Archives for category: corruption

An embassy is a conduit.
It brings information back and forth between the ‘host’ and the ‘sender’.

A spy ring is (intended to be) a ‘one way pipe’. It gathers information about the ‘host’ and transports it to the sender.

They have in common the fact that the bulk of the information is gathered from ‘open’ sources. From the media, that is. Newspapers, TV, radio, internet…

Imagine now the following situation.
There is this planet. Let’s say ours. Inhabited by us, the human people.
And you have some other people. One or more species capable of interplanetary travel. Who have found out about this planet and want to learn more about us before making contact.
Since they haven’t yet conquered us – as per our knowledge, and since there’s no evidence of any galaxy wide conflict raging on we may presume the aliens are fundamentally peaceful. Either naturally ’empathic’ – hence in no need whatsoever of being governed, or having such a ‘natural’ form of government that they’re very happy with it.
In their attempt to learn about us and to understand our situation before engaging in any way with us, the aliens have sent an ‘undercover’ fact-finding mission on Earth.

Right now!
When a country capable of yielding almost half the (self) destructing power available on Earth ‘happens to be’ at loggerheads with a coalition of countries which controls most of the other half of the destruction power already mentioned above.

The local agent employed by the fact-finding mission compiles two news articles which, in his opinion, summarize perfectly what’s going on on the planet.

“Medvedev alleged that some in the West would like to “take advantage of the military conflict in Ukraine to push our country to a new twist of disintegration, do everything to paralyze Russia’s state institutions and deprive the country of efficient controls, as happened in 1991.” “

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ‘planetary divide’,

Among those in the audience was Melissa Sauder, who drove nearly 350 miles from the small western Nebraska town of Grant with her 13-year-old daughter. After years of combing internet sites, listening to podcasts and reading conservative media reports, Sauder wanted to learn more about what she believes are serious problems with the integrity of U.S. elections.
She can’t shake the belief that voting machines are being manipulated even in her home county, where then-President Donald Trump won 85% of the vote in 2020.
“I just don’t know the truth because it’s not open and apparent, and it’s not transparent to us,” said Sauder, 38. “We are trusting people who are trusting the wrong people.”
It’s a sentiment now shared by millions of people in the United States after relentless attacks on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by Trump and his allies. Nearly two years after that election, no evidence has emerged to suggest widespread fraud or manipulation while reviews in state after state have upheld the results showing President Joe Biden won.
Even so, the attacks and falsehoods have made an impact: An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from 2021 found that about two-thirds of Republicans say they do not think Biden was legitimately elected.

So.
Forget, if you can, about the war in Ukraine and about the US mid-term elections.
Let’s pretend you’re the head of the alien fact-finding mission.
What recommendation would you send back to those calling the shots in your organization after reading the two articles I mentioned above?

For the outsiders, it seems like Gorbachev ‘made’ Putin.
Gorbachev had destroyed the Soviet Union and, thus, had set the scene for Putin to take over.

I’m afraid things are a little more complicated than that.

Gorbachev – at that time, the best informed decision maker in the whole USSR – had been smart enough to understand that no matter what he might had tried to do, the corpse was already rotten.
That everything but a major ‘upheaval’ could not accomplish anything more than prolong the agony. What he had done was nothing more than allowed the things to happen according to their nature.

I’ll make a short break here and remind you that all ‘imperium’ had eventually ended in failure. The tighter the control exercised by the ruler, the more abject the eventual failure. Check your history book.

So. Gorbachev had taken the appropriate steps. What he had done was in step with the natural flow of history.

Eltsin and Putin, on the other hand, had done the exact opposite.
Eltsin had tried and Putin had succeeded in regaining the ‘reins’ of the government. The reins, the whip, ever stronger control over the barn where the whole stash of hay is deposited…

Why things had unfolded like this?
Because they – Eltsin and Putin, had chosen this venue and because nobody else had been able to do anything about it.

OK, Gorbachev, Eltsin and Putin had made their respective calls in basically the same social and political environments. The economic situations were ‘somewhat’ different but this doesn’t change what I want to stress out. Each of them had done what had crossed each of their individual minds.
Each had been able to do whatever each of them had wanted because…
Because that particular ‘social arrangement’ allows the ruler to make whatever decisions they may see fit.
Because that particular ‘social arrangement’ – dictatorship, no matter how much window-dressing had been slapped on it, allows the person who happens to clamber ‘on top’ to keep making mistakes until the whole ‘carriage’ disintegrates.

Until we learn this lesson…

The guy in the blue T shirt is being questioned by the Ukrainian police about his activity on ‘social media’.
You probably guessed already what kind of ‘activity’ we’re talking about…

Which brings back painful memories.

During my childhood, in communist Romania, you could get arrested for listening to Radio Free Europe. Or for speaking against the communist rule.

In present day Russia, you’ll soon enough be arrested if you use the word war in relation to what is going on in Ukraine.

In Ukraine itself, you can be arrested for publicly supporting Putin’s actions.

The worst thing being the fact that there still are people out there who consider Putin is right and the Ukrainians – those who do nothing but defend their country, should be ‘left alone’.

To be ‘left alone’ to what?!?
To be bombed away by Putin?
So that we may continue our ‘peaceful lives’?

Peaceful only until Putin – or someone equivalent, will ‘change his mind’?

The guy above hasn’t figured out yet, in spite of the bombs falling over his head, that there’s no such thing as ‘peaceful life’ under dictatorship! Any kind of dictatorship…
Nor have any of those who continue to defend Putin’s actions!

Or use their ‘freedom of speech’ in an attempt to sow doubt about the matter.

A beautiful country, inhabited by a beautiful and proud people who ‘generate’ such beautiful music…
Yet this is how their freedom looks like!

Two successive dictatorial regimes, the first headed by Fulgencio Batista and the second by Fidel Castro…

Read what brittanica.com has to say about each of them. Just click their names.

Then tell me why are we, any of the democratic countries in the world, still making business with any of the dictatorial regimes still plaguing the Earth?
Why do we continue to harbor any of the yachts owned by corrupt oligarchs? Or their money?

Sugar, flour, vegetable oil, gas, toilet paper, soap, pork belly… and also coal, steel, timber, cement…affordable mass produced ‘things’ you expect to be able to buy whenever you need them.

Until something happens and you are no longer able to… either you lost your job or they have disappeared from the market. For whatever reasons.
It is then when you realize that many of your contemporaries consider many of them to be luxuries… And that now it’s your turn to share their experiences…

Then we have the natural ‘commodities’. Things we take for granted but which have not been produced by our fellow humans.
That the sun will rise tomorrow, fresh air, clean water, fertile soil…
Things we take for granted… but, again, quite a lot of people find many of those things to be rather ‘out of reach’!

Finally, but no less important, we have the ‘virtual’ commodities. Man ‘made’, again, but, this time, ‘untouchable’. Love, friendship, respect, trust…

To me, the most important of the ‘commodities’, virtual or otherwise, is trust.

Once we loose trust, we loose everything!

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
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Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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Simple high-school physics teaches us about radio-active elements.
And about the fact that some of them can start a so called ‘nuclear chain-reaction‘.
For said chain reaction to start, a certain ‘critical mass‘ must exist before-hand.

As soon as that ‘critical mass’ is achieved, the reaction starts by itself. No ‘trigger’ is required since it actually triggers itself.

But there’s one more thing which has a certain relevance here.

“Concentration”.

It’s not enough for the critical mass to exist, it also needs to be concentrated enough.

If the radio-active nuclei are positioned far enough one relative to the other, the decay of each of them goes ‘unnoticed’ by the rest. None of the individual ‘explosions’ can trigger the chain reaction.
But if the nuclei are crammed together – as in an A-bomb, a split second after detonation, the reaction accelerates itself until the whole shebang goes bang.

And there’s the ‘cherished’ middle of the road. When the ‘environment’ moderates the reaction. Slows it down to ‘self-sustaining’… as it happens in the (well managed) nuclear power-stations.

And, but very rarely, in the good old nature

‘Yeah… very interesting… but… what on Earth has any of this to do with your professed interest?
“Exploring the consequences of our limited conscience”…’

Trolling.

Very few individual humans are naturally ‘radio-active’.
And, in normal settings, they are ‘well taken care of’.

Before going forward, I’m going to return, briefly, to the ‘nuclear’ chapter of physics.
I’m sure the word ‘plutonium‘ does ring a bell with most of you.

Plutonium is a mostly ‘artificial’ – as in man-made, chemical element. A few scattered atoms can be found in nature – plutonium occurs when uranium atoms absorb ‘extra neutrons’, but the vast majority of the plutonium which exists on Earth has been produced in our nuclear reactors.

Said plutonium can be used to fuel reactors. And to make bombs.
Actually, it is far easier to concentrate plutonium for a bomb – if you have enough spent nuclear fuel, than to achieve the same result – a nuclear explosive device, starting from uranium ore.

Let me wrap this up.

Playing God can be dangerous.
We’ve been tinkering with Nature for a while now.

At one time or another, we’ve turned various naturally occurring ‘things’ into weapons.
From sticks to rocks, then metals… now chemical elements!

At first, we just picked them up and used them as they were.
Then we’ve shaped them to better fit our purpose.
And ended up changing the sub-atomic composition of Mendeleev’s elements…

Now, that we’ve reached “MAD“, we’re looking for something new.

The latest piece of technology, the Internet, is the latest addition to our Arsenal. To our weapons making factory.

Forgetting that the by-products of our previous ‘explorations’ have already proven themselves to be extremely dangerous.
The Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, the huge stockpile of ‘residual’ plutonium we need to somehow dispose off…

Yep. The Internet is being used to distribute – sometimes very exactly targeted, weaponized information.
Which information actually transforms the susceptible individuals into time-bombs.

Tell a guy that his freedom is constantly challenged by the government.
Then tell him the ‘Covid’ mask isn’t 100% effective.
And end up by asking him ‘why does the government demands you to wear something which is not foolproof’?

Each of those three are legitimate.

Put together, they become explosive.
They actually blow up people’s minds.
Derail people’s ability to think straight. Statistically speaking… Which is enough, of course!

What will happen when the number of ‘deranged people’ will be enough to reach ‘critical mass’?

Only God knows.
But it will certainly be far worse than whatever the ‘troll farmers’ have in mind!

This was one of the favorite slogans shouted by the anti-communist protesters in Romania’s ‘Piata Universitatii‘.
And the anthem used by those who opposed the regime which had ‘confiscated’ the political power after 1990.

The only problem with this notion being that it doesn’t make much sense. Not on the ‘face of it’. Not in any rational way…

You see, most individuals would choose life against any other ‘alternatives’.
When ‘the going gets tough’ most of us would accept almost any compromise in order to stay alive.

I’m not offering any examples. Use your own ‘imagination’.

Let me explain what ‘being a communist’ meant in Romania during Ceausescu’s rule.

First of all, in 1989 the ‘party’ was 4 million strong. 18% of the population were ‘proud’ carriers of the red membership card!
Were all of them ‘die hard’ communists?
Not at all!
Most of them had accepted to become members simply because they had no other alternative. Without the party’s ‘approval stamp’ one could not ‘accrue’ any significance. Nada! Nothing!
Could not get any promotion. Get an education higher than the equivalent of a college degree. Go visit a foreign country – not even a communist one!
Nor could you move out from your parents home!
Not easily, anyway. To be granted your own apartment, you had to submit an application to the relevant authority. Which application had to ‘checked’ by the relevant party official if you were to have any chance of success. Which ‘relevant party official’ was way more likely to approve your application if you were already a ‘member’.
And so on.

Then why would anyone refuse to become a member?!?

Thirty years later, I finally figured out the real meaning of the whole concept.
For you to get the whole picture, I must introduce you to a few more verses.

“Bum better than traitor
Hooligan better than dictator
‘Good for nothing’ better than activist
And dead better than a communist!”

By now, I’m sure most of you already had your Eureka moment.

‘Better to be dead than an ‘active’ communist’!

You don’t know what ‘activist’ exactly meant in communist Romania?

For starters, a ‘regular’ communist was just a ‘member’. You did have some ‘potential perks’ but you had to ask for them. And you were never sure your wishes were going to come true.
The activists, on the other hand, were paid for their efforts. Their ‘well compensated’ job was to put in practice whatever the party had decided. What the brass had decided, actually…
To convince the regular members – and, through them, the rest of the population, that whatever the brass had decided was ‘in the people’s best interest’!
And to inform the higher-ups about the real situation ‘in the field’.

In a nutshell, it was the party activist’s job to keep the party together!

‘OK, to keep the party together… that makes sense… but … whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?
And why had the whole thing collapsed like a house of cards?’

Let me answer your second question first.
The whole thing had collapsed like a house of cards because there was no other alternative.

Because there was no alternative to ‘the’ party!

Because those at the top had drifted away from reality.
Because those at the top had been driven away from reality by those below them. Who had been acting in a rational manner!
Who in their right mind would contradict a powerful figure?!? Specially when there’s no alternative? When you, the ‘middle man’ see no way out? What alternative do you have but to become an yes-man? Who utters only what the higher-ups want to hear and keeps mum about everything else?

See what I mean?
Do you finally understand Frank Herbert’s message?
Do you still wonder why all authoritarian regimes eventually succumbs, being eaten from inside out by corruption?

‘Now you’ve lost me!
Are you implying that by actively promoting ideas, and acting as a back-bone for a political party, one becomes an ‘accomplice’? An enabler?!?’

Well, let me answer your first question now!
‘Whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?’

On the face of it, the main ‘beneficiary’ was ‘the people’.
Practically… the people had become ‘hungry’.
‘Hungry’ enough to applaud when the dictator had been assassinated on Christmas Night in 1989

You see, every established system tends to put its own survival before anything else.
Every individual member of the system wants to conserve its position. Which is a reasonable thing.
The problem with ‘single’ parties being what I’ve mentioned above. The party slowly drifts away from reality for the simple reason that there’s no competition to keep them ‘moored’.
‘No real alternative in sight’ allows any ‘single system’ to construe their own ‘alternative’ reality. Made of “alternative facts”.

So!
You may promote whatever ideas you want. How ever actively you want to do it.
Be the back-bone of any political party – or any other organization, you see fit.

But don’t be surprised that if you promote the ‘flat Earth alternative‘ you’ll eventually fall over.

Fall over the face of the Earth, that is!

Smart enough to brag about it when attempting to become the next President of the United States…. at least according to Donald Trump… and to those who had voted for him – numerous enough for him to achieve his goal.

Smart enough or smart, period?

Let me put it differently.
You have no car. Yet you need to go to work and to shop for groceries. Hence you use public transport. Do you pay for it?
What would happen if a sizeable portion of those who use it would find a way to stop paying while still using the service? Those who continue to pay would have to pay more to keep the service going? Or the community at large would have to subsidize it?

You don’t care for my example because you do have a car… Then you need roads to drive on… hence you have to pay local taxes. And federal ones for the interstate highways…
You’d like them all to be privatized? Then you’ll pay gladly?
And how much will that be?
At this point I must remind you of Ma Bell. The telephone company which had to be dismantled, by the government, to make room for the present ‘data revolution’. If prices to move information from one place to another would have remained in the same range as in Ma Bell’s time you wouldn’t have had access to internet today. Unless you were a millionaire…

Taxes, local and federal, are ‘access fees’. If you want to operate – as a corporation or as an individual, out of a civilized place – safe and all, then you incorporate your business/set up residence in a civilized country. And pay the taxes collected by the administrators – read governments, to run those places.

Taxes are too high and or ill spent?!?
That’s a completely different subject!

Most civilized places are run as democracies.
You don’t like the way your money is spent? Or how much of it is collected to run the place?
Then what’s keeping you from voicing your concern? From holding accountable those who misspend your taxes? From doing whatever you see fit? After you pay your taxes, of course…

You feel ‘crushed’ by the majority? Whom you despise, by the way?
Then you don’t live in an actually democracy.
That’s either a ‘mob rule’ – a.k.a. populist regime, or the population is so divided that no real conversation is taking place between the various social segments. And democracy without honest conversation is nothing more than make believe.
I had chosen very carefully the word ‘population’. When something like this occurs, ‘nation’ is no longer appropriate.

Still unwilling to pay your dues?
Still convinced it’s a good thing to turn your back to what’s going on in your front yard?

Still convinced that remaining ‘sane’ is more important than finding out what’s really going on?

Further reading:

“Why arrogance is dangerously contagious”.

Weapons are nothing but repurposed tools. Sometimes ‘enhanced’ to fit the new goal.

Clubs had started as fruit harvesting utensils, then used for hunting purposes and eventually for bashing in the heads of those who had slept with the missus when the wielders weren’t looking. And so on…

As a tool, an implement is used to ‘put things together’. As a weapon, the same (kind of) implement is used to ‘set things apart’. An axe can be used to split wood in order to build a fire or to ‘split’ furniture during a fit of rage.
Generally speaking, a tool is used towards the ultimate goal of adding to/fine tuning a structure while a weapon is used to destroy/disable something which is meant to remain so.

Our ability to communicate was ‘the’ tool which actually transformed us into what we are today. Humans.
At least according to Humberto Maturana. His theory maintains that we’ve become self-aware social individuals through what he calls languaging.
In a nut-shell, he says that we’ve become humans – self conscious apes, by continuously expressing our thoughts towards the other members of the community. Hence simultaneously building an ‘agora’ and ‘walling in’ individual private spaces.

Yet the same ability to communicate can be used also as a weapon.
Instead of being used by individuals to mutually groom themselves, and ultimately adding to the overall resilience of the community, ‘weaponized’ communication is used to ‘downgrade’ susceptible individuals.
To lower the ability of certain individuals to contribute to the community to which they belong, to lower the ability of entire communities to hold together… or both at the same time.

History suggests that, in the longer run, democracy – as a manner of decision making, increases the survivability of the communities which use it. Simply by pooling the decision making resources of the entire community instead of relying on the mental prowess – and good will, of a single authoritarian leader.
Only for democracy to be fully functional, the individual members of the community have to be able to share, in earnest, their thoughts.
This is why Freedom of Speech has been enshrined in the First Amendment.
That’s why whenever the public discourse becomes increasingly dominated by ‘fake-news’ things start to go south.

That is why whenever people allow themselves to be split into warring parties – with no real communication between the sides except for the misinformation hurled across the divide, both sides eventually end up wondering at the destruction they had allowed the ‘communication warriors’ to inflict upon them.

I’ve always been fascinated by quotes which are ambiguous enough to be simultaneously wrong and right.

In this situation, the ambiguity comes from ‘government’ covering three ‘patches of ground’.

‘Method of running a place/country’. (Self)Organized versus chaotic.
‘System in place’ which is used in running a country.
A particular group of people who man, at any given moment, the above mentioned ‘system in place’.

Now, which of the three meanings was at the top of Reagan’s mind when he was uttering those ‘famous’ words?

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptable(sic). Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.

Frank Herbert

The way I see it, government ‘as a manner of running things’ is a very powerful method. Which had served us rather well, on aggregate. Only it is not fail-proof. Or, more exactly, fool-proof.
Government as a ‘system in place’ is a work in progress. We’ve been improving it since we’ve invented government as an alternative to chaos. Only we need to be very careful. As a man made system it will always be far from perfect. It has not been perfect in the past and, no matter how much effort we’ll put into it, it will always remain perfectible.
Finally, government as ‘the team temporarily in charge’ ‘suffers’ mainly from being composed of humans. Hence both corruptible and attracted to power. Hence liable to do everything to maintain their positions.

‘Liable to do everything to remain in power’.
Which means that it’s our job to keep them on the straight and narrow.
We, The People, are the first to experience the consequences of their decisions. Hence we, all of us, are those who need to keep Government – ‘the team in charge’, on a short leash.
If they want to remain in power, they need to keep us ‘alive’.
They need to keep the system in shape. Working good enough for the vast majority, not for just a few of us. For a few of them, to be more precise.

Otherwise ‘government as a manner of keeping chaos at bay’ would have failed.


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