Greed Kills!

2017/06/21

London experienced a horrible fire recently, when a 24 story apartment building caught fire and burned rapidly.  So far, 79 people are either confirmed dead or missing and confirmed dead, and the death doll may go higher.  I happened to be reading the New York Times at the time that the fire was reported, and the video that I saw was terrifying.

High rise buildings are designed to contain fires to their starting point, so that people have a chance to get out.  This building burned like it was soaked in gasoline.  Seeing a multi-story residential building burning from top to bottom is utterly wrong, never supposed to happen kind of stuff:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKe2I-s_AQo&index=1&list=FLT0coajYwPzUbTWP5a9lTEQ

From the first, people who lived in the building were saying that the cladding,  which had been added during a 10 million pound renovation as insulation, had burned rapidly, spreading the fire from a lower floor to the top floor in minutes.  Additionally, the building only had one fire stairwell, and there was no central fire alarm system.  As the building had been built in 1974, it was not required to have sprinklers.  That anyone escaped at all is mostly due to the presence in the building of many Muslim people who were awake preparing their Ramadan meal and spread the alarm.

This horrible tragedy was completely preventable, and most certainly is the result of criminal negligence.  Terrorism is an act meant to force people to change.  Setting people up to die  by saving a few pennies is far worse.

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Strength through knowledge, not arms

2017/06/12

President Trump has been talking about spending a bunch more money on the military, supposedly to make the U.S. safer.  But the military cannot make us safer, they only can provide the means to retaliate for any acts of terrorism.  What can make us safer is technology, technology to detect threats and identify the people behind them.

A big part of the justification for increasing military spending is to insure that the high-tech companies that are essential to the military are kept in business.  But these companies are also the ones which make possible our exploration of space.  By spending money on space technology instead of on the military, we can support the development of new technologies as well as keeping the industrial side of the military-industrial complex healthy.  Many of the military’s weapon systems have been impacted by developments resulting from space exploration.

Aircraft carriers, tanks, and airplanes will not protect us against acts of terror.  Spending more on the military will not make us safer.  Spending on space exploration promotes the development of new technologies, while at the same time providing business to companies involved in defense.  The microprocessor was a spin-off from the space program which has affected every aspect of our lives.  Spending on space is a far better investment than spending on the military.

Wanting Change

2017/06/07

Americans by and large want to see changes in their country.  They see many problems that should be addressed, they see large amounts of money disappearing into government treasuries, and they wonder if they will be employed in six months.  Change is happening, but not very often for the better.

The changes that we need are ones that deal with our selves, our expectations, our hopes, our strengths, and our weaknesses.  Understanding that we need to work together to achieve things, so that we can combine our strengths to counter our weaknesses.  We have been trained to crave physical, material, monetary rewards in lieu of all else, yet we need spiritual rewards as well;  the pride of a job well done, the thrill of achieving a goal with teamwork, the feeling of being included when part of a group working together.

Even more so, we need the emotional and spiritual energy of sharing good times with others, excitement and novelty to inspire creativity, and affirmation and recognition to develop self-esteem.  We need to open up to our spiritual side, the side of how we treat each other, and how we treat ourselves.  All of us have worth, all of us contribute somehow.  Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend.  Do not fear change.

Russian interference? Nyet!

2017/05/23

There is now overwhelming evidence that Hillary Clinton would have won the 2016 election had not the Russian government gotten involved.  And there is little question that Donald Trump does not represent the majority of the people.  What should we, the People do?  Vice-President Pence is so deeply in the Russian’s pocket that he had to recuse himself from the investigation, so merely impeaching Trump will not solve the problem.

I am incensed that our government has been corrupted by foreign interference, and I want to see action taken to right this wrong!  Oh, wait a minute…  We need the Russians to be able to get to the space station, don’t we?  We can’t put a person in orbit ourselves, can we?  And here we are talking about sending people to Mars.   No wonder people want to go to Mars, there is no intelligent life here on Earth.

The Russians got a double deal with Trump; not only someone  more pliable than Hillary Clinton, but a person whose personality is likely to destroy the office of the President of the United States.

The West in crisis

2017/05/07

France teeters on the edge of a anti-Eurpopean revolt, the United States seems locked in a internal war, and England has decided to leave the European Union, which it was never completely a part of.  Spain, Italy, and Greece, the foundation of the Western mind, are trapped in financial suspended animation.  Germany’s premiere auto maker admits to designing vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.

Social issues, such as financial in-equality, health care, and retirement benefits are becoming very important in the U.S., eroding the dominance capitalism has had for the last 150 years.  Church attendance is at all-time lows, yet many people are interested in spiritual growth.  Evidence indicates that Russia meddled with the American election, throwing the result into question.

The acceptance of capitalism and materialism in areas outside the West is very troubling, because they are not working very well in the West.  Greed for ever increasing profit, disregard for environmental issues, and lack of sustainability are becoming trademarks of the Western world.  The West consumes the majority of the world’s resources, yet represents only a fraction of the world’s population.  That is unlikely to continue, especially as countries like China adopt automobiles in place of bicycles.  We all are going to be riding bicycles soon, I think, and we will consider ourselves lucky to have them.

The wrong stuff

2017/05/01

America was made great by companies working together with employees to build products which would last and last.  America was made great by governments investing the public’s money into roads, bridges, and water systems.  America was made great by working people sacrificing part of their lives to an employer, or by people who built their own empires from the ground up.

America is being destroyed by greed, the belief that work is somehow demeaning, only fit for inferiors.  Greed which drives corporations to focus on practices which drive away customers; cutting costs often means cutting staffing, so there are fewer people to provide customer service.  The emphasis on profit has become obsessive, driven by shareholders who demand an income from lending money to a company.

Capitalism may have been great during the early years of the United States, but it is doing great harm today.  Wealth is so concentrated that the economy is capsizing.  Debt is considered an essential financial tool, instead of last resort.  Banks no longer are lending depositors money, but money from investors hungry for immediate rewards.  Many dwellings are mortgaged for more than they are worth, and there are vacant homes all over the country.

Taking care of the people should be the most important aspect of society, insuring that there are healthy, educated, well-fed people to perform the work needed to support an advanced society.  Single-payer health care is an essential aspect of an advanced economy, protecting the employer from the costs of employee’s health care for life.  This health care should include dental, vision, and behavioral aspects, as the prevention of problems is far cheaper than dealing with the problems.  Providing minimal housing is another essential government role, insuring that everyone can sleep indoors if they want to.  We don’t need a three-bedroom home for every person, but a shipping container can provide superior protection from the elements for a very small price.  How you fix up the inside is up to you.

Taking care of the people is like taking care of your car.  Unless you don’t care about costs, taking care of tools, vehicles, or plant and equipment is essential.  People are our most valuable resource, and we have been exploiting people without mercy.  The rewards for submitting to the constraints of employment have been diminishing for decades.  Our spiritual lives are frequently empty and barren, amidst a society obsessed with material things.

Our culture  of greed is making people sick, to the point of killing each other, and themselves.  Our society is destroying us, exploiting us to death.  We cannot go back to earlier days, nor can we afford to continue as we are.  Change is inevitable, and the longer it is delayed, the more disruptive it will be.

Science saves lives!

2017/04/24

On Saturday, April 22nd, I joined hundreds of people to march in the streets for Science.  In was also Earth Day, and we were marching for Earth as well as Science.  After chasing down materials an hour before the march, I made a sign that said “Science saves lives!”.  This message was my own idea, and I liked it more than any that I had seen on the Web.  I discovered that it was also an easy slogan to chant, and got people to chant it several times.

Science is under attack, by people who don’t want to believe that our existence is threatened by our own activities, or who feel that profit is more important than the future.  Some people believe that Science is anti-spiritual, anti-religious, because their faith depends on miracles.  I happen to believe that Science does not have all the answers, and that there are things which we cannot measure, or detect, which still have an impact on the Universe.

Science is not bad, or evil, it is neutral.  It can be used to do harm, to destroy, but it also is an important part of survival.  But Science can be hard for people to understand, and even intelligent, well-meaning people can get confused.  Vaccines are beneficial, the square root of negative one does exist in mathematics, and electricity flows from negative to positive.  Investigate, study, question.  These are fundamental to the scientific process.

An artificial family

2017/04/14

The extended family, tribe, or clan has been the support system of humanity for thousands of generations.  In the United States, that support system is nearly extinct.  Never before have parents been the sole, primary caregivers of their children.  The breakdown in the behavior of youth is a direct result, I believe, of children not having elders available who have time on their hands to spend with children.  This is most critical for children in the toddler stage, ages 2 to 5, when self-esteem, awareness of social history, and feelings of inclusiveness are developing.

Instead of putting children in daycare centers where a small number of young adults oversee 20, or even 30 children, I recommend that we establish daycare centers in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other places where there are many elders with time on their hands.  This would benefit not only the children, but the elders as well, giving them a sense of connection with the future.  Large concentrations of elders without any young people is totally unnatural, an environment where depression and despondency are to be expected.

Having high school-age young adults help with the toddlers and small children would provide the able-bodied people needed to ride herd on a group of rambunctious kids, while allowing the elders to spend time with the youngest children, listening to them, telling them stories, singing songs with them, and generally letting the children know that they are important, and are part of the group.  And we could probably save some money in the process.

Living in the cloud

2017/04/05

A friend has gotten me to think about the difference between studying to gain knowledge and learning how to access knowledge quickly.  ‘In an era when I can look up practically anything, why should I spend years studying different subjects so that I can be tested upon them?’ is a paraphrase of what he said.  He also once talked about living in an “effluent society”, but that is neither here nor there.

Human knowledge has far exceeded the ability of any one person to grasp.  We need to decide what are the fundamentals that we must teach each other, what skills are so essential that we should group people together for hours at a time so that they can learn them.  Simply knowing that knowledge exists is not the same as having the knowledge, and knowledge affects our actions and thoughts.  But not all people are going to be receptive to the same knowledge, so we must choose a way to convey it that is flexible, with those who are interested being able to pursue something further.  The ‘classroom’ has become one of the biggest impediments to education, in my opinion, because it stipulates that everyone is going to learn at the same rate, and in the same way.

Treating us as individuals means stepping away from the industrial ‘assembly line’ method of instruction.  Focusing on a persons strengths, helping them to overcome weaknesses, developing their personalities, these are the role that the public school system must fulfill.  We can have a room full of students, but we should not view them as a ‘class’.  American society has gutted the family, destroying the network of relatives and friends that were responsible for the raising of the young for thousands of generations.  Nurturing means showing the world to someone, while helping them to cope with it.  The world is a vast mix of ideas, cold realities, and ignorance.

The electronic world offers us near instant feedback on our efforts, if we are strong enough to pay attention.  Living in the cloud means being aware of each other in near real time.  This promotes a group consciousness, a multi-mind, which can occur when a number of people are thinking about the same thing at the same time.  We may be evolving into a single sentient organism, if some science fiction writers are correct, but we still need to get along with each other in the meantime, and schools are where we will learn how.  People have to be taught how not to get caught up in emotions, how to say ‘no’ to themselves, and to others, and how to believe in themselves as people, with intrinsic value.  We have to care about ourselves before we can really care about others.

Destroying our community

2017/03/22

Without community, humans are nothing, for they will lose everything they create or accomplish, when their life ends. Community can preserve the creations of the individual, and build upon the accomplishments of its members. Community is what gives us strength in times of adversity, community is what helps us to find work or other resources, community is essential to the human existence.

Community is under attack, being gutted, by the wealthy of the United States. They have no sense of community, feeling no inclination to share their immense wealth in ways that create meaningful work for everyday people. The tiny fraction of the population which controls nearly all of the wealth resents any suggestion that what they are extracting from the community is, in any way, shape, or form, the property of those whose work made the wealth. Their incredible wealth has made it so that they can live beyond the community, without the need for others to help with the children, or the gardening, or the housework. They pay servants for those services, thus maintaining a barrier between themselves and the working class people.

The ‘haves’ label as communism any attempt to improve the community which requires the redistribution of wealth. Yet, without community, there would be no ‘haves’, or ‘have-nots’, because humanity would have perished long ago. If we do not take care of each other, eventually we all will encounter a time when we need help and there will be no one there.