A few days ago, I heard that NTSB has recommended a further lowering of the allowable blood-alcohol concentration from 0.08 to 0.05. This proposed lowering of the legal limit is supposed to help ‘save more lives’ or something along those lines. In case you are wondering, the original alcohol limits (0.15-0.10) came into being after testing thousands of people in the late 1930s. Even subsequent research in that field as late as the 1960s found that BAC levels below 0.08-0.09 are not associated with any worthwhile impairment of driving skills or ability.
The current crop of laws surrounding drunk-driving started coming into existence around the 1980s and were largely driven by activist single-issue groups such as MADD and SADD. Coincidentally, some “objective” scientists who were able to create and present revised data to support such laws subsequently benefited from increased funding resulting from more public interest in that area- but that is the topic of another post. This one is my take on what really drives all the laws, rules and regulations surrounding drunk driving.
In my opinion- most legislation, regulation and activism surrounding the prosecution of drunk driving has little or nothing to do with ensuring public safety or preventing automobile accidents.
Let us face it, there are many other equally or more important factors that increase the risk of both impaired driving and accidents. What about fatigue, lack of sufficient sleep, medications and using your smartphone? What about hyperactive children or morons in the backseat? Does anybody really believe that moderate drinking (BAC between 0.08-0.10) and driving causes more accidents than being overworked and sleep deprived? What about people who are checking their smartphone or driving around with morons in the backseat?
Is a lost life or limb more tragic if the driver was moderately drunk than sleep deprived or borderline stupid?
So why is the ‘system’ so interested in prosecuting moderate drinking and driving? How many people die in automobile accidents nowadays? How many get injured? In what percentage of accidents is the more guilty part moderately drunk? What about all of the other causes? Do the agencies even release honest statistics about these things? Don’t more people kill themselves than die in car accidents? Could we not reduce deaths from suicide by making it illegal? What about medical mistakes- still the 2nd or 3rd most cause of death?
It is therefore clear that the system has no intrinsic interest in reducing the number of preventable deaths.
So what drives the desire to go after drunk driving? Why go after a small but visible factor for automobile accidents while ignoring larger but not so obvious ones. In my opinion, it really comes down to a show on control and relevance. Let me explain that idea with an example.
We, as a society, argue over whether gay marriage should be legalized and whether it is ‘natural’. But how many of us display the same energy or zeal and try to fix the dismal state of heterosexual marriage? Would you not agree that fixing heterosexual marriages (which are the majority anyway) is more important than worrying about the legality and ‘naturalness’ of gay marriage? So.. why is if far easier to find people opposed to gay marriage than fixing heterosexual marriage?
The answer to that question is both unpleasant and revealing. People have little interest in fixing big problems because that is often hard and complicated. Solutions to such problems often expose stupidity dressed up as tradition and wisdom. Fixing them also disrupts established parasitic institutions and hierarchies. In short, fixing real problems is hard, messy and humiliating.
Fixing non-problems or token ‘problems’ is relatively easy and allows most people to feel self-righteous, competent, smart and generally good about themselves. Fixing them also does not upset established parasitic institutions and hierarchies- indeed, it often gives them relevance and legitimacy. It is also far easier to maintain the delusion that societies and civilizations are functional, “right” and “natural” when the opposite is true.
Non-problems and token ‘problems’ provide focal points for developing religions, ideologies and other ponzi schemes to fleece the gullible. They provide decent self-employment opportunities for those who can preach and proselytize against them. It is also possible to make lots of money and employ many people to police and prosecute ‘violations’ of pseudo-solutions. Furthermore, some people seem to get a rush out of pissing on other people in the name of defending society from these ‘problems’. Did I mention that crusades and wars against ‘non-’ or marginal problems are an excellent way for an established hierarchy and system to maintain public legitimacy. In the end , it is about continuing a shitty scam which ‘benefits’ a few at the cost of everybody else.
What do you think? Comments?
These links are NSFW.
Amateur POV BJs: May 12, 2013 – Chicks blowing their photographer..
More Amateur POV BJs: May 12, 2013 – More chicks blowing their photographer..
Even More Amateur POV BJs: May 12, 2013 – Some more chicks blowing their photographer..
One of the most common criticisms about ‘new’ media by the increasingly irrelevant ‘main stream’ media goes something like this-
‘New’ media is overrun with unprofessional amateurs, get-rich-quick types and corporation friendly scam artists who do not have the “expertise”, financial resources or willingness to perform “real” investigative journalism and speak truth to power. They also claim that ‘old media’ acted as an independent check on the power of government and corporations by trotting out a few famous examples of investigative journalism.
But is that really the case? Was ‘old media’ anything more than a butt-boy for the rich and powerful? Does an objective look at the success and failings of ‘old media’ support their claim to being defenders of truth and justice. Did they expose anything more than the bare minimum necessary to maintain a figment of credibility in the pre-internet era?
Let us first look at the infrastructure and business model of ‘old’ media. Traditional media, such as printing and broadcasting has always had a very high cost of entry due to technological and “regulatory” constraints. Then there was the issue of ensuring timely distribution of content via government supported physical networks or licensed bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Therefore, only an extremely small percentage of the population ever had the means, inclinations and connections to start a newspaper, magazine, radio station or TV network. The ones who were able to do so were usually very affluent and connected to large corporations or existing political parties.
To put it another way, all significant players in the ‘old’ media scene were (and are) pimps, shills and sophists for whoever owned and supported them.
I am not denying that some journalists who worked for ‘old’ media might have possessed something approaching a conscience. However most of them quickly gave up on that in return for a regular paycheck, regular promotions and a corner office. Infact, some were even able to use their past notoriety to make themselves appear especially trustworthy to the public.
It is therefore no wonder that the “scandals” exposed by ‘old media’ have almost always been stale, past-due or a cover for even bigger ongoing scams and abuses.
How many papers actually made the case that treating blacks as second- or third- rate human beings was wrong? I am talking about the situation in both northern and southern states after the American Civil War. How many newspapers actually contradicted the official story surrounding the entry of USA into the Spanish-American war? Did they question any of the evidence used to justify the decision to join WW1 in 1917? Weren’t many of them cheerleaders for Eugenics prior to 1945? Did they ever try to think through the ethical implications of what they were supporting? How many were interested in the fate of people in concentration camps prior to 1945? Was the mass murder of millions based on religion, ethnicity and political affiliation not newsworthy?
Didn’t they keep on towing the official line on major post-WW2 policies and actions? Didn’t it take them decades to tell the partial truth about what caused the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962? Didn’t many of them oppose civil rights for non-whites before they supported them? What changed? What about the american involvement in Vietnam and Laos? How many questioned the official line that killing millions of poor people was necessary for spreading liberty and democracy? Why did they abruptly change their tune after 1967? How many questioned the rationale behind Nixon’s drug war? What about economic policies under the Reagan administration? What about Saddam Hussein and the first gulf war? Wasn’t the USA behind him before it was against him? What about justifying the second gulf war?
Does anyone not remember how the media was telling us about the immense WMD program of Iraq? Or how the USA would be able to leave Iraq within a few months? And what about that Osama? Wasn’t he helping build roads in Sudan before he became the bad guy who masterminded 9/11? What about the housing bubble? Why did the media see it only after it had burst? What about the financial crisis of 2008? Wasn’t the mainstream media trying to tell everybody that financial institutions were under the capable leadership of geniuses’ educated in Ivy League universities and Oxbridge? How did that work out? How is ‘austerity’ working out today?
What do you think? Comments?
One of the peculiarities of living in a secular era is that our conceptualization of “good” and “bad” is now almost exclusively based in the behaviors and actions of other human beings- rather than stories and myths about gods, spirits or demons. The flip side of this change is that our understanding of “good” and “evil” is now linked to the identities of other human beings- who are as mortal as you or me. Today the image of evil is associated with people like Hitler, Stalin, Mengele, Pol Pot, Slave Traders, white people with southern accents wearing white hoods.. actually pretty much every conservative white person with a southern accent. But some manifestations of secular “evil” are more interesting than others and one category in particular elicits far more interest and curiosity than the rest.
Genocidal tyrants or rulers such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao are the most well-known, interesting and studied forms of secular “evil”. They have reached that hallowed spot because of the sheer scale and number of deaths due to their actions and decisions. They are the secular equivalent of ‘The Devil’ or ‘Satan’. It also helps that we have a lot of archival film footage and photographs which document (often in great detail) their lives, speeches, public appearances and the effect of their decisions and actions. Compare that to the very inadequate and fragmentary description of ‘Satan’ in Judeo-Christian literature. It also does not help that religious literature documents that ‘God’ killed many more people than ‘Satan’.
As many of you know, I do not believe in any explanation of “evil” based on it being somehow beyond the range of normal human behavior. In my opinion, labeling anything as “good” or “evil” says more about your viewpoint than the action, event or behavior. For example: Would the Jewish holocaust have been seen as evil, or even criminal, if the Nazis had won WW2? And was it really more evil than the genocide of a million something Armenians by Turks prior to WW1, or the slightly earlier genocide of tens of millions of black people in Belgian Congo? Or what about the tens of millions of Chinese who died in Japanese-occupied parts of China in the 1930s and 1940s? Then there is the issue about what happened to millions of indigenous people in the Americas after 1492, or the fate of slaves imported from Africa.
It appears that popular definitions of “good” and “evil” are based on subjective criteria such as race, money, skin color of the victims and presence or lack of photographic evidence of the events.
While a certain percentage of the population can handle the idea that “good” and “evil” are subjective, almost nobody wants to talk, let alone think, about the next logical question. If “evil” is subjective, is it also possible to label “good” or “neutral” as “evil”? What if people who are widely seen as “evil” not really that “evil”? This question has a peculiar connection to the issue of whether genocidal tyrants are “evil” because you can classify them into two groups based on their motivations.
The first groups contains those who did it to make themselves richer, more powerful, improving the lives of their kids, relatives, clans etc. The vast majority of tyrants fall into this category and pretty much every Arab Dictator, Mongol Warlord, Spanish Ruler of some new world colony, South and Central American Despot and many of the “beloved” presidents in American history fall into that category- as do people like Winston Churchill. The common thread that runs through all these leaders is they used their position almost exclusively for personal profit.
In contrast to the first group, the second contains far fewer individuals. However these people had a far greater impact on history (both in absolute terms and number of people killed) than almost anyone from the first group. Let us start with Hitler.. Can you really say that his actions or decisions were predominantly driven by the personal profit motive? Did any members of his family make out like bandits under his leadership? Was the guy living in 5 different palaces and constructing 10 more like some Arab Despot? Was all the money and gold seized from the conquered people going towards his clothes, residences or lavish party budget? I am not saying that he did not live well, but it is very clear that he did not spend on himself at anywhere near the level he could have.
Or take Stalin.. Given the absolute degree of his power, isn’t it a little odd that he did not live like the Tsars before him? Pretty much every Russian sovereign before him had lived in an extremely ostentatious fashion and it is unlikely that people would have noticed or spoken up even if he done so. Also note that he grew up in poverty and had every reason to go bling-crazy after he consolidated his power. But he did not.. I am not implying that he did not live well, but they guy was clearly not after money, ‘bling’ or comfort. Even his kids did not get any plum posts nor did they become super rich- and the same goes for his relatives. The guy was far more interested in seeing which factory did not meet its production quota than an endless supply of hot hookers and booze? Why?
My explanation for the somewhat odd behavior of a few but important such as Hitler and Stalin goes something like this- They were in it for the power and fulfillment of their vision. Personal profit was probably an afterthought- at best. The genocides they perpetrated were driven by ideology rather than any personal profit motive. While that does not immediately make their actions acceptable- it puts them in a very different category from those perpetrated by typical Arab, Mongol, White Hispanic, Black or WASP despot.
It also explains why their genocides ended up with such high body counts. People who kill for personal profit typically kill the bare minimum necessary for obtaining whatever they want- respect, money, women etc. But those who do it for implementing their personal ideology or vision will not be content until they have removed every single person who stands in the way of their ideological utopia. You might have noticed that both Hitler and Stalin were into heavily invested in destroying the previous order because they hated it with a passion. They wanted to get rid of anyone who represented the old power structures and institutions. This is very different from your typical despot, populist or not, who merely seeks to install himself and his family/friends at the top of the old structures and institutions.
What I am trying to say is that ideologically driven tyrants are not doing it for financial gain or personal comfort. They are therefore not “evil” in the same way as the far more common type of tyrant. Infact it could be argued that their actions, whether they ultimately failed or not, did result in a better world. Let us face it, the 20th century was so productive largely because of the direct and indirect actions of people like Hitler and Stalin.
What do you think? Comments?
These links are NSFW.
Many readers might have noticed that depictions of people and institutions in popular culture are often at odds with reality. In previous eras, the gap between fictional images and reality was less glaring, because people had access to only one or two sources of information, often under the control of elites. Furthermore the communitarian nature of living in those eras made it difficult to hold opinions and ideas that were at odds with the “majority” even if the consensus was stupid, irrational and suicidal. The spread of ubiquitous communication technologies, such as the internet, and very high levels of social atomization has irreversibly changed that situation. Hence the gap between fiction and reality is now wider and far more obvious.
For example- It is now common knowledge that both sides in the American Civil War were almost equally racist and believers in some kind of mythical white racial supremacy. Likewise, many now know that those who founded the American Republic did so to enrich themselves, rather than start some noble experiment in democracy. Another example is the now widespread understanding that the ‘New Deal’ and other populist sops from the FDR era were driven by political, rather than humanitarian, considerations. However these now common, if somewhat alternative views, are still rarely depicted in mass media which tries to unsuccessfully reinforce the old myths.
One of the widely promoted dissonance in popular culture and media concerns the large gap between the image of various institutions and measurable reality. TV shows are full of noble cops, smart detectives, thoughtful judges, competent and selfless physicians, teachers who care about their students when even a cursory observation of real life suggests that the converse is true. TV and Films (henceforth referred to as ‘Hollywood’) even promote the idea that intelligence agencies are full of competent, motivated and enthusiastic people possessing tons of ‘super-secret’ and useful technologies with an almost omnipotent control over events when events in real life have repeatedly shown that to be wishful thinking.
Let us now explore the dissonance between the media-driven image of large corporations and compare that to observable reality.
The story-lines of many popular films from the last 30-odd years such as Blade Runner, Alien and its sequels, Prometheus, Gattaca, Terminator and its sequels, Robocop and its sequels, Resident Evil and its sequels, Total Recall, Watchmen, The Island, V for Vendetta and many more revolve around or involve large corporations. These large corporations are depicted as being greedy, amoral, omnipotent, led by competent people and based on long-term plans and strategies. But how much of that is reflective of reality?
While there is no argument about corporations being supremely greedy and amoral; the remaining attributes are some combination of mythology, paid propaganda and wishful thinking.
Ask yourself.. Do you see much evidence that corporations led by competent, disciplined, creative and intelligent people? Do they act as if they are led by people with any of those qualities? Do their changing fortunes reflect that? Why do most large corporations cease to exist for a decade or two? Why is the downfall of large corporations usually due to obvious mistakes? Why are these deadly and obvious mistakes rarely fixed in a competent manner? Why do plans to fix obvious mistakes frequently cause larger mistakes? Does the observed behavior and life cycle of large corporations resemble an intelligent entity or a pretty stupid but greedy parasite?
Then there is the issue of large corporate projecting an image of omnipotence and efficiency. Is that really so? Are large corporations capable of anything approaching omnipotence? Are corporations capable of stable governance on the size- and time- scale associated with governments? Can they exist without a friendly government that will help them socialize losses and privatize profits? Do large corporations actually have realistic long-term plans or strategies? Do they have realistic ability to implement them on their own?
Large corporations talk a lot about meritocracy, but does the preponderance of evidence suggest that to be the case? Do you see evidence of corporations promoting competent or intelligent people? Why is promotion inside corporations so dependent on your social network and milieu than any demonstrated ability? Why are the upper ranks of corporations always made up of bullshitters, scammers, sociopaths and other assorted conmen who are good at networking, playing the system or just being lucky? Why are the top executives and decision-makers in corporations almost always clueless about the business models of the enterprises they run? Why do those in top corporate management positions jump ship so frequently, usually after collecting massive bonuses not linked to the long-term fate or outlook of the corporations they head? And why does paying these people tens to hundreds of millions in bonuses for their expertise in making corporations run better in the long-term always achieve the opposite?
Talking about innovation and incentives to innovate.. Why are large corporations so bad at innovating even though they spend so much money, manpower, time and powerpoint shows to make themselves more ‘innovative’? Corporations claim to have ‘superior’ leadership, corporate structure and in-house ‘geniuses’- yet they require so a lot of publicly funded assistance from governments. Why do large corporations require so many tax breaks, direct payouts, protectionist laws and tariffs and sweet-heart deals to even approach profitability? Why do the long-term plans and visions concocted by the best and brightest almost always fail? Can corporations actually put together, let alone implement, any long-term strategy? And yet after all this publicly funded assistance they still fail, implode, run aground, require government bailouts or help with remarkable frequency and regularity. How come?
Why do those who talk about rugged individualism, free enterprise, capitalism, personal responsibility and ‘going galt’ expect to be nursed, coddled and treated like severely sick, retarded or spastic kids? Why do the proud ‘producers’ behave like pathetic ‘moochers’ they claim to detest?
Which brings us back to the main question posed in this post- Why is the Hollywood image of large corporations so incongruous with reality? And why has the degree of dissonance increased over time? In my opinion, the mass media image of large corporations is based in a myth that those in power desperately want others to believe. The media image of corporations is best understood as propaganda and disinformation. It is an attempt to make the masses believe that the current system is “natural”, meritocratic, omnipotent and capable of defending itself. In a way, the media image of corporations is similar to the propaganda pumped out in totalitarian regimes which extols the virtues and greatly exaggerates the power of ruling party, coalition or oligarchic families.
The reality is rather different and rapidly becoming apparent. It is now obvious to a growing number of people that large corporations are pretty much the opposite of what they claim to be. Their apparent successes in the past are increasingly seen as some combination of scam, luck and parasitism. I however do not expect the Hollywood image of corporations to reflect this rapidly growing awareness. It is likely that they will, if anything, double down and amp up the propaganda- because dying parasites have no other option.
What do you think? Comments?
In the past, I have written about the arbitrariness of social definitions for what constitutes sane and insane behavior. I have also pointed out that behavior and attitudes considered insane today were once seen as hallmarks of sanity, and vice-versa.
To put it succinctly, definitions of sanity and insanity other than those associated with easily measurable physical or biochemical brain damage are almost entirely subjective.
But it gets worse.. Throughout human history, most so-called “normal” people have actually followed, revered and worshiped people who likely had measurable brain damage. Don’t believe me? OK, let us take a cynical and critical look at the founders, prophets and saints of almost all traditional religions. Have you ever noticed that a lot of their so-called revelations, visitations by non-human deities, mystical or cosmic experiences and voices in their heads have a lot more in common with the symptoms of serious brain disorders such as schizophrenia, temporal lobe seizure, assorted brain tumors, episodes of hypomania and even the effects of hallucinogenic drugs than anything remotely paranormal.
I would go so far as to say that all traditional religions are largely based on creative interpretations of the rantings and ravings of a few people, who were lucky to have the right amount and type of brain damage at the right time. A person who seriously believes in any religion, especially of the traditional ‘revealed’ variety, is therefore basing his or her life and worldview on the selectively edited experiences of a few brain-damaged people. Given the role and importance of traditional religions in shaping human history, customs and behavior- it is fair to say that the world we live in today was largely shaped by the minds of brain-damaged people. Maybe that is why all civilizations, past and present, are so bizarre, irrational, dystopic and generally fucked up.
But it does not end there.. In the last 200 years, we started replacing traditional religions with secular ones such as capitalism, communism, randism, consumerism, neo-liberalism etc. While these newer religions might appear to be different from each other, they do have a few peculiar common characteristics. One of them is their obsession with money.
All secular religions are really about the “right” way to create, distribute and circulate money.
While they all try to cloak the true nature of their obsession through the use of rhetoric, philosophy, logic and reason- it is easy to see through their smokescreen by posing one simple question.
Does the ideology in question mean anything in a world without money?
The idea of a world without money might seem odd, most transactions in human history and prehistory did not involve the exchange of money. Even after the concept of money was invented, most people did not use it as they had little or no money to exchange for goods or services. Yet for some peculiar reason, the world did not stop nor did humans go extinct. Money as we know and use it today came into being in the post-renaissance world, especially the last 200 years.
Now, some of can grasp the idea that all forms of money are notional and therefore not real. The ability to create, lend, spend and transfer money is therefore based on the ability of institutions to enforce rules and regulations which favor a few people over everyone else. Money appears to be real only because almost everybody is a willing participant in the mass delusion.
But what does all of this have to do with worshiping and revering brain-damaged people?
The answer lies in how we perceive, rate and treat other people. In most parts of the world, the behavior and attitudes of people towards others are largely based upon how much money one participant in the interaction estimates the other one has or can demonstrate possession of via some proxy display.
Therefore almost everyone wants to have as much money as they get their hands on, preferably by depriving everyone else of it.
This zero-sum behavior might sound irrational to some since the utility of money is directly proportional to the level of function (or dysfunction) in that society. That is why even a dollar millionaire in India has to put up with inconveniences which somebody with a decent job in a developed country would never have to. Similarly, rich people in many western countries can go about their lives without worrying about kidnappings and the level of violence routinely seen in South and Central American countries. But why is that so? Why are most developed countries reasonably safe, functional and relatively nice places to live in? and were they always like that?
The answers to these questions lie in numerous large changes to the social, economic and legal structures of these societies within the last 100-odd years. Prior to that, the quality of life in these countries was pretty low and comparable to what is seen in many parts of the ‘third world’. Most rivers and lakes in developed countries were once toxic open sewers, epidemics of infectious diseases were common, malnutrition was rife, high level of day-to-day violence and brutality were seen as normal and the rich also suffered the consequences of living in such dysfunctional societies. Then a lot of events (various labor movements, communist revolutions, WW1, WW2) happened and forced the rich in developed countries to accept a more equal distribution of wealth. This trend went on until the late 1970s when an extended period of peace let the old ways and ideas creep back into societies. Popularly called neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism, it is really a form of neo-feudalism.. one with far fewer downsides and many more upsides to an increasingly international class of moneyed people.
But what does any of this have to do with people still worshiping and revering brain-damaged morons?
The answer to that question requires us to understand an important but often ignored shift in the nature of religiosity in developed countries. Most of the populace no longer believes in traditional religions, especially the ones who claim to be pious. However the desire to believe in scams.. I mean religions has not changed and most people now believe in one or more of the many secular religions such as free-market capitalism, libertarianism, feminism etc. But as I said a few paragraphs ago, all secular religions are really about to who gets to control creation, distribution and circulation of money. It is therefore fair to say that most people are actually worshiping various socio-economic models, none of which have much to do with reality. And all this to get some sort of secular salvation.
Which finally brings us to what the past 1,100 words were leading up to..
Are the founders of secular religions any less brain-damaged than those who founded the older ones? Is somebody who claims to perceive the ‘invisible hand of free market’ any less delusional or sophistic than the guy who heard an ‘angel speaking from within a burning bush’? Is the concept of ‘homo economicus’ any more real than ‘original sin’? Is somebody who believes in making money at all costs that different from some guy who wants to save the souls of heathens or convert infidels at any cost? Is a priest who justified the rants of a greedy sociopath that different from an academic who shills for some ideology.. any ideology that will pay him enough to afford a comfortable life? Are people who are willing to destroy the lives of thousands and millions so that they can have a couple of billion dollar really alright in the head?
And what about all those morons who worship, revere, follow and obey banksters, managers, businessmen and other rich people who just got lucky? and why do these morons listen to the priests.. I mean academics who are slavish turd polishers? Believing in models of the world that clearly diverge from observable reality is always a bad idea and it never ends well, yet most people don’t seem to care. But why?
What do you think? Comments?