Thursday, November 8, 2018

Midterm journal- Day 3

The midterm election acted as a closed mental floodgate, holding Americans in an emotional, intellectual stasis long enough so that politicians and our democratic system could focus us on a reality in which elected officials represent specific things, like taxing too little or too much;  opposing Trump enough or not enough.  During the process many people felt they were making decisions about critical matters.  On day 2 the floodgate held, as the midterm results defined our central reality.

But on day 3 the floodgate opened and stored-up real life poured in: A man undone by hatred killed 12 people and himself in a Thousand Oaks bar; the next day a fire of unprecedented destructive force erupted a few miles from the bar, ending the dreams and lives of many and sending shockwaves through millions of people in California and the world.  

But we did not vote on gun control in the midterm, or policy regarding the multitude of isolated, despairing people who live as time bombs among us.  We did not vote on development in fire zones, or effective moves on climate change.  

For the rest of today and in the days to follow the floodgate will remain open and real life will pour in unrelentingly. Very little of this real life will have been voted on.

My sense is that some of the war potential that has been stored in multiple locations around the world will soon be realized.  There will be provocations about everything from Brexit to Gaza.  War is the ultimate distraction, so distracting that if it happens now, no one will notice that war was not discussed in the midterm; we did not vote on it.

Are there decent alternatives to what we call democracy?  The word itself has sacred status.  No one questions democracy.  I'm not going to question it either, except to ask whether we have it. 

Let's keep our concept of democracy, but realize that it's an attempt rather than a fait accompli, and try to make it more real.  We can do that by inserting into our political vocabulary terms reflecting our immediate situation: genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, automation, mass displacement and unrest, total surveillance, total control.  If the national election in 2020 does not recognize what is actually happening to us, we will not have a democracy even in a theoretical sense.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Midterm journal - Day 2, Results

Today everyone is falling into their proper categories.  Here are three common ones (I'm in the second):

1. People who are empowered and joyful that the Democrats took the House.

2. People who are somewhat relieved that the Democrats took the House but are constrained by a sober reflection:  The basic uncertainties about humanity's current direction(s) remain uncertain, and would have remained uncertain even if the Democrats had also taken the Senate.  People in this category tend to see our elections as correctives for mistakes that came out of previous elections, but not necessarily as correctives for anything else.  

3. People who accept Trump's tropes and believe they are in a spiritual war against evil.  They will rejoice in the saving of the Senate and vilify the new House.

No one has been vanquished; the battle lines are sharpened.  There will be much noise ahead.

The word democracy was coined by the ancient Greeks to denote rule by slave-owning wealthy males.  In our culture, democracy means rule by politicians and consultants, who pick the terms and definitions for the rest of us.  Trump usurps the consultant role and uses only his own terms and definitions.  With the terms provided us, our democracy can connect us to immediate matters like taxes and social policy and give us some impact.  Unless it produces the proper terms, however, our democracy will give us no impact on matters like war and peace, or rewriting our genetic code, or replacing human judgement with machine intelligence.  Those questions, unless terms are provided, will be addressed behind closed doors as if there were no such thing as an election.

It's almost as if we are expected to project our lives onto a fantasy video game called Democracy, where everyone is battling about economics, ethnicity, gender, morality, religion and the future, fielding candidates and holding elections.  It can be an exciting game, but when you look up from the screen, you encounter your life.  Your actual life.  The video game is not real.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Midterm journal - Day 1

The weeks leading up to today's midterm election have been bizarre for me and the other 200 odd telepaths in the LA area (no pun intended).  We've been communing lately to share stress stories.  Our most common observation is that in crowded public places there has been an unusually persistent and so far indecipherable static emitted by almost all the randomly passing heads.  It sounds something like a snake hissing, suggesting that people are feeling threatened in unexpected ways, that long familiar paths forward have become confused, ambiguous.  What does this have to do with the midterms?

I'm not sure, so I've decided to start a journal today, November 6, 2018, the day of the midterm, and to write something here every day until it becomes clear what the midterm election means.

Tomorrow's post, of course, will reflect the results of the election.  Who knows what they will bring?

For today, I note that it's mostly Trump bouncing around in people's heads as they vote, as if Trump's downfall or triumph will decide the fundamental questions facing our species: Will we or should we continue on as the same species, with the same specs, or should we let biotechnology change us?  If AI surpasses us in all mental activities, will there be any further point to human intelligence? If so, what sort of intelligence will it be? Will the earth remain habitable for traditional humans?  Should humans have one more world war before they go extinct?

A Trump victory would not give reason to take heart for anyone concerned with these questions, but Trump didn't cause the problems the questions address.  They have been ignored by politicians before him.  That is not surprising when you consider that the United States government and its constitution do not regard ultimate questions of this sort as within their purview, because they were not urgent when the country was founded.  They are urgent now. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What Putin and Trump said in the secret two-hour meeting


Dear Readers,

Sorry I haven't posted for a while.  My friend, Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster (still on his spiritual search, readers will be glad to know) taught me how to adjust my biorhythms so I can estivate.  This is the best summer I've ever had, lying in the cool sand under a rock in the desert near my place in Pearblossom. 

But my slumber was disturbed two days ago when the airwaves came alive with the promise of a telepathic bonanza (I'm a telepath; keep reading for more on that).  I speak of course of the two-hour secret conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.  Knowledge of the contents of that conversation might help answer the question tormenting everyone: What is Trump doing?

The static that woke me from shaded bliss began in what I used to consider my private ethernet, where I could commune with the souls of non-telepaths at will, before I discovered that I share this space with a few of my kind, surviving remnants of a telepathic culture that once, before the age of language, stalked the earth in great numbers (keep reading for more on that).  Anyway, these days we teles get by as best we can, playing coffee houses and clubs (I was big in the Haight, back in the day) or, if things get desperate, cruise ships.  So when an opportunity like the Trump/Putin Secret Meeting pops up, we jump on it!

The meeting was announced on Sunday, so I only had one day to get in shape for the epic hack - not much time, given the effects of extended gila napping.  For hours I practiced old techniques, like Intereferometric Selection Relay, and Integral Diffraction Disambiguation, which had served me well in the days when I had to match the NSA's continually evolving defenses (keep reading, etc).

I and my colleagues did not know what sort of defenses to expect in Helsinki.  We probed and found credible reports of a new Russian weapon that could turn the immediate space enclosing Trump and Putin into a black hole, from which no information could escape, leaving even telepaths with nada.  This method would of course destroy the two leaders as well as contain all information, but the Russians, so we gathered, discovered something they call Molecular Rebound Reintegration, which will, they believe, throw back in time- to the original point of origin of its pre-black hole reality- simulacra of the two leaders, visible and seemingly real to everyone, which will operate in local time, saying and doing everything that the originals would have said and done had they not become subatomic soup.  At this time we have insufficient evidence to confirm that the two figures, Putin and Trump, have been replaced by simulacra. 

As an aside, to help me get ready for the challenge, I consumed double my daily intake of spinach, which, for reasons I'm still working on, makes me feel like Popeye.

So on Monday at 2:00 p.m., Hottern' Hell Western Time, I and most of the world's surviving telepaths focussed our vestigial talent on the matter at hand, barely needing CNN droning in the background or similar prompts for guidance, because the two leaders were clearly delineated in time and space by the worldwide attention itself, which gave us a sort of GPS route to them, as if the need for attention that drove these men had become their greatest weakness.

As anticipated, we encountered an impenetrable field as we attempted to track Putin and Trump when they entered the room for their private conversation.  The field did seem of black hole force, judging by the nothing that came out of it.  Fortunately one of our newly re-united group- a high school physics teacher from Visalia- had a brilliant idea.  I'm sure he'll explain it in a journal one day; for now I'll note that he called his technique Reverse-Echo Anticipatory Manifestation (or REAM), in which, he explained, the interactive simulacra from the molecular rebound are "captured" and (before they revert to quark stew in .006 of a nanosecond) induced to reveal their future dialogues.

The resulting readout was distorted by several fields it had travelled through on its way out of the black hole, garbling some parts, which we've filled in using context.  More intriguingly, at least one of the fields seems to have operated as a sort of cosmic editor, taking the original meanings and converting them into analogues from the deepest mythologies of the human or possibly reptilian mind. You be the judge.  This transcript should keep us guessing for a long time.

Enjoy your summer!  Harry the Human

Transcript of the secret conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, July 16, 2018:

T: Sweet tidings, Putey, from the land of abandon!

P: Greetings, Donny!  Did you do some history homework?

T: Yes, Putey!  Russia without a tsar is like a village without an idiot- Haw Haw!

P: A tsar without Russia is like a balding man with half a wig!

T: No one can beat you, Putey, my man!

P:  We are such stunning successes, Donny!

T:  I could tell you stories, Putey...[unintelligible]...and they stand at the gates, howling.

P: Let them howl, Donny!  They have been out-thought.

T: We out-thought them, didn't we, Putey?  We out-think everybody, every time.  We are two-three steps ahead!

P: It is a joy; I shall bring an offering to the Female Creator of the Universe to show no hard feelings...[unintelligible]....

T: They howl at the gates.

P: Yes...I hear them.

T: Let them howl!  For we know, Putey, that in one week the reasons for the howling and the very howling itself will be remembered only, if at all, as mere passing sound, like someone in another car honking at someone, like someone's thought blending into the wind.

P: You are a poet, Donny, my friend!  Imagine, a world run by poets!

T: Would everything have to rhyme?

P: They howl at the gates, Donny.

T: Then come, let us show them....

P: Yes, let us show them....

T: ...that we are two-three steps ahead and we don't care who howls.

P: Your bard said it best: "He who laughs last laughs loudest," great words though they don't rhyme.

T: We laugh last, Putey!

P: Yes, Donny, at the end of the universe, at entropy's final fizzle, one last sound will ring out: our laughter!


T: Damn, Putey, you are a poet!

End of transcript

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"We like the clarity of big wars"

According to Nicholas Schmidle, New Yorker Magazine staff writer (Trump's Pentagon tries to move on from the war on terror, Jan. 19, 2018), U.S. foreign policy advisors expressed a new alarm in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied Ukrainian territory.  The problem, as described by Phillip Breedlove, then the "top U.S. general in Europe," was that, "All eyes were on ISIS all the time."  

According to Breedlove and other Pentagon policy-makers, since 9/11 the U.S. has to some extent wasted time concentrating on terrorism while the nation-state system has been chugging along, so that now superpower nation-states are challenging us as in days of old.

We learn that U.S. military policy is changing in response.  The latest National Defense Strategy report asserts: "Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security," with China and Russia "principal priorities."  Schmidle quotes an official who describes the current Pentagon view as, "Real men fight real wars.  We like the clarity of big wars."

Leaving aside the question of what kind of wars real women like, we can only wonder what kind of "clarity" to expect.  

Will it be the clarity of chess, in which one knows exactly who the enemy is and where he lives, or the clarity of an emotional state that focuses all hate, love, fear, desire, uncertainty, panic and despair on one state or group?  We're screwed either way.

I close with a short essay on WWI: 

What caused World War I?

On a clear summer day, June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, arrived in Sarajevo.  Waiting for him was Gavrilo Princip, one of a group of six assassins, members of the Serbian Black Hand Society, which sought independence from the Empire.

At the same time, throughout Europe and the Americas, people were desperately lonely.  They could not relate to each other by talking or engaging in sex or cooperating in the workplace.  Of course, talking and sex and working together took place, but people felt an emotional vacuum during the activities.

When the Archduke was assassinated, newspapers called for revenge and honor.  The empty place inside people yearned for this conflict because no one has time to be lonely when they are busy killing and being killed.  Male loneliness in particular might be assuaged because, as numerous vets have testified, camaraderie in battle surpasses any other.

When
 the lonely people were sold on the idea that there would be no more loneliness during a major war, they showered support on their governments and young men enlisted.  Four years later, 18 million people were dead and, presumably, no longer lonely.    

Further reading: 

Point Counter Point, 
by Aldous Huxley.  

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, 
by Nicholson Baker 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Lord of Twinby Manor

By Leslie Underhorn
     (with assist from Harry the Human)

Elizabeth Hortense exited the carriage, stepping onto the small platform placed below her foot by a liveried servant. She was almost dizzy with delight at her freedom after the eight hour journey.  Once on the ground, she got her first look at Twinby Manor.  

"Oh, Auntie, look at the size of it!"

Behind her lumbered Aunt Pauline, bedevilled by pains after the ordeal of travel.

"I imagine it's tough to clean."

Aunt Pauline and Elizabeth gazed at the two hundred year old manor, still in the hands of the original family: the Masterlies.

Servants collected the luggage and escorted the two ladies up the path.  As the house loomed, Elizabeth felt a cold dread at its gothic implications.  A sign hidden in the shrubbery until needed read, "Buy tickets here."  She had heard the family fortune was in decline.

In the vast foyer, the women looked over the vaulted ceiling, and at the dim oil paintings along the broad staircase: stern old men, no doubt the family patriarchs.

A servant approached Elizabeth and announced, "His Lordship will see you now."

As Aunt Pauline moved to accompany her niece, the servant said gently, "Excuse me, Mrs. Denby, his Lordship wishes to converse privately with Miss Hortense at this time.  Nelson will assist you to your room and make you comfortable."

Nelson hopped to and escorted the somewhat flustered Aunt Pauline up the stairs.  To her chagrin and puzzlement, Elizabeth felt her heart suddenly race.  She could not remember a time when someone of importance wanted to talk to her only.

"Follow me please," said the first servant,"his Lordship is in the library."

Elizabeth compliantly followed the servant, marvelling at how far she'd come from her modest roots in Duluth, Minnesota.  Her family were in the meat-packing business, with few pretensions to refinement, let alone nobility.  Then one day, six months ago, the postman delivered a letter from the law firm of Parsons & Mackenzie Ltd. informing the family that, due to a distant connection- on the Hortense side- Elizabeth was heir to a fortune in jewelry from one of the Masterly scions who had died at age 94, Ebenezer Masterly.  Ebenezer had bequeathed Twinby Manor to his nephew, the current Lord Masterly, and directed that the jewels go to the nearest female relation.  A two year search revealed that Elizabeth was that person.

The servant stood beside a tall open door out of which came the strange smell, not just of books, but of old books...books that people now dead wrote...about a world now gone.

Elizabeth shook her head briefly to remove whatever spell had been cast upon her.  The servant stood motionless and she gathered that she was to enter the library alone.

She stepped inside and her eyes immediately rose up the fifteen foot high bookshelves, crammed with tomes that reeked of empire.  Elizabeth's world was more immediate, more practical.  She had received good grades in school and now studied accounting at the local community college, hoping to join her father's company with, perhaps, Fred, her boyfriend, who was working on a degree in agriculture.

She liked a neat and tidy world, but over these books she perceived a haze of dust, obscuring whatever jewels lay within.

Then as her eyes headed down she saw the broad, tall back of a man, seated at his escritoire, seemingly intent on his work.

Elizabeth waited, wondering if she was supposed to announce herself.  In fact she was a bit impatient, what with the dust and lack of clarity.  Some moments passed, and then, without turning around to look at her, still finishing his letter, the man spoke:

"Good afternoon, Miss Hortense.  Please pardon this informal introduction- I need only finish this matter and I will give you my full attention."

"Well, I'm sure you needn't bother...." Elizabeth began, wondering why she was not permitted to rest in her room before meeting this rude fellow.

Before she could complete her thought the man cast down his pen and stood, revealing his six-foot-three, trim frame, and as he turned around and beheld the five-foot-two Elizabeth, his face, stern and relentless, for a moment formed a smile and took on a pleasant glow, augmented by golden locks of curly hair cascading down his forehead and around his ears.

Elizabeth's anger of the moment before seemed to evaporate as she grappled with a new set of emotions, and one overriding question: How would she deal with this man?

"Forgive me, Miss Hortense, I am Lord Masterly, heir to all you see, except of course the jewels you have come to collect."

"Very pleased to meet you, Lord Masterly," she responded crisply, determined to put this man, with his strange airs, into a more docile frame of mind.  "And now if you don't mind, I would like to be shown to my room so that I may freshen up."

Lord Masterly looked appraisingly at Elizabeth before nodding and, she thought, smiling slightly.  Not for the last time she was piqued by his superior affectations.

Author's note:  This novel will be serialized on this blog, or not.  

Author's continued note:  I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss President Trump's recent tweet about the great respect he has for Robert Mueller and his expectation that he, the President, will be exonerated by the FBI Russia investigation.  He cited constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz' analysis of the public information about the case, which concludes that Trump is not in apparent legal jeopardy because there is "no proof of collusion" (a current mantra for the President).  Dershowitz' analysis comes across as informed and persuasive, possibly even true- there haven't been any serious refutations of his points.  You would think, then, that the President would want to lay low for a while, maybe wait until there's a national emergency to distract everyone before crowing about his exoneration.  Many of his handlers and colleagues no doubt would prefer that route.  By tweeting about his victory in this provocative manner, the President confirms the impression of many that he is intrigued by destruction, by chaos.  

Chairman Mao's saying comes to mind: "Everything under heaven is chaos; the situation is excellent."  We should outsmart Mao for once, with a better saying: "Chaos is a mixed blessing."

[For more Harry the Human, click on "Older posts" below right]