Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Traffic and Wild Fruits – Connected?

6 May 2018

Sometimes working things out requires physical models. In this case the results were equivocal. The problem was: If you wanted to design a road system that would not require traffic lights to handle intersecting flows, what would it look like? Well, you’d probably have to separate the traffic into two levels (not totally necessary, but more compact) At the intersections you’d have to route the crossing flows around each other.

In another system, all the streets would be one-way, and the direction would alternate every block. To get through a city (or neighborhood) you’d have to “wiggle” back and forth through the grid.

I got these ideas from two videos reporting on new designs for intersections that use fewer road signs and no traffic lights. The videos said these designs were working better (allowing a smoother flow of cars with fewer accidents) than traditional intersections. This seems to result from a combination of spatial and psychological factors.

Urban Design

This is just one small example of what some people are thinking about concerning the broader subject of urban design. Did I mention going to a meeting about a new light rail station in an earlier post? Same basic topic.

Urban Design is linked to Urban Planning, or Land Use Planning. Urban Design is considered the more embracive subject. Planning is more directly involved with political control.

San Francisco plaza

A view of San Francisco’s Vaillancourt Fountain, in a plaza near the old ferry terminal. This is from 1977. The fountain was installed in 1971.

In trying to find out more about what people involved with this subject are thinking and doing, I searched online using several search strings that I thought would be important to the subject. However, it seems most others did not consider most of those topics that important. Which is to say, I didn’t find a lot of helpful material.

Henry George and Garden Cities

I did run across the subject of Garden Cities. These were first proposed in England by one Ebenezer Howard, who, according to Wikipedia, was inspired by American writers Edward Bellamy (Looking Backward) and Henry George (Progress and Poverty). I have read both of those books!

Really only one (you can count more) garden city was ever constructed in England, named Letchworth. The historically recent push for sustainability in urban design has created renewed interest in the Garden City concept. This resulted in “The Letchworth Declaration” of 2014, put forward by a new Community Interest Company named New Garden Cities Alliance. The declaration upholds the values of Sir Howard, including in particular the idea that the land of the city should be held by the community in trust. This is very similar to Henry George’s vision. It totally changes the traditional rules regarding land ownership, but has a more favorable history in the UK than it does in the US.

Land Ownership

If a community is unable or unwilling to take ownership of its land and charge rent to those wishing to use that land, then a Garden City degrades into a nice-looking suburb, as has happened with most attempts to create such cities in other places, especially the US. This seems to be a fundamental problem in changing the way cities form, particularly in the US, but more conspicuously in most large cities in the developing world. In those cities, the landowners have refused to build any kind of housing for poorer people, and the poor who moved to the cities were forced to build their own “cities” according to their own rules. Thus the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are much more than just “slums” as we would think of them. In the US, the original slums were created when tenements built for immigrants or poorer workers were abandoned by their original communities and rented out to new waves of immigrants, and left to run down until land owners were forced to demolish them or cities were forced to replace them. In Rio the favelas were built by their occupants, and this remains the case to this day. In 2010, over 11 million people lived in favelas in Brazil. This is more than the entire population of New York City.

I thought that land ownership, land owners, and the decisions they make about how to use their urban land would be a major topic related to the subject of urban development, design, and planning. But most writers (after George) avoid the topic. Apparently the debate is considered closed. In the US at least, land owners have the right to decide how to use their land (as long as it is not overtly destructive) and can sell the deed to their land to anyone they want for any price they want.

portion of the Railyards property, Sacramento

The above-pictured land has stood vacant very near the downtown of Sacramento for about 20 years. It is currently owned by a local developer who promises to start building on it. However, the year 2017 came and went with no significant work done. Below is the same view from a slightly different perspective.

homeless tent overlooks the railyards

This tent has one of the nicest views in the entire city (campers are periodically removed from this site, but tend to get bothered less during the colder months). Why does this overpass exist? Because the city built it and another one in 2015 to connect the new development to downtown. And when the development finally gets built, the various community agencies that provide police, fire protection, sewage, water, garbage collection, electricity and gas will obligingly re-tool and expand into the area. But how will they recoup the costs associated with doing this? George said: Charge the owners rent. If the owners of this land had to pay Sacramento-sized rent on all this property, would they continue to leave it vacant? George hoped the answer would be, “No.” But apparently Georgism in the US has been canned for the duration…And the Railyards remain vacant.

Who decides how to use the land?

When you are a homesteader sitting on your 160 acres (the Railyards cover 240 acres) you get to decide where to put the well, the house, the chicken coup, the cow pasture, the corn field or whatever. Seems fair. But what if that land is in a city?

200 acres is enough land to host one or more companies employing thousands of people, the housing, schools, clinics, restaurants and parks for those people, and probably much more. You don’t have one user, you have thousands. And you don’t have one landowner, you have (maybe) hundreds. They all have to develop their land in a way that eventually fits together with everyone else. And they might be able to do it. But it’s a sure thing that various agents for the community (or its government) are going to be looking over their shoulders and trying to influence certain outcomes.

“Modern” urban developments commonly go through years of design, planning, and approvals before the developers get the go-ahead. This isn’t the way it always was. I don’t think it is even known how the ancient cities of Europe, Asia and Africa were built. There was probably a central planner/designer, but this data seems to be lost. We know that many of these cities were rebuilt following wars, fires, floods and similar catastrophes. And not always with as pleasing results as in older times. Certainly, the majority of US cities could easily be described as “ugly.” Or as having a “disorganized” look about them. They certainly have not responded well to various economic/cultural/political changes in the past. When agriculture got mechanized, and more factories got built near urban transport hubs, were the cities ready for the inrush of new workers from the countryside? The stories I read point to the contrary. When old electric trains and trolleys were torn out and replaced with wide streets for cars, then freeways for cars, were the cities ready for that change? It seems not. And when the welfare system started dumping its failed cases into the streets of urban America, I don’t see that going very well, either.

Perhaps it is time to take a different approach to the problems that cities were built to solve.

Did cities “evolve” from rural settlements?

Students of ancient history seem to agree that something happened on Earth that led to the need for cities. Cities began developing in a big way around 3,500 BC. The city of Mohenjo-Daro in India, estimated to have been built about 4,000 years ago, is noted for its “urban planning” including some form of plumbing. It shared its layout pattern with several other sites occupied by that same civilization.

With historical scholarship as it stood in the early 1900s, historians and archeologists of those times had to assume that the humans who built and occupied those ancient cities somehow worked it all out, all by themselves. But with what we know now, there is no excuse for that theory to stand as the only one, or still very dominant one. It is much more likely that something more interesting than that was going on back then.

And in that possibility – probability – lies the key to a new approach. We have already developed part of that new approach: Computer design and simulation techniques. We still need the other part: An understanding and certainty on what we are doing on Earth, firmly supported by our own ability to recall similar situations in the past.

At this point in my own development, I’m not sure where such a certainty will lead us. The intention is that we “get it right” this time, or at least more right. We have an opportunity today that is close to unique in the history of the universe. We are now able to combine human compassion with the willingness to use advanced technologies. In our own written history, we have no obvious prior experience with a situation like this. But in our longer history, we have many such experiences. If we can humanize our technocracy so that self-destructive impulses don’t ruin our future on Earth, then we have a chance to bring something new to the table.

Of Fig trees and Freeways

Unripe fig cut open.

My fig sample.

This fig came from a tree growing underneath a freeway in Sacramento’s American River Parkway. I’ve never had a chance to look inside an unripe fig before. Perhaps the figs there will be ripe in another month or so. But, what will happen to them?

flowering plum trees Seattle

Here is a lovely row of flowering plum trees near the Queen Anne area of Seattle. How do I know they are plum trees? Because every summer their fruit ripens and falls on the sidewalks, making a big mess. How many people could those plums feed if they were harvested? Same question could be asked about the figs under the freeway in Sacramento. I know the animals there don’t eat them all. Besides, the animals also have wild grapes, blackberries and goodness knows what other treats growing in their park. With a little effort, all these plants could also provide human food. Elderberry flowers are edible, and the fruit also has many uses. The park is full of elderberries.

elderberry bushes in sacramento park

Elderberry bushes heavy with berries.

People could also be growing plants like this in their suburban gardens. Some do, but they don’t harvest the fruit. At a house just down the street stands a fine lemon tree, still holding its (I am sure now less than edible) fruit from last year!

OK, so maybe it would be more efficient to have urban orchards (like they do in Village Homes in Davis) and hire someone to harvest the fruit and get it into the hands of people who want to eat it. So, let’s do it! All I know is, that if I get a chance, I’ll be enjoying some great figs, wild grapes, blackberries, almonds and goodness knows what else courtesy of my local park.

The point is, a lot of functions that get overlooked or forgotten could be integrated into urban life (at least in a town like Sacramento) if someone just became a little more aware of what is possible. We need people thinking about things like this, and those people should be people like us. We have a chance this time to get it right. Will we blow it?

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People Like to Talk…and News

1 May 2018
family reunion people talking

A few examples from the Pritchard Family Reunion of summer 1980…

For some reason it struck me last night as it never really had before: People like to talk!

What was missing?

Several weeks ago I was riding on a bus, and I saw a small placard inviting me to “help us design the new Dos Rios light rail station!” They were having a meeting on 10 April, and I managed to attend. It was rather fun (we got to talk!). But what I was more intent on was: What’s wrong with modern society in general and my life in particular, and how do I fix it?

people talking at a family reunion

I have this whole writing project I’ve engaged on (which I swear no one reads – don’t worry about hurt feelings; not like I didn’t expect it…) which envisions a future where a lot of the big picture questions are getting solved. It involves Scientology. It involves Permaculture. But it also involves something else. I don’t have a good word for it, and I wasn’t sure I really understood it. In Africa they have a word for it: ubuntu. In the West what this usually translates to is “community.”

“Community”

Though the word technically derives from Latin for “common,” it just screams to be re-interpreted as “communicating in unity.”

I heard a lot about community at the transit station design workshop. In fact, I hear about this topic quite often regarding urban land use, and modern life in general. As far as I can tell, the whole concept starts with just giving people the opportunity to sit down together and talk.

I watch a lot of videos. But why do I like them so much? Probably because they mostly consist of people talking. On the internet it’s usually called an “interview.” I recently saw a great one about an artist who makes chandeliers. Modern chandeliers; quite dazzling works of art, but also useful. And this man was just so animated in telling about how he came to this work, and what the work is like for him; it was delightful to watch him talk.

Yesterday I realized that’s what’s missing. Now, I’m not too unhappy because I find these videos and watch them. I even sit around sometimes and talk with real people! When I’m traveling I often talk to fellow travelers. And when I go to these design meetings I also get a chance to talk. But I still don’t feel like I’m sufficiently in communication. After all, I’ve learned a lot about life and now I want to talk about it.

How must it be for other people? Even if they saw the placard in the bus and were interested, the meeting was scheduled on a Tuesday afternoon; most people work – they can’t make it to a meeting scheduled in the middle of the day. I love to go to such meetings, because I don’t like to travel alone at night. But what other chances are most people getting to sit around and talk?

Do they do this in schools? I don’t know. They didn’t do it that much when I was going to school; probably the best class I had for that was art class. We sometimes had “discussions” in English class, but is that the same as just sitting around talking?

my relatives at a reunion in 1980

The big time to talk at school and at work was lunch time. And lots of people took advantage of that when I was going to school, and I imagine still do. Same when I was working in places that had lunch rooms or Mess Halls. I have also seen many images of people gathering together in urban parks in the evening (weather permitting), or in various indoor venues. Do people still do this?

Suburban life has cut off two or more generations from the “community meeting place” that was common in cities in earlier times. Some still find such places, while others try to substitute radio or TV shows, or now internet activities. But I’ll tell you, watching interview videos wouldn’t be nearly as fun for me if I weren’t forced to do it at my local Starbucks, where I can find enough connection bandwidth to stream larger files. In my recent travels I have visited several coffee shops, not in search of coffee (which I don’t drink) but in search of an internet connection. But I also found a relaxed environment where people can sit and talk. Imagine that!

Now when I see someone, particularly someone younger, staring into their mobile device, I understand it this way: They are looking for someone to talk with.

And when I write on this blog or my other ones, I am doing much the same thing. I actually communicate with a few other people who have blogs. They write back, either on email or in the comments. It’s fun.

Making time to talk

But in too many environments, interactions like this just don’t seem to happen much. Some bus or train stops have no benches, or the benches don’t face each other, or they are out in the sun or the wind or the rain, so no one will use them. At work, of course, people are busy. They don’t have time to talk, except about work. Well, that’s OK, people have to work. But do you realize that futurists once predicted that technology advances in the workplace would give us all more free time (shorter work days) while still earning a good living? I think that could still happen. But obviously, there’s someone out there who doesn’t want people to get into better communication. We should realize that’s a situation, and just not agree with it. Communication is too important to be ignored when it needs to happen.

In other news…

girl reading Way To Happiness

This girl is also in communication. In this case, with the author of the book she is reading. Reading is a little one-sided, but it’s the best communication method most authors have been able to come up with.

I shot these photos last weekend at “Kid’s Day” in Rancho Cordova. I’m glad I went and volunteered at one of our booths. Lots of good relaxed communication took place. Some people were uptight about our anti-drug message. But all the kids liked it!

Earlier last week I volunteered at a Way To Happiness booth at “Jail Expo” in the Sacramento Convention Center. We met all sorts of interesting people, including a woman who had raised four foster kids. She really wanted to talk about her experience doing that. Well, she got her chance. My photo, however, is just a general scene from our booth.

I won’t try to cover current events, except to make the observation: Things would probably be going better if people would just sit down and talk. They should realize that there is someone out there that doesn’t want us to get to know each other better and make friends with each other. Well, we should just recognize that and go ahead and make friends anyway.

A New Leaf

20 February 2018
fruit tree shoot

Springtime in Seattle, 2012.

In English we have an expression “turn over a new leaf” which means to make a new start. It literally refers to a page in a book, but of course this meaning of leaf is closely related to the one illustrated above.

As has already been mentioned in the previous post, my desire to build a new relationship with my church led me to the realization that my public-facing communications could use a change of context.

The Situation

Early this lifetime I came to a conclusion that I hope most can agree on: There is a situation on this planet. Situation is here defined as a major departure from the ideal scene.

In my younger years (the early 1960s) I was under the impression that we as a nation (the U.S.A.), if not the entire planet, were working towards an ideal scene. Here it is as expressed in one of our founding documents:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Then near the end of 1963 a duly elected – and rather popular – President was shot to death in public during a parade while he was visiting a city in Texas. A new administration took over from that man, which resulted in our country becoming very deeply involved in Vietnam, a war Kennedy hoped could be kept under control using only Special Forces troops. As more and more of our men died there, our involvement in the war in Vietnam became more and more unpopular, and was finally ended. The “Communists” then won the war, because they were more sensible rulers than those left in power by earlier colonizers and other outside interests.

Our government had immensely failed in effecting our “safety and happiness.” That failure was so obvious, it’s almost as if it was planned; and it may well have been.

To this day, there are huge holes in our understanding of what was really going on during the first half of the 20th century. And those holes only increased in size when we tried to look at and understand more recent events.

Doctors?

 

In the early 1980s I learned that the psychiatry or “Mental Health” movement was being pushed forward by men who shared certain personality traits that most of us would recognize as insane or psychotic. Those persons had their friends installed in various media and political organizations. If we want clean and honest public communication lines, we must remove those persons from control of those lines.

In the early years, those lines consisted mostly of English-language newspapers. Later those lines became dominated by radio and television. And now, since the the 1990s or so, we also have the internet which now feeds into a vast network of mobile “smart” phones.

These communication networks are not evil in themselves, but the persistent attempts by persons of criminal intent to dominate those lines has drastically reduced their usability (and believability) to the point that many people will not use those lines for anything other than gathering the most mundane forms of information, or commercial uses like shopping and banking.

The Search for Reliable Information

I didn’t get on the internet in any big way until 2009. Wikipedia was already very well-developed by that time and had become the de facto source of information about almost anything. However, on topics where facts or intentions are hotly contested, the “establishment” position tends to win out on Wikipedia, on TED, on all the major news sites, or any site attempting to present reliable information. This goes for almost any topic other than the most mundane (weather forecasts?) or boring (electronics and coding?).

What I did at that time was to start my own blog. There I would present and compare data from multiple sources in the hopes of giving readers a more insightful view of things than what was being fed to them by the mainstream sources.

This activity had two main problems: 1) nobody read it, and 2) too many data sources were questionable or antagonistic to real spiritual betterment. I was trying to demonstrate to my readers that there existed certain basic phenomena of life that were widely agreed on and widely researched. Yet I kept falling over false data that others were going into agreement with.

My plan is to revise this site to make it more resource-oriented and less discussion-oriented. Discussion has its place, but that’s not what is happening on the web as it is currently organized.

Technical Limitations

The internet was created to provide its initial users (mostly data scientists in academia and the military-industrial complex) with faster data sharing capabilities, which data might include – in the case of the military – strategic and actionable data of a confidential nature.

Some of the earliest websites looked basically like search windows and were used to find scientific papers and other technical information, somewhat on the order of a giant library.

Additionally, any services that earlier used telex lines were obvious candidates for switching over to the internet. This included news feeds, stock tickers, and private messaging of course.

But it was not long before commerce was being conducted over the internet, and this use quickly became the dominant use. About 1/2 of all internet websites today are .com sites. And this means that what most website designers are trying to do is maximize traffic. Today, social networking is widely understood as a way to give commercial sites access to a lot of potential customers. The sharing of useful information on the internet, its original educational use, has been buried under all the subsequent traffic; a development that should have been quite predictable.

The blog is a sort of personal news feed service. It presents your posts in reverse chrono order, most recent on top, like the news. “Free” blogs are used – often blatantly – for advertising, and so are “free” e-mail and social media accounts.

About two-thirds (68%) of internet users disapprove of search engines and websites tracking their online behavior for the purpose of ad targeting.
– Pew Research, 13 March 2012.

While internet shopping is very popular compared to using the internet to seek useful data or advice (except as it concerns which product to buy), many people use the internet for that purpose or assume that it can be used that way. This group especially includes young people in school. I know it also includes all sorts of engineers and other “geek” types.

People want good data, but the internet concentrates on giving them news, blogs, ads and messages commonly associated with entertainment or commerce, not associated with making smart decisions.

Thus if I want to use my blog to help people make smarter decisions in their lives, I must realize that this is not what my blog was designed to do, and I am going to need to compensate for that.

The changes I will be making in the site reflect that realization.

The Lands

8 February 2018

dead trees along american river
…Some background on a new writing project and WordPress site…here…

Inspirations from odd places

I had recently been exposed to a film story called “Blade Runner 4049.” Though I found the story overly complex, its vision of our future is not that unusual in contemporary fiction. I particularly recall from the movie an area called “San Diego” that had become a huge dump and salvage yard for the Los Angeles metropolis. The piles of junk went on for miles and miles in all directions. It was also pointed out that there were no living trees in the environment. It was noted that at a “rebel” outpost, a dead tree had been kept standing using steel cables.

The Blade Runner story is a “loose adaptation” of a story by writer Philip K. Dick. Philip is considered an important science fiction writer. Born in 1928, he was influenced by the somewhat older sci-fi writers of the pulp days, such as Hubbard and Heinlein, but also the “beat” writers like Jack Kerouac. He died at only 53 under circumstances that remain poorly understood. He was a drug user, that is for sure.

In Dick’s book, the dystopia evident on the West Coast was brought about by war. In the movie this is not mentioned, except for a reference to a “high radiation” area near Las Vegas. In both stories, androids apparently designed for robotic tasks (I don’t believe it) acquire their own sense of humanity and wish to have equal rights with humans and an end to the control programming. Science fiction writers who have gone down this road seem to be of a mind that something like this could happen. They don’t try to understand why. The difference for me is that I now know why. The design and manufacture of human-like androids would be seen as a dangerous and stupid activity by anyone who understood the likely spiritual outcome of it. The androids in the film, called “replicants,” would be even more susceptible to this problem, as they are almost totally biological.

Bicycling downtown through the riverside park, I noticed a large stand of dead trees that has always been there, but seemed unusually gloomy with no spring foliage to offset the grayness. And I thought, “this is the Land of the Dead Trees.” And so I began to formulate the starting point of a story.

I am incapable – even if I wanted to – of writing an ordinary fiction story. I have been exposed to too much actuality that is much stranger than most “fiction” written these days. The trick would be to start with how things are now and somehow show how the situation could be improved.

That leads to Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” which employed a similar technique. But I have no use for his time traveler. I can simply assume a viewpoint of some future time and “look back” to now.

phto with added effects

The photo above with two effects added to it: “oil” and “sepia.”

Love is Love

27 December 2017
love is love yard sign

The sign in my neighbors’ yard.

The sign
Pictured above is the sign that serves as a jumping-off point for this little article.

This one is the only one I have seen in my neighborhood, however, when I walked through the Land Park neighborhood (an affluent area just south of downtown built in the early 1900s) I saw several of them.

The Sacramento Bee ran an article concerning this sign sometime back, reporting that someone had gotten in trouble with their neighborhood association for posting this sign (and then getting more so other neighbors could put them in their yards) on the basis that it made the yards look “cluttered” and therefore could be a threat to local land values. This was a specious (deceptive) argument, to say the least.

The sign itself, of course, is a reaction to the perceived threat of a reactionary US President and the beliefs of those who brought him into office. But due to the need for visibility and limited space, the “liberal” concepts it tries to convey are delivered in oversimplified phrases that have very little literal meaning.

Most of these sentiments are stated as logical tautologies, or equivalences if you were speaking mathematically, by using the word “is” or “are.” In Dianetics, such phrases – if taken seriously – would be considered “identity thinking.” In identity thinking, “road” could equal “rode” could equal “rowed” because they are all pronounced the same. To state such a thing in writing, however, would be an obvious mistake, or taken as a joke.

Let’s go through these sentiments one at a time:

All People are Equal

Though, literally, this is obviously untrue (it would be truer to say, “all people are different”), it is of course meant to convey the idea that people should all be treated equally by our public institutions, such as police, courts, schools, even businesses.

This is a common liberal idea and is widely agreed to, yet obviously not well-complied with. Furthermore, propaganda meant to be divisive (as in “divide and conquer”) exploits the many obvious differences between people to weaken or break community bonds that tend to form normally as people live and work together. The huge question is: Who has been forwarding such divisive propaganda, and to what ends? It has been going on for centuries, and even though we have established equal rights for all in the legal arena, this seems to have very little effect on the divisive ideas spewing from…where?

Though the legal arena was an obvious target that needed to be corrected, it should be clear by now that it was not the source of these ideas, but simply used by some to enforce inequalities. Most liberals have nothing to say about this. They simply don’t know where the divisiveness is coming from.

Love is Love

Though totally meaningless at a superficial level, this I assume is meant to convey that we should not judge others based on who or what they love. It is a grand and sweeping concept, but rarely practiced with any rigor. What liberal, for instance, would welcome my religion into their lives (though its concepts would assist them greatly in many ways)? The intellectual world has been so riddled with lies and half-truths (perhaps it has always been this way) that many cannot really decide what to believe, but tend to believe what they are told by individuals or institutions that are thought to align with their way of thinking.

Black Lives Matter

This is a restatement of the first sentiment for the case of race in particular. Black Lives Matter originated as an organization in 2013 after the Trayvon Martin shooting, when the killer was let off on the argument that he thought his life was in danger. It is only one of many historical attempts to deal with the obvious targeting of dark-skinned people, and particularly the people of Africa or African descent, for “inferior” treatment, if not outright extermination.

This was an issue when I was in junior high school (late 1960s) and there were concerted attempts to teach white children about black history even back then. It is obvious to me that this issue goes beyond the realm of ordinary human empathy and understanding and is being fueled by people who desperately want to keep it alive, don’t care about either whites or blacks or anyone in between, and have inserted themselves into society – largely undetected – in positions where they can continue to fan the flames of race hatred. I am sure those persons are hoping that race hatred will never die and that they will always have it in their arsenal of methods for weakening or destroying human communities.

Psychologically, such people are “criminally insane,” and our only hope on this issue is to identify them and shut down their operations. The average liberal, however, would not be able to think in these terms. That is why I – and many others – believe that liberalism itself has been subverted by some very slick operators who knew just what strings to pull.

Immigrants and Refugees are Welcome

I very much sympathize with this point of view, yet it is much easier said than done. The average local American community today is already overwhelmed by crime problems and/or economic problems. Local managers failed to notice or understand the takeovers they were experiencing, or let themselves be recruited into those operations on the promise of financial rewards.

Local communities should be able to expand to take on new residents and integrate them into the local economy. This has happened to various degrees in many places. Yet the same attitudes and knowledge gaps that allowed the general situation to deteriorate to the point it has impedes us in this effort as well.

And of course, most modern migration pressures have been caused by war, which is one of the biggest human failings of history and one of the most intractable. With what I have learned about this subject, I don’t think the human race will be successful in handling the subject of war unless it advances considerably in spiritual awareness. The subject has that much complexity associated with it.

Science is Real

Here again we have a sentiment rendered superficially meaningless through oversimplification of expression. I assume that what it is really referring to is the fact that the scientific community has long been warning about the ultimate consequences of our headlong march towards a high-tech planet.

An early example of this was the Ozone Hole. Certain man-made gasses were getting into the stratosphere where they were causing depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer, particularly at the poles. This was noticed in the 1970s, the link to CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons – freon) was proven, and steps were taken internationally to reduce airborne CFCs. Observations indicate that the “holes” discovered are now reducing. The ozone layer helps shield the planet from excessive ultraviolet light, which is damaging to life forms.

One of the great scientists of earlier years, Gregor Mendel (genetics), though well-schooled, lived as the friar of a monastery for much of his adult life, and also worked as a teacher. All he needed for his work was time and a garden where he could grow his peas. His discoveries were significant, though not really recognized as such until after his death. Modern scientists often work with very complex and expensive machinery, for which they must convince corporate sponsors to provide large research grants. This leaves the sponsors, to some significant measure, in control of what science studies. Scientists have also been employed by governments to develop new weapons systems. The most significant modern example of this was the development of the atom bomb in the 1940s.

It is said that many scientists today are employed in secret programs. There are also many employed by a variety of companies for the purpose of developing ideas or materials that those companies can then use to enhance their profitability. The most scientific freedom is considered to exist at universities, yet I would guess that “garage scientists” have the most freedom today, limited though by their financial resources.

John E. Mack is an example of a tenured professor who got into trouble with his school administration (Harvard Medical School) due to his abiding interest in “alien abduction” experiences. Though he was vindicated, it is also noted that he had some very influential backers such as Laurence Rockefeller.

One might ask, then: What is real? This is what most people – and true liberals should be among the first to take a closer look at this – are having trouble with today. Various sectors of society have skipped ahead of the mainstream, and are exploring in areas that are considered quite “unreal” to most people. Those involved in such subjects are very aware of their reality, yet forces exist in society – as mentioned above – that would prefer the majority of the population not be exposed to such data yet, if ever.

A recent unusual event in this regard was the New York Times coverage of a story about a “secret” Pentagon program known as the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program. The story then spread to other mainstream news outlets. This exposed mainstream audiences to the idea that UFOs are real, and that some possibly pose a military threat to Earth.

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Though superficially this is simply a restatement of the earlier affirmation that “all people are equal,” I am guessing this refers in particular to “reproductive rights” which also intersects with the moral issue of sexual behavior.

This is a very touchy area. Everyone understands the need for sex as the way to perpetuate our species. But very few understand why they often feel compelled to indulge in sexual conduct regardless of their marital status or need, desire, or ability to nurture children. There is a disconnect there that few are able to fathom. On the one hand, the data I have indicate that it is wiser to err in the direction of celibacy. This somewhat supports the “Right” who want to keep sex “in the family.” But they don’t have my data and are usually operating under moral imperatives taught by their religions. I could say that in this case, those teachings were onto something. But where is the rest of the data, that would tie the whole thing together and give it some sense?

Look: If you are basically an immortal spiritual being, then – basically – there is no reason for sex to be important to you. But no one is talking about that angle of the issue. The result is an argument that could go on forever – and probably will.

Just to restate the data I have relating to abortion: The embryo is of course a living animal, on the order of a fish or a chicken. We consider it OK to kill fish or chickens, yet that is because we use them for food. Thus, the killing of an embryo is an otherwise pointless killing of an animal. The being – the personality, you could say – usually attaches to the body around the time of birth. At that point you are dealing with a full human being who should ideally have full human rights. Part of recognizing those rights, however, relies on recognizing what that human being really is and why it came here to live on Earth. Most people have no idea about this.

People and Planet are valued over Profit

This is the ideological link to various anti-capitalist ideologies that liberals have always been sympathetic to but never felt they needed to support 100 percent. This sentiment opens the door to wiping out big business. Yet, even though we all see that something is wrong in this sector of life, and has been for ages and ages, what exactly that is has never really been pinned down. Supporters of capitalism, and in particular of the idea of free markets have some very strong arguments. Yet they show no real superior understanding of the situation. Society’s charge towards a high-tech future, alluded to earlier, has been led by big corporations. Why should we trust our future to their leadership? I don’t think we should. But what the current situation is telling us is that those big companies know more about this subject than we do. And this is probably correct. So, if we can’t find some way to catch up, those new leaders become our de facto leaders. Right now, there’s just no one else out there wearing those boots. I don’t like it, but I know I don’t have the resources to replace them with more enlightened personnel.

Where I last worked, our company founder used to tell us that “risk is the moral justification for profit.” The implication was that profit (you could call it usury) would otherwise have no moral justification. However, the most basic economic concept of profit is embedded in the life cycle of our species. It is most obvious at the front end, when the being is growing its body, that body not yet big enough or strong enough to be fully productive. Someone who is fully productive has to be willing to share a portion of the wealth (or energy) it has earned with the younger ones who are not ready yet. Thus, he must make a “profit.” Profit for its own sake amounts to little more than a sort of PR or propaganda: “I am better than you are,” it says. Well, this might be true in some ways, but anyone who basically understood the situation would not indulge in such foolishness. My point is that profit per se is not our problem. Profit for its own sake can be a problem, and profits obtained by unethical (criminal) means is criminal profit and should be so treated.

According to higher ethical principles, when a being or group acts to enrich only itself at the expense of the other dynamics, they are not being ethical enough. This is probably what this line on the yard sign is really trying to convey.

Diversity is Celebrated

In contrast to the notion that “all people are equal” we are going to celebrate diversity. Well, this is a nice phrase. I’m not sure how it should be implemented, and you can see the irony in it, juxtaposed with the first phrase. But, what if you went ahead to say: Nonconformity is celebrated? This brings this issue out a little more sharply.

Compared to many places and cultures on this planet, the United States remains a quite liberal place and culture. Yet, something has changed. How was Communism able to retain its position as a “left wing” ideology even after abuses under Stalin and Mao clearly indicated is was operating closer to a totalitarianism? How did liberalism come to embrace atheism, even to the extent of rejecting my religion – which does not define god – as well as its more tradition-oriented relative, the New Age Movement? Why are most liberals so sure the Creationists are wrong?

In short: We have been played (fooled, as in a con game). A criminal element took advantage of our uncertainties, our insecurities, and our lack of really excellent memory to pull us into a game that we find very much less than ideal, and certainly not in good alignment with our own ideals.

We were on the verge, in the 1960s, of beginning to discover what the rest of our universe – starting with our own moon – was really all about. And certain individuals, certain groups, did not want this to occur. So they began on a course of establishing a wall of fake knowledge to keep us away from higher truths that would have been inconvenient for us to learn. A few found out anyway, and they were marginalized or eliminated (like JFK was) as seemed suitable to that new enforcement group. The rest who know are either part of that group, are too afraid of them to speak out, or are considered too unimportant to warrant much attention.

As was briefly mentioned above, there seems to be some change in this situation in very recent times. It remains to be seen how far-reaching that change will be. Certainly, my church continues to forge ahead. Yet it is still encountering strong opposition in some quarters. More “whistle blowers” are coming forward. Yet what they have to share does not seem that revelatory at this point.

But all this could change. For one thing, my religion continues to grow. For most who are exposed to those materials, there is no turning back. Like the people who have out-of-body experiences. The impression it has on them is just too strong to ignore. Beyond that, the UFO sightings just won’t go away. They are a constant reminder – almost to the point of nagging – that we need to get smart as a species and quick.

I for one cannot predict a time in the near future when things will get quiet and peaceful here on Earth the way they used to be before the Industrial Revolution. I am aware that we are faced with choices, choices that most don’t even fully understand. There seem to be basically two: “progress” and “sustainability.” “Progress” leads us into an era of Space Opera. At this point, most of us don’t realize that we have all lived through Space Opera probably multiple times before. So it is being successfully promoted as a step forward in our evolution as a species. That’s a lie, and the current managers seem to be afraid we will remember our own pasts and realize this. The other choice involves a retreat from Space Opera into a time of ecological balance and spiritual improvement. Those promoting this are wonderful people, very idealistic. But they really have no idea what they are up against. They will end up with nice personal lives, but it is unclear what else they will end up with.

A third choice exists. It involves getting smart very quick, and then choosing a more workable path than either of the two main paths currently being offered to us. That would be a great adventure. The potential for great wins is enormous. And I suppose so is the potential for great losses. But if you factor in the knowledge that a being is basically unkillable and always at cause, I think the potential for win is greater, as these are immutable truths that no one can really take from us, no matter how hard they try.

As we approach a new year, I wish all who read this a great and most remarkable future.

Richard Stallman and Freedom

15 November 2017

Today (Wednesday, 15th Nov 2017) I went to see Richard Stallman give a presentation on Free Software.

He was being hosted by a California State project to re-write the Child Welfare website (including backend) using Free Software. Most of the attendees were state employees involved in the project. I was there because I had gotten an email about the event from the Free Software Foundation. Though rain clouds threatened, I went ahead and made the approximately 10 mile bike ride over to Natomas where the state government has a bunch of buildings in a nice industrial park.

Richard is about 1-1/2 years older than me. He was born in New York City (per Wikipedia) and acts like it. He became proficient in writing computer programs while in high school, and was working as a programmer even as he continued his education.

In his early years, he worked at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence laboratory, then funded largely through DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

As software and computing became more popular, Richard noticed that most companies were keeping their code (the higher-language representation of the program) secret. He objected to this on the grounds that in a free society, code should be published like other forms of literature, so it could be studied and learned from.

He started integrating his ideas into a coherent ideology with the birth of the GNU project in 1983. The NU in GNU stands for “not Unix” which was meant to emphasize that the GNU system was all Free Software, though it functioned a lot like Unix. Beyond that, the gnu is a native name for the African wildebeest, which is used as the project’s mascot.

At the presentation today, Richard went through his basic philosophy about Free Software and gave some examples of how proprietary software has been used against the higher cause of freedom in society.

Is it really all about profit?

Richard thinks that the existence of non-free or anti-freedom software can be explained by profit motive. This has been a common argument from “progressive” circles concerning many political and economic weaknesses. I think this is not an intellectually rigorous explanation.

I don’t say that because I’m so smart. I am simply aware of research that points to other factors.

But I will say this about profit:
In a political-economic context, profit is seen as necessary in order to retain investors. Who would invest in an activity that couldn’t repay the investment, with interest? Beyond the fact that this itself is a weak argument, I also see it as unnecessarily complex.

What a business has to do first to pay a profit to shareholders is to have more income than expenses. But that is just common sense. In a world of machines – and biological entities are a type of machine – you need to put more energy into the system than you will get out as work. The remainder is waste energy, which is used by biology but “dumped” by most machine systems.

If you can make more than you spend, you can pay investors a profit. Or on the scale of a single human being, you can save for a child’s education, or for old age. And by the way, did you include raising a family in your list of expenses? So, we have pressures on the producers in an economy to “make a profit” whether it’s their stockholders or their children that they are responsible to.

I believe this basically evaporates the argument of “profit motive.”

Criminality

What we have left, though, is something very obvious that the “progressives” don’t talk much about: Criminality.

As I am “musing” in this article I will opine on why the “progressives” have this problem. My theory – and not just mine, nor my origination particularly – is that an approach to life commonly referred to as “psychology” has infiltrated its way into American life, and the “progressive” movement in particular. It is not that there is something wrong with the study of the mind. It is only that the history of this particular brand of psychology we are seeing on Earth suggests it was financed and supported, if not actually created, by persons who wished to develop a sort of intellectual framework, or propaganda mechanism, that would serve to explain or justify “bad” behavior anywhere from mildly rude to morally reprehensible.

What has arisen from this effort is a jumble of loosely-related ideas, including concepts like Moral Relativism, and Situational Ethics. The bulk of these concepts are confused and under-developed, but when paired up with Psychology as our best attempt to understand human thought and behavior, they can establish a basis to justify almost any action, no matter how evil.

In short, the criminal – especially one in government or business – has a problem: How can I harm those around me while maintaining my supposedly legitimate position in society? And I am saying that one answer he has reached for was: Use Psychology.

In this wise, a criminal is explained as a person in a “bad” situation, or someone who was brought up wrong. In a company it could be someone being forced to make a profit, resulting in his making very bad choices. The answer is to be kind to everybody and make sure everyone has enough to eat, spend etc. This argument is warm and fuzzy, but I think demonstrably unworkable.

If the criminal is really a type of personality, like the psychopath of classic psychiatry (now called “psychodynamic theory”), then being kind to him will not change his behavior. He has a compulsive urge to harm secretly. Thus, my theory that modern “psychology” was produced by and for criminals, as it fails miserably to solve the problem of crime (when it addresses it directly at all).

Modern “psychology” totally ignores past lives and their influence on present-life behavior, even though this has been the most productive research avenue during the previous century that yielded new understandings about human behavior.

Self-correction?

A very major segment of the people I have been exposed to who are out there communicating ideas seem to believe that to make a person aware of a sub-standard behavior will lead to correction.

I don’t know why this idea remains so strong in people, as I see almost no support for it in the extreme cases where self-correction has been most needed and most lacking.

One example of this type of thinking is gun control. What gun control advocates seem to be saying is that if we make certain types of guns illegal or difficult to obtain, a person who wishes he could go out and blow everybody’s head off will become aware that this is wrong behavior and self-correct into some more acceptable approach. This idea is totally ridiculous.

Yet a progressive-oriented person like Richard Stallman, as fine and upstanding as his ideas are, thinks that if we just make Free Software more popular, those using anti-free software will eventually self-correct and see the error of their ways. If that were to really happen, purveyors of anti-free software might give in, simply on the basis that they could no longer sell their products to anyone. But what I am suggesting is that the criminals among them would not self-correct. They would just find alternative methods to perform criminal acts and protect their secrets.

What anti-free is really all about

Mr. Stallman, as well as many on the “right” who argue for more freedom, are not aware of the research I am aware of, I am quite sure. And while I may not be able to explain that research with total clarity here, I do think it is worth our while to at least be aware of it.

 

The point is that “psychology” never figured all this out. The ideas and methodologies that did figure it out have been around for over 50 years. They were rejected by psychology. Why? Probably because they could lead to greater freedom! But also because psychology was being influenced by criminals, who are extremely afraid of freedom. Not just mentally dull about it; VERY afraid of it. Freedom includes the ability to see through others’ secrets. This ability would render a criminal helpless. This may be the bigger reason that criminals are involved in anti-free technologies, software being just one of them.

It was good to see Richard Stallman. I had heard a lot about him over the years. His heart is in a good place, but I don’t think his solutions will get society where he’d like it to go. He needs to understand it better first. Anti-free is more deeply entrenched in the minds of men – and particularly managers – than he realizes. The solutions exist at a deeper level than he is currently aware of. That they exist in any form at all is a minor miracle.

It rains!

20 October 2017

I never thought I’d do a post just on account of some rain.
But per the records I’ve been able to find, it hasn’t rained in Sacramento since April. That’s six months with no rain! I didn’t even notice any foggy mornings.

But last night, as the weather guys predicted, we heard the soft pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof and in the yard. And this morning it was wet outside.

roses after a rain

Of course, people and other biological forms survive under conditions like this because of ground water and stored water upstream behind dams. Our garden stayed well-watered. Those who decided to continue the water conservation effort got very dry and brown lawns. However, most trees and even bushes did OK because of water in the soil.

We could leave even more water in the soil if we didn’t flush roof runoff into the drain system, but flushed it onto the soil instead. (That’s the permaculture way.)

When I took a photo of droplets in an old web under our pine tree, I found something interesting. Can you tell from the photo?

old web under pine tree

There is also sap (what amber is made out of) falling out of the tree and collecting on this web. The one darker blob is really obvious. This sap is quite messy. I got some on my fingers; it’s hard to get off.

Intelligence and Social Experience

10 September 2017

It was determined at some point when I was young that I was “smart.”

I didn’t think much about this in my younger years. I did not feel that I was getting pushed in any particular direction (because of my intelligence) by anyone exterior to myself. And no one ever brought it up with me.

Yet, I had an abiding sense of being “different.” Not a lot different, but different to some degree. And though I explained this to myself in various ways over the years, it never particularly occurred to me that intelligence had anything to do with it. Until one day a senior of mine who was in a position to know such data told me that by test I was one of the more intelligent people in our group. Though I made no particular connection at the time this comment was made, it intrigued me in light of other data I had studied, and in the light of my social experience.

Electronics

I took up a study of electronics around my last year of high school. I had always enjoyed my work in the arts throughout my younger days in school, but it occurred to me that I had no idea how to make a living as an artist. Beyond that, I had not figured out what art was “good for” outside of keeping myself and others involved in the field amused. I thought I’d better sort these points out before I committed myself to a life in the arts, so I chose a fall-back study, electronics, as I was already running into it through my interest in music and audio equipment.

my electronics bench

My electronics bench in its beginning form, 1972.

Practical electronics is basically an engineering study involving multiple subjects. To build equipment you must be able to make design drawings, construct objects from wood, plastic, or metal, choose, purchase and assemble parts that include hardware, passive electronic parts, and active parts like transistors or ICs. These days you also have to know how to write code (computing software). Electronics design further involves a knowledge of physics, mathematics, and materials sciences.

As I moved along in my study of electronics, I occasionally noticed that many people around me had no clue about any of these subjects. My father, for example, having studied mainly in the humanities, did not really know physics, chemistry or engineering – though he had used a computer to help him compile data for his doctoral thesis. I was living in a society full of people who did not know that much about the technologies they were using every day.

As I bought and read engineering and hobby books covering these various subjects (as well as studying the basic science and math in high school) I knew that a technically-savvy community existed and that I had become a part of it. It didn’t really occur to me that there might be large numbers of persons who were not up to this level. After all, I had been introduced to the basics in high school.

Blank Stares

However, when I got into social situations and people would ask me, “What do you do?” (which is a crazy question, by the way), when I would answer “electronics” I would often get a blank stare. The more socially adept would recover quickly, acknowledge my answer, maybe say something like “That sounds really interesting!” and then change the subject.

But, as I have since come to recognize it, I had given them a Misunderstood Word, basically cutting the communication line.

Could other words I was using be causing similar effects?

Per even an average understanding of what it means to be “smart,” a higher-than-normal vocabulary is one agreed-upon characteristic. The subject is mentioned here http://thecommonroomblog.com/2013/02/vocabulary-and-intelligence.html in relation to childhood education. There are some IQ tests based entirely on vocabulary (knowing the meaning of words, and knowing when you don’t know their meaning).
The LRH study method is based on gaining conceptual understandings of the meanings of words. For some words, you might have to go out into the world and find the object or experience the action referred to by the word in order to get a really good conceptual understanding of it.

IQ

The term IQ comes to us from the field of psychology and is intended to be a measure of relative intelligence. In other words, the 100% score (or “average”) could mean a different intelligence – in either quality or quantity – now than it did 100 years ago. However, measuring intelligence this way has only been done for a relatively short amount of time compared to how long intelligent people have been writing down their ideas and experiences in the hopes that others might benefit from it. So we might imagine that a baseline measure of intelligence would be valid and comparable whether it was done today or 50 years ago.

A simple and well-agreed definition for intelligence is: mental ability. How best to measure mental ability depends to some extent on what we think the mind is for. If it is seen mainly as a storage device, then testing it might consist mostly of testing one’s ability to remember with speed and accuracy. If it is considered a thinking device – the more common belief – then it would be tested by posing problems for it to solve. This is the ordinary approach of most intelligence tests.

The fact that many studies have shown that IQ scores correlate with our ideas of what mental ability should be able to do for a person indicates that we have at least some grasp of the subject of human intelligence and how to measure it.

Experience of Others

I found relatively few articles on the internet addressing this subject directly, and none of them scholarly articles. However, some of them did refer to studies that had been done by psychologists or sociologists. Some articles I saw dealt with how to improve your intelligence, while others focused more on advice about how to cope socially if you are extra-smart.

To summarize:

  • Being smart has a certain isolating effect on people. They know and use more words, they can do very well at certain jobs – and are therefore sought-after for such positions, they tend to feel that the help they provide is vital – even if not well reimbursed – and so are willing to work extra hours, and they tend to have so many interests that it may be hard for them to stay focused on the activities of any particular group.
  • Their curiosity may “get them into trouble” on occasion.
  • Similarly, they may notice things – including flaws in data or logic – that others miss and therefore be seen as “picky” or disagreeable.
  • They may develop interests that others can’t grasp or fully participate in due to the breadth of knowledge required to be involved with that subject.
  • They may inadvertently say things or do things that make others feel “stupid.”

My Own Experience

Though my own experience aligns well with many of the above points, I am particularly interested in certain aspects that have been amplified by my study of church materials:

  • Misunderstood Words. It is hoped that a person, through study alone, would be able to acquire enough conceptual understanding of most unusual (or even common) words or symbols that these would fully become a part of their working vocabulary. But I have found – particularly in the case of engineering subjects (including math), or other specialized vocabularies (botany, biology, law, medicine) that this is not always that easy to attain. Though people are generally “excused” for not knowing technical words, when these words are constantly used in their environment (such as computing terminologies are in this day and age) a mental dullness could result that could only be resolved with a dedicated study of the subject. I may not do well at limiting technical terms in my own writing and conversation, but when these things extend into general marketing – such as the list of side effects that drug advertisers are required to include in their ads – things have gone too far. I don’t see any good reason why “homicidal ideation” (thoughts of killing others) needs to be a household phrase in this world.
  • The need for multidisciplinary understandings. A common term for this sort of person is the “polymath.” He has always been considered to be someone a bit special, but anyone who wants to be an electronics engineer has to become a polymath of sorts, just to learn that subject well. Hubbard has made the point that if a person wishes to live well and fully, there are 27 different “hats” he must learn to wear, at a minimum. With the introduction of so many “advanced” technologies in recent years, this becomes even more essential. A very smart scientist can fail utterly as a human being if he has not learned the basics of Ethics and Public Relations. And who is teaching that to scientists? (My church is!) So the challenge of the brighter ones among us these days is in persuading others to join them. We face a very dire future indeed if too many insist on remaining ignorant of subjects they MUST know!
  • Tone level. I have mentioned this subject before.  If a person can’t get up this scale and stay on that side of life most of the time, it doesn’t matter how smart he is: He won’t make ethical decisions.

Beyond Intelligence

I did not totally expect this “musing” to turn out this long. It remains to be known what really makes some people seem smarter “out of the gate” (so to speak) than others. But it could well be that some of us have a keener awareness, as soon as we arrive on this planet (no matter how many times we have been here before) that there is an urgent need for positive action on Earth. And this could be what drives them to push for a higher level of intelligence. That this push then tends to isolate them socially is an unfortunate result. But it points out that the solution lies beyond the subject of mere intelligence. Above mental ability lies spiritual ability. If I did not know this I would be very despondent indeed. Knowing this gives me reason to hope. Yes, it’s “good” to be smart. But in the long run that’s not enough. I’m glad I was “smart” enough to at least find that out.

Wheat Penny

27 June 2017

what penny both sides

Every so often I run across a “wheat penny.” So called because of the heads of wheat depicted on the back. Though I collected all sorts of things when I was a kid, including coins and stamps, I never studied those subjects seriously.

The study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects is called Numismatics. I am not a student of this subject. I also have older pennies called “indian head.” They were produced from 1859 to 1909. The wheat penny followed this one, up to the year 1958.

This one I think I got at the Tandy Leather store. That’s how I recall it. It is dated 1951.

How to Write a Constitution

29 May 2017

The title is a bit ostentatious, but it’s the best I could think of. Though I don’t really have the resources to give this topic justice, I was thinking about it, so decided to write a post on my Memorial Day time off.

I take for my reference the US Constitution of 1787. I hope the copy I have is accurate.

Talking about ostentatious: It starts, “We the People of the United States…” That’s nice, but probably a little broad. It should certainly mention who agreed to it, if not who actually wrote it. It is basically a piece of literature, so it could have an author.

Purpose

The preamble lists the things this government is to carry out:
Form a more perfect union;
Establish justice;
Insure domestic tranquility;
Provide for the common defense;
Promote the general welfare;
Secure the blessings of liberty…to our posterity.

This is important. These are the long-term and continuing goals and purposes of this government; they are its job. A group needs goals and purposes, and must sometimes be reminded of them. “General welfare” is a bit vague, but we’ll leave it that way for now.

Legislative Powers

I find it a little odd to bring this up first, rather than giving a more general overview of how the system was supposed to work. Too many incorrect assumptions could be made here; we need to spell this out better.

Article 0.

We propose that this nation take the form of a constitutional Republic. This gives us a layered approach to both policy-making and action. There are individuals at each level who represent, or preside over, a group of individuals at the next lower level. Every member of the system is not normally expected to interact with anyone above their level or below the level they supervise or represent in matters of official business, except under special circumstances. Every group at every level has the right to operate as it sees fit, and this right can only be overridden as described below. The assumption is that most people already know what to do or can figure it out.

Legislation:

The purpose of legislation is to set guidelines (policy, laws) that bind those at that level to act within certain limitations or restrictions. This document specifically covers the national, or federal, level, but is also meant to serve as a guide, or pattern, for lower levels.

I will not cover the details of Article 1 here, however, we cannot move on before inspecting Section 8.

Areas of legislative authority / responsibility:

  • Taxes, duties, imposts and excises (to be uniform across all states).
  • Specify outlay to pay debts.
  • Specify outlay to provide for the common defense.
  • Specify outlay to provide for the general welfare.
  • Borrow money.
  • Regulate commerce beyond state boundaries or responsibilities.
  • Regulate immigration.
  • Regulate bankruptcies.
  • Coin money, regulate its value, and establish standard weight and measures.
  • Establish Post Offices and post roads (ensure free flow of communications between citizens).
  • Offer limited patent and copyright protection to authors and inventors.
  • Establish lower-level judicial bodies (tribunals) as needed.
  • Protect the nation from piracy at sea.
  • Declare war, and similar war powers.
  • Raise temporary armies while maintaining a permanent navy.
  • Organizing and activating the Militia for certain purposes.
  • Rule over the seat of government.
  • There are more points, but these are the main ones…

Executive Power

Traditionally, the executives of history (kings, emperors, etc.) got to make their own rules. This was not just a matter of egotism. They had things to get done and they needed to be able to act. One of their favorite pastimes seems to have been making war. This had to change. The chief executive of a nation does have the “power” to make war, as the military is under his/her command. However, it was considered that war should be a matter of policy and not executive action, and this still seems the wiser route.

To further discourage executive policy-making, the Founders proposed putting the matter of who gets to run the Executive Branch up for a vote every four years. This seems rather arbitrary to me; why not whenever a majority or some higher ratio of legislators found it needful, but not more often than every four (or three?) years. But we shall leave this be for the time being. The point is: You can’t get policy continuity in the Executive Branch if the senior person is changing all the time, and that’s the way we want it.

Judicial Power

“Judges” have traditionally served a wide variety of functions. At their best, they act themselves, or by guiding a jury (or similar group of peers) to determine who the real criminal is when something goes wrong. As far as I can tell, they do not have a particularly high reputation in this regard. Like anyone else faced with a real criminal, the judge can be threatened when faced with a “hard decision” and forced to back down.

If judges cannot be depended upon to uphold the ethics standards of the group, then who can be? If a group is that far gone, there is little hope for it. But for now, let’s move on to Article 4.

States

This section (Article 4) goes over certain matters of equal treatment across state lines. After all, these states are all part of a Republic, and are supposed to cooperate with each other. You can’t have the police forces of two states in battle because their laws are different.

But I feel this whole subject of states is not taken far enough in this document.

Article 4.

The full and globally-recognized territory of this nation has been – and shall continue to be – divided into geographical regions known as “states” or “territories” based on a combination of historical and geographical factors. States have the right of sovereign rule within their boundaries, assuming the restrictions imposed by this document are respected. Territories have not yet attained the full rights of states, but may petition Congress to be granted these.

All policy (legislative), executive and judicial actions originating at the federal level of this republic shall not extend any further than the states, except under most extraordinary circumstances. Certainly, no federal law, federal action through any of its agents, or federal judicial decision shall apply to or be binding on any individual citizen (that being understood to include only real persons, not “private” entities created through legal means) unless that citizen has specifically requested such a bypass.

It is further expected that state governments will, in turn, deal only with county governments, and those only with municipal governments and those only with neighborhood governments (where that may apply), as this has proven to be more acceptable to citizens and more conducive to individual initiative and thus, the general welfare.

Private Enterprise. This does not mean that a private enterprise, operating across state boundaries and employing numbers comparable to numbers of citizens in a state, or producing things of value on a similar order to that of the combined production of all smaller enterprises within a state, should expect to be favored by the rights and protections afforded smaller enterprises by a state, simply by virtue of the location of their headquarters. Indeed, if any enterprise should grow to the extent outlined above, it can expect to be required to deal directly with the federal government in all matters where it must be treated as a whole, as in the matter of taxation.

The above summarizes the points that I think are important in the game of operating a nation. Though using the context of the US Constitution has limited my comments in some ways, the points I have mentioned are some of the most important. We have erred by overlooking them.