationality”
even when they are fighting
over the same territory.

Too often, we confuse nationalism
with “conservative” or even
“right-wing” tendencies. Norwegians
are very patriotic,
and quite “left wing”,
as we would understand
their system, here.
I am troubled by these really
“good countries”
belonging to NATO,
and actually participating
in all of its predations
and destruction.

I’ve told them as much,
which is just about all I can do.
Getting out of and disbanding NATO
is the highest possible priority.
As well as disarming Israel
which may well be
the reason we now
retain an alliance
with a war machine like NATO.

Are there any business people
who mostly get it?
Who want to change the system
so that social responsibility
is rewarded, not punished or prohibited?
The Good Society needs some rules
the main one being The Golden Rule.

We need to think
outside our box,
and from the other guy’s
perspective.
We all have
equal status, so that
some can’t be sacrificed
for the benefit of others.

All public services
should be transparent,
non-profit, and run
without graft and payoffs.

Wages from labor
should not be taxed.
Certainly not at the
lower levels.

The so-called
“Negative Income Tax”
or income “floor” below which
no American can descend
would be a good idea.
Right there, we end most crime
and suffering of the victims.
Isn’t that worth a little “welfare?”

Energy policy is dirt simple,
and of a similar kind.
Tax fossil fuels
and close down nukes immediately.
This will give the coal plants
a few more years
while giving every incentive
and encouragement to renewables –
mostly wind and solar,
efficiency and conservation.

In this respect,
Germany is the leader.
They directly subsidized
roof-scale solar, and now get
a good percentage of energy
from that.
Of course, they’ve always
been “green” and efficient
on fossil fuel use
since they don’t have
much of their own.
It makes them more competitive
in international trade.
They really have to trade value
instead of threats and sanctions-
a sure sign of bankrupt foreign policy.

– Paul Stephens, 7-29-14

Pi = 3.0 and other Fundamentalist reforms

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Pi = 3.0

“He knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”

Southern “Fundamentalists” have an ancient history. Remember the Scopes “Monkey Trial”? It’s going on right now in Helena, and state capitols around the country. There were actually Southern states which passed laws proclaiming that Pi = 3 (the ratio of the radius to the circumference of a circle, usually recorded as 3.1416 or 22/7ths, for those working in fractions only). This can be a metaphor for the kind of thinking which proclaims Marijuana to be a “schedule 1 drug” and thus locks up millions of people and ruins their lives because of a wrong definition. DEFINITIONS MATTER. OBJECTIVE REALITY MATTERS. SCIENCE MATTERS. THE TRUTH MATTERS. Tell that to the Judge…

The Truth Shall Make You Free

As little theologically-inclined as I am, I am still puzzled at this “Fundamentalist” view of God – a kind of fierce “hanging judge” who lives in a book, not in the real world. God is whatever they say he is. And His laws are totally arbitrary, not to be discovered or questioned (proven), but to be proclaimed by phoney “prophets” like ….(name your favorites).

How can they think that the Theory of Evolution (now we should say, the Principles or mechanisms of biological evolution) is irreligious, and somehow an affront to the God who is proclaimed (in an ancient book of doubtful provenance) to have “created” everything in 7 Earth Days (before Earth was even created, apparently – now, they say it may have been 7 billion years, or some such number). Or that birth control is some sort of “communist plot”, or an incitement to prostitution?

Speaking of numbers and “numeracy”, there’s even a book in the Bible called “Numbers.” Is it a math primer? Or an accounting of reality (in c. 2000BCE Judea, conducted by Moses and Aaron) in mathematical terms? Some of the earliest writing, we discover, was accounting ledgers – cows and troops and chariots and water rights, the numbers of people enrolled in tribes or clans, etc. – in the cuniform of the Assyrians. The ancient Hebrews did a tour of duty, there, too – who knows when or how their writing evolved? We now know they’re all “Indo-Europeans”, from the Plains of India to Ireland, with only the Basques exempt from this designation and language-group….

According to the Christian (and many Jewish and Muslim Fundamentalists – they all claim descent from Abraham, whence the term “Saracens), it is this “history” of some 8000 years, recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, which constitutes the entire time-span of cosmic history. In this view, there weren’t even stars or galaxies before 8000 years ago, and Men (humans) did not come into being before the 6th Day.

If you wonder why so many religious conservatives can be opposed to climate science, economic science, or indeed, any other logical and “secular” understanding of things, some 40% of Americans actually believes that the world was created 8000 years ago. Thus, all the geological evidence, 100K-year-old ice-cores from glaciers, etc. just don’t exist. And if they do, they were put there by this “Beneficent God” to test our faith. Only those who deny global warming will go to Heaven, apparently. Warming must be the work of the Devil.

The Age of Reason dismissed most of this as “superstition” – not a bad thing in itself, mind you. It’s something we imagine on top (super) of what we know by direct perception and experience. The more polite word is “Transcendental” – that which transcends ordinary material experience. And it’s all good.

Why would any God worthy of our belief and respect object to Science? Or real geologic history? It’s merely a correction of the human record, and our understanding of it. It doesn’t reflect on God or her “Creation” in any way. All the laws and facts of science are the laws and facts of God. Of course, we don’t need to posit a God to make it all work. It works just as well without any sort of “supernatural” explanations. “Occam’s Razor” is a Medieval principle we still use, today.

The simplest explanation (consistent with the evidence) is the best one. Our study of Nature may be enhanced by reverence for or faith in God’s Creation, but we should not use our faith to suppress and punish those who don’t share it. And that might be the difference between Christianity and Islam. Christianity implies eternal forgiveness and reconciliation, not “death to the infidels” (which, in fact, Islam usually rejects, as well). American Christians need to dialog more with Orthodox Christians who live in the Middle-east, and not follow the hate-filled legacy of organized religion and religious wars/persecutions in the West. Shi’ites and Sunni have nothing on Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, or in 17th Century Germany and Poland.

The war between faith and reason has been reborn in the war between science and the humanities. We thought we had this licked in the 1960’s, with C.P. Snow’s work and the discussions it inspired. The traditional Liberal Arts didn’t really have this problem, since it included such things as math, astronomy, and cosmology. And it was basically the tools of learning, thinking (logic) and writing or speaking (rhetoric) which had been developed by Aristotle nearly 2000 years before the 1600’s, when the Age of Reason started up again, and Religious Authority began to be questioned and opposed wherever it seemed to conflict with humanistic values.

They didn’t teach “history” as such. You “read history” just as you “read law.” By reading, you learn what happened, and what sort of ideas or principles govern human society and its development and conflicts over time. It isn’t a matter of taking a test, but simply demonstrating, by your work and conversation, whatever level of understanding and expertise you have attained. Would that we had similar qualifications for lawyers and judges, today, instead of how much they spend on negative campaign advertising, or kow-tow to some imagined hirearcy of prestige and authority within their “profession.”

The first “humanism” exemplified by Erasmus and his fellows was about learning Greek and Latin, and recovering the lost wisdom, art, and literature of the Mediterranean Classical World. And this was easy enough because the New Testament was written in Greek, and the Catholic Church conducted its business exclusively in Latin. People already knew how to read the Classics, but the non-clerical stuff had long been lost and suppressed – except for the grafitti and incriptions which endured and were visible to the literati.

The texts of Plato and Aristotle, although widely known in the Hellenistic world (later Byzantine Empire and Caliphate), remained lost to Europe through the “Dark Ages”. St Thomas Aquinas and his teacher, Albertus Magnus, put Aristotle back into the curriculum – including Theology – and this led to all sort of developments including the establishment of universities on the model of the Academy and Lyceum. Still, it would be centuries before such universities were independent of ecclesiastical authority.

Indeed, the main purpose of these universities was to train the clergy, who also served as schoolmasters at all levels. If you look at the Talib in the Islamic world, today, you can get some sort of idea of what this education was like. Lots of memorization, little thought or discussion, and lots of copying ancient texts and and holy writings.

The first task for a scholar at a university in the 1300’s was to make his own personal copy of the Bible, or at least the most important parts of it. And this could take up to 200 calf-skins (vellum), and thousands of hours of copying the Greek or Latin script from the “master copy” at that school. Having learned about this studying Medieval Philosophy at UCLA, I could see the parallels when I went to work for the Campus Computing Network, and cyber-scholars consulting the 3-foot-thick book of “error messages” and “codes” in the Machine Room, where their programs were still submitted by hand on punched cards, which we then fed into the card reader, resulting in some “output” on a printer or magnetic tape. That whole computer, an IBM 360-91, had only 4 MB of RAM, and it was one of the largest and fastest in the world in 1969.

This was the beginning of the Age of Machines – which seems to be evolving more or less as predicted in the James Cameron film, The Terminator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would follow (or perhaps mimic) Ronald Reagan from the Silver Screen to the Governor’s mansion in Sacramento. Another fulfillment of the Sacraments, one might say, and the idea of God as a great Machine which regulates and governs us all.

 

Whole Systems – an organic view of society

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An organic view of society…

People who don’t study “whole systems” shouldn’t be making any sort of policy. It’s disgusting the levels of ignorance in our public discourse. Indeed, our elected representatives and their spokespeople, as well as the other “pundits,” seem to have hit a low ebb. Most of the talking is either propaganda, or craven submission to some imagined “authority.”

When I was teaching, I found that very few high school students even knew what a “pundit” was – supposedly a learned, respected intellectual leader. I think it comes from Pandit (India) – like Pandit Nehru. So does the word “thug,” I’m told, come from India – some sort of gangs who beat up people, obviously.

If you don’t see or understand the “organic” nature of society, it doesn’t make much sense. We are all interconnected – what one person or group does can influence everyone else – often for the worse. This was Hobbes’ “Leviathan” – and there are even illustrations showing how different jobs, offices, and other functions correspond to the parts of a giant human body. This was part of the growing “rationalist”, scientific age – the direct fruit of the Renaissance translated into formulae which could work just as well in Germany or Scotland as they did in Florence or Venice.

But a wealthy, educated, and empowered citizenry poses very different problems of governance. We have to make a new compact, so to speak, to recognize that we no longer want a society of capitalists and slaves, warlords and peasants, or other divisions which have proven so destructive to our common future.

If we’re all part of the same body, then the nervous system must be the electronic media. What happens when false signals are generated, and the really important signals are intercepted or distorted so that the extremities cannot act, or act improperly?

We are “networked” more, now, than we have ever been in history. And the outcomes do not seem promising. Human happiness and welfare is not increasing. We haven’t turned away from war and exploitation. Indeed, that’s just about all we see from our so-called “elected leaders” as well as appointed or market-serving “spokespeople” who are paid to lie and deceive us. Does anyone really think this is working, or can work?