Oct 26, 2014

September 22, 2014: I Am a Log, Serious Stuff, Platitudes Bromides and Certainties.


As I recall it, well now over 40 years after the fact, I was sitting in the classroom studying psychology when Professor Morgan asked the assembled to draw pictures of who we thought we were, with a few notes of explanation.  Shortly we began to go around the room and each student duly presented his or her artwork and accompanied by a brief oral discription of who they were.  When he got to me I produced a picture of a log, explaining that I was just sitting there like an old log observing the world as it passed by.  Professor Morgan, a bit taken aback asked incredulously, “What’s a log, man?”  “I don’t know, but whatever it is its more natural than being an electrical engineer or administrator” was my reply.  A hush settled about the room generated by a certain uneasiness as the assembled moved about a bit in their chairs.  “Explain, if you will”, intoned the professor.   “I am not my occupation”, I said, “I am more than that.  I exist, I occupy space in this time on this planet, while I’m here I am many things, most of all a social animal embedded in a web of social relationships all of which define who I am.  It’s more than a question of vocation, or economics, we are all larger than the pidgeonholes in which we sometimes all too willingly allow ourselves to be contained and defined”.   “That’s serious stuff” remarked the professor. 

 My contributions to the class consisted of scoring two principle points.  First the infamous “I am a Log” statement in which I tried to drive home the point that the essence of personhood is not and should not be narrowly defined by one’s occupation.  The second point came at the end of the class.  The students were asked to tell the class what their grade should be and defend it.  There were two, what seemed to me at the time, ‘old’ ladies who commuted together each day down from Whitehall to take classes.  The ladies in question were, I suppose, in their 40’s at the time working on their degrees in hopes of becoming elementary school teachers.  Now it transpires that it just so happened that this class, all about child development and pedagogy, was at the vangard of a new approach to teaching little Jane and Johnny.  In the hopes of stirring latent ‘creativity’ it was thought, the old school approach of sitting at desks and being confronted with a structured program was hopelessly outdated to be replaced by an ‘open’ classroom where the young charges would be allowed to wander about and, when he or she became ready, the student would naturally, following some inherent curiousity, sit down and master the task at hand.  I saw the movement as a passing fad, like modern Rap, but just like the modern musical abortion this proved to be one of those institutional movements that would endure.  In any case when the ladies presented their case for their grades to the class, a rather condescending classmate opined that it was refreshing indeed that the old foggies should, at such a late date, still have the mental abilities, as well as the extraordinary courage to adopt new ideas.  The exchange, after a time, went beyond unsettling and began to resemble harrange bordering on harrassment.  I moved to step in.

 I raised my hand and had no trouble at all getting the attention of Professor Morgan who by this time was becoming visibly uneasy.  Gaining recognition and the floor I began my observation.  “You know I’ve been at this institution for four years now and have read many books. I have labored long and hard over this time and at quite an expense.  It is at once gratifying and depressing that I find myself here today.  Gratifying that I have at last found, between the covers of this textbook the TRUTH.  I need look no further, for alas, we have indeed reached the pinnacle if not the end of the quest for knowledge.  I can, therefore rest from my labors and enjoy a lifetime in quiet repose.  I am depressed though because the TRUTH, it transpires, has been right beneath my nose all the time and it has taken so long for me to find it and for this institution to lead me to it.  I suspect, though, that in 40 time some enterprising ‘expert’ in the field of education will make his or her reputation by proposing a program of matriculation that is wholly at odds with what we have learned here and this program will likewise be received with all the enthusiasm and certainty that we currently are showering on the authors of this text.”  The dear Doctor simply nodded with a wry smile, acknowleging the point and relieved that the tension had left the room. One must be careful with platitudes, bromides and certainties.  One must not be about the business of erecting monuments lest one be slain by a falling statue.  A healthy skepticism is in order for without it one loses one’s peripheral vision and what is presented to us as certainty all to often is simple illusion. 

 Alas, Professor Morgan, one of those cherished few souls with courage to wander outside the ‘box’, was soon pressured to leave my alma mater, soon to be replaced with god know’s what since the Governor had placed the likes of Richard DeVos, he of the Scamway company, on the Board of Control.  But before he left, I was priveleged to be among those who benefitted by his insights and willingess to have his students confront life and the meaning of life. 

 

 

 

 

Oct 24, 2014

September 21, 2014: Radio Daze, Canned Platitudes, He Hasn't Read His Marx


Back in the 1970’s an old college buddy was deeply involved with a local community radio station in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Among his storied duties included hosting an hour long talk program dealing with current affairs and observations.  To this end, he would occasionally invite me to observe or participate.  One Sunday evening I was at the station awaiting our turn in the studio when I overheard the guest on the radio defend the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.  It transpired that the person in question was one of those faux radicals present on campus in the late 60’s and early 70’s reincarnated here as a hopeless apologlist for anything the Commissars in the Kremlin were engaged in.  When the program was over, I confronted old Jim.

 The question quickly boiled down to basic, as he understood it, Communist Ideology, with me questioning the legitimacy of the actions taken by the state.  It was a reiteration of the old Orthodoxy, at least as it is past on in American schools, and I quickly pounced.

  “What’s the difference between the state expropriating the fruits of labor and the Capitalist doing so.  Is not the state simply the Capitalist writ large?”,  I inquired.  He was taken aback by the question, clearly not anticipating it.  As I remember he responded with the usual canned platitudes. 

  “So I take it you’ve never read the ‘Paris Manuscripts of 1844’ (1) have you?” I asked.

  “What’s that?” was his befuddled response.

 I went about trying to explain to him that this is the work that preceeded all others.  It was here that Marx began to hone his famous Theory of Alienation and lay the groundwork for his critique of Capital.  It is the underpinning of all that will follow, including his ‘withering away of the state’.  Marx, I contended would have been appalled at the spectre of the Soviet Union.  If you want to see Communism in action, he would later write, look to the Paris Commune.  This was an elected government briefly formed in Paris when the regime was toppled by the German invasion in the Franco-German war of 1871.  It was, in fact, light years from the heavy handed Stalinist regime the remnants of which were still in place.   Later, one of our mutual friends, taken aback by the exchange, said “he wasn’t ready for that was he’?  “No,” said I, “He has not read his Marx”. 

 __________

 (1)   Published under the title “Economic and Philosophic          Manuscripts of 1844”       
              The work is commonly referred to simply as the  
               "Paris Manuscripts"                                      

Oct 19, 2014

September 20, 2014: Most Assuredly Wrong, See For Myself, One Chapter Ahead


“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
 It’s a wonder I can think at all”        
                             ----Paul Simon “Kodachrome”

“I’ve discovered later in life that, with the possible exception of basic reading and mathematics, most of what I was taught was most assuredly wrong."
                           ----from "The Quotations of Chairman Joe".                                              

Nineteen years ago I found myself substitute teaching in what is now called a “middle school” (formerly a Junior High) a class in sociology, which had become the format for teaching a combination of sociology, history and government.  In the course of the conversation a rather perceptive student opined that he thought that schools were nothing but indoctrination centers.  I was a bit taken aback by the observation, but I recalled reading in my history that the French Minister of Education proclaimed at the end of the 19th century, as the state had wrested nearly complete control of education from the church, that “now we will make good nationalists of them”.   I found myself unable to mount an effective reply and simply nodded in agreement.  It is hard to see it in any other way.

 From making ‘good christians’ to making ‘good nationalists’ the educational system is designed to meet the demands of a certain agenda, whatever that agenda may be.  It may be parochial, or it may be public, but whatever it’s agenda it is certain to entail the adoption of some belief system leading to the veneration of certain established institutions otherwise known as the “Box”.  To think outside the “Box” is to risk heresy, ending in certain chastisement, marginalization or outright banishment.  To that end, certain forces are at work to see that the material is presented in an ‘acceptable’ if not official manner.  In the United States, agencies like the Texas authorities comb every textbook to see that they meet their preconcieved ideas of what the true history and governance of this country is, reflecting true ‘American’ values.  It is like that in every country. And so atrocities, betrayals, chicanery, and outright mendacity are expunged from every textbook leading the young to believe that theirs is a ‘chosen’ lot in life be it Divine Providence or the ‘Manifest Destiny’ of the nation into which one is born.

 I first became aware that something may be amiss when I visited the “Farm” in my youth.  In previous posts (see “Northwest of Custer” and “Return to Custer”) I have mentioned that visits to my grandparents were seen by the ‘folks’ as much as an opportunity to teach as it was a time of reaquaintence.  During one such visit my great Uncle Lionel closely questioned me concerning what they were teaching at my parochial school.  I could tell by his body language and the nature of the questioning that he was dismayed if not appalled.  It was the complete rejection of Natural History, I would later come to appreciate, as well as the implied war on science that he could not sanction. I returned to school with, I think, a greater peripheral vision but when I answered a ‘science’ question stating that the world was 4 billion years old, I was not only marked down but singled out for reprimand.

 And so began my long questioning of what were presented to me as established ‘truth’.  I remember the tirades against the forces of ‘evil’ prominent among them were the works of Marx and Nietszche.  I began to suspect the interpretation and, when I emerged from my ‘studies’ later in life, the first thing I did was purchase a copy of every work still in print by these two writers  I just had to see for myself.

 As I suspected, what was presented to me so authoritatively turned out to be a mere characterization of their works, betraying a blinding ignorace of what these people were trying to say. I suspected, even as a boy, that perhaps the truth was more encompassing, now I found myself face to face with the genuine article and it was revealing.

 Nietszche in his work “Thus Spake Zarathustra” has the protagonist coming from the mountaintop and dispensing his newly formed observations concerning the human predicament to anyone who will listen.  Soon he gathers a group of followers who take his every utterance as nearly Divine Revelation.  Zarathustra becomes uneasy, continually protesting that “I have not been understood”.  Finally, in exasperation he warns his followers that one should not be about the business of erecting monuments lest one be slain by a falling statue.  And so it is.  Every writer, every thinker, must be painfully self conscious.  Every philosopher or theologian must be continually vigilant lest he be laid waste not only by his opponents but by his very adherents. 

 Nietsche warned his readers that he was not the answer, but possibly only a steppingstone in the long quest for truth.  “To disagree with him and to know why”, as Kaufman his translater would so succinctly and aptly put it, is the real challenge facing every reader.  It is the real challenge and the real pleasure in reading any great work. To critique it instead of blindly and submissively accepting or rejecting is the great treasure. By reading such works with such an approach one can engage in a kind of dialogue with the greatest minds of humankind.  But alas, that is not how one is taught to read in any school I’m familiar with.

Indeed it gets worse.  I am currently near the end of reading Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” I found a complete set of this work at a bookstore in Winder Georgia and had to lay my hands on it.  This was another work held up as testament for the need to follow the ‘straight and narrow’.  Gibbon, we were told, was one of the truly great historians. He wrote, we were assured, that the reason the Roman Empire fell was that the people no longer followed the true religion and that decadence had finally been the undoing of the great historical experiment.  If only the Romans had been faithful to the Church….. I discovered reading this work that my suspicions were well founded for Gibbon wrote no such thing.  True enough, the empire fell from within as the people no longer felt it was worth defending against the barbarian hordes and in fact hired the barbarians as mercenaries to defend the empire for them.  So it was, to a great degree, a loss of faith but it was a loss of faith in the efficacy of the state, not a religious question.  To cast the fall of the Roman Empire as a theological question, stemming from a growing ‘degeneracy’ and loss of a moral compass, is to greatly strain the historical record.

 In fact, I was to discover later, that was precisely the theological cunundrum confronting St. Augustine.  How could it be that the Empire began to unravel soon after the adoption by the state of Christianity as the state religion.  For Christians everywhere this was the great paradox.  Augustine did his best to explain it away but Gibbon, I was later to learn, never made the attempt. 

 So began my introduction with historical criticism creating as it did a lifelong passion for the subject.  Entering the public schools I was likewise harranged by my instructors concerning the shortcomings of so-called ‘heresies’.  Nietzche never got much attention in the public schools largely because they aren’t fixated with his “god is dead” proclamation, but Marx—considering the “Cold War” at the time—got more extensive, if not less biased treatment.  There were classes in Marxist “Dialectical Materialism” and “Historical Determinism” and, of course, his wild prognostications were always fodder for ridicule. We even held a “Communist Classroom” in our “American Problems” class in High School as a way of demonstrating what school may have been like behind the Iron Curtain.  We each had to choose a ‘Russian’ name, and sit ramrod staight and salute when called upon.  I took the name of Vladimir Illyich Ulyanov a point lost on my peers as well as my instructor.  

 By reading Marx I discovered many more dimensions.  First his historical analysis as to the orgin of modern Capital and his statistical discription of Capitalism in Dickensonian England are worth reading simply because they are so accurate, a point the ‘folks’ back at the farm impressed upon me all those years ago.    Of all the criticisms leveled at Marx no one takes umbrage with his economic analysis.  Engles has been widely criticised for his methodology, not so Marx who was the better historian and economist.  Secondly, there is the Marxist Theory of Alienation, a part of his thinking so far reaching and so penetrating so as to be at the very foundation of his philosphy.  The alienation of man, town from country, rich from poor, even from himself lies at the very foundation of the moral—yes moral—outrage that permeates his work.  In the eyes of Marx the Capitalist, by appropriating a portion of the fruits of a man’s labor, steals not only his wealth but his personhood.  He is expropriating part of the very ‘selfhood’ of the laborer. This is a deeply penetrating part of Communist ideology, as formulated by Marx, but wholly ignored in the treatment of it—if the subject gets any serious attention at all—by our schoolmasters and schoolmarms. 

 Back in college we were tasked with reading the ‘historical novel’ “The Sotweed Factor” by John Barth.  It is an 800 page tome cast in Colonial America (Maryland as I recall) which we had to read for one of our weekly book quizzes.  In it the Protagonist teaches school for a short period of time observing that the mark of a good instructor is to always be one chapter ahead of his students. I soon began to suspect that my instructors were running the race only a mere chapter ahead of me.

 And so it is. It’s not simply that my instructors in a parochial primary school were passing along theologically driven characterizations, its that none of them, be they private or public, primary or secondary, or even university level had ever read their material in the original (or translations of same).  In high school history and government tend to be taught by the coaches of the sports teams, meaning that they majored in physical education in college and minored in the subject at hand.  This means that they rarely got much past the required ‘survey’ classes in college, putting them precisely one chapter, more or less, ahead of the class.  That’s why Americans have no idea what a Communist is, let alone a Socialist, or Fascist.  They have no idea the difference between an authoritarian regime and a dictatorship, let alone between a democracy and a republic.  This is why the Teabaggers can characterize our President as a socialist, a communist and a fascist, all in the same sentence.  And this is why most Americans don’t know that the words “Capital” or “Free Market” never appear in the founding documents but the word “Regulate” or varients of it, do.  

 

 

Mar 2, 2014

March 3, 2014: Assault on the Middle Class, State-Sanctioned Greed, Don't Agonize...Organize


Senator Corker is not alone in this headlong assault on the middle class.  Everywhere, across the country, diligent Rescumlicans are about the business of conducting a headlong assault on both the New Deal and organized labor rolling back a century of progress.  There’s Scott Walker in Wisconsin waging war on the public employee unions, Rick Snyder, a former hedge fund tycoon, turning Michigan into a ‘right to starve’ state further solidifying it’s position as the Alabama of the Midwest.  Then there’s John Kasich of Ohio, previous congressman best known for leading the impeachment crusade against Bill Clinton while in the House, now as governor of Ohio he first led a battle to savage public employee unions and, after the voters overturned the law by public referendum we now find him leading the fight to keep as many voters away from the polls as indeceny will allow.  Across America we see a concerted effort to wage war on the workers of this country, first by seeking to limit the ability of workers to organize, second by seeking to roll back worker’s hard earned gaines by , as Corker demonstrated, using real or imagined crises to wring draconian concessions from the working class, and lastly by seeking to protect their political backsides from an associated political cost by restricting access to the ballot box.  The result is that, as the aforementioned graph demonstrates, the percentage of the national wealth held by the middle class of this country is on the decline.

Bill Moyers featured as a guest on his PBS program last season former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.  Reich, now economics professor at Berkley, has recently published a book dealing with the state of the economy in the post-Bush era.  It transpires that the top 1% made off with 95% of the economic gains made since the crash of ’07.  Below is a graph illustrating the relative gains by each of the 5 economic groupings in recent years. 

 


If one were to further break down this income distribution, one would find that most of the gains within the top 5% went to the highest 1%, with the lion’s share going to the top one half of one per cent.  Meanwhile, as this graph so aptly demonstrates, the bottom 80% are falling behind. 

 
To see the impact of the state-sanctioned greed let’s look at what has happened to median income in recent years, but first a word of explanation for those unfamiliar with the arcane ways of the statistician.  Conservatives gloss over what is happening to the middle class by using income averages.  The average household income and the mean household income are not the same standards of measure because averages can, in this case, be misleading.  For instance you could put Bill Gates in a room with 40 homeless people and the average wealth of everyone in the room would be well over a Billion dollars. But if you measure by Median wealth and you would get a quite different and quite startling answer, for Median wealth would approach, in this example, near zero. For such measurements real wealth or yearly household incomes are measured by the median and by deviations from the median known to the statistically obtuse as “standard deviations”.  Think of the median as the true middle, like the median on the road.  Here, in this statistic, one can measure the relative position, success or the struggles of the ‘average’ american—that is the American Middle Class. 

 








As you can see, since 2007 the “average” or median household income has gone down by roughly $4,000.00 per year. The Middle Class has lost, in the wake of the recession, 7.8 or roughly 8% of its purchasing power.  So while the top one percent has made off with 95% of the economic gains since the last recession the middle class has lost nearly 8% of it’s income. Only belatedly has this administration begun to address this problem.
The consequences of allowing these trends to continue unabated is amply illustrated in the graph below.
 
 
The graph clearly shows that the percentage of the national wealth held by the middle class, adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars, reached its peak in 1968. A whole host of problems and issues arose in the 1970s from the election of Richard Outhouse Nixon to the Arab Oil Boycott, to the introduction into the labor force of the Baby Boomers (otherwise known as the ‘generation of swine’), which set the stage for the downward decent of the purchasing power of Main Street America.  What has been so troubling has been the governmental response, or rather lack of response to this trend.  In fact governance has mostly involved creating new and novel means to accelerate the trend either by nearly eliminating any semblance of ‘progressivism’ in the tax code, shifting taxation so that work is now taxed at a much higher rate than wealth, and by turning a blind eye when we are not turning back the clock on regulations (principally financial regulations) and anti-trust.  Here we see that administrations, be they Democratic or Republican have not altered the general shape of the curve, giving damning testament to the growing dominance to the now near dictatorship of Capital. 
 There is a solution to this, one that is best expressed by an old adage “don’t agonize…organize”
 
If you're part of the middle class, thank a union.
 


 
 


 

March 2, 2014: Mantra of the Swine, Quite Beneath Them, Genuflecting before the Angry Gods of Greed


In the summer of 2011 I was doing some work for a client in Athens, Georgia, a property management company specializing in rental properties in this university town.  Jim and I got into a discussion about the auto bail-outs.  I made the point that the Obama Administration should have met with the corporate boards of GM and Chrysler and made it clear that as a condition of providing the required financial aid that not only would the top executives have to go, without a golden parachute, and that the production facilities built overseas and the jobs that went with them would have to return to the territorial United States.  Jim heartily agreed with that.  Then I said that these jobs would, as a requirement for Federal assistance, be unionized.  That’s where we parted company.  “Oh no” was the response, “we don’t need unions”. 

 This has been, by and large, the mantra of the generation of swine.  I cannot relate how many times I’ve engaged in similar conversations with my peers over the years and elicited the same response.  For reasons having to do with the prosperity into which we were born, the shameless education we received, and the collective greed and ignorance we have brought to bear, the Swine have, almost to a man, repeated the mantra of their collective corporate paymasters when it comes to issues surrounding the work place.  My response to Jim was, as it has always been, a polite variant of the question “What have you got against the middle class”? 

 It is not often taught in the schools anymore, in this sanitized version of our collective history organized as it is around performance testing; but today’s post-industrial middle class is a product of a combination of political will and organizing the labor force in the work place.  As the old middle class, founded on the family farm, was fading into history, the New Deal consciously replaced it with a new industrial middle class by not only instituting a far more progressive tax code, establishing the 40 hour work week, creating unemployment insurance but by also making it easier, with the Fair Labor Standards Act, to organize the work place.  Granted the power, instead of facing the opposition of government to bargain Americans by the millions joined unions creating higher wages, safer working conditions, vacations, pension programs and a relatively secure purchase on the growing American Middle Class.   

 No more.  In the last 40 years union membership has continued to decline as a percentage of the workforce.  Boomers, bidding a farewell to the stigmata of the “blue collar”, thinking that such collective associations too “working class” and quite beneath them, shunned the very idea of walking into a union hall.  This is America, they declaimed, where the individual stands alone.  Here one makes it with one’s own grit, determination, and character, it was proclaimed.  Here we stand or fall on our own merits.  And so, by the end of the century, the great American Middle Class, shorn of its collective voice and standing naked and alone before the angry gods of greed, finds itself under assault and driven to the point of looming extinction.

 Here is a graph, compliments of MSNBC’s “The Ed Show”, and published by the center for American Progress, showing the relationship between the decline of Union membership and the decline in the share of the national wealth held by the Middle Class:  Corker knew what he was doing when he stood on the Senate floor and demanded the diminution of the benefits of organizing the workplace.  He was simply genuflecting to his corporate paymasters, the angry gods of greed.

Feb 27, 2014

February 27, 2014: What a Corker, Race to the Bottom, Voodoo That You Do


“And now go do that voodoo that you do so well”

                     ---Harvey Korman as Headly Lamar in “Blazing Saddles”

 
Senator Bob Corker (Rescumlican Tennessee) is caught in a firestorm over attempts by workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga to organize under the auspices of the United Auto Workers.  It seems that prior to the vote by the workers over union certification, the swine from Tennessee was caught dutifully doing the bidding of his corporate paymasters by telling the workers that if they vote against unionization that Volkswagen would build more auto plants in Tennessee and the American Southeast.  Conversely, calling the UAW the greatest job killing organization in the world, he told the workers that if they joined the union it would threaten their already existing employment and jeopardize any further expansion by Volkswagen in the American South.  Using these fear tactics, the kind of voodoo the Scums do so well, the auto workers in Chattanooga dutifully rejected the union. 

 
This is the same United States Senator who stood in the well of the Senate and called for American auto workers, as a price for the industry bail-out in 2009, to be forced to give up their wages and benefits and join the ‘race to the bottom’ by working for the world industry wage.  The Senator, you see, stood outraged that American workers should have the temerity not only to demand by to compel a higher standard of living than the prevailing world rate.  No matter that the Unions had already given back many of their gains, particularly fringe benefits, the man from Tennessee was not satisfied and stood ready, willing and eager to use the financial crisis to wring landmark concessions from the working class.  This, it seems, is the recurring pattern.  Use a crisis, any crisis to give the screws one more turn on the working people of this country; and, if a crisis doesn’t exist, simply create one such as in using the debt ceiling to periodically exact more concessions from the workers and to further shred the safety net beneath them.   

 
This is not your father’s Republican party.  I cannot imagine that in my youth even the most recondite reactionary would stand in the Congress of the United States and boldly calling for radical reductions in income for middle Americans.  A few may have held those views, but none would have stood upon the national stage and so brazenly expressed them.  It is a mark of the times that a United States Senator can openly conduct war on the middle class of this country and not feel a sense of political insecurity.  This particular scum won his seat back in 06 by running in the tradition of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater airing disgusting and racially tainted television commercials against his opponent Harold Ford.  In a campaign reminiscent of another scumbag, Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, Corker savaged Ford with television commercials that violated every standard of decency, eking out a narrow victory.  Within months, knowing that his corporate paymasters would rapidly come to his defense he was calling for an end to hard won gains by the largely northern auto workers.  Now he feels safe to wage war on his own constituents.  I never thought I’d live long enough to see a United States Senator Stick pins into the hearts of his own people by openly celebrating their emerging poverty; but then it is a voodoo that they do so well.

Jan 12, 2014

January 12, 2014: Chat with My Shoes, Spanning Generations, Grow to Understand


Our daughter, who is now a mature young lady, has moved to Europe wherein she is pursuing her studies.  Referred to herein as “Shoes”, she obtained that moniker as an infant which began by my calling her, innocently enough, ‘my little two-shoes’, quickly shortened to simply ‘shoes’.  She hated the nick-name when she was young asking plaintively why I called her that.  “You are as comfortable to me as wearing a pair of old shoes” I recall telling her.  I knew that as she got older she would grow to understand.  What follows is a short chat I had with her this morning via Skype over the internet.  The conversation spans continents, oceans and generations. It is done in a bit of short-hand as any communication with souls who have long since got to know each other will be and begins by an exchange of photographs via the net and moves on to more serious subjects.  I include it here because it represents yet another furtive attempt to hammer out a collective understanding of where we have been, where we are, and where we may be heading.

 

[8:57:34 AM] Joe Camfield: hi shoes

[8:57:47 AM] Shoes: hey dad

[8:57:49 AM] Shoes: how are you?

[8:58:33 AM] Joe Camfield: I’m doing alright, fixin to go back to work over at Ducey

[8:59:03 AM] Joe Camfield: i got your message that you are back safe and sound

[8:59:35 AM] Shoes: that I am

[8:59:40 AM] Shoes: still on American time though

[8:59:50 AM] Joe Camfield: that’s got to be awful

[9:00:07 AM] Joe Camfield: especially when you’re trying to get back in the harness

[9:00:38 AM] Joe Camfield: oh for the days when the world moved much more slowly

[9:00:48 AM] Joe Camfield: the body and the mind could adjust

[9:01:00 AM] Joe Camfield: there was no jet lag when there were no jets

[9:02:23 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:02:24 AM] Shoes: yes

[9:02:30 AM] Shoes: we only hit icebergs and froze to death.

[9:02:34 AM] Shoes: I'm sending you the picture of Holly [Pictures of our dog, taken while visiting over Christmas]

[9:02:39 AM] Shoes: Kate was asking for

[9:03:06 AM] Joe Camfield: oh yes I’ve got some pictures we scanned i need to send you

[9:03:12 AM] Joe Camfield: how do you do it on this thing? [Request for intergenerational assistance]

[9:04:29 AM] Shoes: you can open the folder and drag the file into the conversation

[9:05:01 AM] Shoes: or in Skype, hit the little "plus" sign at the top of the screen, next to the "video call" and "call" buttons [Intergenerational response saves the day]

[9:07:27 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent eldred.jpg eldred.jpg ***  [Image of a flyer for an event celebrating the life of my cousin who passed away last August]

[9:07:49 AM] Joe Camfield: this is the Eldred flyer see if this works

[9:07:59 AM] Shoes: got it

[9:08:20 AM] Shoes: he was sweet

[9:08:26 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent 013.jpg 013.jpg *** [Image of Shoes and I riding an elephant at the Ionia Free Fair]

[9:08:45 AM] Joe Camfield: us dominating the Republican Party

[9:09:01 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent 014.jpg 014.jpg ***

[9:09:09 AM] Joe Camfield: me and my shoes

[9:09:15 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:09:29 AM] Shoes: sweet :)

[9:09:36 AM] Joe Camfield: i love riding the Rescumlican

[9:09:57 AM] Joe Camfield: not so majestic when you’re sitting on his head

[9:10:32 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:10:40 AM] Shoes: poor party

[9:10:58 AM] Shoes: I am curious to see how they will change as the number of minorities in America grows

[9:11:24 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent a01_vista_1950s_grpl.jpg a01_vista_1950s_grpl.jpg ***

[9:11:38 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent A1_VISTA_AERIAL_1950s.jpg A1_VISTA_AERIAL_1950s.jpg ***

[9:11:57 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent a02_vista_1950s_grpl.jpg a02_vista_1950s_grpl.jpg ***

[9:12:27 AM] Joe Camfield: here are some pictures of the Vista when she was built. [A Drive-In Theatre, now gone, located in Grand Rapids Michigan.  I managed the theatre between 1974-76]

[9:12:41 AM] Joe Camfield: i need to post them on that theatre website.

[9:12:56 AM] Shoes: you should

[9:13:02 AM] Joe Camfield: only pictures of her online at those sites are when she was rotting away

[9:13:14 AM] Joe Camfield: it was a magnificent facility in her day

[9:13:38 AM] Joe Camfield: had two marquees

[9:13:52 AM] Joe Camfield: capacity for over 1,000 autos

[9:14:13 AM] Joe Camfield: i actually filled the place a couple of times

[9:14:25 AM] Joe Camfield: hadn't been done in over a decade before i got there

[9:15:02 AM] Joe Camfield: my office was just to the right of the box offices

[9:15:11 AM] Joe Camfield: second floor overlooking the place

[9:15:23 AM] Joe Camfield: that’s where the pictures of matt sitting at my desk were taken

[9:15:28 AM] Shoes: awwww

[9:15:34 AM] Shoes: damn

[9:15:37 AM] Shoes: that's a lot of cars

[9:16:18 AM] Joe Camfield: yeah it was. Imagine cars lined up down that 440 foot driveway, out into the adjoining streets both ways and down the sides of the road waiting to get in.

[9:17:19 AM] Joe Camfield: you can see on the aerial view the size of the driveways and the two marquee locations.

[9:18:01 AM] Joe Camfield: I was 25 when they put me in charge of the place in a desperate effort to do something about declining business

[9:18:29 AM] Joe Camfield: hadn't filled more than a third of the place any more than twice in the last three years

[9:19:05 AM] Joe Camfield: it was 85 percent empty on average during weekends over the last three summers, during the peak of the season

[9:19:09 AM] Joe Camfield: and losing money

[9:19:20 AM] Joe Camfield: so they decided they would take a chance

[9:19:27 AM] Joe Camfield: not easy for a company like Butterfield

[9:19:34 AM] Shoes: indeed

[9:19:53 AM] Joe Camfield: I met with he vice president about a week after i took over

[9:20:24 AM] Joe Camfield: and basically he said told me that they didn't understand drive-ins and were at wits end....so here I was

[9:20:41 AM] Joe Camfield: it was a challenge but a lot of fun and very rewarding experience

[9:21:18 AM] Joe Camfield: especially since the place wasn't run down and falling down around my ears like what it was like at the Lansing Drive In later in my experiences

[9:21:38 AM] Joe Camfield: i left the place and the comany in 1976 to attend Boston University

[9:21:43 AM] Shoes: challenges are always a fun experience

[9:21:53 AM] Joe Camfield: yes they are

[9:22:35 AM] Joe Camfield: anyway how’s the job going?

[9:22:47 AM] Shoes: good, they're going to send me the whole package to work on next week

[9:23:04 AM] Joe Camfield: that'll get you up to your eyebrows

[9:23:52 AM] Shoes: yes

[9:24:01 AM] Shoes: schedules rarely work out the way they should

[9:24:18 AM] Joe Camfield: yes i know

[9:24:35 AM] Joe Camfield: I’ll save those materials on project management if you like

[9:25:08 AM] Joe Camfield: you doing any work on six sigma in relation to that?

[9:26:11 AM] Shoes: no

[9:26:14 AM] Shoes: but please do save them

[9:26:24 AM] Shoes: I just had way too many things to bring back more books

[9:26:37 AM] Shoes: nearly broke my back carrying the books in my backpack because my suitcase was too full

[9:26:43 AM] Joe Camfield: i remember Kate had to work on six sigma when she was doing the researches on project management

[9:26:59 AM] Joe Camfield: i helped by teaching her some statistics

[9:27:15 AM] Joe Camfield: yes i know

[9:27:21 AM] Joe Camfield: there are limits to travel

[9:27:45 AM] Joe Camfield: get a chance to review forrester's book? [Reference here is to a report issued by the “Club of Rome” in 1971 under the title “World Dynamics”.  It was the first full-scale computer simulation of pollution and resource and population variables projected out into the 21st century according to several world-wide response scenario’s, including what would happen if mankind did nothing]

[9:27:50 AM] Shoes: not yet

[9:27:54 AM] Shoes: I've been working on a paper

[9:28:16 AM] Joe Camfield: I don't recall how much they got into climate change

[9:28:40 AM] Joe Camfield: but the discoveries since the report came out have not made the prospects any better

[9:28:49 AM] Joe Camfield: most of the feedback loops are negative

[9:28:59 AM] Joe Camfield: such as the melting of the polar ice caps

[9:29:15 AM] Joe Camfield: release of methane from the permafrost

[9:29:16 AM] Joe Camfield: etc.

[9:30:11 AM] Joe Camfield: what i wanted to bring to your attention is that the climate issues are part of a larger set of interrelated disasters awaiting us until we come to terms with who we are in the greater scheme of things

[9:30:27 AM] Joe Camfield: and we've known this for some time now

[9:30:45 AM] Joe Camfield: in any case it could serve as a benchmark for the work you are doing

[9:31:07 AM] Shoes: indeed

[9:31:16 AM] Shoes: it will be interesting to see what the next IPCC reports say

[9:31:26 AM] Joe Camfield: wherein your study of eastern religions becomes increasingly relevant

[9:31:27 AM] Shoes: I'm currently writing a short paper on the relation between climate change and public health

[9:31:29 AM] Shoes: specifically public perception

[9:31:41 AM]  Shoes: I wanted to write about another topic but there's so little information available

[9:32:01 AM] Joe Camfield: it has always seemed to me

[9:32:13 AM] Joe Camfield: that the way to deal directly with the american male

[9:32:23 AM] Joe Camfield: in relation to climate change and public health

[9:32:56 AM] Joe Camfield: is to cite statistics on damaged sperm cells and the ability of the beer guzzling couch potato to reproduce if he doesn't get his act together

[9:33:09 AM] Joe Camfield: hit him in the nuts

[9:33:17 AM] Joe Camfield: or you won't get his attention

[9:33:38 AM] Joe Camfield: that's your politician father speaking

[9:33:44 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:33:49 AM] Shoes: yes

[9:34:01 AM] Joe Camfield: it will be laughed off otherwise

[9:34:18 AM] Joe Camfield: as some kind of left wing conspiracy

[9:34:24 AM] Shoes: same thing as changing reproductive rights to men's rights

[9:34:26 AM] Shoes: vasectomies or not

[9:34:27 AM] Shoes: etc

[9:34:29 AM] Joe Camfield: dedicated to sacrifice ourselves to the spotted owl

[9:34:40 AM] Joe Camfield: yes

[9:35:52 AM] Joe Camfield: unless you can convince them that the current practices threaten their ability to wantonly reproduce their inspired ignorance, they will see it as someone else’s problem at best, if they see it as a problem at all.

[9:37:14 AM] Joe Camfield: anyway it sounds like you are going to have some fu

[9:38:38 AM] Shoes: but it's interesting to see these things in the context of development, where technological innovation isn't such a priority

[9:39:15 AM] Joe Camfield: technology isn't an end in itself

[9:39:44 AM] Joe Camfield: which is one of the issues that is driving this thing

[9:40:50 AM] Joe Camfield: I think we need to dig up Marx's old delineation between market value and use value.  Simply because it has market value doesn't mean it needs to be produced, if the damages outweigh the benefits

[9:41:10 AM] Joe Camfield: Use value is the more important determining value

[9:41:20 AM] Joe Camfield: likewise with regard to technological research

[9:41:43 AM] Joe Camfield: simply because we can do it doesn't mean that there exists an imperative to do it

[9:42:12 AM] Joe Camfield: I’m reminded of Edward Teller's imperative to develop the hydrogen bomb simply because it could theoretically be done

[9:42:26 AM] Joe Camfield: it wasn't needed

[9:44:00 AM] Shoes: well, technology helps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and cleaner technology would be the key... it can also be used for research and analysis, helping to determine whether or not a city could benefit from utilizing green rooftops and whatnot

[9:44:11 AM] Shoes: but that's basically what developed countries can do

[9:44:44 AM] Shoes: what's needed in developing countries are easy and cheap ways to deal with climate change, but also to help them develop strategies and to be able to gain access to electricity in a green and efficient manner

[9:44:51 AM] Shoes: but also in a sustainable manner

[9:45:06 AM] Shoes: so if you're in a typhoon zone, no wind power, that kind of thing

[9:45:32 AM] Shoes: but the developing world uses mostly biofuels which are awful for the environment and only contribute to the problem

 

[9:47:05 AM] Joe Camfield: yes i quite agree.  Technological problems, and climate change, world population growth, pollution and resource depletion are all the result of technological changes, demand technological solutions. I wrote about that in my piece on Thoreau's "Walden" which I consider to be one the greatest pieces of literary pornography ever written [See my post on Walden in March of 2008]

[9:47:50 AM] Joe Camfield: there are no non-technological solutions to technological problems

[9:48:00 AM] Joe Camfield: the population is too large for that

[9:48:25 AM] Joe Camfield: consider water resources, food production and delivery as simple examples

[9:49:33 AM] Shoes: and where it's feasible, technology can help boost an economy as well

[9:49:45 AM] Joe Camfield: yes that's right

[9:49:51 AM] Joe Camfield: solar panels

[9:49:53 AM] Joe Camfield: etc.

[9:50:58 AM] Joe Camfield: the problem with a lot of "back to earthers" is that the solution is seen as a series of singular steps overlooking the larger impact.  It is mistaking the tree for the forest as it were

[9:51:46 AM] Joe Camfield: imagine putting, if you could, 6 billion persons, each family with its own 10 acres and a mule, burning wood for fuel.

[9:51:53 AM] Joe Camfield: the carbon output would choke us

[9:52:10 AM] Joe Camfield: i give you 19th century Birmingham England as a textbook case

[9:52:45 AM] Joe Camfield: to put it another way, many in my generation think, for instance, that wood fuel is clean

[9:53:07 AM] Joe Camfield: in fact it is no cleaner than coal inasmuch as both are carbon

[9:53:28 AM] Joe Camfield: the major difference is one is older and more compressed.

[9:55:15 AM] Joe Camfield: anyway i'm trying to get a handle on all this to do a follow up on my last blog post

[9:55:21 AM] Joe Camfield: it's so simple and yet so complicated

[9:55:39 AM] Joe Camfield: and i thank you for your forbearance

[9:57:10 AM] Shoes: it is complicated

[9:57:23 AM] Shoes: even more complicated is fracking

[9:57:34 AM] Joe Camfield: yes i know

[9:57:47 AM] Joe Camfield: dick Cheney was a great advocate of it

[9:58:01 AM] Joe Camfield: This should be an indicator of what a bad idea it is

[9:58:11 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:58:28 AM] Joe Camfield: in that sense it isn't so complicated

[9:58:36 AM] Joe Camfield: but technologically, i understand, it is

[9:58:56 AM] Joe Camfield: but you have a textbook case here

[9:59:00 AM] Shoes: well yes because opposition to fracking is theoretical

[9:59:24 AM] Joe Camfield: of what happens when simple minds confront technologies

[9:59:38 AM] Shoes: it has its flaws but those have largely emerged due to the lack of regulation, which is the case with anything, but it hasn't been proven to be environmentally harmful in itself

[9:59:46 AM] Shoes: and it is cleaner than convention method

[9:59:53 AM] Joe Camfield: yes

[10:00:00 AM] Joe Camfield: but you hit it on the head

[10:00:09 AM] Shoes: the problem, aside from the environment, is that nobody can be 100% certain how much we have in reserves

[10:00:15 AM] Joe Camfield: no technology is without unforeseen consequences

[10:00:16 AM] Shoes: which makes it unreliable

[10:00:37 AM] Joe Camfield: i give you the automobile, the drive-in theatre, and the rise in illegitimate birth rates for instance

[10:00:44 AM] Joe Camfield: the question is social controls

[10:00:47 AM] Shoes: lol

[10:00:58 AM] Joe Camfield: mores, laws, customs, acceptable behaviors

[10:01:38 AM] Joe Camfield: adopting new technologies, which includes uses of drugs and chemicals, is a bit like going to war

[10:01:45 AM] Joe Camfield: you hope for the best

[10:02:19 AM] Joe Camfield: but you rarely, if at all, ever end up where you thought you would be once it gets underway

[10:02:39 AM] Joe Camfield: there are too many imponderables

[10:02:46 AM] Joe Camfield: too much room for variance

[10:02:57 AM] Joe Camfield: it takes eternal vigilance

[10:03:16 AM] Joe Camfield: which is one of the big reasons we create governments

[10:03:20 AM] Joe Camfield: it's what the word means

[10:04:20 AM] Joe Camfield: another collective misunderstanding of the Teabaggers

[10:04:36 AM] Joe Camfield: freedom only has meaning within the context of restraints

[10:04:45 AM] Joe Camfield: unlimited freedom is anarchy, rapine and plunder

[10:04:57 AM] Joe Camfield: Hobbes’ "State of Nature"

[10:05:50 AM] Joe Camfield: and so, as the founders said in the Declaration of Independence "That in order to secure these rights governments are instituted among men..."

[10:05:57 AM] Joe Camfield: so regulation is right and proper

[10:06:21 AM] Joe Camfield: and, as the constitution says "by all means necessary and proper"

[10:06:30 AM] Shoes: it shocks me that people oppose the EPA, no understanding of what companies were doing to our water before regulations were passed

[10:07:31 AM] Joe Camfield: yes and as soon as the next scandal appears great wailings and lamentations will be heard throughout the land wherefore a cry will go up "where in hell was the government?"

[10:08:06 AM] Joe Camfield: great conspiracy theories will emerge about how the government was hijacked by a cartel of villains....

[10:08:29 AM] Joe Camfield: bent on the exercise of evil for its own sake

[10:08:57 AM] Joe Camfield: only to discover that a group of lazy incompetent jackals had been put in charge and had been asleep at the helm

[10:09:15 AM] Joe Camfield: eternal vigilance had taken a vacation

[10:10:08 AM] Joe Camfield: which reminds me: Where in hell has the justice Department been?

[10:10:20 AM] Joe Camfield: Why no anti-trust actions since Clinton?

[10:10:34 AM] Joe Camfield: anyway that's another story

[Deleted here was a short discussion about posting this chat on this blog]

[10:13:21 AM] Shoesw: actually the paper I'm writing about talks about different perceptions across generations

[10:13:38 AM] Joe Camfield: yes and i hope you have good news to report

[10:14:07 AM] Shoes: well it's different from America, most of the people in these studies understand linkages because they can't flee to air conditioned palaces

[10:14:10 AM] Joe Camfield: for the generation of swine are not known to possess enlightened self-interest

[10:14:28 AM] Shoes: though I read a study about Malta, a highly-developed EU country, and like 15% of people have no idea what climate change is

[10:14:30 AM] Shoes: an embarrassment

[10:14:54 AM] Joe Camfield: actually I’m encouraged by those numbers

[10:15:36 AM] Joe Camfield: Robert Kennedy used to say that 25% of the populations were dependably against anything at any given point in time

[10:15:44 AM] Shoes: lol

[10:15:45 AM] Shoes: well but it's the EU

[10:15:54 AM] Shoes: and the EU is going on and on and on about climate change all the time

[10:15:57 AM] Shoes: that's what's so embarrassing

[10:16:03 AM] Shoes: anyhow

[10:16:06 AM] Shoes: I do have to write this paper...

[10:16:10 AM] Shoes: it's why I've been kind of quiet

[10:16:15 AM] Shoes: trying to find sources before I get started

[10:16:20 AM] Shoes: it's a short paper but I had to change my topic a few times

[10:16:24 AM] Shoes: now it's time to get down to business

[10:16:40 AM] Joe Camfield: Well it's time to get cracking

[10:16:44 AM] Joe Camfield: I'll let you go

[10:16:47 AM] Joe Camfield: miss you

[10:16:58 AM] Shoes: we can talk anytime this week, except Wednesday

[10:17:04 AM] Joe Camfield: cool

[10:17:04 AM] Shoes: I won't have a paper due :)

[10:17:16 AM] Shoes: I miss you too

[10:17:21 AM] Joe Camfield: it's nice to be in that position

[10:17:23 AM] Shoes: I'm more homesick this time than I've been before

[10:17:31 AM] Joe Camfield: i miss my bunny

[10:17:37 AM] Shoes: I miss you too

[10:18:13 AM] Shoes: imagine a bone-crushing hug now ;)

[10:18:18 AM] Joe Camfield: yes

[10:18:23 AM] Joe Camfield: loves you

[10:18:25 AM] Shoes: loves you too

[10:18:30 AM] Joe Camfield: bye now

[10:18:32 AM] Shoes: bye bye