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society

Starving the Beast is Stupid

People say the Republicans want to starve the beast of government, in order to cut it down to size. This is the political version of quitting an addiction cold turkey. It is the equivalent of putting sanctions on a foreign nation that misbehaves.

The Republicans believe that government is nothing but an anchor, holding back the world’s businessmen from discovering the fountain of youth. Except the military, which should grow endlessly until even the wild animals stand at attention when a man walks by.

By making state taxes more expensive (by removing deductions in the federal tax code), there is a greater value in raising federal taxes. The same goes for state programs that become untenable with reduced revenue: move them to the national level.

Cutting programs without replacement is a great way to get a seesaw effect, with Democrats coming back and restoring these programs. This actually costs more, because you have to do hiring, retraining. The people left in a ditch by the Republicans will have deteriorated and will be more expensive to rehabilitate.

The idea that people need no safety net is fantasy. It hasn’t been defended, and as recently as Mitt Romney’s candidacy there was acknowledgment to the contrary.

One starts to get the impression that the modern Republican party, and modern conservatism with it, are a cargo-cult of their former selves. Where once some ideas were developed, defended, refined, now they simply go through the motions and hope it works. Republican donors admitted as much when they told legislators that if they failed to pass tax giveaways, they would not have money to run for reelection.

Now, normally faced with such a prospect, entrepreneurial-types would make a lot more noise about that sort of threat and say, “Who wants to donate and tell the Kochs where to stick it?!” But not the Republicans. They said, “Yes, sir, Mr. Koch.”

Reason I bring it up, the Republicans are scared of being the starved beasts. They don’t believe in themselves, that they could change and run more moderate races while getting replacement funding from those who aren’t Kochian fools.

It would be cool if some moderate donors tried to line that up, anyway. It might just get a few Republicans to say no to fossil fuel money.

Categories
society

Rubbernecking

To rubberneck or not to rubberneck. Care about the latest pop culture scandal? The latest murders by terrorists? By a state? The political gaff that might end a career? Nude celebrities? How much of rubbernecking is about curiosity? Moral superiority? Schadenfreude? Money for the advertisers? Bragging rights?

Cultural phenomena are participatory. Even those that steer clear of them are participating as the steelnecked eyes-forward crowd. For another, they inevitably color other aspects of life, so in some cases becoming unavoidable.

I still hold to my definition of general news as something that raises a general issue in society (and therefore can be discussed in that context). Subculture news is any news that isn’t applicable to the whole society. Sporting news, business news (where it’s about specific industries and not their impact on society at large), etc.

Most open source news does not pertain to the public, but Heartbleed did. It raised the specter of insecurity due to lack of maintenance of infrastructure. As have countless other scandals, which is to say there is an accumulation of evidence that as a society we need to place greater focus on secure computing.

The problem with these bleed-through stories comes in how they get retargeted. The media knows our buttons, and if they can retarget a story that might provoke social change to one that will simply devolve into a frenzy, they will shamelessly spin away. A story that should drive improved security might sink to the level of schoolmarmery, imaming about immorality. A story about a politician running away from home to join the Wall Street does not obtain scandal, but is framed as local hero makes good.

So even if you rubberneck, what you see is not what happened. What you see is the antibiotic-fed, deboned, technicolor TV dinner version. The camps do not look in on each other, to try to understand or find the process of events developing. They simply rely on stereotypes and facts be damned. They don’t need facts, they buy pesticides to kill facts. Infacticides.

The first step is to make sure you have something to look at. The rules are just like writing fiction. Give them a question, give them a conflict, some sort of tension they want resolved. Is there a bad guy that we can pretend to hunt down and bring to justice? It’s a narrative form.

The second step is to just keep pointing to that first step. If you get closure, great. If not? Well you can still pump the story for awhile yet, until something better comes along. It won’t matter to the readers or viewers or listeners. They love a randomized reinforcement schedule. You’ll have them hooked indefinitely.

So rubberneck with caution, if at all. You don’t want to give them a chance to addict you to their fantasy reality version of the world. Arm yourself with the question, “does this really matter to me?” If you find out that it doesn’t, don’t ask for your money back, just walk away.