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Gettin 'ficcient in this piece

Feb. 8th, 2010 | 12:49 am

Consider what would happen if the Massachusetts state government enacted the following for all newly built public buildings:

1. Utilize natural architecture and pre-planning to take advantage of as much natural light as possible.
2. Use CFL/LED based lighting for everything else.
3. Implement 'superwindows' (more efficient than regular walls) instead of regular windows.
4. Purchase renewable energy instead of those from fossil fuels.
5. Utilize alternative insulation materials (eliminating toxins)
6. Build w/ alternative materials! (wood-fiber composites, bamboo, recycled materials)
7. Use passive heating techniques (by architectural and material means)
8. Install either green roofs, solar-paneled roofing, or roofs painted white
9. Put enough plants in buildings to create high-oxygen environments for increased health, reduced CO2
10. Use locally grown good in internal food sites (thereby boosting in-state agriculture)
11. Purchase only energy-efficient appliances
12. Use dynamic environment and atmospheric conditioning (fluctuating temperatures, air flows, ambient sound) to create a more natural and more efficient workplace (studies show numerous beneficial effects)

The long-term savings statewide would be very drastic, capital would be freed to reinvest in all sorts of public projects or even just in tax savings. The viability of such a project during a recession and severe budget crunches all around may make it more difficult but, in the end, everyone wins.

We are building a sector of the economy that is able to do all of these things. With short payback periods and the long-run costs savings factored in it makes it stupid not to do it. Some of these techniques allowed the Rocky Mountain Institute to construct a building where it was possible to grow bananas in up in the Rockies, achieving the highest altitude yet known growing bananas. It's eco-manipulation at its finest and it better be the wave of the future if we're going to deal with the impending problems of the 21st century: namely overpopulation, the dwindling water resources available, and climate change over all. The 21st century is going to have to be about humans learning to control their own behavior. Fortunately, sciences of all kind, including biomimicry, architecture, evolutionary and behavioral psychology, urban planning, agricultural sciences, are advancing to degrees that make it possible to design a future that looks like this.

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Back in it to win it

Feb. 7th, 2010 | 07:16 pm

The difference between the life I constantly imagine being in my future and the one I live on a daily basis are so completely disparate that it seems like I'm making up a whole other life in my head that I'm 'supposed' to have.

I think the real secret must be in planning. Basically just creating a basic structure of how to get from point A to point B and just stick with it. Instead of just doing it for a day, though, plot it out for a day, a week, a month, 3-months, 6-months, a year, 5 years. Otherwise the sense of drifting starts to creep and pervade into your psyche and it just starts to mess with you.

But oh yeah, I am alive and here. Better than ever? Let's hope so.

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The world is made of packaging

Jan. 7th, 2009 | 10:33 pm

One of my biggest concerns is in cutting costs everywhere I possibly can. Interestingly enough, pushing these things to the extreme often leads to being healthier and greener.

For example, one of the glaring costs comes from food. What can I do to cut these costs? Well, it leads me back to basic elements of food, and unsurprisingly, back to macrobiotics. Frigo vert, the awesome little health food store run out of my school, is able to offer me discounts for volunteering and also bulk food super cheap. So I end up cooking with a lot of grains, a lot of dried beans (that take a lifetime to cook, and all the other elements of food. Not too shabby, and so long as I stick to a very healthy and balanced diet, I can survive pretty easily without making too many visits to the grocery store because I can buy the food in such abundance at such a low cost. What else? How about making products at home? Tomato Sauce or any marinara is actually pretty easy to make, same with bread, and other items that mostly just cost time.

Another example is in toiletries and cleaning products. Lucky for me Frigo also offers stuff like soaps, shampoos, and conditioners in bulk and also at pretty lean prices. Throw in bulk laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, and a couple other things and I can basically have these home elements super cheap. Not only that I got my hands across a small "green-cleaning products" manual and you can make easy and environmental cleaning products for super cheap, and they work just as well as any product you buy at the market. For example, a gallon of white vinegar is only a few bucks, and if you combine it half and half with water you have a floor cleaner.

After reading the No Impact Man blog I also became pretty interested in reducing carbon footprints and going even further with being environmentally sound. No idea inspired me more than that of producing no trash. Unfortunately, there's almost no way for me to be able to compost as I live in a super-urban area, and that basically constitutes half of the trash I generate. But what about other things? I stopped buying paper towels and use only the cloth I already have, and thus eliminate that from my costs. I donate all of my plastic bags to Frigo for re-use. The deposit rates in Canada are pretty decent and 12 oz glass bottle will return 10 cents, and a 22 oz 20 cents. Sticking to beer is decent, and getting money back from recycling it saves, and reduces trash. Other glass, paper, and cardboard can be recycled outside my building which is great and most people can do.

The one problem that always comes up though, is packaging (that and floss curiously enough). There's almost nothing I can do about the things I need that invariably come in plastic. Ultimately that means, if I'm keeping and being diligent with things, my trash pretty much is only made up of compostable food scraps and packaging. The compost is frustrating enough and if I could only compost it, I could pretty much not have to take out the trash for probably around 2 weeks as I'd be left with nothing but sterile packaging that's really only just an eyesore.

When you embark on something like this you begin to realize just how much packaging makes the majority of trash for pretty much everything. If we just had reusable containers and people got over their discomfort of buying things pre-packaged, we could reduce trash considerably. The costs would chiefly be in convenience, but the savings in terms of both money and environment would be drastic.

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Paganism vs. Modern Theism

Dec. 3rd, 2008 | 06:43 pm

Despite early religion being viewed as primitive and quaint, in a lot of ways it makes more sense than some of the religions we have today. Well, maybe not a lot of ways but at least in a few. Everytime I get outside of the city and far enough into the wilderness, I am still in awe of the array of stars that are out there. Just a few hundred years ago this was the same night that greeted mankind everyday. These are the sort of spectacles that early man wrote creation stories about an no being is more prominent than the sun.

That sun worship, in retrospect, makes more sense today than does the notion of a "supreme being" of any kind. The sun IS the thing that gives life to the planet, it is the daily presence that keeps us alive and helps things grow. Likewise the moon has its own effects on the Earth through gravity, moonlight, tides, etc. Stars too play their part, for even in what seems a miniscule effect they are still projecting and casting light onto the Earth. While it seems like it probably has little effect, over millions of years and through procession of clouds and clear skies that light is still cast onto the Earth.

Sure Paganism had its own ritualism and had practices like animal and human sacrifices. So too were there fanciful stories of how the world was created, but these served to fill in the blanks that mankind had no conception of. We dismiss these views today as primitive, but they were created in the gap that science now occupies. Science has gone through its own way to explain and model the world around us and has done a seemingly bang-up job. It's fascinating to think that our minds are so advanced that we can model the world around us, measure stars on the other side of the galaxy, and predict movements accurately across several light years.

And yet, coming full circle, science has revealed that the Sun (and water) are principally responsible for our being here. Paganism was on the right track and science filled in the blanks where stories were created. Somehow religion defiantly persists, and not just as a means for a moral guidance but still as a creation story and still with its own ritualism. The supreme being, who occupies the space that science still can't explain to us -the "afterlife"- still trumps the sun as being our creator and provider.

This current set of beliefs is no longer trying to explain our place on earth, but our place in the universe. If science can break that piece of the puzzle, what will remain then? Religion is tearing humanity to pieces in ways that defy explanation. The very real set of human problems the whole globe is facing are still being exacerbated because of our inability to either coexist peacefully because of our differences in beliefs, because of our marriage to petty human behavior, or because of our disregard for human life in the context of our belief system: a belief system that tries to explain and in many ways celebrate the creation of that life.

What a sham.

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Is there any way to include "corporate structure" in a title and not make it sound boring?

Nov. 10th, 2008 | 03:51 pm

Probably not.
Which means I probably should have just bitten it and gone with the title I was originally thinking of, "Why current corporate structures are oppressive" but I don't think I could ever write that and feel ok about it afterwards.

So here goes
it'sCollapse )
Essentially its an argument against cheap value(money) vs. real value (quality). The big problem is there's so little consumer awareness about which products are quality or are available to them. People just pick the easy route and acquiesce to the product that was advertised to them, or that they've heard of, or that everyone else knows about. Companies benefit off of our ignorance, and apathetic consumerism keeps us pinned to levels of quality we don't really need to tolerate. It has to change. It is already, but it has change everywhere. For me, it can't just be left to the responsibility of the consumer. For me it has to resemble something like Apple. Real quality has to be a priority, not just real profits. That little law protecting the shareholders probably plays a massive role in the shit-quality we've been fed for years.

The change is going to have to come from companies like Apple or Google or from Open-Source type stuff. This is the only type of company I would want to have my name behind.

Consumer communalism has to begin; its the path to becoming better-informed and to exult over better products and practices.

I think we seem to forget that we have choices in the things we buy. We passively accept the products given to us and don't really feel empowered. It works to the benefit of these companies but not to ourselves.

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Fivethirtyeight: The Three Ashleys

Oct. 27th, 2008 | 06:38 pm

a little less than a year ago I got an e-mail from my business statistics professor asking if I wanted to sign up for a new minor in "Data Analysis." It happens to be the most boring fucking name of all time for any education pursuit, and is the last thing I would want to mention when talking to hot babbes on St. Laurent on the weekends. I don't have the credit space to take a minor anyways, but I may have thought about possibly reconsidering if I might potentially ever just might happen to want to take a minor like that. Maybe.

Why, you query?

Because in reality statistical data can tell us a lot of things that actually are interesting.
The best example I can give is this, now somewhat famous, Ted Video featuring Hans Rosling. He talks about world economic poverty but in a excited way and tranforms what is otherwise basically an animated graph into an enlightening presentation about the reality of world poverty.
Suggested viewing for everybody.

Fivethirtyeight.com, a political stats blog also relies very heavily on statistical analysis but in the context of the election this year and by using polling data. It's extremely comprehensive (and gets its name from the number of electoral votes there are. If you look on the page you will find statistics and probabilities for just about every situation imaginable in the election like, "Obama loses OH, wins election 82.79%." Or "McCain wins all Bush States .09%." I like those odds. It aggregates different polls, both state and national, weights them according to different criteria, and then presents the data to make probability predictions.

It has slight Obama bias, but only the commentary, the calculations are pretty free of it. It is also very anti-drudge report (which itself has a heavy conservative bias). I've been following it for a few weeks now and it's interesting to look at, generally. The reason why I'm only writing about it today is because it put up an amazing post called "The Three Ashleys" and the roles they have played in the last two elections.

Ashley Faulkner from the 2004 election
Ashley Todd from the last few weeks
and Ashley Baia from Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech

Check it out yo.

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Remember that post about the GOP?

Oct. 21st, 2008 | 12:45 am

Mr. Paul Krugman has similar, more precise, and more articulate things to say about the subject.
This is the guy who, about 10 days ago or so, won the nobel prize in economics.

Notably, he places the time when the policies of divisiveness began:

"Forty years ago, Richard Nixon made a remarkable marketing discovery. By exploiting America’s divisions — divisions over Vietnam, divisions over cultural change and, above all, racial divisions — he was able to reinvent the Republican brand. The party of plutocrats was repackaged as the party of the “silent majority,” the regular guys — white guys, it went without saying — who didn’t like the social changes taking place.

It was a winning formula. And the great thing was that the new packaging didn’t require any change in the product’s actual contents — in fact, the G.O.P. was able to keep winning elections even as its actual policies became more pro-plutocrat, and less favorable to working Americans, than ever."

and uncovers the truth of the matter that the ridiculous "Obama is a socialist" attack hides:

"What about the claim, based on Joe the Plumber’s complaint, that ordinary working Americans would face higher taxes under Mr. Obama? Well, Mr. Obama proposes raising rates on only the top two income tax brackets — and the second-highest bracket for a head of household starts at an income, after deductions, of $182,400 a year.

Maybe there are plumbers out there who earn that much, or who would end up suffering from Mr. Obama’s proposed modest increases in taxes on dividends and capital gains — America is a big country, and there’s probably a high-income plumber with a huge stock market portfolio out there somewhere. But the typical plumber would pay lower, not higher, taxes under an Obama administration, and would have a much better chance of getting health insurance."

The truth is McCain's plan, which probably belongs less to him than it does the Republican party, probably amounts more to favoritism of the upper brackets than Obama's does to socialism. Not to even mention the fact that he was adamant in pushing through the partial nationalization of banks through the bailout plan and all the socialist implications it carries.

The Republican party is trying, in its last gasps of breath (hopefully) in this race, to prey on the deeper fears of the American people. They are characterizing Obama as a socialist and a terrorist. They are questioning his character, they aren't allaying the irrational fears that people have about whether or not he is a muslim, or an arab, and party leaders are still harping on Barack 'hussein' obama.

Additionally, Republicans are trying to disown Colin Powell, one of their most respected and well-liked party members among most of America. This is a guy of high integrity who, at the benefit of his party, suffered character damage in the way he framed the problem of Iraq to the UN. He's not a strict conservative, more of a Republican Centrist, and for that reason his support of Obama, based on very reasonable and rational, though probably not easy, decisions, is being framed as a move of racial solidarity. What a cheap and despicable card to play. In a time of national turmoil, against a reasonable and honorable man who has long served their party, are turning on and disowning him for what they deem as "treason" or "abandonment" of their party.

The blind irrationality and immovability of the conservatives and the constituents they have coddled into ignorant comfort under their administrations. It is a problem that people are yelling, "kill him!' at rallies. It is a problem that Obama is being associated with terrorism. It is a problem that some parts of America are deemed 'pro-American' while others are not. There are so many problems arising out of ignorance, out of fear, and out of bigotry, that the Republican party is not reining in but is subtly or not so subtly promoting.

Under reasonable scrutiny Sarah Palin is an absurd choice, one that the party has yet to admit. In a lot of ways Mccain is going to be left a somewhat tragic figure out of this entire mess. If there is one thing the party didn't overstate it's the price he paid as POW, his experience in politics, and his all but fading reputation as being a uniter among the parties and his ability to work with both parties. The maverick tag may be annoying novelty by now but I remember a few years back thinking that I actually did like McCain. Even that I liked him when the presidential race first kicked in (though I knew he would be the toughest opponent for the dems to beat). Its a shame really that the party, in all its ugliness, pushed him to the point of making bad decisions, shifting to negative campaigning, and basically tarnishing the respectable image he had before. The divisiveness is their only way to win. Thankfully, it is not sustainable and the Obama campaign, even if he doesn't win, may just change that.

In the end, I doubt anyone comes out of this race looking clean and neat. The Obama campaign has stuck with an elevated tone throughout without playing to some 'folksy' element of America, they made a pretty responsible choice for VP, and their negative campaigning generally ends up being more reactionary and having less cheap shots than the McCain campaign. They may say some things that are kind of unfair like saying Mccain is 'erratic,' but it's nowhere nears as implicative and fear-baiting as saying he 'pals around' with terrorists or invoking an image of socialism when talking about his plans.

I may end up sounding more liberal than I mean to, and I can assuredly say this campaign cycle brings a lot of that out, but in truth I remain a strange mix. Sure, I side with liberals comes to things like social issues and domestic policies in education and health care. I can get down conservatives when we talk about less government intervention though and perhaps more state sovereignty. The problem recently is that less govt intervention for the party mostly meant deregulation and taking us closer to free markets. With that, I can't fully agree. I suspect both parties had something to gain from deregulation of the economy or at least in certain industries. But the ideas as principle are sound. In the end I do lean left, probably because I have vested interest in the social policies and domestic policies. Also because for some reason the GOP also means increased military spending, another tangent I am dying to get into but will refrain from.

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Oct. 12th, 2008 | 03:42 pm

Time to beat a dead horse, and take a quick break from all the econo-politico ranting.

Adbusters recently came out with this article and caused quite a stir among any and all self-denying hipsters out there. It was funny and successful to the extent that it got all of these people huffy. It was even given a pretty stark and devastating title: "Hipster: The dead end of western civilization." Dude.

It articulates some interesting points and brings out some of the more frustrating elements of the "subculture," but largely I think it's more of disappointed blame-sport than anything. Here's the tag to the title:

"We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality."

It's main driving point is that the history of counterculture, whether it be punk-rock, hip-hop, alt-rock, whatever, has had, in tandem, a force behind it of either political or cultural substance. It's true, but at the same time there's been a pretty important social element behind each movement, for some people those social aspects were more important than the "point" of each movement. To a certain extent we can just slap the label poseur on them and say the real history belongs to the most fervent participants of those movements.

So the ultimate irony of the "hipsterism" that this article talks about, is that the self-aggrandizing social aspect of all the previous countercultures is now the new "point." In the end, possessing all the posturing of everything that has come before is what it's all about, and yet there's something disatisfying and missing from that interpretation.

The real truth is that this is far and away, though I can only postulate, the most self-conscious generation and counterculture to have existed. Thanks in large part to the internet. It's funny. It's a group of people who consciously buy into all the trimmings of the culture while denying it at the same time. No one can go out and buy a studded vest without knowing what it makes them look like or how they will be perceived for it. We are a generation that knows that these things aren't what's really important but at the same time participate in it because otherwise how are other people supposed to know we are "part of them." It's buying and dressing with all the signifiers of social participation but because it's such a conscious act it's one that also breeds a level of guilt knowing that you *are* buying into it. Thus the self-denying aspect.

And yes, it doesn't have a "point" either culturally or politically, and adbusters proclaims it the dead-end of counterculture. Really though it does have a point. It's the first step in emrbacing wholly the social aspect of it, and yes to a certain extent it does it apologetically. But should it? What things are coming out of it? It's appropriating so much of all the former countercultures and taking much of the most superficial aspects of them, and some of the best of them, and substantiating them in its own way. It's the counterculture that grew up with the grand equalizer: the internet.

All of the sudden musicphiles, beginning with file-sharing and moving to information-sharing, all over are consuming all the music of the past, both prominent and obscure, and developing an acute knowledge and sophisticated taste in music. It's no longer just a hobby, it's become socially valuable. At the same time because of the communication bands can spring up all over the country with modest followings that produce groundbreaking and highly significant music. Rockstardom, as they say, is dead. It's the communalizing of music and art, aided significantly by the internet. It's appropriate and important that it was done in music first, in its equilibrium the most communicable art form to possess the mark of its maker.

If not for the grand movement of indie music, hispterism, and the internet, the bulk of music might still be pushed through by massive labels and corporate commercialism, isntead of by a massive community of self-promoting artists and local music. These things are recreating the culture of music, redemocratizing all the elements and wresting it from the hands of corporations. Sure we have American Idol, we still have Britney Spears, but these things are nowadays pushing themselves to irrelevancy, and will further.

The potential for these same things to spread into other forms is immense. Indie filmmaking has its own potential, some of which is being realized itself. It's probably the next form that will be appropriated and restructured by the counterculture. Young kids even now are running around talking about Jim Jarmusch, old fellini movies, and other people (clealy I don't know much about this stuff!), I guess, all in the same breadth, and while it may equate to little more than a social stamp seeking approval it still means this art culture is being consumed and popular tastes are being redefined by it. The ability of "the big ten" multimedia conglomerates to push through shitty movies (Beverly Hills Chihuahua WTF) hopefully just might dissipate. Maybe one day indie films will be made and consumed at the same local level that music is right now, who knows! The possibility though looks brighter everyday and this supposedly vapid and pointless counterculture is a large part of it.

What else? I am loathe to say whether the literature of the culture is better, but then again I haven't read enough to know, and the industry structure is probably not as oppressive and dehumanizing as the others. Besides at least kids are still reading right?

What about the oh so important clothing and style? It's frustrating perhaps to think that these kids indulge in thrifting because they can't afford other clothes (or don't like other clothes), but supplement all of it with overpriced and boring stuff from American Apparel. But that also means something else. I may not like American Apparel and buy into its crap, but hey, it's not made in sweatshops! That does count for something, especially in the retail industry. Likewise we have stuff like H&M now, which I liked more before it succumbed to too many popular tastes, and more importantly stuff like Triple 5 Soul, or other similar labels. These are regional labels gaining importance, playing to the subcultures, and, in their own way, in defiance of ridiculous clothing labels like Gap or A&F.

Take it even further and you'll find things like Etsy where you can buy someone's craft wares from Australia and it suits your tastes, doesn't have the stamp of sweatshops, and is completely removed from the corporatizing and standardizing elements of the big labels. The counterculture is revealing the truth about so much of consumerism (and at many times woefully playing into it): that generalizing elements to include everyone is ridiculous and dehumanizes things rather than creating unique styles that appeal to people's personal tastes. Sure a lot of people hate skinny pants, but at least the relative conspicuous consumption of it reveals the fact that making clothes that fits everyone (read: fat americans) is pretty lame and doesn't really make anyone look or feel good. More importantly it is undemocratic because it doesn't let people express their own tastes.

It has made a small mark in tangential elements too. This article may talk about PBR, but the rise in craft beer and even home-brewing occupies some pockets of it. The rise in veganism, CSA programs, and conscious food consumption also has its own place. DIY culture is integral not just in the music scene but in many other smaller elements too. Tastes, good art, all things like it are being promoted by it both because of their legitimacy and because of their social importance in the culture. These things are happening, at the expense of the general "consumer culture" we have today. The old corporate forms of business are being stripped of their impact within this counterculture (though not in all cases) and that may be the most important thing any counterculture has ever done, more than the political aspects of punk rock or the cultural aspects of hip-hop. (The fact that so many of these kids love a corporation like Apple probably has a lot to do with the fact that the company makes great products, is innovative, and probably is the best within their industry.)

That's the great truth about hipsterism, today's counterculture, and it's marriage to the internet. Sure it doesn't have the mark of political movement (I might argue against that though, as its pretty much very left-leaning), but it does have the mark of self-importance, self-expression, and the approriate consumerism to go along with it. It is plagued by popular tastes within its own umbrella, but that the taste generally happens to consume the best of all the cultures that came before it is a good thing.

It's a culture that at the same time that it promotes global and local communalism, supports self-expression and determination. The fact that there's 10 million myspace pages for bands I don't ever want to hear is a beautiful thing. Because if it's actually really good and it is something I want to hear these people will probably make it popular or I just might stumble onto it myself and help that process. Or guess what, I might just put up some of my own songs and it might be hot shit, yo. The internet makes it possible, hipsterdom weeds out the good stuff. It re-democratizes what the massive corporations, with all the money they can push around, took from us.

The business student in me wants to proclaim, it's fucking free market capitalism bitch! The educated consumer makes the better choices. Between popular culture and the counterculture one of them is, generally speaking, making the better choices and improving the general culture for it. Adbusters misses the point by saying it's the dead-end. In many ways it is revivalism, but it really breaks new ground and its marriage to the internet is key. I say we are better for it, so take the whole fucking cake with all its frustrating elements absurdities cuz guess what: the music is rad, the beer is good, and the chicks are fucking hot.

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Two articles

Oct. 11th, 2008 | 08:49 pm

The first:

Farmer in Chief

By Michael Pollan. An article basically articulating many things I've wanted to say, and will touch on in a future post, but with more substantiality than I could ever put to it. It essentially highlights the problem of the food sector being the unsustainable industrialized behemoth that it has become; a result of the market mentality applied to the way we eat.


The Class War before Palin

Related to my former post about the Republican party or conservatives in general. It talks about how the Republican party has alienated the intellectual classes of America with their faux-populist embrace of "working class" America and "Joe Sixpack hockeymommery" while benefiting neither class in the end.

It's our own absurdity that will be the ruin of America. When people on the campaign trail are coming to McCain with their fears that Obama is an arab or their distaste for the though of a "democrat" in the white house, it's apparent how much America is still gripped by a deadly combination of ignorance and stubbornness.

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Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Property

Oct. 4th, 2008 | 02:54 pm

The original draft of the declaration of independence carried these lines. Property was later replaced with the more idealized and ambiguous word "happiness." It sits better over time and imbues the declaration with a sort of American optimism and grandeur that carries with it faith and sentiment that this country has always needed. The point that it was originally property should not go unnoticed though.

At first glance using "property" instead of happiness smacks of some kind of materialism. If it hadn't been changed its true this country might have been more material-minded instead of harrowingly optimistic but its negative connotations, to a certain and more subtle degree, miss the point.

One of the most important ideals of early Americanism, dating back to before the country even existed, was the vast availability of good land and the ease with which people were able to gain ownership of it. In the earliest of days it was as simple as claiming a plot of land, or uprooting natives off of it, or simply paying a small fee (or perhaps deals of servitude). Whatever the case, land was cheap and sometimes free and it wasn't difficult for fairly common people to own their own land. It marked a major distinction from earlier European history which was littered with both indentured servitude and even earlier by feudalism. It broke down certain barriers of class and was one of the greatest allowances of the emerging democracy.

Property was owned outright. The land belonged to the holder and everything on it was their property. The government insured this in its earliest legislation going so far as to make sure the only voters were specifically property-owning. As the saying goes, "Every man is a nation unto himself." All the property owned by a person is a natural and external extension of their sovereignty over themselves and their representation in society. Property was protected and given pivotal importance. By the early bill of rights the government had no right to encroach on that property just as no other person had either. It was firm individualism in line with the earliest ideals of the founding fathers and the founding people.

Forward two-hundred years later and the situation has changed. People still have a right to their property, but it is far more difficult to acquire, and even harder to keep. What do Americans own now? Their homes? So long as they are tied to a mortgage the bank has the ultimate claim on the property. Power and water are provided by municipal works and are bound by paychecks and prices. The money that people make is given over to what have now become, pretty much, necessities. Phones, internet, power, water, housing, transportation. Even purchases have been taken over by credit cards. Ownership now takes the form of recurring payments made vastly overtime. It is only the extremely fortunate who can choose to buy things outrightly.

The economy and the people have hit extremely hard times and we are going to have to come to face with two things.

1. That the level of consumerism we all participate in has reached levels of absurdity.
2. That the price we pay (a result of the unconscious consumerism) has gone beyond our ability to pay, and beyond what they ever should have been.

Yes, our consumerism is absurd. We are, as a people, only now becoming more aware of that fact. As individuals I don't think we are making as much progress as we should. We still aren't conscious consumers. If the blame goes anywhere it's to human psychology. Behavioral studies show that if we have something available to us, we will likely use it. It is only be overcoming certain psychological levels that we wisely choose to gain more and consume later. Studies have been done showing that the decision to consume something now is based on our reptilian brain, while the delaying of gratification accesses the neo-cortex (higher mammalian brain functions; all this from the triune brain theory).

To a certain degree credit cards are bad psychological practice and take advantage of our more innate weaknesses. Having money available to us now creates the temptation to spend what we don't have. Only the people who practice diligence and thoughtful use of CCs are rewarded with "good credit." When we have "good credit" the system further rewards us with even more money. It's a cyclical bind that renews itself and rewards certain behaviors. But the temptation is almost malicious in nature. It makes the credit card the arbiter of a kind of consumerist morality. It extends a helping hand that either rewards or punishes us for our behaviors.

So if we are endowed with crucial property (housing, transport, education) yet we are also bound to it by the debt that accompanies it, can we still say we have individual sovereignty in our ownership of that property? These kind of things always make me more mindful of the America that Thomas Jefferson envisioned.

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them, will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

The demand for certain items of necessity, combined with the rising population, combined with a credit system that allows for the expansion of prices and money, along with wages that are lopsided and not rising to meet the levels of demand, not to mention the innumerable other factors (more to come!), will spiral further out into even greater levels of absurdity. They say the bailout is a band-aid for the economy. I can accept its necessity, but I can also note the reality that accompanies it.

The ultimate commodity of man is time. Yet when we fill our future with debt that commodity becomes a shackle. Its no longer a resource of freedom and possibility, but rather an obligation.

Here is a neat little quote relating to last post and about the current election cycle :

Charles C. Haynes (right), a leading expert on religious liberty issues, argues in an op-ed piece published by several newspapers that "In the long history of religion in presidential campaigns, the 2008 race may well be remembered as the sleaziest and most disturbing example of misusing religion to win votes and demonize the opposition." He argues that both sides are guilty, citing widespread attacks on the supposed religious affiliation and beliefs of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, and, during the primaries, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. An excerpt:

"There is a critical difference between faith as motivation and faith as manipulation. Unlike the civil rights movement — where faith was a key motivation for many in the struggle for social justice — the current God strategy by candidates and their surrogates often uses religion as a weapon to destroy opponents in the name of winning elections. Enough is enough. It’s time for the candidates to set an example by dialing back the God talk. Speak out instead for what the Constitution actually requires: A president committed to upholding the First Amendment by keeping government out of religion while simultaneously ensuring that people of all faiths and none are treated with fairness and respect."

Haynes (right) is a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington.

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