Relaying an Observation

Last night I started reading a cultural history of the 1920s “Only Yesterday” by Frederick Lewis Allen. It was written in 1931 which makes it also a source on the early 1930s. In 1931 no one knew they were in a “Great depression” they were just in a nasty 2 year long down turn. Much like the one that happened in 1919-21.  This book is very interesting because it seems to be taking the decade by chronological order. (It also makes many references to things people in 1931 would understand, but me in 2013 have to think about or look up.)

The first chapter was about 1919 and the red scare and the race riots. I found it very nifty that a white historian in the 1930s would bother to write such a modern sounding narrative on the Chicago race riot that happened after a young black man ended up on the white side of the beach.

The author also made a connection I had not thought about before. In world war 1 the culture shifted toward a type of summary action. Something needs to be done, don’t think, act. This lead to a lot of violent reaction in 1919 against socialist and communist party members in the cities, and a shift in KKK activity from being just annoying to being outright violent.  (not to say they weren’t violent before 1919, I simply haven’t looked into Klan activity from 1915 through 1919.)

The idea that war changed the mentality of Americans into knee jerking toward militant solutions is interesting.  It seems similar to the consensus behavior of the 1950s following the second world war. There was a second red scare at the time too.

This is very different from the behavior the current war has taken with America. Americans are much more willing to be disunited, yet still very knee-jerk in their behavior.

Just some thoughts to chew on.

Teaching US History with memes

ImageSo, I am a history major and coming to a decision point int he coming year, Do I go for a teaching job or public history? Both fields have positives and negatives. I started playing around with a presentation using memes to teach US history. I started working up some ideas using a lot of meme generator web pages to do the work. I actually wonder what random onlookers think of some of these outside of their historical context.  Then I started thinking about the memes themselves. They are a historical source. They tell the world what we, on the internet, think of our culture. What I see of memes is development of a set of themes. Taking a system and creating jokes and cultural observations and gripes and parading them for the world to see either to think about, laugh at (or with), or send sympathy. 

Image These memes are cultural characters that represent aspects of what we think it means to be people. They are good primary sources for many reasons. First, they can be created by people of nearly any walk of life.  In the past primary sources, such as laws, gods, monumental architecture, fictional characters, etc, were only created by the elite.  Such an example is the Anglo Saxon chronicles which is a set of documents kept by monks in England around 1000 years ago.  These documents tell us what the monks though was important. If you read them there are the catholic feasts, astrological signs, big things, kings, ect, but very little on what the peasants were doing. Probably nothing on women (I haven’t read them all, only pieces), it’s a very incomplete picture. These Memes are not 100% complete, but they provide sources that fill in clues to what every day people are doing. Poor people, rich people, bored people, active people, anyone who feels the desire can create these things. We can track the ones that are most popular and that tells us something too. We can find the ones that are unpopular and that also tells us stuff.

ImageI like the memes, they make me laugh and think, and they are spreading. I’ve even failed miserably at trying to create my own. I decided to use them as visual props for teaching US history and I got as far as Columbus and the English Reformation. Then I stopped working on it because I started wondering if by the time I get to the head of a class room will these memes still be popular or will they become obscure. Will all my work be for nothing because in 10 years, no one will care? Maybe memes will matter, but it will be different ones, Xibit, Bad Luck Brian, and Success Baby will have been replaced by others.  I like to gauge the future and having done it for a while I’ve learned that trying to figure out little details like this is just a waste of time, its all guessing. So I decided to share what little work I have done on this blog and wrap it up in a nice little lesson on basic historical sources.

ImageI seem to have collected a handful of followers and likes on this blog so If anyone is even mildly interested in the presentation, i might continue to work on it. It would be a good excuse for me to strengthen my understanding of US history and an excuse to make silly pictures that help fill in the backstory of US history.

A rant on poverty, and a rant on the poverty pimp meida who tries to make it worse than it is


Hoover Flag

Yesterday the AP had a headline “4 out of 5 Americans face poverty”. When you read the story it admits that those 80% who face poverty actually only faced it for a period in their life. We know the poverty rate is 15% so if 80% face poverty, but only 15% are in poverty that means 65% extracted themselves from potential poverty.  People are still rising up economically. 

Another aspect of poverty is the myth of the starving child.  The census reports that of the 50 million in poverty only 1.6% (or there abouts) actually miss a few meals a week. Not starve to death, just miss two or three of the 21 meals most people have a week. This is not great news. In a country of cheap food, food stamps, food banks, and the ability to dumpster dive (which rich kids do a lot more than poor families, see freegans) how can nearly a million people be missing meals.  what are they doing wrong? why are they ignoring all the handouts and easy access to food?

These questions bring me to the point of my rant. Poverty in America is a choice for most people.  True there are people brought here to work, often illegally across the boarder or across the sea. There are still sex slaves who are forced to be poor by their pimps. There are a few other examples of forced poverty that I am not thinking about right now, I’m sure. But for the most part, poverty is a choice.

I am not saying people wake up and say “let’s be poor!” its more like they wake up and say “School is for chumps”. then they say “Working for the ‘man’ is for idiots!”. Then they say, “Why should I have to do that, this, and that thing?” This is what i mean by poverty being a choice. Learning the skills needed to be productive and paid well is a choice, and too many people make the wrong choice when they are teenagers and adults.

Some people would say that they had no role models as kids. I could agree. I’ve seen too many kids copy their deadbeat parents. This doesn’t wash once those kids become adults and have access to all kinds of secondary education and libraries and today the internet.  Furthermore the political situation that thrives on poverty is encouraging them to be poor rather than rise up. If the state gives you money to survive, how often will you vote against the statists?

The mentality of keeping people poor by keeping them uneducated and on the dole isn’t always malicious.  I have encountered European and American socialists who are proud that they “maintain the poor” without realizing the irony that if you maintain the poor, they stay poor.  You aren’t helping the poor do better, you are kicking them down.

Examine American wealth transfer programs. They provide just enough support to keep you alive, and voting, but threaten to take it all away if you start to earn your own money or save up your surplus. The programs encourage the users to spend all that money and be anti-frugal. (just like a bureaucrat in baseline budgeting.) This may not have been designed to keep people poor, but it has that effect. And when anyone wants to change these programs, the proponents scream “THEY WANT YOU TO STARVE TO DEATH”

1) this assumes that people wont go get jobs, or are too stupid to care for themselves.

and 2) this assumes the reforms wont work.

how nice of them, “you are too stupid to live on your own, let us help you… just vote us in in November…”

If you think these programs help, look at historic poverty rates. In the late 1940s the USA had about a 30% poverty rate. By the end of JFKs term it was down to 15% that is 13 years of decline. then LBJ in 1965 passed a lot of wealth transfer programs. Ever since then poverty rate has bounced between 12% and 15%. When the state subsidized poverty, poverty became attractive and people chose not to get out of it.  But this isn’t quite as bad for the poor as it would seem.

every few years the Heritage Foundation pours through census data to find out what life is like in poverty. In 2006 and 2011 they put out these reports with some astounding information. Poor people some times own 2 cars, several TVs and computers, a good chunk of the poor actually own a home. They have video games, they have washing machines, they almost never go hungry (that 1.6% number again). Poverty is a pretty sweet thing in the USA, not like poverty in Somalia…

According to a number of studies, American poor have more living space than European average income people.  They have access to cheaper goods. Poverty really is relative.

Too bad people rarely crunch the numbers to see the broader picture.

19th century, the century of the beard.

ImageIt’s hard to put these fantastic flowering of facial follicles into order, so this blog post will just be some amazing 19th century beards. Also key was the development of the camera to provide a record of these things.












Fricking beard-tastic stuff here.  This is one of the smaller reasons I study the Gilded age, the massively interesting facial hair styles. The beard came back in the 1990s but it still hasn’t reached its 1890s glory.

How environmentalism follows monotheistic dogma


Adam and Eve

The Abrahamic faiths teach us that God gave dominion over the earth and all things in it to Man. This theology is shared by all the followers of Abraham’s god, the Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Baha’i.  This theology is contrary to the theology of the tribal animists and the Chinese Taoists and others in that Man is a part of nature, and not separate from it. Environmentalism shares in the dogma that man is outside nature. It is evident in how they react to “man’s intrusion” in the natural world. Such as it is, Environmentalism treats man as an outsider. This is a clear example of how Environmentalism is a successor to the theology of the ancients even when modern adherents of Christianity are at odds with modern adherents of environmentalism.

The idea that anything man does will have a negative impact bothers me. First, it treats nature as a static thing that needs to be “protected” from change. Second, it precludes the idea that humans are a vital piece of the world’s ecosystems.

This idea has bothered me quite a bit. I remember in California the state officials were working hard to get various animals to go back to their “natural range” when they were moving into new places. Environmentalists and officials were worried that man had some how changed the balance, never once considering the natural migration of species.  This shows a very static world view. All is as it was created and any changes are vile abominations which need to be purged. Seems really medieval Christian to me…

As Michael Crichton pointed out in an essay he wrote years ago, Environmentalists have developed ideas of Sin and virtue. There is a garden state in the time long ago and a potential for redemption. Environmentalism really is just Christianity with the planet in the center rather than the trinity. Man’s action has denied us paradise and only our repentance and sacrifice can restore it.

What is more amazing to me is how the Environmental movement has grown since the 1970s at the same time the western world has dramatically cleaned itself up. The movement is growing larger and more radical with success. Usually people get radical with failure. Environmentalists have cleaned our air and water. They are upset at the industrialization in the third world but don’t seem to realize that with industrialization will come middle class people who will flock to their movement.  Environmentalism is the religion of the rich. People who can afford to sacrifice and do penance with less efficient means of living.

In summation, Any hard core environmentalists who reads this will probably call me a heretic or a non believer and as they do, they will be making my case for me. To deny the scope of the problems they present is to cause psychic harm and spiritual defamation. Because it is a religion and not a rational set of goals.

All hail mother Gia….

Quick banking observation

In the US we have a long history of keeping banks small and local. It fits with our cultural traditions of the small guy, the common man. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, Icons of American history, both took steps to keep banking small and local.  In fact many Americans today mistrust large banks and banking agencies like the Federal Reserve.

In this short rant I want to support the idea of fewer, larger banks rather than many, smaller banks.  The idea is simple. thousands of small local banks each holding small deposits of local people vs dozens of large nation wide banks each holding large deposits of many people around the country. I submit that larger and more diversified banks are superior for the following reasons. (These are hypothetical, not real world examples.) First, they are much more resistant to local economic downturn. Detroit has gone to shit, the local Detroit banks would be hit hard, but if there were national banks there, they would be bolstered by the fact that New York, DC, and LA are going strong.

Second, Larger banks mean larger deposits on hand and when there is a run on the banks in a panic the larger banks can withstand them more readily. They can borrow the cash in a streamlined fashion to keep their doors open while thousands of smaller banks would take much longer to process the loan requests from the Federal reserve bank.

Third: Larger banks accumulate those deposits into more cash on hand allowing for more and larger loans while staying within the same reserve ratio. They could issue more loans and because they operate in bulk, can do so cheaper.

A thought that just occurred to me is America’s love-affair with “mom and pop” business. We like small business and we like small banks. But small banks mean they only serve a small geographical area. If that particular area is hard hit, (like my Detroit example) those small banks have no access to funds to keep them alive. If too many of the loans they issued go under, they are screwed and must close their doors, their depositing customers are hurt. But if the First Bank of Detroit had branches in Atlanta, San Antonio, St. Paul, and Seattle then they could call upon the resources of those cities to secure the deposits in Detroit.

Banking, I think, works better when they can serve more customers.

The Solution to the Abortion Debate.

Artificial Womb

Artificial womb holding a baby to term

We have a fundamental problem in this country right now. Whose rights do we honor first when two people have similar claims? Abortion is a debate over such claims. Does the mother have the right to her body? Does the baby have right to his or her life? This is the question that has been unresolved now for many years.  The abortion debate is key to the current era of women’s rights. I am counting all the way back to the 1920s when Margaret Sanger kept getting arrested for mailing news letters and pamphlets on birth control. Back then it was a horrible cultural taboo to talk about diaphragms and condoms.  The Monty Python song “every sperm is sacred” was the rule of the land.

By our day even the majority of pro life fundies are ok with condoms and even the pill because it prevents abortion. The debate has shifted to focus on when life starts. I submit that this debate exists to justify the real argument, whose rights come first.

In civilization we live in communities of strangers and as such we sacrifice some of our fundamental rights for stability and security. We submit to the rules established by strangers in exchange for the ability to help select those strangers. We follow rules for driving, buying, selling, interaction, and traveling because it generally helps to keep things moving smoothly.  We also follow rules regarding our bodies and the bodies of others. We can not cause harm to another body without just cause. This is generally covered under self defense. But we can cause harm to another body if that body is not yet born.  So we try to justify it using ancient techniques of stripping rights from humans. We redefine them to inhuman status.

This presents our problem, whose rights become paramount? Mother, or child? This is where the artificial womb comes into play. Using this device both rights can be equally respected. The mother, should she need or want to abandon the pregnancy could do so with no harm to the child developing inside of her. She would go down to the clinic and have a fetal transplant.  She could go on with her life with total control of her body while the baby would complete its gestation and be put up for adoption. The baby might even be adopted before it has reached 9 months.

This would also apply to women who wanted to keep their babies but the baby caused complications that in current times would force a horrible choice of mother or child. This way the mother could survive the process and keep the baby.

I like compromise solutions. This one makes the most people happy. Yet some will still be unhappy. Some people champion abortion not as a woman’s rights issue but as population control. In fact early proponents of abortion were all for population control of those “unwanted” segments of population. (A lot of progressive era social programs were genocidal in nature) Still to this day some people see abortion as a good thing, some see the high number of black babies aborted and cheer that on.  Some see any unborn baby termination as a good thing simply because they fear over population (see a previous post where I debunk that)

For the most part, artificial wombs allow both mother and child to secure their rights and most of us can rest easy as a result. Solutions, we has them.

Party Rant

So, a few stories popped up on drudge that are connected but not by current events, but by theme. The civil war in the republican party. There is a civil war in the democrat party too, but that is swept under the rug and not reported on. Democrats have been good of keeping their infighting, back stabbing, and nights of long knives out of the lime light.

The NSA Spying scandal and the potential government shut down over obamacare are the topics of the stories that I read and they are connected in this way: The parties (both of them) are both splitting up over the key issues of the power of the government to run our daily lives.  Both parties have blocs that oppose these things, and blocs that support these things.  As a historian what came to my mind was the 1850s and how both major parties of that era the Democrats and the Whigs were split over slavery.

The Whig party, much like the Republican party was much more independent with its membership and when the split got too large the party shattered into pieces, several of which were swept up into the new Republican Party, including Abe Lincoln.  The democrat party seems to me to always be a lot more united. Ever since it formed in the 1820s It has been much more unified keeping its doctrinal disputes in the smoke filled rooms.

Slavery divided both parties and in the 1860 election the Democrats ran 2 candidates, one northern and one southern. This is how Lincoln won the election. But the issue that keeps coming back is the death of the Whig party. The Whigs could not find a way to differentiate itself from the democrats on a growing key issue.  I think the government intrusion into our private lives as seen by the NSA scandal and Obamacare runs a good chance at destroying the Republican party.

The first Republican party split up after 1824 and the election of John Quincy Adams. The Federalist party split up after many of its issues were rendered moot, or absorbed by the old Republican party. The Whig party split up over issues of slavery and states rights.  Maybe the new Republican party will be the next major party to die.

Cybernetics: the modern revolution


Cybernetic arm

In the late 1990s an English scientist and engineer named Kevin Warwick designed and installed a microchip in his arm. This chip allowed him to control small machines that he designed to respond to his microchip. He improved the chip to also give feedback. He built a baseball cap with a radar array on it and gave himself an artificial sense.  As I was on my walk today I was thinking about the smartphone I had in my pocket. I use this phone to listen to music on my walk, to study things via the internet while I’m at a restaurant, and to look up funny pictures when I am bored. Now imagine a melding of these two technologies. A smartphone that communicates directly with your nervous system. 

In 2006 Matthew Nagle, a paralyzed man, was able to operate a computer mouse using an implanted machine in his brain.  This is nothing totally new, there have been the cochlear implants for inner ears to restore hearing to the deaf. This was more of  proof of concept.  Reported just a few days ago a number of neurologists claimed to have been able to implant memories in the brain of a lab rat. These technologies, when combined, will radically change the way humanity lives and interacts.

First, Computers will be able to get a lot smaller because the input/output part will be built into the user. That means keyboards, mice, microphones, screens, printers, speakers, all will start to go away and be replaced by the human mind.  This will allow for much quicker access for information than we have now, even with the internet.

Schools won’t have to issue text books in physical form, they will be all digital. Memos and emails will be delivered right to the employee. Politicians will never be able to get away with claiming they didn’t do something because their public records will be right there for all to read.

There will be things to worry about, however. Already with the internet we have a lot of information being produced that is faulty. Either by ignorance, ideology, or malice, there is just a lot of bullshit on the internet. This might not change when the internet goes neural. But perhaps the experience of the internet will help temper the transition to neural networking.

Some will be worried about being able to be tracked anywhere on earth, but frankly you can be tracked now. The technology will not make anyone easier to find, in fact, because of hacking people will be able to cloak themselves and if oppressive governments use these for tracking, they will run into problems and likely return to current methods of tracking which are harder to evade.

What about those same hackers hacking the implants and hurting the host human? This will be a problem that needs to be dealt with. It is annoying when your computer crashes, but normally you just reload it. The same will likely be true for the on-board computer system. it would just be embarrassing to have to reload your system in the middle of a presentation, or get stuck in a pornado. (That’s a situation when a bunch of pop-up pornography blankets your screen with windows.)

Ultimately this technology will increase productivity and reduce cost of living. But it will be troublesome getting there as people will be both unsure about what to do and willing to do improper things to abuse this new technology. Baring a massive culture shift, this will happen, so be ready.