Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bike Lanes To Nowhere

Here again, for the umpteenth time, we present further evidence that Chaos' hometown was, is, and will forever remain The World Capital of Ignorance. This week's subject: bike lanes. The Capital, unsurprisingly, has fewer bike lanes than any city in Texas, itself not a bastion of progressivity. The lanes that do exist, furthermore, start and end abruptly, resulting in a tiny disconnected patchwork. A bike lane master plan was ginned up way back in 1976 but promptly discarded and never revived. Retrofitting streets for extra space for lanes is exceedingly expensive. The "car culture" causes hostility and outright danger to cyclists from aggressively ignorant morons (read the commments at the end). Oh, and the final insult: this city of more than 1.5 million has a bike lane coordinator (who, incidentally, is resigning after years of futile efforts) whose budget is...$60,000 per year. Chaos can only sigh as this benighted area continues to display the most astounding lack of understanding of reality. Meanwhile, the endless growth of strip malls, ugly tract housing, fast food joints, and freeways, lots and lots of freeways, continues apace.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Viewpoints On The Brain

Try these two talks from prominent scientists on how the brain works. The first is an exploration of happiness; why we are and are not happy. The results are surprising and counterintuitive. The second is a powerful and moving account of one brain scientist's experience with her own stroke, but is actually so much more. You may wish to bookmark the site, Ted.com, for future reference, as it holds many other video presentations of equal interest.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Current State of The American Dream

Try this most amazingly comprehensive (and long too...) article on the demise of the American Dream. (It isn't a coincidence that it originates from one of the Brit newspapers...the tiny percentage of readers in the Empire can't hold their attention for such an extensive treatment). For those who haven't been paying attention, things have been coming apart for quite some time for quite a few people who happen to, as they say, be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and their particular slice of the (delusional) American Dream has been sold off, bartered or given away, or some such. At any rate, an excellent treatment, from the despair of declining Detroit to the "tent cities" of the West Coast. The last line is evocative, and true: there is nobody home. Don't miss this one...

American Stupidity...

You may have noticed that Chaos, in the extensive reading and writing that composes the underpinnings of this blog, has reached a two-headed conclusion of sorts: that the looming reality-based issues which confront the Empire, and the rest of humanity, are largely technically solvable, albeit with a great deal of time, effort, expense and (some) inconvenience, along with one other thing: a full awareness of the actual extent of the said issues. That such a consciousness is lacking, more in the Empire than anywhere else, now, later and at all times in the future, is the second observation. Ironic it is, in Chaos' eyes, that problems with physical, geological, climatological, and scientific components depend upon sociological factors. To the point then, the lack of awareness of the US public is the primary focus of this continuing study, made the more difficult by the lack of candid appraisal in the "Matrix" that comprises the mainstream media. This brings us to the value of the current column in the most esteemed anti-war website, TomDispatch, written by one Rick Shenkman, investigative reporter and associate professor at George Mason University, entitled, "How Ignorant Are We?" As noted, this is not a new subject discussed here, but it bears repeating, because you aren't likely to hear it in many places elsewhere: the infantile, delusional, and (dare we say it) stupid US public does not possess the mental acuity to effectively perceive, much less confront, the multiple emerging catastrophes now presenting themselves on the world stage. A bit of Shenkman's virtuosity, for readers benefit: the five varieties of stupidity...

"First, is sheer ignorance: Ignorance of critical facts about important events in the news, and ignorance of how our government functions and who's in charge. Second, is negligence: The disinclination to seek reliable sources of information about important news events. Third, is wooden-headedness, as the historian Barbara Tuchman defined it: The inclination to believe what we want to believe regardless of the facts. Fourth, is shortsightedness: The support of public policies that are mutually contradictory, or contrary to the country's long-term interests. Fifth, and finally, is a broad category I call bone-headedness, for want of a better name: The susceptibility to meaningless phrases, stereotypes, irrational biases, and simplistic diagnoses and solutions that play on our hopes and fears."

Highly interesting, in Chaos' view. Also, kindly note that this author has written a book on the same subject, which of course Chaos intends to peruse at the earliest opportunity. Interested readers can find more at the author's blog here.

For further viewing: Idiocracy

Thursday, July 03, 2008

American Culture, Revisited

Here's quite a nice piece by one Lorna Salzman, reproduced in full, on the favorite subject of this blog (since it drives all other issues...), the American "character." Enjoy, faithful readers:

"Some people are giving a lot of thought to how to build a movement around global warming. This is a tough challenge but given American know-how, can-do, ingenuity, cojones, knee-jerk patriotic hubris, suspicion of foreigners, a staggeringly high 50% literacy rate, reliance on conspiracy theories, faith in one god or another, and unflagging belief in progress in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I am sure it can be done. This is a helluva country. Here's why.

1. A commitment to representative democracy conditioned only on the necessity of belonging to one of two parties, Republican or Democrat. Republicans have the upper hand given that their 24th pair of chromosomes codes for Greed. Democrats' 24th chromosome codes for Deceit. It's Win-Win for either of them.

2. An abiding love for gambling, monster theme parks, shopping in giant malls, riding in huge vans, and family values that use churches and TV sets to bring everyone together. These shared values give a remarkable cohesion to American society even in the face of ecological collapse. No one wants to be a nattering nabob of negativity as the world crumbles around us. Stiff upper lips are enough for the British but not for Americans, who need overstuffed credit cards to reassure themselves that they are the salvation of the world and if you don't like it you can go back where you came from.

3. A fervent belief in the right to cheap gas. After decades of paying under a dollar per gallon for gasoline -- 35 cents in the 1960s -- Americans are now getting really pissed off at the chutzpah of royal monarchs, royal leftist pains-in-the-ass and Royal Dutch Shell executives who think they have as much a right to make money as Americans do. What gives foreigners these privileges? Don't they know we can send in the troops anytime we want for any reason?

4. An indissoluble adhesion to religion in one form or another. It is undeniable that the existence of dissent, protest and freedom of expression causes discomfort to many Americans, sending them into the arms and shelter of various religious cults and institutions, who will, on their behalf, fight against these basic freedoms and rights so as to make them feel better. Generally speaking, they are cheaper than psychoanalysts depending on how much of your meagre salary you turn over to these delightful snake oil salesmen. (Nothing wrong with snake oil; lots of it, under different names, is sold in "Health food" stores to the conspiracy theorists on the left and right who think all doctors and medicine are poisoning them).

5. There is nothing like conspiracy theories, except maybe some stand-up comedians, to keep people amused and connected. We can thank the internet for making this political networking possible, since it ties up people who might be making serious mischief elsewhere.

6. An unprecedented web of multiculturalism, ranging from extreme Political Correctness which bans words like "beggars" and "midget," to Rambo Limbaughs, to posturing paleoliberals like Eric Alterman and The Nation, to New Age gurus like Deepak Chopra, to street-theater rabblerousers like Al Sharpton, not to mention the mammalian diversity in the halls of Congress, where the promise of equal opportunity is fulfilled in the election of liars, louts and lechers every two years. This country can be rightly proud of its tolerance for dissent, where blacks think all whites are racists and whites think all blacks are Arabs.

7. Only in America could the conundrum of disdain for government and politicians be so perfectly illustrated by the election-year digestion of the whole cloth of candidates' promises.

8. An adherence to the time-tested practice of misogyny, whether in the corporate glass ceiling, skewed pay scales, domestic violence, or the female slavery in Mormon religious brothels that condemns generations of girls and women to illiteracy, inequality and isolation. Let no one accuse Americans of forsaking the prejudices and practices of their pioneer ancestors.

9. A obeisant compliant media industry that, unlike its brethren in congress, is willing and eager to feed the demands, biases and fears of its readers and listeners. It cannot be accused of elitism or pandering to the select few; on the contrary, it faithfully brings, every hour of the day and night, the promise of prosperity and material success to tens of millions of people even as the country's political and economic leaders strive to deprive them of these things. Truly, it is a balm for troubled Americans who are tired of being bombarded with the bad news about global warming, epidemics, food shortages and the prospect of parking their RV in their backyard indefinitely.

Given these conditions, who should be leading our country? The only people qualified to lead our country fall into at least one of these categories: atheists/secularists; women; libertarians; homeless. Atheists and secularists are independent rational thinkers and resistant to cult thinking and behavior. Women are obviously the more compassionate, stable and social justice-oriented gender. Libertarians, though they have some peculiar ideas about guns, taxes and the environment, are highly tolerant of dissent and defenders of civil liberties. And the homeless need to replace the corporate lobbyists and executives and be allowed to pursue their own self interest: getting a roof over their heads and a hot meal. (Note: I have left out gays and lesbians because basically they are really no different from the rest of society).

Here is my proposed list for the top positions in Washington:

President: Dennis Kucinich. A little guy with a big brain and heart.

Vice president: Weird Al Yankovich. Because we need another VP named Al.

Secretary of State: Christopher Hitchens. A gutsy smartass atheist with no ax to grind, who is hated by the left and the religious community...testimony to his value.

Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare: Ayaan Hirsi Ali. A reward for her moral witness and courage in facing down islamist extremism and PC.

Secretary of Commerce: Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping.

Secretary for the Environment: James Gustave Speth. For being a non-leftist fingering capitalism as the root of the world's problems. (If he declines, I nominate Dave Foreman).

Secretary of Labor: Ralph Nader."

* * * * *

Lorna Salzman started her forty-year career as environmental activist saving wetlands on eastern Long Island and got her big boost and inspiration when Dave Brower hired her as regional representative of Friends of the Earth in New York. After serving over ten years with FOE, mostly fighting nuclear power and fending off the Army Corps of Engineers, she had brief stints at National Audubon Society's American Birds magazine, at Food & Water fighting food irradiation, and in the 1990s served three years as natural resource specialist at the NY City Dept.of Environmental Protection. In between she founded the NY Green Party, ran as a green for congress in 2002, and sought the party's presidential nomination in 2004.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Poisonous Food Problem (Kids Edition)

Continuing on the food theme, here is one very fine example of how the MSM muffles the obesity issue, to the point that the poison that passes for the industrial food diet, as applied to children, is successfully and completely leached out of an otherwise informative and alarming article. Briefly, a study of 2.8 million Texas school children found that few (very few) can pass basic physical fitness tests. The percentage of failure grows ever larger as the children move through the years, culminating in an astounding 10% pass rate for high school seniors. The link between diabetes, obesity and sedentary lifestyles is mentioned (a reductionist would say that video games are blamed for obesity) but nowhere in this article is the issue of what kids eat explored or even mentioned. Apparently, the logic goes like this: diabetes is caused by inactivity and obesity, and obesity is caused by inactivity, so hey presto! get the kids moving, and you've solved the problem. Chaos hopes readers can see the obvious omission here, which is an illustration of how deeply in denial the current culture is regarding food (and most other things too, but we digress...).