Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A story in short.

Ian was a boy who never saw the sky. His sight was never physically impaired; ophthalmologists would remark that his vision was clear as air. Rather, Ian chose to never see the sky, nor the grass, nor the trees, and yet he could read every single letter he could see within a mile. He never saw his parents, nor his teachers, nor his fellow students; they were there, he acknowledged them, they acknowledged him, but he never saw them. This wasn’t strange to Ian, as it was how he had lived every year of his life. Everything passed in front of him, transitioning from one moment to the next before Ian had time to comprehend it, and then it ended. Nothing was real to Ian, and yet he knew nothing was fake, but he could never immerse himself into what he saw around him. It wasn’t unusual to him, and he thought nothing of it. He was dragged into adulthood while he tried to comprehend the moments of his childhood. The memories were there, and he was in them, and though he recalled that they happened largely without him, they still dug into his chest and nestled next to his heart. The moments of his adult life similarly came and went, and he never saw them. Ian trudged through those moments that ran by, only catching fleeting glimpses of what they were before they were gone. It got worse as he got older; the moments moved faster, and faster, and he trudged slower, and slower, until there were no more moments for him to see. As his breath shortened and his vision dimmed, Ian smiled and coughed out a hoarse chuckle. With his last breath, he finally spoke. “Clear as day.”
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Uncertain Balance

I'm still not sure how to feel after this past election, but I'm not entirely sure it matters. After what was likely the worst presidential campaign in recent history, Donald J. Trump was elected. The man who insulted just about every non-white male variant that exists attained the highest office in the land and now has the power to shape the United States, and subsequently the world, for years, possibly even decades beyond his tenure. The man who thinks that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese; the man whose entire platform was scrapping international trade deals and jailing his opponent, Hillary Clinton; the man who can only describe warzones as "a mess". It's not an easy thing to fathom.
Every single poll decided that he was the underdog by a landslide. Every single person who has ever studied political science knew, knew that it was impossible for a man of his style of campaigning to win. And then, it happened, and all of us ivory tower-types have to reconsider what we thought we knew.
Maybe it's because we all underestimated the power of his anti-establishment, anti-trade deal message; maybe we all underestimated the inherent racism still firmly entrenched into parts of the United States. Maybe some people just really didn't like Hillary Clinton. It doesn't matter now, really. Historians and political scientists will write books and papers aplenty about the statistical impossibility and supicilious stupidity that was the 2016 election, and hopefully in 50 years, people will look back on this point in history with deep, bitter disdain.
But, we're in it now. A lot of people are afraid of what will happen; I'm not, honestly. It's hard to fear the possibility of something. I'm dismayed and disillusioned at the moment. I suppose the fear will kick in once he raises his right hand, but for now, it's still a foggy notion that the election even happened. It's still a waking nightmare.
Though what do I have to fear? I'm a generic straight white guy. You can go around America and find millions of me wasting time or making money or losing money or flipping burgers and picking up hookers. You can even find a copper-coated jabberwocky version preparing to move into the White House.
Except, that's a lie. I do feel fear; fear for my friends, many of whom are the children of immigrants from predominantly non-white countries, and it twists my stomach to think that just because some spray tanned living word jumble became president that many of them would be targeted in hate crimes simply because they aren't white. Hate crimes have surpassed post-9/11 levels, by some metrics, which is a truly scary thought: the worst attack in American history was going to create backlash, as anyone would expect it to; but an election? There is no mandate for discrimination; everyone retains the right to be safe, regardless of who is president.
I read an interesting interview with Trevor Noah, the current host of the Daily Show. He's from South Africa, the posterchild for racism in modernity, and he stated that racism was never excised in the United States like it was in South Africa. With the end of apartheid, a system of governance based entirely on racism, the tumor was cut: it was held up and displayed in all its failure as a system of thought and left to die. That isn't to say that racism doesn't still exist in South Africa, but it was a moment of ablution that let South Africa face its demons.
The United States never truly had that. Schools had to be forced to integrate in the 1970s, and even today there is a noticeable disparity in race in schools. White nationalist groups still exist and are active around the country.
So, what does the future bring? I don't know, honestly. I wrote more than a year ago that Trump would never be president, and here we are. The bare minimum we can do to make a better life for ourselves and others is to speak up if you see someone getting harassed because of how they look, even if no one else does; you'd be surprised how much one person can inspire courage in others.
Chances are that if you're reading this, you agree with most, if not all, of what I've written. And if so, great, I'm glad, let's be friends if we aren't already. If not, write a comment and tell me why I'm an asshole, but at least do so politely, because we're not in clans of gorillas fighting to defend our territory by slinging shit at each other; we have words, and feelings, and advanced reasoning that lets us settle disputes without laying a finger on each other. So if you have a problem with this post, write it out; if you don't like someone, tell them, but don't forget to ask yourself why you feel that way in the first place.

That's all for now,
Das Flüg  


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Friday, September 16, 2016

What is Justice?

Bit of a broad question, I know, but it's worth asking once in a while as it's sometimes too easy to throw around the phrase "We demand justice!" or "So-and-so deserves justice!" And the sanctimonious among us will always say that justice is "what's right," or "what's fair," but then we have to delve into what that means too. See what I'm aiming at?

Anyway, let's look at justice first as a concept: in its simplest sense, it is the notion of resolving parity in a society through some type of arbitration or adjudication. Farmer A got jealous of Farmer B's cows, so he killed one; thus, Farmer A, by the system of laws of their respective municipality, is punished by having one of his own cows killed, or one of his cows yielded to Farmer B as punishment.

Easy, right? If only every single case were so.

The notion of equality under the law, that all laws must be applied equally to everyone, is still a (sadly) new concept in jurisprudence. It's easy to see even today that laws in certain countries/cities/states do not apply to everyone equally, whether it is about voting rights, criminal convictions, or class-action lawsuits. For example, doing a search of recent news and criminological research, it's apparent that those living in poorer/lower income areas often struggle more with the law than the more well off.

What does that have to do with justice?

Areas deemed high crime areas typically have poorer residents; after all, no one wants to move to an area with a reputation for being dangerous. Areas with higher crime also receive increased police presence, meaning that there is more scrutiny for smaller infractions and less trust from the police for the general community and vice versa. There are many noted cases of people going into extreme debt trying to pay for their speeding ticket/moving violation simply because they don't have the means to pay it.

Law enforcement, in this case, is doing its job, so they'd say; community members would say that it's unfair targeting.

Contrast that with the financial collapse of 2007/2008, which sent the global economy into a tailspin from which it has only just started to recover. Only one person from the large banks has been jailed for undermining economic security, whereas the managers and executives at the financial firms were able to reap the benefits of a government bailout.

Many have asked, where is the justice?

The notion of a just and fair society is an idyllic one; it is the USA's motto that all men are created equal (Declaration of Independence), though the original Constitution had the 3/5s clause, leaving the individual black person without a whole vote. Justice and equality are inextricably linked concepts. There cannot be one without the other. Two people who commit the same crime in different circumstances should get the same punishment, because that is what equality is. Someone who is selling loose cigarettes shouldn't be strangled to death by police when a teenager who drives drunk and kills the occupants of another car is put on probation and given therapy. (The police officer who strangled the man in question wasn't indicted.)

That upsets what many would consider just, and rightly so; it infringes upon the perceived equality we all should have under the law of the land.

So then the technical definition of justice suffers a little, because we can only perceive it as working as well as those who enforce it and those who adjudicate it. Given that humans are fallible, the goal of justice should be to remove the element of human ego from law. A judge needs to be impartial to reading the law, a police officer needs to be objective and attentive; if this isn't the case, justice breaks down.

Obviously, that's extreme. The world doesn't exist in a vacuum of deceny and laws; in fact, there are books thicker than steel and stone that detail the world's laws, from the smallest municipality to the international system. Ego hasn't been removed, of course; it's still very much a part of the legal system, whether it pertains to international treaties or environmental protection laws. But, we haven't succumbed to anarchy. We don't live in tyrranical times, at least not the tyrannies of myths and literature. We needn't be armed daily for a stroll around the park. We are, for the most part, within a realm of justice that remains steady. For the most part.

Because justice is an incongruent term, and it will continue to be until equality is a tangible concept.

That's all for now,
Das Flug
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Friday, June 24, 2016

Three Cheers for Xenophobia

Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner persistently denigrates you to no end, blaming you for things that aren't your fault, and generally acts like an intolerable twit? Then they eventually break up with you, but then claim that they can still be 'friends with benefits' with you, as if the constant abuse and emotional negligence had no weight to them, and they never realized that it had weight to you. What would you say to the offer of a 'casual relationship?'

That, in a nutshell, is what happened with the United Kingdom and the European Union in what will be described as one of the worst decisions in the 21st century, sitting somewhere alongside invading Iraq and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The 'Brexit,' as it is termed, is the permanent extrication of the United Kingdom from the European Union. There were two sides to the debate: the meager Remain camp, which couldn't articulate anything besides doom and gloom should the UK leave, and the Leave camp, which couldn't articulate anything besides doom and gloom should the UK remain.

Much has been said about this campaign. A lot of what the Leave camp said was outright falsehood sitting somewhere between, well, the reasoning for the invasion of Iraq and the physical appearances of everyone on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. (Little know, or, really, well publicized fact: EU migrants to the UK are a net positive in terms of tax income versus welfare distribution, but the Leave camp didn't mention it.)

And so, in a moment of great fugue in which some people voted Leave because they figured the UK would remain anyway (yes, it happened plenty, as documented by too many articles that aggravate me), the country voted to split from the European Union, 52% to 48%.

Keep in mind that a referendum isn't legally binding. The government will have to enact Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which details the secession proceedings in far too few words, even though the majority of parliamentarians support remaining. But, moving on.

Leave camp has said that they'd be able to negotiate a deal to remain in the European single market. European ministers have responded by saying that the UK will do no such thing. So, what does this mean?

Higher prices and wage stagnation, along with jobs moving from the UK to mainland Europe, mostly in the finance sector which is a huge economic powerhouse for the country. JPMorgan has already declared 1000 jobs moving to the mainland. It won't be long until others follow suit. The UK was dependent on the single market for the free movement of goods back and forth; now, it will face import tariffs, and not just to Europe, but to other areas of the world where the EU has trade agreements.

For a bit of context, the UK joined the European Community in a referendum in 1975. In the 70s, the UK was the sick man of Europe, suffering from high inflation and wage stagnation. Up until recently, its economy (on paper) was the second strongest in Europe, though given Brexit, that will certainly change.

And then there's the issue of migrants, which was likely the central issue that many took as why they wanted to leave the European Union. Like I stated above, European migrants are a net tax benefit to the UK government. The Leave camp also said that the UK sent 'GBP350 million per week to the EU,' a 'fact' that has been debunked so many times that it ought to be only whispered in sanitariums. In fact, Leave camp leader and brutish turnip Nigel Farage recanted that little bit of factual excrement after the results were in. So why did people vote to leave?

The demographics were split between young and old, educated and less so. Those who grew up as part of the EU wanted it more than those who viewed their youths through glasses so rosy that one might think they're peering through the bloodletting they've inflicted upon the UK.

I concede that the EU needs democratic governmental reforms. I've always said that and I'm a fan of the damn organization, because I know that the good it does, regardless of how little it's reported on, outweighs all the times it's blamed for the maladies of the mundane. And now, the UK will have no chance to actually inspire positive change in the EU, except for demonstrating to other right-wing nationalist movements in other countries how bad an idea it is to leave.

I am, as I once heard while living in the UK, gobsmacked. Speechless. Completely and utterly stunned by not only the negligence on the part of the prime minister in campaigning to remain, but by the people who voted to leave because they felt their 'essential Britishness' was being attacked or degraded. Failed Aflac duck spokesman and Leave campaigner Boris Johnson can now tromp towards the leadership of the country while Turnip Farage gets handed a United Kingdom that may not be united for much longer, given the signals from Scotland and Northern Ireland that they are considering their own referenda to leave.

The Leave campaigners won't get the lofty goals they described to their angry followers. They won't get a 'special arrangement' with the EU. They'll be shown as the petulant children they are, rebelling for the sake of the act. And then, who knows, perhaps those angry followers will turn their anger towards the correct target when that happens.
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

I'm Going To Tell You What I Think is An Unpopular Opinion for My Age Demographic

It's all too apparent to see politics happening all around us. As we head into the next round of politics, there are several issues that really strike me as important to my political opinion, and there's one candidate who is hugely popular with my age demographic who heads up that issue in particular. People my age overwhelmingly support him/her/it, and yet, I think differently. I think the other candidate is better.
Why is that? Well, there are several reasons: maybe because I'm more intellectually incisive than my cohorts. Maybe it's because I'm skeptical of the first candidate. Maybe it's because, in my youthful petulance, I think that anyone who amasses a huge following must be evil. After all, Hitler did the same thing, using his words and his promises to sway Germany to the dark side, and look where it got them!
But really, it's because I'm smarter and more experienced than most other people. In my low 20-something years of life and political experience, compounded by the little sidebar thingy on my Facebook page and my aunt Irma's persistent 'news articles' about the upcoming election, I've been deeply political. It started when I watched John Stewart and took a few classes in college, and from there, I've been very involved in politics: I often tweet my opinion to Chief Justice John Roberts on whatever court case makes the front page of the New York Times.
That popular candidate's ideas won't work. How do I know this? Because someone else said so. What qualifies that other guy to be an authority on the subject? I don't know, I've just heard his name a bunch of times and read some of his articles around, as well as the little blurb under his name at the end of his articles. Looks like he has a master's degree, so he must be right about everything. But he used some numbers and some charts. Anyone who takes the time to make charts is an authority in my book. Not that I've written a book, but I could if I wanted to. A political book.
So that's why I support the other candidate. He/she/it has the best chance of winning the general election, regardless of the genitalia between his/her/its legs. Some have said that he/she/it has flip-flopped on his/her/its positions; for example, in 2000-something, he/she/it said that he/she/it was ardently for a thing, and then recently came out as against it. Also, he/she/it said that he/she/it was ardently against a thing, but is now for it. That's not going with popular opinion; that's changing your beliefs because popular opinion changed.
Now it's easy for me to say that my candidate is the right choice for my demographic; after all, he/she/it has said plenty about issues that affect young people with extensive political connections in the political world of politics, while the other candidate has said, eh, not so much (mostly because I'm cherry-picking facts to make this article as persuasive as possible; he/she/it has said a lot about these issues, actually).
So when you go out to vote in your thing, try to remember what you read here, but more importantly, try to remember me, the contrarian, because I'm honestly trying to build a career out of being 'outside the norm' of my peers. Please. Please remember me.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

Give it to the Man with the Do

Donald Trump is a reprehensible person. That much should be obvious to anyone keeping track of the 2016 presidential race, whether it's disparaging remarks about Carly Fiorina being a woman, or about Hillary Clinton, or President Obama, or Jeb Bush, or Rand Paul, or Bernie Sanders, his aim is wide and his trigger finger is happy. But what's more, the man seems to have a memory problem given his persistent back-tracking on things he said and did. Maybe all his fake tans and teeth-whitenings have flooded his brain with enough chemicals to make a horse think it's a mouse, but you can't fault the man for being able to hold an audience's attention.
He is the banner boy for 'American Exceptionalism,' because a person has to be an exceptional idiot to believe even half of what he says. Much of the reason his supporters say that they back him is because he's independently wealthy, funding his own campaign, etc. etc., even though that has turned out to be false of late.
And yet, polls still say that he's leading, and some of the more mainstream Republican candidates are actively worried that he might even win a few primaries and knock out the traditional politicians. If I remember correctly, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush were speaking recently (separately) in New Hampshire, saying something to the effect of "don't leave our party's fate in the hands of a man who owns a golden toilet."
Like I wrote a few months ago, Trump won't win. He's the kind of candidate who has a strange rise in polls and popularity but then poops out when it comes down to the primaries (or almost immediately after, as Ben Carson found out fast enough). I find it hard to believe that any republican delegates will actively vote for him in the primary states, though if Trump does manage to win a few, it might benefit the feds to keep a close eye on the primaries that will seal the deal for the nomination.
If he somehow does secure the spot, this might just be one of the most aggravating, entertaining, or despondent American elections of all time. Sounds like fun.

That's all for now,
Das Flüg 
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Friday, November 6, 2015

The Doctor is In

Ben Carson is actually Eddie Murphy's latest method of a comeback into the entertainment industry.