Here Thar Be Monsters!

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30.6.16

The Mandela Effect, Part 2

In Part 1, I described an experience that I have shared with a couple of other people, in which we have very distinct memories of B. B. King dying in May of 2005, yet it was reported in May of 2015, that B.B. had died again, at least as far as we were concerned.

Just last week, I learned purely by accident that this phenomenon has been dubbed the Mandela Effect, and apparently a great many people have experienced it.  In particular, folks are convinced that a celebrity has died who is still alive (Kirk Douglas for instance), while others have clear memories of a celebrity dying more than once.  Even stranger is the fact that many people, who are complete strangers, share the same memories in great detail.

Across the internet, much of the discussion seems focused on movie lines or titles.  I dismiss this as either remembering a popular impression of a character's scene or just complete bunk trying to cash in on the interest.

One prime example is the plethora of videos about Interview with a/the Vampire.  A quick trip to Wikipedia shows the title as using "the." But even if later issues have changed to "a," it doesn't matter since the author can confirm the original title and there must be thousands of original copies of both the book and movie in circulation.

I call this discussion the "Play it again, Sam" theory, and it includes the Snow White "mirror mirror" and Empire Strikes Back "I am your father" branches of the Mandela Effect hype.

I wanted the reactions of people I knew were level-headed and tended to research things a bit more deeply than Google and hashtags.

Of the people I wanted a reaction from was Joseph Farrell, the well-known author and researcher whom we've interviewed a couple of times on Radio Far Side.  I sent him a note asking if he had ever heard of the Mandela Effect.  The response was nearly immediate and he wanted to discuss my experiences.

It turns out that it is a topic of great interest to Farrell and his subscribers, who have discussed it at length in member vid-chats.  According to his members, this phenomenon is global and seems to have two common factors - celebrities and a period of roughly 10 years.

I was genuinely stunned.  After learning of the name Mandela Effect, I started looking around the net for references.  It wasn't hard.  There are around 511,000 returns on Google, covering websites, blogs and videos.  From what I see, about 50% of the data centers around people misremembering movie lines.  As I said previously, I find this highly unreliable, since a lot of folks remember the line, "Play it again, Sam," from Casablanca, but that line has never existed, at least in the film itself.

The rest of the data focuses on celebrity deaths.  Farrell has specific memories of Helen Thomas, the veteran political reporter, dying during the Clinton Administration and listening to Bill Clinton deliver a eulogy at that time.  Yet, any reference to her will mention her death in 2013.

Joseph also mentioned Kirk Douglas being alive, and that caught my attention.  I distinctly remember watching an interview with his son Michael talking about his father on the occasion of his death.  Yet, according to Wikipedia, Kirk is still alive.

At this point, we discussed reasons for this phenomenon.   I wouldn't feel comfortable trying to express his thoughts, but suffice it to say that he thinks it may be an experiment in social engineering that involves manipulating quantum forces and correlating the effects with massive databases to see what has changed.  The analogy he used was overlapping multiverses with leaks between them.

I was fascinated with the possibilities, though a bit horrified to think that anyone could be mucking around with timelines and peoples' memories on a mass scale.  However, my own theories more or less have the same thing happening, but in a different way.

The Mandela Effect reminds me a lot of several different stories, both fictional and real.

The first is a book that I was enthralled with as a child.  It was "A Sound of Thunder," which introduced the concept of 'the butterfly effect' into common culture.  In the book, time-travelling hunters from 2055 go back to the Jurassic Age to hunt dinosaurs.  An accident leads to a butterfly getting crushed in the past and causes hundreds of large and small changes back in the current time, as the effects of the butterfly's demise ripple through millions of years.

Another favorite book was Robert Heinlein's "The Number of the Beast."  Here, a mathematics professor invents a "continua" device that allows the main characters to shift through six dimension of time and space (leading to the reference of 666).  The characters are deceived by telepathic overlays on reality during their journey through alternate universes.

Finally, the story of John Titor comes to mind.  This may be a bit of an obscure reference, but John Titor was a supposed time traveler who appeared on the internet in various chat rooms around 2000 and 2001.  He was supposedly from 2036, and was on a mission to the 1970s to obtain an IBM 5100 computer to help in decoding a number of old machine languages to avoid some Y2K-like problem in the future.  He described time as a cone shape extending into the past and future that allowed access to multiple timelines, which could vary greatly or very subtly from our own.

All three stories are worth reading, so do make use of the links, but the salient point is that they all involve time travel and in some way mirror the Mandela Effect.  My operating theory is that our timeline has been changed in some way, either in a single event, or in several, and may be ongoing.  I suspect that easiest way to do that would be to manipulate very small and discrete parts of the past to change something in the future.  The double death/not yet dead phenomenon may be an incidental or intentional result for whatever purpose(s).

And yes, I know this sounds far out.  And I do have a much more mundane, though nefarious means of achieving the same result: Winston Smith.  If you recall in "Nineteen Eighty-Four," the protagonist's job is to literally rewrite history.  He spends his days at MiniTrue making people appear and disappear in history, changing narratives and making sure that the past matches the official party line du jour.

It's not an easy choice, and any of them require a very large departure from what we fondly refer to as "reality."  Whether it's Farrell's multiverse leaks, Bradbury's ancient accidents, Heinlein's continua machine, Titor's military time missions, or Orwell's MiniTrue, something is causing an actual phenomenon in which a large number of people "misremember" historic events, but do so in a way that complete strangers "misremember" with exactly the same details.

There is no natural phenomenon that can explain this, and it has only come into the public consciousness with the past two decades.  Most of the reports that I find credible more or less occur between the mid-1990s and today.  Nor can I find any reference in older texts to similar documented phenomena in the past, so this seems to be something completely new.

If you have experienced it, then you know the very strange and other-worldly feeling you get when it happens.  It can literally leave you vexed and paralyzed for a few moments as you try to process the discontinuity in your clear memories.

Either we are all being manipulated somehow (real or perceived), or accidents are occurring (likely in the past) that are changing our current timeline.  No matter how you slice this, the implications are truly unsettling.

One way to find out is to bring the topic to wide public attention.  By making it a major item of conversation, perhaps we can at least stop it from happening, and perhaps even discover why it's happening.  I suspect we will not like the answers behind the Mandela Effect.

There is no reason in physics that time travel is impossible.  When we peer into the Universe, we are travelling backwards in time, as we see the Universe only as it was anywhere from minutes to billions of years ago.  It is also quite possible that aspects of physics that allow time travel have been hidden from the general public for just the sort of reason we are discussing here.

What is most disturbing, and implied by the Mandela Effect, is that we may be unaware of just how much our lives have been changed.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Part 3

29.6.16

The Mandela Effect, Part 1

The other day, a colleague out of the blue asked me if I remembered when Nelson Mandela died.  "It was 1998, or so, I guess," I replied.

"Would it surprise you if I told you it was 2013?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah.  Why?"

And that is how I discovered the Madela Effect.  Or at least that it had a name.

Did you know Kirk Douglas is still alive?  I distinctly remember his son Michael being interviewed on the occasion of his death.

Do you recall Helen Thomas dying during the (first?) Clinton Administration in the 90s?  It was actually 2013.

And wait till you read my experience.

Google defines the Mandela Effect as:
[a] term for where a group of people all mis-remember the same detail, event or physicality. It is named after the instance in which a large group of people all shared the same memory that Nelson Mandela died prior to his actual 2013 death, usually some time in the 1980's.

Nelson Mandela died in 2013, at least according to Wikipedia, but a lot of people, including me, remember him dying a fair time earlier, thus lending his name to the effect.  For a fairly succinct summary of what all this is about, take a look at Fiona Broome's website.

If you look up all the YouTube videos, you'll find that the term has been around for a while.  A lot of people experience these kinds of things, though not necessarily everyone having the same experience.  I never had a term for it until now.  If you read George Ure at UrbanSurvival (link in right column), he's discussed this effect for some time, though I've never seen him call it the Mandela Effect.

According to the data I've found, most folks experience it with celebrity deaths or movie lines.  Frankly, I dismiss the movie lines as completely unreliable.  For instance, one of the most famous movie lines of all time, "Play it again, Sam," never existed.  It's been quoted in cartoons, books, other movies, hell Woody Allen even named one of his plays after the line.  It supposedly comes from the film Casablanca, and was supposedly uttered by Humphrey Bogart, but if you watch the movie, you will not hear the line spoken by any character at any time..

When I see all these folks getting all worked up about things like Snow White's "mirror, mirror" and "magic mirror," or what Darth Vader said to Luke in Empire Strikes Back, I have to wonder how many of them actually watched the movie, and how many just remember the line from a popular impersonation or other reference?  After all, when was the last time you watched Snow White?

However, I am one of those people who remember Nelson Mandela dying some time ago, not in 2013.  And I've had the feeling before.  Even when other people have agreed with my memory, I've usually written it off as a strange sort of coincidence.

I have had two experiences that I cannot dismiss.  One I won't go into because I have no witnesses nor any way to corroborate it.  The other, though, I have four witnesses (one unfortunately died several years ago) and we all remember the same event the same way and we were all spooked by it.

In ancient times, the four of us worked together as stage hands at the old Tower Theater in Houston.  The place was a fun but small house, which made for some great shows with very intimate settings.  I got to meet a lot of names there, including one of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson (on two occasions).

A frequent visitor was the blues guitar master B. B. King.  He came there on probably six or seven occasions.  My group and I were big blues fans and we loved working those shows, and even hung out together at a tiny blues club in the Houston Heights, called The Ready Room (now a tavern).

The Ready Room had a great house band and we talked about bringing B.B. there to gig one night.  The chance came in 1990 or '91, when B.B. had an entire weekend gig at the Tower.  He was doing three shows on Friday and Saturday.  We approached him and he agreed to come to The Ready Room on Sunday night.

Just for fun, we didn't tell the owner or anyone else at the club.  We just showed up on Sunday night with B.B. in tow, and it turned into a magical evening, with a crowd of about 25 people.  As a bonus, the owner comped our table for the night for bringing B.B. in.

More than a decade later, news came that B.B. had died on May 5, 2005.  Needless, to say, it was a sad day for blues lovers the world over.  The four of us got together and went to Fitzgerald's up the street from where the now-defunct Ready Room used to be (it had closed some time earlier).  One of our gang was now a producer for the overnight shift at the local classic-rock radio station (107.5), and we worked together to build a playlist for a B.B. tribute that night.  It ran at midnight for an hour and drew a slightly better rating than the usual fare.

On May 14, 2015, I read the headline that B. B. King had just passed away.  I sat stunned.  I stared at the headline for a long time, flashing back to our beer-drinking session years before and the playlist and my explicit memories surrounding B.B.  I checked the article's date and found articles on other services, so it wasn't a fluke or misprint.

I clicked over to email and sent the link to the other two remaining cohorts.  Within several hours, the responses came.  They were both as befuddled as I was.  We all had distinct memories of B.B.'s death and the beer-fueled wake and the playlist.

The guy who had been the on-air producer went back to the station to try and find the log sheets for that night on May 5-6, 2005.  Since the FCC only requires public broadcasters to keep logs for five years, they had unfortunately been destroyed quite a while before, though he was able to track down the Nielsen's from that night, which showed a fair bump in the overnight ratings (something like a 2 to a 5) due to the tribute, but no mention of the content.

I haven't talked to either of the remaining guys since early last year.  We were all quite rattled by the experience, since we all shared the exact same memories.  There is no doubt in any of our minds that B.B. died on May 5, 2005.  We commemorated the event both together and publicly on-air.  And what was even stranger was that the "second" death was almost exactly 10 years to the day after the "first."

Needless to say, this was a profound experience.

I'm not the only one who has had this experience, apparently.  There are hundreds of references on YouTube, more on blogs and websites, but most I consider to be spurious at worst, and mismemories at best (to coin a term).  The best I can find so far is that the Mandela Effect was named about 15 years ago, or so. I guess I'm a little slow on these things.

Movie lines are unreliable.  Folks remember a lot of things that were never said in movies, but are still deeply associated with them.  Other types of events are hard to document, since something has obviously changed in our perception of events.  We tried to find the air logs, but were about five years too late.  We know what we did and none of us had different or conflicting memories of the events surrounding B.B.'s "first" death.

One often-mentioned event is the Interview with a/the Vampire name change.  I'm not much of an Anne Rice (Anne Rampling maybe) nor Tom Cruise fan, so I don't have any specific memory of the titles of the book or movie.  However, it seems to me that there must be a lot of folks out there with old/original copies of both who can confirm or deny this one.  If it's any comfort, Wikipedia lists the book/movie as Interview with THE Vampire.

The common thread, from what I can find, is these things surround celebrity deaths, have time lapses of roughly 10 years or so, and can involve either someone still alive who one thinks died some time back, or someone who died twice.

Tomorrow, I'll explore more of this topic, as I've been talking to other folks who have had this experience - and it's becoming a genuine phenomenon.  Stay tuned!

Part 2

28.6.16

The Storm Approacheth

Woohoo!  Brexit!  The masses stood up to be counted!  We won!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Sorry, folks.  This was the first shot in a battle that is far from over.  If anything, we haven't even begun.  A non-binding plebiscite on independence does not an independent country make.

Paul Craig Roberts nailed it head-on.  Now the real fight begins, and frankly, given the track record of humanity, I hold very little hope that the slim majority shown in the vote will have the stomach for a real fight.  It's one thing to tell the bully, "Leave me alone," it's another altogether to make him.

If the readers here actually believe that a simple vote will cause the elite to just roll over and start the decade-long process of unwinding all the legal and diplomatic webs they have built, then the dear reader is far more naïve than I had hoped.

What the Brexit election was is a means to identify who was against the elite, a survey if you will.  It was akin to one of George III agents going to a tavern in New England in 1774, and yelling "Death to the King," and noting every face who cheered.

No, no, no.  The fun has only begun.

Let me tell you about Brexit.

Get six million people in a room.  Tell them, "Who wants to have a one-week luxury vacation on the Moon?"

The room goes nuts, with 52% of the folks whooping and hollering, while 48% moan and walk out.

"Great!  Now that we are down to the hardcores, I need you to donate $50 billion, and spend the next 10 years working really hard to build the resort at Tycho crater!"  Most of the remaining crowd moans and walks out.

You address the four folks still sitting in the front row.  "OK, now the true believers are here.  I will warn you that our opponents will do everything from ridicule us to sabotaging everything we do."

Suddenly, you are preaching to a room full of crickets.

That's Brexit, folks.

When it comes to the nut-cuttin', as we say on the farm, the reality sets in and we find out just how much people want freedom.  If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: people are too comfortable now to really work for liberty.

The elite have already shown what they can and will do to ensure Brexit doesn't happen.  They will crash the Pound Sterling, they will withdraw funding from companies and public works projects and everything in between.  They will turn the media against it.  They will trot out the diplomatic corps to negotiate every possible compromise.  And if you are still sitting there after all that, they will destroy your comfortable life and take away your toys and probably your families, and then they will try to commit you to an insane asylum.  And I mean this very literally.  I have been through it.

If you really think you are committed to Brexit, or any other similar campaign, you ain't seen nothing yet.  Brace yourself.

Look, these elite have spent centuries (at least since the 1600s) building their little global paradise.  There is no way in God's Green Shit Hole they are going to give it all up over a single, simple vote.

If you are a supporter, or God help you, actually committed to this fight, you better get ready.  It will escalate to levels you can't even imagine.  You will be forced to spend yourself into the poor house, while at the same time fighting at every turn.  It will come at you from every angle.  The worst of it will come when you think you've won and it gets rather quiet.  Just as you think you can start re-building, that's when the hammer will fall and the worst of it will come.

People are not prepared for these things.  They have been instilled with this image of democracy as being something where they just vote and it happens.  Folks aren't entirely to blame, since the propaganda has been hot and heavy in their faces since birth.  The fact is, voting means nothing.  Never has.  It's the battle that comes after the vote that counts.

If the effort goes much beyond a few after-vote parties, here's what will happen:

  1. Stock markets and currencies will start tanking;
  2. Public services will stop working (probably famous Labour Strikes);
  3. Banks will start foreclosing on mortgages;
  4. Savings and pension funds will vanish;
  5. Media will demonize and ridicule the movement;
  6. Dozens of "reasonable" compromises will be offered;
  7. And if all that doesn't stop it, they will just shoot and incarcerate you.
They will get away with all this because they own the "legal" system and the media and the markets.  They can enrich you or impoverish you at a whim, and it won't touch their net worth.  No one will dare stand with you because the attention of the PTB might turn on them next.

When they are done, you will be, at the very best, a lunatic crank, and at the worst a dangerous terrorist, and nothing you do will change that, because folks watch TeeVee and are told who and what you are, and no one will believe anything you say to the contrary.

Are you, dear Brexit supporter, ready for this?  Do you think you can withstand that kind of onslaught?  You had better be prepared, because the more success you have, the more this pressure will come to bear, until you are living in squalor scratching for food.

If you can withstand it, if you make it through all of this, then the reward will be generations of liberty and freedom, not for you, but for those who follow.  Most folks today don't care about the future, they want their rewards now.  Because of that societal narcissism, movements like Brexit always fail.  Honestly, who cares about their great-grandchildren?  Especially when we can eat, drink and be merry right now!  Their world is their problem.  We don't want to suffer for them!

Yes, let us celebrate Brexit and the power of the people.  Let us party like it's 1776.  Let us slap each other on the back and congratulate ourselves on how clever we are.  The worst is yet to come.

I'm not a pessimist.  I truly hope that the Brits will follow through, and that many others will rise up, as well.  But I have been through the worst of it and seen what can and will be done to ensure the elite win.  It is not pretty.

Revolutions are easy to start and nearly impossible to win, especially in an age of narcissism and global media, when your toys can be taken away with the flip of a switch, and you can become a demon overnight with almost no chance to change it, and the you life and those of people you love and care about are nothing more than tools to destroy you.

This may all sound rather bleak, and it is, but it is what people face if they really want Brexit.

I may be completely wrong and the whole thing will just sail on through, but is it better to prepare for the storm and get sunshine, or the other way around?

27.6.16

Dawn Of Personhood, Part 2

As I set up in Part 1, the EU has begun a process to give robots a new legal classification of "person," called "electronic person."  We reviewed the legal entity called "person" and the ancient origin of this concept.  We then prepared to look at the possible outcome of such a move and how the outcome will affect Humanity for centuries to come.

We must admit that there has been an "elite" in every human culture throughout the collective history of our species.  This elite has, until the past two centuries, been generally isolated to particular cultures or regions.  In recent history, these elite have merged and aligned to create a global venue for their control systems.

Until recently, this elite has relied heavily on the rest of us "useless eaters" to perform the drudgery of daily life.  The non-elites have been the maids and nanies, butlers and chefs, and the button-pushers and lever pullers that made the elites' lives comfortable and trouble-free.

If one played by the elite rules, one could advance to the point of being very close to that inner circle.  One would be allowed to become famous and wealthy.  The rewards have flowed generously to the corporate leaders, court jesters, intellectual justifiers, and middle managers of the human race, as long as they pleased the elite and advanced their agenda.

The human race being what it is - desiring to be free, but burning to serve - it has slowly evolved over the centuries to demand workers' rights, equality, opportunity, and so on.  The elites have obliged by throwing the occasional bones, but those only last so long.

So, when technology finally advances to the point where "electronic persons" are possible, suddenly there is a big push to create and distribute them.  There is no discussion, no public discourse, no debate on the morals and ethics involved.  Just push them out the door at break-neck speed.

To me, the goal is clear: create a "race" of beings completely subservient and tireless that can serve the elite in the way, and without the trouble that humans bring, they are used to.  The rest of humanity is disposable, as long as the elites are not inconvenienced in any way.  They want to live in the clouds, high above the rabble and dirt and grime.  They want to hand down their edicts on humanity and otherwise not be disturbed by our wants and needs.

Enter the robots.

Obviously, the rest of humanity will not put up with this forever.  Eventually, enough robots will replace humans, and enough jobs be lost, that humanity will rise up and cast off the technological utopia that the elite are building for themselves.  It is a race against time now.  Can the elite build and deploy their mechanical servants faster than humanity wakes up?

What is quite apparent, at least to me, is that these elite are setting up a civilization apart from the rest of us.  They are putting their vast wealth, accumulated over centuries, to work building the means to finally and completely severe themselves from the writhing masses of unwashed humanity.  At some point, and rather soon I think, they will have the ability to either get rid of the rest of us, or leave this planet altogether, and robots are the key to that final schism.

We are seeing a splintering of our race into an elite group completely divorced of its need for lower classes, and the lower classes who have developed a need to serve the elite in order to survive.  The elite class has, until now, needed the rest of us to carry out the daily drudge of running the infrastructure of society that keeps the elite in their places.  The rest of us have needed the elite to pay us and grant favors to us so that we can rise above the squalid masses, if even just a little.

History is full of the elite treating the rest of us as slime, and the rest of us rising up and demanding equality.  For the entirety of history, the elite have granted small increments of freedom and self-determination in order to calm the masses back into subservience, but what will happen when the elite have an entire class of beings - electronic persons - who don't require basic amenities to feel human?  How will the elite react when, in fact, us useless eaters are truly useless to them?

There are two clear options ahead.  The elite must either wipe out the rest of humanity in order to finally possess the Earth for themselves, or they must leave and take up residence elsewhere.

In the first case, we seem to see quite a bit of evidence that the elite are trying to eradicate the rest of humanity.  Conspiracy theories aside, vaccines, geo-engineering, chemical toxicity, food quality (GMOs), and many other programs in concert appear to be a massive effort to sterilize, if not kill outright, the remainder of humanity.  If we, for a moment, put ourselves in the mindset of the elite who wish to "cleanse" the Earth of an infestation that is inconveniencing them, then multiple programs on many different fronts, each with plausible deniability alone, but in total adding up to a mass extinction effort, would seem to make a kind of Faustian sense.

On the other hand, if we the elite had decided to blow this Popsicle stand, then an all-out program to find habitable planets elsewhere, combined with programs to reseed other planets in our own back yard would likely be the signs of this kind of effort.

Since we see both going on, it would seem that the elite are hedging their bets.  On the chance that they can't find some place more to their liking within reach, then cleansing the Earth is the backup plan.

Either way, they need a servant class that is compliant and servile to see to their every need.  Enter the robot.

There is one problem with all of this, and it highlights the weakness of the elite.  They cannot survive without servants.  They have bred and coddled themselves into a genetic corner.  They have everything they could possibly want, except the ability to survive without 24/7 servants seeing to the more difficult aspects of living.

This is a true and deadly weakness.  Most of the masses have done so much with so little for so long, that surviving in adverse conditions is second-nature, and the elite know it and they fear us for it.  They have lost the ability to do even the most basic tasks because they have never had to learn.  Not just since birth, but for generations, they have never had to face true adversity. To them, a dip in the markets due to Brexit is about as difficult as life gets.

What all of this boils down to is that we masses have a choice.  They cannot live without servants, and they are trying desperately to create a new class of mechanical entities to replace us troublesome humans.  Either we let them, or we don't.  Simple.

Throughout history, the elite have always had new places to run.  First, it was regions of the EurAsian continent, then the New World, but the places to hide are getting slim due to the unbridled breeding of humans.  Creating a class of beings they think are more controllable is their solution, and we will all suffer for it, one way or another, if we allow it.

The EU decision to create "electronic persons" is the first shot in what will become, sooner or later, the battle of Humanity, and quite possibly the Earth itself.

Perhaps you accuse me of hyperbole, but an honest and profound examination of history, plus a serious and clear pondering of the near future given the facts hidden in plain sight, will inevitably lead to the same conclusions.

Other writers and researchers have focused on finances, or space technology, or other aspects of this growing war to come to the conclusion that there is an increasing separation, or breakaway of civilizations.  I have chosen to focus on robots as one of the key means by which the separation will be achieved.  And it is coming fast.

We masses have been responsible for our own education for a long time.  The public systems are nothing more than sorting pens for the elites purposes.  It is time now to turn our intellects to being proactive.  We must education ourselves on the legal and technological issues facing us right now.  Will we allow an artificial race to be created?  One that relegates the majority of humans to third-class status, even completely disposable?

When you see robots presented as cute, cuddly fun, you should be horrified and indignant.  It is time to react appropriately to our own demise.

25.6.16

Dawn Of Personhood,Part 1

We had several major geo-political tremors this week.  As I write this (Friday), it looks like Brexit is in the lead by less than a million votes.  Can't cut it much finer than that, and I still don't believe it will happen, regardless of the vote.  Too much riding on it.

There's the story about Obama getting his Executive Orders handed back to him, as well.  Nothing could make me happier.  The president of the US has gotten too sloppy and lazy with these EOs.  The country doesn't have a king or a dictator (yet), or so it seems after the Supreme Court ruling.  It also shuts down the wholesale importation of immigrants and all the amnesty rubbish.  Still, a lot remains to be determined when it comes to presidential powers and Obama's determination to destroy American culture.  Honestly, if the country wants to give itself away, why not hand it back to the folks who were the original inhabitants?  But then, those cultures have long been destroyed, as well.

Out of all the big stories, though, the biggest comes from the EU parliament, and it has nothing to do with Brexit.  It has everything to do with robots and may go a long way to kick-starting a conversation that should have started a long time ago.

Topic: What do we do when machines take all the jobs?

In short, the EU has decided to give "electronic personhood" to robots, to include certain rights and obligations, such as copyright on intellectual property, the use of money in exchange and the need to pay taxes.  In effect, the EU has extended the rights of corporations to individual machines, known commonly as robots.

In case you haven't kept up your law degree for some time, the legal term "person" is a non-corporeal being created by the State, which has rights and obligations similar to corporeal citizens.  Keep in mind, too, that a citizen is a living being, though not necessarily a human.  In maritime law, a corporeal being is generally referred to as a "soul," which distinguishes it from cargo and other valuables.

The legal terminology is very convoluted, but suffice it to say that the EU has effectively imbued robots with individual identity and freedom.

Of the major news stories this week, I think this will have effects long after everyone has forgotten Obama or Brexit.  We are talking decades if not centuries will be affected by this decision.  It's that important.

As I've discussed here many times, corporate entities are a very old concept in Western law.  Unlike Asia, where officers and employees are individually liable for the actions of the whole, the Western concept separates the corporation from the individuals who make it up.  The concept is rooted in the theology surrounding Matthew 18:20, "For where two or more are gathered in my name, there too am I," or variations to that effect.  Thus, the Roman Church became an entity unto itself, wholly separate from the individuals who make it up, and as Western law evolved, corporations became the secular version of the Church.

To distinguish what are known as "legal fictions," such as corporations, they were termed "persons" under the law, as opposed to "human beings."  A "person" could have self-determination and own property, but it didn't have a "soul" or a "conscience."  Thus, the person had to be completely controlled and regulated by the State, since its actions may constitute a hazard that a human being might avoid by virtue of a conscience.

In modern Western societies, even human beings have been turned into persons, often referred to as "straw men" by so-called conspiracy theorists, so that the State could have the "right" to regulate and control every aspect of our lives - a concept deeply foreign to older ways of thinking, but which took hold in US law in the first half of the 20th century.

By granting robots "electronic personhood," the EU has created a new class of "person" that will at least have many of the legal characteristics of a corporation.  It would have the right to autonomy within the limits of the law.  It would be able to create and own property.  It would be empowered to operate in the economy as an individual, and it would have to pay taxes.

Where things get a bit murky is how those taxes would be allocated.  Some would pay into what amounts to an insurance pool to cover damages and liabilities incurred by robot persons.  It would also feed the State with its labor, much as humans do now.  It would, though still controversial, also pay into a fund to guarantee a minimal income to humans displaced by robots in the workforce.

Humans displaced by technology is nothing new.  The invention and widespread use of cars led to the near extinction of blacksmiths and livery stables.  Jethro Tull's harvester put thousands of farmers out of business and led to the rise of agribusiness.  Autolooms and sewing machines put thousands of seamstresses and weavers out of work.  Even the electric light bulb led to the demise of the lamp-lighter.

However, in most cases one innovation killed one class of jobs, but led to new ones.  Printers became pressmen.  Blacksmiths became mechanics.  Cobblers became shoe-repairmen, and so on.

What do you do when a machine is capable of replacing an entire human being?

An interesting and impending philosophical question.

How do you compete with a "person" that never needs a smoke break or a meal, never gets sick or pregnant, works 24/7 without a vacation or even sleep time, can be amortized as a capital investment, and can be taught a new task in seconds - even able to analyze and improve it functions as it goes?

We are staring down the barrel of the end of all jobs everywhere for all time.  On the one hand, that could mean that humans will finally be free to pursue self-improvement and self-actualization.  More than likely, though, given humanity's track record, it will lead to the vast majority of humans descending into abject poverty, death and misery.

Basically, it creates two entirely separate cultures.  Since humans would never allow themselves to obsolete that way, they will reject everything automated and create a new economy  This would obviously create an elite class that would no longer depend on the rest of us, and who would likely pursue a different course.

So, how would this play out?

That is a very interesting question, and now that I've set up the scenario, you'll have to wait for Part 2 to play the "What If" game.  We are likely seeing all the pieces in motion right now.  The question becomes, when will the hammer drop?

PART 2

24.6.16

A Dish Served Cold

I've decided that the reason the US is so damn belligerent is because there hasn't been a real war, or even attack on the US mainland in living memory.

Oh sure, there was Pearl Harbor, a few minor fire balloon attacks on the West Coast, and a battle or two in the Aleutian Islands during WW2, but there really hasn't been a major war or attack on the US mainland since the US Civil War.

It's easy to go to war when all the damage is on someone else's home turf.  The two world wars chewed up most of the face of the Earth, but the US mainland was unscathed.  All of America's big battles have been elsewhere for far more than a century.

Americans, at least anyone alive in the past 60 years, has never seen war come to their homes.  They have all been radio and TeeVee events shipped overseas.  Americans have never experienced someone dropping bombs on their houses, destroying their cities, rolling tanks through their streets.  It's all a kind of fantasy/theoretical thing with shell-shocked soldiers coming home, but that's about it.

You can point to 9/11, and we can argue over who done what, but the fact is those folks who were there that day experienced what the US does to dozens of other nations on a daily basis.

Imagine a 9/11-type attack once a month for years.  Remember the shock and disbelief when that happened?  Suppose your daily life felt that way.

I suspect that Americans would be a lot less gleeful about waging wars on other people if they ever experienced what it is really like. I bet they'd be a lot more reticent to invade and bomb other countries if they had living memories of their neighbor's house vanishing one night, or dodging bodies in the street, or sleeping with weapon-fire all around.

I bet they'd stop all this nonsense if death squads roamed their shopping centers and foreign soldiers set up check-points every mile or two, and gangs of military thugs busted down their doors once a month to search for _______ (fill in the blank).

Yes, American love war because they've never dealt with the consequences.  America is a superpower today because it was one of the few nations on Earth that wasn't reduced to rubble after WW2.  America has been lucky...so far.

But America, with all it's self-righteous meddling and destruction of other nations will eventually piss off enough people that it will get a taste of it's own export.

Russians are delightful people with a kind of no-nonsense attitude, when it comes to how other treat them.  A Russian will defend you to the death, unless you do something to cause them harm - like surround his country with foreign militaries and threaten his economy with sanctions and invade his neighbors on false pretenses.

The Chinese are wily folk.  They are all business and rarely let their hair down.  Chinese especially like order and predictability, and spend a lot of time trying to build businesses and ensure a steady flow of income.  Until you start messing with his trade flow and blocking his customers and making business less orderly and predictable.

We could go on discussing all the other countries, like Germany and France, who like their lives pretty much the way they are, and don't take kindly to folks who disrupt the status quo.

Assuming that the old saying about the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then what's to stop all these folks from banding together to kick a little American ass so they can all get back to business without all the damn interference?

US foreign policy and intervention is based on the fact that the American people have never had their collective asses thoroughly whipped.  Like the neighborhood bully, the rest of the kids will go along for a while, but not forever.  Eventually, the bully will go too far and the rest of the kids will gang up on him.  What's worse, when the bully is shown to be vulnerable, a lot of other kids join in just to ensure the bully doesn't stir shit again.

I don't think it's a matter of "if," but rather "when."

The US has spent the last two decades dropping bombs and rattling sabres all over the world, and at some point, the world will return the favor.  What's more, with today's technology, a lot of folks can sit at home and launch all kinds of stuff, like drones and missiles, and go home for dinner, just like those good folks at the Pentagon.

There are two things the US policy makers have been counting on: the fact that the US is fairly isolated, and that it controls the world's financial system.

In the first case, nothing is too far away to attack now.  A dozen nations have fairly advanced space programs, and a dozen more have drone technology.

As for the second issue, eventually folks will get tired enough that crashing the global economy will seem like a small price to pay to shut the bastards up.

If you think it would never happen, then I suggest pulling out a good book on world history.  Better yet, how about The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?  It can happen.  It has happened.  I will happen again.

The question is, will the American people take control of their government before it's too late?

As the old proverb says, "Vengeance is often more satisfying if it is not exacted immediately."  And the longer it waits, the more destructive it gets.

23.6.16

It's A Dog's Life

There are surprising things to be learned everywhere and in everything.  The key to learning is to look at it all from as many different perspectives as you can imagine.  I believe there is a solution to every problem.  If you cannot find a solution, it is because you haven't looked at the problem from the proper angle.  You must throw out assumptions and examine all possible causes.  You must roll a problem over and look at the sides no one else has considered.  And while this sounds easy, even obvious, it's not, or else everyone would be doing it.

Finding a solution is only a fraction of the battle, though.  Once you've found the solution, especially by unconventional means, you have the new and even less enviable task of convincing others to follow you.

We are limited by our languages.  Trying to teach an Indonesian about fine wines is very difficult, because the language has only one word - rasa - for both the act of smelling and the act of tasting.  However, trying to teach an American to completely integrate the two is just as impossible, even though as kids we all know that holding you nose while eating something disagreeable reduces the experience of the flavor.

Even more difficult is teaching someone to roll a problem around in their head and examine it from different angles.  It is quite amazing how few people can do this, even though it is a learnable skill.  It is very difficult for most people to fill in the parts of something that they cannot experience with their senses and create a 3-D model in their heads that they can manipulate.

Here's a really fine example.  Lately, there's been a lot of hew and cry in Western media about the annual Chinese dog meat festival.  Just to be clear, this is NOT meat for dogs, but rather dogs AS meat.

To the average American, this seems abhorrent.  How dare those nasty Chinese eat dogs?  They must be crazy.  Bomb them!

In reality, Americans are prejudiced by the fact that they have vast amounts of range land where huge herds of cows can roam and create a massive industry for cow meat that Americans take for granted. How many folks would freak out if they walked into a grocery store and there was no meat counter stacked with piles of delicious beef waiting for them?

Now, expand your mind a bit.  Take a fraction of the space available in the US, fill it with more than a billion hungry people who also like red meat, but don't have vast ranches full of Angus cows waiting to be eaten?  What animal with red meat is small enough to raise on tiny plots of land, even a porch, provides a number of services, like eating left-overs, and can fill the dinner pot a couple of times over with one carcass?  Hey!  Dogs!

Frankly, dog meat is pretty good.  A bit chewy, but tastes just like chick...er, red meat.

The people hollering about this are culturally isolated and insensitive to the various unique issues of feeding a billion folks with limited land resources.  They haven't looked at the issue from all sides, especially the sides they don't usually see.

And for those who are screaming because dogs are pets?  Well, I grew up on a farm in Texas and I had cows, sheep and horses for pets, and they are still delicious.  So what?  Your dog is a pet.  Other dogs are dinner.  Get over it.

And for the veggie folks who think eating animals is cruel?  That's only because your cultural prejudices make you think plants don't suffer and scream and die like all other life on Earth.  You eat the reproductive organs, lungs, bones and bodies.  Just because plants don't react like you doesn't mean a thing - except that you are insensitive to things you don't understand or consider important.

There is nothing different between the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo chili cook-off, except maybe a bunch of drunk, armed cowboys that would get a tad upset if a bunch of Hollywood numbnuts tried to free their cows.

Life and learning is all about seeing things from other points of view.  That is true tolerance, ture genius and true art.

Try it sometime.  You'll like it.

21.6.16

Joke-Xit

Ever have one of those days, that becomes one of those weeks, and turns out to be one of those months?

I have.  I call it June 2016.

Must be the "strawberry Moon" or something.

Before I start bitching, might as well tell all our good readers in the Northern Hemisphere happy summer.  And to all you good folks in the Southern Hemisphere, happy winter!  And to all us folks living on the equator, happy more of the same ole stuff.

Yesterday started with a call to meet my agent at the immigration office to get my annual mug shots and fingerprints done.  By the time I wended my way through Jakarta traffic to get there, a branch had fallen and severed the data line and the whole damn system was offline.

Great.  So bundle up and head cross town to the office only to get there in the nick of time to run out again on a series of meetings.  No coffee or nuttin'.

Today, I get a desperate call at 8am to go to the immigration office again.  So, you know the drill.  Anyway, I get there and have to sit for an hour waiting to get my vitals done.  At least there was a fan next to me.

Get to the office after heroic battle with Jakarta traffic, only to find out everyone is out sick or something today.  So, joy.  I can get some real work done, except that the person operating the background music in the office hit the wrong cue, so I have to listen to Christmas carols all day, I suppose.

Ah, Life on the Far Side.  Ain't it grand?  But, as Marty Feldman said in Young Frankenstein, "Could be worse.  Could be raining."  Of course, this is the tropics and it may start the deluge at any moment.

Anyway, don't want to bore you with all my happiness and love.  I want to bore you with politics and grousing about the way things are.  After all, that's why you come here, right?

So any way...

They killed Jo Cox in the UK so that everyone would think it was the Pro-Brexit gang and would turn on them, which they all did on cue.  Those PTB bastards sure know how to play the game.  Shame more people don't see it.  If you haven't figured it out by now, there is no way in God's Green Hell they are going to let the UK out of the EU.  Just a fact.  Get used to it.

Just like there is no way on God's Green Slimeball that Trump will ever get elected.  Just a fact.  Get used to it.

They will do anything to protect their precious little empire, and for all the noise and bluster, folks will just knuckle under and take it in the back door without WD-40, because that's the way people are.  And that's the way this game is played.

Folks get all riled up and ready to change things, then one little hiccup and the whole thing comes crashing down and everyone goes home and sulks.

It's so predictable as to be almost laughable.  We keep having these "revolutions" that fizzle out and folks just bend over and wait for the Big Slimy PTB to give it to them.  Remember Howard Jarvis?  Ron Paul?  Ross Perot?  John Anderson?  Jeremy Corbyn?  Donald Trump?  Barack Obama?

Yeah, I put Corbyn and Trump on that list because by this time next year, they'll be "remember whens" as well.  Same song, different verse.  Everyone gets all bowed up until the hardball comes out.

Enjoy it.  I've seen these revolutions come and go in the past 50 years.  I grew up in the 60s when everyone was going to change the world.  Then JFK and RFK got shot and POOF, all the air went out of that balloon and pretty soon, along came the 80s and all those idealists sold out for a little retirement money - which, by the way, is evaporating now, just as they need it.  See?  Sold out your ideals and got sold up the river, didn't you?

I'm like George Carlin: I'm not in this dog-and-pony show anymore.  I just sit back and watch the tide come in and go out.  Seems to be just about once a decade, if my count is right.

See, back in the old days, life was pretty rough and folks didn't lose much if they took a stand and changed the known world.  Now-a-days, folks have their VR systems, and their social media, and their dish washers, and their washing machines, and their houses (that they don't own).  If they ever really take a stand again the PTB, they would lose all their comfy gee-gaws and their internet connections and life would be a little difficult, and well, we just don't want to suffer,do we?  We've gotten soft and used to our A/C, heat and grocery stores.

Damn it!  We only want a revolution if it doesn't inconvenience us in any way.

The PTB know this and that's why Brexit and Trump will never win.  They hold our comfy lives for hostage, and golly gee whiz, we just don't want to give up all that to save future generations.

20.6.16

Hogwash And Fodder

Oh boy, here we go again.

Yes!  For the second time ever, a bunch of amorphous "scientists" have discovered something that doesn't exist, caused by something else that doesn't exist.  And the information is presented as a fait accompli, there can be no question.

According to the article, this "discovery" is confirmed, without having published a single paper, passed peer review, or even having confirmed the underlying assumptions that gave birth to the idea.  Even worse, older articles crow that this "discovery" proves Einstein's Theory of Relativity, even though Einstein never explained gravity, didn't like the idea of gravitational waves and rejected the whole thing as "spooky."

Here's the problem: no one has ever seen a black hole; they only exist in mathematical constructs.  Furthermore, no one has a clue how or why gravity works, much less that it is a function of some mysterious substance called "space-time."  Thus, without proof of the existence of black holes and without understanding even the most basic aspects of gravity, we can "discover" waves in "space-time" created by imaginary objects merging with each other.  And the articles even come with nifty animations, as if someone has actually seen these things.

If you are a product on 20th century education, as I am, you were taught that space is swarming with black holes.  Movies like Interstellar, The Black Hole and Event Horizon feed this myth, to the point that nearly all of us believe these things exist, because when was the last time you read the theories and proofs for black holes?  That's what I thought.

There are four theories concerning the creation and existence of black holes.  All four of them state that the Universe contains only one mass - the black hole.  In other words, a black hole universe can only contain one black hole and nothing else.  Yes, that's right, if a black hole exists, then all four theories state that nothing else - including us - exists.

Since we obviously exist, then black holes cannot.  Simple reasoning.

Now, if black holes do not exist, then gravity waves propagated by two of them colliding cannot exist.  First, there cannot be two black holes, according to theory.  Second, they cannot collide.  Third, gravity waves cannot propagate from them colliding.

We haven't even gotten to the part about gravity.  Thing is, no one understands gravity.  You know the picture of a ball sitting on a rubber sheet?  That is a circular argument, because it needs gravity to pull the ball down to make a dent in the rubber sheet.  Gravity creates gravity.  HUH?

Go watch this video and see if you can make sense out of gravitational theory when you are done.  Hell, even Newton couldn't do it, or wouldn't, take your pick.

So, now we've shot some big holes in black holes and gravity.  How about these gravity waves?

The devices used to "detect" these waves are called LIGO.  There is one in Washington State and one in Louisiana.  That's roughly 2,000 miles apart (x1.6...you do the math for kilometers).  Now these waves supposedly travel at the "speed of light" (another BS thing).  However, the waves arrived at the two LIGO machines a couple of microseconds apart.  So, waves travelling a billion light years (and spreading out the whole way) and travelling at the "speed of light" arrive at Washington and Louisiana at different times?  Sorry, that blows the whole argument right there.

Go watch this video to destroy the whole argument.

There are some heavy hitters on the side of skepticism, and these guys have names, unlike the "scientists" who report the "discovery."  This is not a bunch of cranks (like me) pointing out that this is all bullshit to justify the ungodly sums of money being spent on these massive toys, like LIGO.

So, no black holes, no gravity waves, no "space-time" medium, and something that no one understand (gravity).  Does it sound to you like gravity waves have been "discovered?"

These toys may have found something, but it is not what is being reported, and in fact, I suspect no one really understands what was found, if anything.

What is certain is that these reports of definitive "discoveries" are open to wildly different interpretations and that the assumptions underlying the conclusions are completely vacuous.  Not only is the quality of science reporting a load of manure, but the whole underpinnings of modern physics are based on mathematical constructs being presented as facts with no supporting proof.

That's right, folks, it's time to go back to the chalk board.

18.6.16

Chika-Lika-Zika

Know what?

I could start a global health crisis tomorrow with the help of about three people.  I could do it alone, but I might break a sweat, and that wouldn't do.

I get my camera buddy and a Western actor, preferably female.  I put her in a lab coat...no, even better, an environmental suit.  We all go down to one of Indonesia's Level III wards - those are the ones with 20 people in one room, no A/C or TeeVee, just basic ultra-cheap medical care.  There's always someone moaning, since one room can have everything from a mild flu to a sucking chest wound.  The folks on that ward don't worry about things like Talent Releases and the families are just happy to be on TeeVee.  They don't care about privacy or any of those abstract ideas.

Now, I stage the shot a bit: open some of the curtains, pay a couple of nurses and families to mill around in the background.  I stand my actress in front of the scene, making sure I have a second mic picking up the environmental sounds of pain and suffering.  I have her spout some medical-sounding gobble-di-gook about viruses, lack of innoculation and throw in mention of WHO and Doctors Without Borders, just for good measure.

We wrap it up and head back to the office, stopping for a hot bowl of bakso on the way.

Back in the office, I put my white girl behind the camera and dress my Indo guy in a nice suit and put him in front of a green screen.  I give him a script to read - in Indonesian, of course, because stupid Americans can barely speak English, much less some tropical language.

When he's done, I drop some subtitles over the "doctor" and CGI a news set on an Indo network.  Doesn't even matter if it's a real organization, no one will ever search it to see if the network actually exists.

I upload it to YouTube and blast the link to my social network of two or three thousand folks.  I also call my buddies at CBS and Fox and tell them I've got a hot news story for them.  It gets picked up, I manufacture a couple more videos - let's say out in the jungle this time - and viola!  I just created a global health scare.  With the proper setup, I could do this in an afternoon, with another day to do some follow-up videos about an hour south of Jakarta in the mountains.

Since folks believe anythng they see on TeeVee, and almost never check facts, I could create...oh, I do't know, how about a virus called Zika that was discovered in Africa in the 50s, but somehow is causing...um, what sounds really scary?  Ooh!  How about babies born with micro-brains!  I'll get my chums over at the CDC to release some pseudo-facts and BS statistics on a weekly basis.  No need to actually show anyone suffering from the virus.  Just need to tell them that it is spreading and coming way too close to their home town.  That should scare the shit out of them.

Hell, while I'm at it, I'll issue a travel warning to Indonesia.  After all, there are "thousands" affected and we don't want it to spread.  That should kill the tourist trade and punish those evil Indonesians for not passing that bankster friendly law last month.

It's that easy folks.

Takes about a week and most of it is paperwork and phone calls.

And since you will believe anything on the TeeVee, and can/will never check the facts, and will panic on command, I will always win.

Honestly, before a few months ago, had you ever heard of Zika?  Most of the info I can find on it is only a couple of years old, even though it was supposedly discovered in Africa in the 1950s.  On top of that, I live in the tropics, and everyone here has had, or knows someone who has had most of the nasty little bugs that live in the tropics - dengue, yellow fever, hemorrhagic fever, amoebic dysentery, typhus, etc. ad nauseum.  But I can't find a single person who ever heard of Zika, much less had it before, and all references that are easily scared up on Google are within the past few hours or days.

Suddenly, just before the Rio Olympics and just when President Rouseffe was under fire for thinking her country's oil and mineral wealth belonged to the Brazilians, this Zika virus comes out of nowhere, infects thousands of folks, causes microcephaly (lit. small brain) births, spreads all over North America, and is transmitted by casual and sexual contact.

Pardon me if I don't buy this truck-load of horseshit for a moment.

OK, so it causes microcephaly, and you can show me all kinds of pictures of rashes, deformed babies and people suffering, but I have no way of knowing if these photos are connected to Zika.  You can show me live video of someone with fever and all sorts of nasty things, but I couldn't tell you if it was a virus or chemical poisoning, much less Zika,  There are no test results posted anywhere that I can find, and even if there were, there is no chain of evidence proving that the results are tied to any particular patient, and even if there were, I have no way to verify that the patient actually exists, since I know precisely how to manufacture such "evidence" with exactly the same "look and feel" as anything I can find in the media.

There may be thousands of people in Brazil and elsewhere suffering some kind of symptoms, but do you have ANY proof whatsoever that they are suffering from Zika infection?  As for the microcephaly, do you have any way of knowing that it was caused by a virus and not, say...Monsanto products?  In fact, do you have any way of verifying that any of these cases exist at all, other than reports in controlled media?

I didn't think so.

It is so easy to manufacture false stories.  I can destroy people's lives and mark them for life with nothing more substantial than a well-spun story.

We, the masses, never stop to ask questions.  We just sit in front of our TeeVees and absorb the party line.  Global events can be completely manufactured in minutes or hours with no more than about 10 people who know the truth.  More than 99% of the population will believe anything that has the smell of "authority" on it.  That's no more than a group of high school chums creating the news that drives the world of seven billion people.

When you think about it, the only reason we think there are seven billion people is because an "authority" gave us that number.  Have you verified the data?  Have you ever researched how that number is created?  Have you ever thought about anything you've been told is true?

All I need is some yahoo in a lab coat with a stethoscope spouting gibberish, and you'd never know the difference.  Especially if I can call on two or three buddies to help spread the word.

I am personally responsible for shooting video that was sold to the world as a race riot in South Africa, when in fact it was a blood feud between two black families over some chickens.  Even now, my confession will change nothing.  And you really think a conspiracy cannot be propagated without someone knowing the truth?  I know the truth.  I can give you dates, times and which major media network published it, and on which dates.  It won't change the fact that South Africa was destroyed over a manufactured problem to achieve goals that had nothing to do with human rights.

I quit mass media with a promising career because I had too much integrity to take money for fooling millions of people.  In the theater, people pay for tickets both knowing and wanting to be fooled, but with mass media, we assume that what we see is true.  It's frightening...really frightening.

Question everything!

17.6.16

A Trip Through Time

UPDATE: Don't even get this article published yer (Tuesday) and already news is coming out that the Orlando shooter was, at the least, bisexual, which makes this column all the more evocative.

As regular Far Siders know, I don't often comment on specific events in the news, preferring to focus on larger themes and topics.  However, the recent shootings in Orlando, Florida, USA, have brought up some rather deep cultural issues that I thought worth commenting upon.

As you might already suspect, I have a rather different take on the matter.

What brought this to mind were the various headlines claiming that the massacre, taking place in a gay bar, highlighted the Islamic hatred of homosexuals.  I have to laugh - not at the death or pain inflicted on the families - but at the extremely short memories that Americans apparently have.  We need look no further than the Stonewall Riots in the 70s, to see how predominantly Christian society has treated homosexuals, not to mention burning at the stake (faggot means a bundle of twigs for burning), and such notable folks as Oscar Wilde, a brilliant writer and humorist imprisoned for homosexuality.

Even more profound were the articles pointing out the hypocracy of Islam, where a phenomenon called batcha (in Indonesian banci, in English queen, all from the same Indo-European root) is practiced in many parts of central Asia.  If you've never heard of batchas, then your education is sadly lacking, for it was Marco Polo who brought the practice to wide attention in Europe in the 1200s.

As I go into this topic, I warn Western readers not to get too high and mighty in their condemnation.  In Western culture, women were banned from public performance on stage for centuries, which led to a practice of castrating young boys with perfect soprano voices in order to have performers for opera and other similar entertainment, such as ballet.  These hapless young boys were called castrati, and the practice ended recently enough that there are recordings of one of the last known castrati.  So let's not get to sanctimonious about today's history lesson.

The batcha are an ancient form of entertainment, pre-dating much of modern culture, including Islam and Christianity.  As most readers will be unaware of batcha, allow me to fill you in.

The batcha are also known as "the dancing boys."  These are boys who have been raised for a very specific purpose from birth.  They are often castrated to preserve their slightly girlish looks, are trained in various forms of entertainment, including sexual as well as performance, and at least used to be found throughout central Asia, including Afghanistan, Persia, Arabia, Pakistan, and India.

In addition to castration, special inserts were used in the anus from birth, causing it to take on a somewhat feminine characteristic, so making the boys better suited for sexual activities.

The batcha were most often noted in and around trading caravans from ancient times.  Because of the many years of special preparation, these boys were very expensive and sold or traded as a commodity.  They eventually became a status symbol, like a Mercedes 500 series car, because the price tag was formidable.  In his tales, Marco Polo notes that the batcha were exceptional entertainers, and though he doesn't admit to first-hand knowledge, says they were well-known for being experts in many forms of sexual practices.

After the rise of Islam, and the deep division of the sexes in most aspects of daily - especially public - life, the batchas took on even more prominent roles among traders, who were often separated from their wives for months or even years.  Since a man was forbidden to enjoy the company of any woman but his wives, and since unsullied slave girls were far more valuable than used goods, the batcha filled a niche market, as it were.  They were often used as a means to seal a deal between traders, due to the prized nature of these services.

To truly understand the cultural mentality behind the batcha, it is important to remember that in many societies, especially in central Asia, children under a certain age were considered asexual.  They weren't really boys or girls, they were neutrals, and thus stood apart from various social restrictions on consorting with the opposite sex.  This view is found in many Semitic cultures, and may date back as far as Babylon, and possibly further, as some researchers have noted ancient beliefs that humans began as "male" androgines, before differentiating into male and female.

In any case, the use of batcha was - at least at one time - widespread and had the various advantages of being a kind of birth control, as well as a means of sexual release without violating the many rules and taboos related to dalliances between sexes in and out of wedlock.

Lest the reader begin to think this was some barbaric practice and that the batcha lived squalid lives, it should be noted that they were treated with the same fawning adoration that Westerners reserve for the latest pop sensation.  People would bow to these boys, buy them oppulatent houses, open (for all intents and purposes) Las Vegas nightclubs for the exclusive use of the selected boys.  Some were as famous in the Old World as Prince, Mick Jagger or David Bowie are today, and treated with the same kind of awe and deference to superstardom, as well.

And lest one think that this practice is dead and buried today, I need only mention the legendary "lady boys" of Thailand.  Yes, those are batchas, or at least a version of them.  In a sense, even the Western drag queens and the elaborate South Beach shows in Miami are an extension of this very long tradition of gender-bending boys.

Before one goes around condemning Islamic hypocrisy or praising Western tolerance, or faining shock at certain practices, one would do well to crack the occasional history book.  This goes for religionist book-pounders and liberal bleeding-hearts alike.

Fashions come and go.  Cultures evolve and change.  Things are condemned today that were once as normal and vital as air (see fur coats).

Before things can be effectively changed, one must first look deeply at the roots, the history, the traditions.  One must also attempt to view the world through different eyes.  One cannot condemn practices for which one has no understanding of where those practices came from.

Humans has a curious way of adopting certain behaviors out of necessity or pragmatism, then over time converting those practices into tradition and ritual, and finally abhorring and castigating them.  It is easy to rant and rave out of ignorance, but it is an entirely different thing to attempt to understand and sympathize as a first impulse.

Nothing exists in a vacuum, whether it is batcha, castrati or lone gunmen shooting up gay bars.  To cure, we must first find cause.

We condemn what we do not understand, and we do not understand what we fear.  First address the fear on ALL sides.


Oh, and one more thing (a la Columbo).  Perhaps now, the reader may begin to appreciate that, from a certain point of view, the Orlando incident was not an act of Islamic homophobia, but rather a strike again wealth and privilege.  After all, in certain cultures (such as the one the shooter came from), a room full of drag queens is a very rich man's hareem of batcha entertainers..

16.6.16

The Global Con Game

Don't know if you've noticed, since not many folks are talking about it, but all of the major countries either having problems, or are on the US shit list are members of the BRICSA bloc of nations.

In case you are a bit behind, the BRICSA is a somewhat loose association between Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICSA).  Over the years, they have built up amenable trade and cultural ties, and have tried to synchronize policies in such a way as to benefit and promote the member countries.

The latest BRICSA efforts have centered around creating a new financial clearing system to compete with the ubiquitous SWIFT system, and the essentially Western lap-dog JSCC system in Japan.

Why is this important?  Well, SWIFT handles nearly all the major inter-nation settlements for securities, bank transfers, credit card purchases, and so forth.  Basically, SWIFT is the world's financial system.  Without it, most major economies would simply shut down, because backing the SWIFT system are, for the most part, seven major players who insure the transactions.  For instance, if the US needs to transfer a few billion bux to China on account, one of the players will insure the transaction at value for the few seconds it takes between hitting "enter" and the blips showing up at the other end.

The SWIFT system is enabled by a fleet of secure satellite transponders and the most intimidating (not really the largest and no one is sure if the strongest) military forces on Earth.  It is this system that is the fundamental underpinning of US hegemony since the last World War, and the primary reason that the US dollar is the world's reserve currency.

Along come these BRICSA upstarts who understand the power and influence exerted by the SWIFT system, and they decide they are going to take a stab at making a parallel system that is not beholden to Western power centers, specifically the seven groups who underwrite the transactions.

Well, the Western banksters ain't having none of that.

Since the moment Russia and China announced their intentions to create this new financial system (about five years ago), Russia has been on the NATO target list, China's South China Sea activities have gained increasing attention at the Pentagon, India is suddenly not as chummy as it used to be, and Brazil...well, we'll get to that in a minute.  As for South Africa, hell no one's paid any attention to them since the end of Apartheid.

Most of the world's big geo-political problems can be traced back to this one thing: replacing SWIFT.  If you have any doubts about who runs the Western powers, just look at the Western militaries and their behaviors since the SWIFT system came under close scrutiny.

NATO has suddenly gotten all up in Russia's face.  US covert operations stirred up the Ukraine.  The US navy and air assets have been buzzing around the South China Sea like disturbed hornets and sea lice.  India is suddenly not the hot IT paradise it once was.  And Brazil...well...

Brazil was given the Olympics a few years back as reward for being such good boys and girls and playing nice in the US sandbox.  But, when Brazil started getting uppity and electing people like Dilma Rouseffe, who dared to think her country could be a little more independent, POOF!  Along comes the Zika virus, which first made headlines in Brazil, and where most of the severe cases (so we are told) are at the moment.  Next thing you know, Rouseffe is impeached, folks start pulling out of the Olympics and Brazil is close to being stuck with a huge bill if the games are cancelled due to...um, Zika, yeah Zika.

This whole mess is quite obvious from a certain point of view. Of course the media won't connect the dots because the wizard doesn't want you peeking behind the curtain.

Brazil is receiving special attention because, 1) it is over a barrel with the Olympics, and 2) it is in the US backyard, where other powers are not allowed to play.  You see, the US has this thing about keeping South America and Europe tied tightly to its apron strings.  That's why Venezuela was dealt with so harshly, and Obama made a hurried trip to Argentina for the first time in his administration (the Chinese are making big investments there), and why a bankster (there is no former) is in the lead for president of Peru.

Of course, the BRICSA are fighting back.  All this immigration mess?  Yup, you guessed it.  Just turn the US' and EU's lax immigration laws and policies back on them.  Quiet.  Subtle.

As for the US, we have Killary, whom everyone knows is in the bankster pocket, but Trump?  Well, guess what?  All those billions he brags about?  Gosh, they could all vanish with a keystroke, and he still has to use the SWIFT system to move his bux around, no matter how independent he thinks he is.

In the end, nearly every single problem in the world for the past five years can be traced back to competing financial systems.  The Western oligarchs have gotten used to controlling to world's money, and they won't give up easily.  Think Al Capone, but on a far grander scale.

We are witnessing turf wars, plain and simple, though played out on a global scale, with a game of Risk thrown in for good measure.  Armies move around and deploy, satellite ground stations get built over here, man-made islands appear over there, national economies rise and fall based on whose turf they want to play in.

On the one hand, it's a ridiculous mobster game, but on the other, there are a lot of innocent folks who will get caught in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Remember the shakedown of 2008-9?  Now, imagine this: a couple of well-heeled guys walk into your shop and say, "Pay us some protection money, 'cause I wouldn't want to see your business fall apart or nuttin'."  Same thing.  Gee, Congress, don't wanna pay up?  Ooh, did you feel the economic earthquake just now?  Better hurry or we won't be able to protect you much longer.

It's all one big alphabet soup: SWIFT, JSCC, US, EU, TPP, TTIP, BRICSA...

But it all boils down to one thing: it's an international game of gangsters and mafia, and we are all pawns.  They have the power to destroy nations who don't play along - on either side.  The Big Question is, who will win?  The next question is: how many of us will get crushed in the stampede?

15.6.16

The Cacophony of Cultures

I tend to write a whole week's worth of columns on Sunday afternoon, so if you notice particular themes running through them, then much of it has to do with the mood I am in on Sunday afternoon.  But, since my lovely bride just brought me a bunch of chocolate chip cookies, perhaps my mood will lighten up a bit going forward.

My habit is to scan through the news and look for things that set me off.  I use Drudge for the right-wingnut view, the New York Times for the left-wingnut view, and Rense for the pure-wingnut view. For seasoning, I throw in the Financial Times, the Strait Times, the Allgemeine Zeitung, and the Times of India (aka the Bombay Bombast).  Stir in Russia Today and Xinhua, boil till thick and aromatic. Then I create a mental picture of the state of the world.  And this week, that state is a pretty sad one.

What I came across, though, was an article in the Gray Lady (New York Times) about a Chinese surgeon that wants to perform a full-body transplant on a paralyzed man.  That triggered a memory about an article from Newsweek about an Italian surgeon that wanted to perform a head transplant.

The first thing that struck me is the underlying philosophical differences.  From the descriptions of what is being done, they sound more or less the same thing.  The difference is that the Italians (westerners) are changing the head, and the Chinese (easterners) wanted to swap out the body.

Not sure why, but this difference intrigued me.

Even beyond the Frankenstein movie horror images (the book used an alchemical process to create an homunculus), these articles revealed a very deep division in points of view.

On the one hand, the Westerners were transferring a head to a new host body, while the Easterners were giving a body a new head.  Do you see what I see?  The Westerners place the center of being in the head, while the Easterners view the head in context of the whole body.

What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?  Probably not much, but it does highlight something that I often go on about here, and that is the fundamental assumptions that we all have and that are culturally induced.

In the West, we have generally come to assume that the head is the center of the body.  This is neither right nor wrong, though I tend to see it as incomplete.  The Eastern culture sees the entire body as a unified whole.  Again, neither right nor wrong, just incomplete.  They are complimentary assumptions and lead to a whole host of viewpoints that are completely in opposition to each other.

A great example is the Indo/Malay word hati.  Now if you ask a schoolchild how this translates into English, they will tell you "heart," and in a sense, they are right...and wrong.  In fact, hati strictly means liver, while jantung means heart - at least when it comes to physical organs.

However, in English we use the word "heart" for a much more intangible and philosophical thing: the seat of the emotions and wisdom.  In the Indo/Malay languages, this concept in located in the liver.  Don't ask me why, I haven't gotten that far in my ponderings, but the fundamental cultural divide is there.

Indonesians will tell you hati-hati (be careful), and perhatian (attention), or memperhatikan (take note of something).  Maybe they will say someone has berhati busuk, or evil intent, or berhati baik, a heart of gold.  In a book, when a character thinks to himself, he is speaking didalam hati, inside his heart.  But, if someone drinks too much alcohol, they will get sirosis hati.  There is no mistake that hati is liver, and it is quite apparent that the language embeds all of the aspects of the Western "heart" in the liver.

In this same vein, the Westerners will transplant a head and the Easterners will transplant a body.  Same basic procedure, completely different philosophies.

To me, and admittedly I'm a bit of a geek, this is one of the most fascinating parts of learning new cultures.  Oh sure, we all have our unique costumes and dances, architecture and food, but the most interesting part is the profound differences in the assumptions we make about the Universe as part of our cultural underpinnings.

Many people go through life without ever having questioned the very foundations of how and why we think that way we do.  They never experience completely different viewpoints or rotate around a problem and attack it from an angle that we are culturally blind to.

It's like religion.  Take Judaism and Islam.  They both abhor pork.  They both practice mutilation of male genitalia.  They both have stylistically similar languages with dozens of cognate words.  Yet, one claims to be descended from the legitimate child of a mythical character (Abraham), and the other claims to be descended from the illegitimate child of the same character.  For this, they have warred for centuries, laying claim to the same lands, when in fact, they are hardly separated philosophically.

Little differences that underlie big things.

That's why - and readers here seem to agree - my scribblings tend to take unusual tacks.  I tend to look at problems and issues from non-standard points of view, and even to create new ones by synthesizing alternative viewpoints.  I like to view the world as both a head transplant and a body transplant, because that one simple change can lead to all sorts of new ideas down the line.

The people I know who can do this all have one thing in common: they speak multiple languages.  The thinkers I tend to gravitate towards all speak at least two or three languages.  The people I most admire are polyglots.  And the things that sets them apart from others is their ability to examine the world as if through multi-faceted eyes, seeing angles that others cannot.

It's a valuable tool not to be locked into a single cultural perspective.

I went to school with the son of the guy who invented the Weed-Eater.  He kept the original in a glass case in his living room.  He got tired of the trouble and expense of sharpening and replacing blades on lawn edgers, so one day he tied a bunch of heavy-duty fishing line to a popcorn snack can and bolted in on to his machine.

My grandfather, trying to figure out a way to clean tanker cars on trains after hauling oil or chemicals, was inspired by the heating coil he used to keep his coffee warm on his desk.

They both became a multi-millionaires because he looked at a problem from a wildly different point of view, and that fact made an impression on me.

Of course, my solution is to wonder why I need to edge, or even have a yard, at all.