Thursday, January 19, 2012

No workout stuff segued into a rant

The cold snap is almost over. I've been sleeping like a rock, barely able to get myself out of bed in the mornings.

Our friend Gail lent us a ton of books when we visited over Christmas, and Linda has been chewing through them. I've been chugging through this one.

Overall I liked it, but he did go on and on at some points. I was getting a bit tired of it by the end. His idea is there are 6 reasons why the West dominated the rest of the world over the last 500 years:

  1. Competition between states and corporate entities. Europe had relatively many small entities competing vigorously for advantages.
  2. The Scientific Revolution. I think this is the main one. As long as people are repressed by backwards religions or governments nothing can ever change, since change hurts those in power. 
  3. The rule of law and representative government. Mainly meaning property rights and enforceable contracts. Which have now become a tool of oppression in some places. 
  4. Modern Medicine. It's hard to argue that a society isn't doing the right things when it's people live longer, get fewer diseases, and most children survive till adulthood. 
  5. The consumer society. The demand for more and better and cheaper goods, beginning with textiles. Which leads to a trap.
  6. The work ethic. 
One thing that he overlooks is climate. When all the days are the same, and you can always go pull fruit off a tree, or find something to eat by looking around, there isn't much incentive to save up for a rainy day. But when you live in a climate that has winter, you know that you have to make plans for that. Food, shelter, fuel for heat and cooking, a water supply, and warm clothing are just the start, and the consequences of a planning failure could be freezing or starving to death. When you don't know exactly when winter will come, there is incentive to get stuff done now. Today. 

There is incentive to have a store of wealth to trade with other people if necessary. On a small community level makes sense to store like goods against theft, spoilage, or other loss, in a few central places, rather than in many little depots. Having a temporary excess also means methods of tracking who owns what, or is entitled to how much, which is the foundation of the banking system.

One thing that is interesting is how fast empires can fall. Depending on exactly what you measure, the Roman Empire collapsed in the west within a human lifetime. The British Empire went down the tubes in less than two decades after WWII. The Soviet Empire was only a few years from the pullout of Afghanistan to the collapse. 

How quickly will the American Empire fall? Fairly quickly, I suspect. They are deeply in debt, their military is overstretched, their government has become venal and corrupt, to say nothing of incompetent and moribund. They've only lasted this long on the market's force of habit in treating them as a safe refuge. Eventually the world will figure out they are not just financially bankrupt, but morally bankrupt as well, and act accordingly. The President used to be called "Leader of the Free World" (yes with capital letters) but now he can't even lead his own country. 

In fact, that word free is interesting. The USA can no longer be described as a free country. People have to show their ID papers to travel. Citizens are encouraged to spy on one another and report odd behaviour. The President can order anyone at all to be killed or tortured, for any reason or none. Anyone can be "disappeared"; held in prison indefinitely without trial, without having to state a reason, without access to a lawyer. The various agencies routinely spy on citizens and violate what little remains of their civil rights. Their property can be seized without effective recourse. The laws have become so complex that nobody knows what they mean, and people are coerced into pleading guilty because the alternative is to go bankrupt paying court and legal costs. The wealthy can buy all the justice and medical care they can afford. Everybody else goes to jail or goes bankrupt. You can't even escape medical debt through bankruptcy. The "justice" system is barbaric enough to execute people for imaginary crimes, especially the poor, the black, the mentally ill. 

What civilized country in it's right mind would:
  •  seriously consider Mr. Santorum or Mr. Gingrich as candidates for the highest office in the land? 
  • do anything but laugh at the Tea Partiers, railing against government spending by saying "hands off my medicare!"?
  • let the right wing religious nut bars have anything to do with making government policy? 
  • let the wealthy write the laws so as to make them more and more wealthy by stealing from the poor and the middle class?
  • let corporations be considered people, complete with free speech rights and the power to buy government officials?
  • even bring up for discussion the idea of making birth control a crime?

Eventually the USA will get what every other empire in the history of the world had coming to it. I'm torn on this issue, because I know many Americans and they are wonderful people. Many of the ones I don't know are wonderful people. It's a pity their country has been stolen from them and has become a vile place that is unworthy of respect in the modern world. I fear as their empire crumbles more and more, faster and faster, that Canada will be dragged down with them. I'm just not sure what we can do about it.

On a lighter note, more distraction arrived today. We think we watched all the episodes, and we think in the right order, but aren't sure. But we didn't watch the extras, no time. This ought to be good. I desperately want to know how much James Callis offered to reduce his salary when he found out it involved having Tricia Helfer draped all over him. 


  1. We <3 Battlestar Galatica, makes me want to watch it all over again!

  2. I admit I'm a bit daunted by the idea of watching the whole thing, plus the extras. But then, I'm going to be on my bike lots over the next several months...
    When they first announced it, I laughed. I remembered the first version as being unbelievably cheesy, and according to my rules the sequel should had been worse. Then I kept hearing these great reviews. Then one day, mode season 3 I think, I read an article that explained why they thought it was the best thing on television just then. Even granted my low expectations about TV in general, I was interested enough to rent a DVD. I was hooked, and not just because of that red dress.

    I think what I like most is the strong story lines, with no easy endings. Gender neutrality, that women could be warriors and not be thought unusual.

  3. I'm so GD afraid for this GD country that most days I just almost can't satand it. I mean my kids will have to grow old in this country with all these bat-shit crazy people. It's truly frightening.

    I do hope I'm one of those "wonderful" Americans...or at least the one who posts photos of the beach in January, but it's for your entertainment, and not to torture you... I promise!!

  4. I like beach pictures any time, but during our winter is best. There doesn't even have to be girls in bikinis in the photo, though that's nice too. But just a nice sandy beach, with waves rolling in, the sun shining - I can almost smell the salt air. And yes.

  5. Well said, my friend. And don't worry, those of us "thinking" Americans agree whole heartedly with what you have delineated here. The state of our union is embarrassing and I worry constantly about my own financial ruin that could happen at anytime given another large scale financial collapse caused by corrupt shareholders, politicians and other filthy and morally corrupt power holders as a result of unregulated Capitalism. And don't even get me started on the moral platform of the right. Religion and birth control should not be the most pressing concerns of this nation right now. Or ever. Stand your ground, Canada, don't let us take you down with us! I'll need a place to come and stay when the looting and rioting starts...

  6. Hi KK this is Linda - people who are frightened can make mistakes, sometimes fatal ones. I seriously wish that 'the ones in charge' for both of our countries will stop trying to pretend all is well by pointing to anything else they can come up with & saying 'look over here'. I hold faith in a few things. First, if everything does come tumbling down (Canada's largest trading partner is still America - so if your economy dies ours isn't likely to keep on going) at least the right to bear arms means you can protect yourselves somewhat. Second, both our countries can build again, though it won't be easy. Meanwhile I'm hoping we will somehow fumble our way past all this crisis & come up with a way that will work for everyone, not just the favored few. Good luck to us all!

  7. There's a joke about 'thinking' Americans. When Adlai Stephenson was running for president in the 50's, one supporter shouted out " Every thinking American is with you!” And Stevenson said “Yes, but I need a majority.”

    Another thing Stephenson said that seems so appros now
    "When the tumult and the shouting die, when the bands are gone and the lights are dimmed, there is the stark reality of responsibility in an hour of history haunted with those gaunt, grim specters of strife, dissension, and materialism at home, and ruthless, inscrutable, and hostile power abroad. The ordeal of the twentieth century – the bloodiest, most turbulent age of the Christian era – is far from over. Sacrifice, patience, understanding, and implacable purpose may be our lot for years to come. ... Let's talk sense to the American people! Let’s tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions."


Looking forward to reading your comment!