Isn’t the Rio (Grand)e?

I have an issue with Democrats and their acceptance of the frame “border security”. Security implies and supports the conservative concept: “Americans good, Latinx bad”. Used as it is most often, security is a military term, as in: send troops there, establish and secure a perimeter. i.e. don’t let anyone in besides us and use force if necessary. Used as a social term security can mean someone who arbitrarily decides who can enter a nightclub or concert and who to remove from those venues, often by violence.

I prefer the term border protection. I hear it used as a descriptive or supportive phrase from all sides but only ancillary to the metaphor “Border Security”. As a primary metaphor “border protection” implies and supports the progressive idea that the border should be safe, protected from bad people who want to get in and hurt us but also safe for people whose home country was unsafe. Morally they deserve protection too.

It is known that advances in technology continue to make the border safer and the billions of dollars required for a wall is a waste of taxpayers money. That money can be better used for the numerous personnel needed to expeditiously process refugee claims and the modern technology used to interdict people and contraband coming in through our seaports and airports.

One might say that people aren’t consciously aware of any difference between those words but unconsciously they do and decisions about what words mean are made unconsciously, informed by experience and repetition. Just as in the difference between regulation and protection when used regarding government monitoring of business, protection is the word that speaks more to those without power while security and regulation are words about the use of power by those who have it. The difference is subtle but significant. How those words are defined by society can easily be influenced.

We have all heard that words have power. But what is it exactly that bestows them with this power? Words are like icons on a computer desktop. The icon contains no information of it’s own. It only points to and connects us to a file or folder in storage that contains the information the user associates with that icon. Words are icons that connect us to where the real information is stored in the brain.

Our brains have to process billions of bits of information daily. Because of this the brain needs to take shortcuts. One word can connect us to entire concepts. Consider the word baseball. Not only does it connect you to a small round object but to a stadium and bats and uniforms and umpires and balls and strikes and beer vendors etc.

But an icon will only connect us to one file or folder and a word will only connect us to one definition or one collection of related things. It cannot connect us to two unrelated files at the same time. When you hear the word baseball you will not see a hockey puck. When we want to use the information found on a particular file we recall the icon associated with the info, click it, and the information appears. No matter how many times you click the icon for rock and roll it will not take you to jazz.

Persuading folks that a word means something different than you think it means is as easy as getting your definition to the top of the Google search results. You repeat it over and over again. Eventually the Google brain decides that the other definition is correct and yours is wrong. Google doesn’t know right from wrong nor does it care. So the wrong answer easily becomes the answer you find when you ask..

This is why using words like security and regulation over and over again to describe refugees claiming asylum will connect people to using our power to keep everyone out with a wall and assault rifles instead of using our power to determine who can enter and who cannot. It won’t matter which idea is right. It only matters which one people say is right. In this scenario getting society to accept that our real job is to protect those involved will not be easy. It will be very difficult. Getting your information to the top of the Google search isn’t easy.

Words do have power and we must use that power to help all peoples, as our American moral values dictate.

Open Letter to Democrats

I usually don’t get overly partisan when it comes to politics. But I’ve been upset for a long time about the inability of the left and center left to effectively articulate their message. Pundits, the press and plenty of people accost them for not having a clear message. They actually do have one but always seem to get in the way of making it understandable.

I think Democrats get off track when we start talking about policy. The political  right occupys the high ground, when it comes to how they have used framing to get people to support their policies. Taking back the high ground isn’t easy. Many of the values and concepts they use to make people think their policies are better are contested concepts. The other side has done a better job of selling their definitions of concepts such as liberty and freedom, opportunity and fairness, equality and prosperity. Selling our understanding of these concepts, based on our values, communicates underneath the surface noise of their definitions of words and their policies, where persuasion is possible, nigh probable. But we’ve done a piss poor job of communicating.

By closing the sale we could get voters to accept our definitions, which they already believe in, but have been suppressed. Showing people that they, too, share our values makes it easier for them to want to be in our group. This begs the question, what makes our group worth joining? What are our base values and how do we communicate them in a way that resonates with a person’s intuitive response, which is immediate, and not their measured response, which takes time and thought. In other words we need to make sure in the political Occam’s Razor the simplest answer is our answer.

Voters want to belong. They choose the group they think is best to belong to, who they think are the winners. We have more diversity in our group than in theirs. Our coalition, our group, will be, in time, the true winners, but that is not now readily apparent to the average they. Unfortunately we concentrate more on trying to convince them that our diversity is good. Instead we should show them how and where they can fit in to our diverse universe with their self respect and individuality intact. We need to tell them WHY a rising tide lifts all boats instead of only saying it and assuming people will accept it, just because it makes sense to us.

Progressives have a tendency to look down on people who don’t support their policies, considering them stupid. In our minds anyone who doesn’t accept our policies has to be stupid, because we know our policies are so superior that anyone with half a brain should be able to see that they are superior. The vast majority of these people are not stupid. It is extremely important that we stop this kind of arrogance. These people have been manipulated and are not worthy of scorn. They are sure smart enough to be aware that we ridicule and belittle them. This attitude is obviously is not helpful if we have any hope of persuading people that their vision is really our vision.

Rather, we need to welcome the people we disagree with on some several things. First we need to identify those folks whose views we will never change, about 30 to 35% of all people. Then we need to identify those we can persuade, listen to them, and assure them that we CARE about their families and their concerns. We can’t simply tell them what’s good for them and then assume they will accept our truth and vote for us. We assume that truth is absolute when it is in fact relative. We don’t understand their truth. For one they hate that we tell them what is good for them. It validates their feelings that we don’t care about them. The other side is better at convincing people that they care for them more than we do. That they are able to do this without any concrete evidence is as much about our failure as their competence.

For example the right has made such inroads with white male union members because they have been better at convincing them that they CARE more about them and their families than we do. They have put lots of energy into destroying unions because unions showed workers that Democrats truly cared about their jobs and their lives. We did this by supporting their united solidarity in meeting management from a position of power. But the right has been able to erode this solidarity with appeals to individual greed and fear. I don’t think we have helped much. We have created messaging specifically for unions that contradicts much of what we say to other demographics, which only legitimizes the doubt that is sown among them from being constantly told we lie to them.

This sort of thing makes me think we spend too much time, energy, and resources crafting messaging for each individual demographic. We complain that it’s so hard to keep our coalition united when we ourselves have divided them. Targeting a particular demographic can easily cause us to lose focus and alienate other specific demographics. Instead we should marshall our resources, develop and disseminate a strong, cogent, cohesive and persuasive message that appeals to all Americans. We need to touch a common nerve of the public.

Pretty much everybody know what the common theme is that motivates the modern voter. We virtually all think government is impotent and needs major change. Both Trump and Sanders have tapped in to this angst. Why do they both resonate with people, even though they are very much different? Because they have both said, vociferously, that they will bring about that change. The problem with each is that Sanders immediately goes into policy, which excites the faithful and worries the skeptics. The skeptics know Sanders can’t come through on his promises. And I think there are more skeptics among persuadable voters than there are socialist faithful. Trump on the other hand also makes promises he can’t keep. He is better able to sell his charisma without a shred of policy, but I feel a majority of persuadable voters fear him. And he is terribly dangerous, as is Cruz and the other two remaining Republican contenders. They are good at hiding the danger in their policies. They can make the scary seem logical, even desirable.

We are currently faced with a two pronged challenge. Get out a message that will give a Democratic President a congressional majority, and also put into motion a long term, visionary plan to change the political dialogue, perhaps for a long time. The clash between the authoritarian, fascist leaning right and the progressive, socialist leaning left is reaching an apex. One group will emerge. But the real battle is in preventing the plutocrats from controlling the leaders of either of those eventualities.

This is why it’s important that we activate the only people who can successfully oppose the plutocrats, a united citizenry. To do this the validity of our language must match the validity of our values, and thus our policy, assuming we advocate policy that speaks to the real needs of the people. A government of, by and for the people is better than a de facto dictatorship. That is our goal. This could be risky. It could lead to the plutocrats responding violently, in order to maintain power. That’s a frightening thought.

Now this is where I rub shoulders with the paranoid conspiracy buffs. Now I don’t think I cast irrational blame, or advocate extreme solutions, but I do think a violent result is not out of the question. The United States has been fortunate that we have only experienced one major internal violent clash. We have had peaceful transfer of power since our inception. But we are seeing public behavior previously unheard of. I have been bullish on America for a long time. I have believed in the future. But can the millennials I see as powerful agents of positive change move America into an evolutionary renaissance? I pray they can and will.

Why do I do what I do? I need to tell my story so that even one soul can see the world from a stance next to mine. I have finally discovered what I do well. I can see some things clearly and can communicate that vision. And you are reading what I see. It’s meant to resonate with you.

Please let me know if it doesn’t. It’s that important.

Frightened by the Freedom of Friday Fictioneers

There once was a lad who played on the floor with a deck of cards and a bag of marbles. Oh the games he would play. He liked playing with things outside their purpose. In High School he wrote a 152 word prepositional phrase. It was longer than this post. Imagination exists at all ages. In the sixties he imagined being able to record music, all by himself, with a computer. Imagine that! The boy’s parents let him play with the cards and marbles. They said let him be himself. Later, he let his daughter be herself. My how she thrived.

Doing What I’ve been Told

I have been writing this blog for several years. It’s mostly ramblings about things I find important. Those topics include, but are not limited to, politics, social justice, philosophy, music, general creative endeavor, politics, things that make me angry, things that don’t make me quite so angry, politics and politics.

I’m a member of that dreaded demographic: an old, college educated, middle class, white, cisgender, heterosexual male. Is there an identity factor I missed?  Terribly sorry if I did. I am aware of my white privilege, male privilege, class privilege etc. I still have a lot of work to do in those areas but TBH I don’t think I’m as old and in the way as many of my peers. That said I’m much too verbal and quite full of myself.

I’m a horrible typist, which means I have to do at least four sometimes five or six edits to get my posts even close to being ready to publish. This takes a lot of time, of which I don’t have as much as I had hoped in this phase of my life.

My goal as a blogger is to be clever and get people to like me and become an internet sensation. Fat chance. My goals for improvement include learning how to be more succinct and precise, how to better promote my blog to the masses (Believe it or not I actually think I have something worthwhile to say) and how to avoid sounding arrogant while still getting my point across. I also need to learn techniques to become a more consistent publisher from day to day.

So hello!

And yes, this is how I always write.

Socialism and the art of creating bad things.

Over time, the term Socialism has become what certain cognitive linguists call a contested concept. This means that hearing the word conjures several conflicting meanings, to the degree that one can no longer mention the word and elicit a universal understanding. Since perceptions can be changed through repetition, political ideologues work hard to change the meanings of the power words of the their rivals, by repeating their own version, over and over, in as many venues as they can.

An excellent example of this has been the change, through time, of the meaning of the word, taxes. Taxes were once a highly irritating but necessary surrender of our personal resources which we reluctantly paid in order to reap benefits provided by government. Anti tax activists, through massive repetition, changed that meaning to be an evil construct of greedy government amounting to nothing less than stealing what is rightfully ours. This change in meaning, and most importantly, the public’s acceptance of it, has changed the dynamic of government dramatically.

Recently I have grown at first weary, and lately angry, over the intentional manipulation of the term, Socialism, and its associated concept. It is clear that this change in Socialism’s meaning, and the public’s acceptance of it, has muddied the waters of political understanding into an opaque confusion. The people have been effectively sold the lie that socialism is a political system, and a horrible one to boot. In today’s world, when people talk about Socialism as a concept, many of them reveal a lack of knowledge about the original meaning of the term. From context it seems likely that their understanding of the word has been wholly informed by ideological subterfuge.

Governments are primarily distinguished by three elements: how government is selected, how governing is done, and which economic system supports the government, and thus the nation. For example the USA is a Democratic Republic with a primarily capitalist economy. Although many do not know it our economy has numerous socialist elements, but remains capitalist. Socialism is an economic system and not, as we are falsely told, a system of government. (Repeat that statement several times). Socialism is related to several disparate types of governance, because it certainly is a part of how government operates. But all economic systems are closely tied to their governmental systems. Socialism is not in and of itself a form of government.

Efforts, and successful they are, to portray Socialism as a type of government come mostly from capitalist interests, who wish to maintain their control of the economy while giving the illusion that capitalism is somehow the true American form of government, which it is not. Capitalism is also just an economic system. Not all capitalist economies are democracies. China has a non soviet style Communist government, but has a capitalist economy.

The truth about America’s government is we are a Democratic Republic. In other words we are a Republic, or representative government, and our Republic is a Democracy, whose representatives are selected through democratic elections. We select, by constitutionally guaranteed vote, people who represent us in a Congress. The constitution says nothing at all about what type of economy we should have. In fact certain founding fathers warned us to be wary of corporations. We could, easily as not, have a socialist economy, without sacrificing either the Democracy or the Republic.

A word about Constitutions here. A Constitution is a document that limits government. It is not in an of itself a government but it is very important to nations that have one, because it clearly delineates what a government can and can’t do. Constitutions are normally created in Democratically elected governments, where the representatives prepare, then the people authorize their Constitution. They do this in order to assure the people who gave them their power that they won’t steal that power by changing the rules.

Lest I violate Godwin’s law I will refrain from mentioning a certain name, but lately I hear the National Socialists of World War II Germany, the reviled Nazis, mentioned in the same breath, and as the same thing, as the Democratic Socialism of a politician such as Bernie Sanders. I also hear people being called Communists and Fascists in the same sentence. It is these types of widely and wildly promoted falsehoods that make my blood boil. The National Socialist party came to power through Democratic elections, fair enough. And they used this technicality to claim their legitimacy. But once they attained power they became an entirely different animal, on the complete opposite side of the zoo from the Democratic Socialists.

You’ve heard of strong mayor, weak council government, and weak mayor, strong council government? This concept relates to the nature of the relationship between the lawmaking and administrative branches of government. The difference between the two is in final decision making power. In strong mayor, weak council the mayor has the final word, and for the weak mayor, strong council the opposite is true. The national socialists, as I said, came into power democratically but soon became a one party totalitarian system where the government was selected by the party, whose leader was essentially a dictator, the ultimate “decider”. The dictator allowed for the election of a governing body, made up entirely of his own party, a sham, the purest example of strong mayor, weak council I can think of.

The only thing socialist about the national socialists was their economy. Socialism, by definition, is an economy run by the government. It is this and nothing more. People like to call the Nazis fascists but strictly speaking they weren’t pure fascists. Fascism is a type of socialism where the economy, dominated by corporations, pretty much controls the government, essentially an oligarchy. German socialism had the strong support of the corporate sector, as well as the Catholic Church. But control of the economy was by the party and the party alone.

Certain people conflate Communism, and Fascism, and National Socialism into one big melting pot of bad, based on their shared “Socialism”. Yes, Communism is a form of Socialism, but one paired with a dramatically different type of government than the Nazis or Fascists. Russian Communism’s government form was the Soviet Socialist Republic. Also a one party totalitarian system, government was controlled by the economy, but a radically different economy and with different means of selecting government. Another reason National Socialism and Communism are falsely put in the same sentence is their shared factors: one party totalitarian government, wholly merged with socialist style economies. It is once again the capitalists who constantly point out this fact, implying socialism can only be associated with these allegedly bad governments and never with ours.

Russian Communism’s government was formed from the back to the front, as it were. The economy’s basic unit is the commune, thus the term communism. Communes were smallish units of merged government and economy, collectively owned and operated by the workers. These communes were governed by party officials, in a council or soviet, elected by the commune’s party members. From those soviets, members were selected for a hierarchy of councils representing ever larger political units, ending in the Supreme Soviet, the ultimate national governing body, whose chairman was the head of state. The supreme Soviet then passed edicts back down the pipeline to the lower soviets, dictating how government was to be be done.

The party, through the supreme chairman, also selected a parliament, whose president was mostly a figurehead. In theory the parliament could overturn orders of the supreme council but since the parliament was appointed by the chairman that didn’t happen very often. Because there was only one party, made up of workers who theoretically ran both the economy and the government, Communism, Russian style, was also a one party totalitarian socialist system. However, since the commune’s soviet councils were elected, and those elected officials indirectly selected a parliament, they were technically able to call themselves republics. Thus the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

So as you can see, there are many different ways socialism can be used to economically support a government. It is really the capitalists who try to sell socialism as a one trick pony governmental system, instead of the flexible economic system it is. Socialism is quite capable of working in conjunction with many totally different styles of governments, from one party dictatorships, to Parliamentary Monarchies and even Democratic Republics. Therefore many nations are known by their economic and selective structures without a specific government style in the name.

These systems are quite varied and display a myriad of structural combinations. For example many European Democratic Socialist nations, often called social democracies, are parliamentary monarchies, with a weak monarch strong parliament system of governance. In the social democracies the parliament not only makes laws but has nearly complete regulatory power over corporations. There is a modest element of capitalism in these nations, similar but opposite to American capitalism. The Parliamentary Monarchy system goes back to the Magna Carta, where the monarchy of England began to give the people certain concessions of self rule. Eventually this foot in the door for the people led to the weak monarch system, where the real power rests in the prime minister of parliament and not in the king or prince or duke etc.

The main difference between a parliament and a legislative body is with a legislative body the executive branch is separate and the executive leader is separately elected by the entire nation’s electorate. In a parliament the executive is the leader of the majority party as elected by the body. Many European systems are also multi party systems where elected parliaments without any one majority party must form coalitions in order to claim a majority and be able to select a Prime Minister. Parliamentary monarchies need not be social democracies. The UK’s system is a government by strong parliament with a weak but strongly revered monarchy. But it’s economy is more capitalist than the Scandinavian Social Democracies. To make a very, very long story short, Democratic Socialism is a democratically elected government that has great control of the economy, whereas National Socialism and Communism are one party dictatorships that control their economies, albeit in dramatically different ways. All have Socialist economies but with major differences in governmental systems.

I have to admit that those who have desired to corrupt the term Socialism, and thus it’s concept, have done a damn fine job. So much so that it may be impossible to ever return it’s meaning to an expression of the original concept. With the rise of Cognitive Science in the late 20th century came the discovery that everything we are and do originates in the brain, is embodied, and can be physically influenced by non physical means. And now political ideologues and ad agencies and others with agendas are using their understanding of how the brain can be programmed, not through torture but through clever use of language.

I find it concurrently amusing and frightening that political progressives are commonly accused of trying to change definitions, such as the definition of marriage. Progressives have a real aversion to the practice of changing the meanings of words, in any way. They feel that to change the meaning of a word to gain political advantage is cheating, because rationally, words are supposed to mean the same thing for everybody. To them, trying to change the meaning of a word is like trying to change the truth, which they find repugnant.

So it is conservatives who have made hay by successfully reframing power words. They have been able to either confuse people about the nature of concepts or get them to associate whole new concepts with specific key words. They have been particularly good at co-opting essential progressive power words such as equality, and empathy, and responsibility. They have raised doubts about what these concepts truly represent by selling them as contested in the minds of Americans.

Such is the level of sophistication of the psychological warfare and propaganda methods used in modern America. Were he alive today, Joseph Goebbels might not even be able to get an interview with a major ad agency, or political think tank. People are unwilling to admit that they are constantly being manipulated by science. They consider it a good thing to be told how to think. It saves them time and energy. Orwell’s contradictory use of language, which others have called doublespeak, is alive and well, coming into your living room and onto your car radio. War has become peace. Compassion has become weakness and ignorance has become wisdom. People are becoming so inured to deception that dog whistles and code words no longer need be so high pitched and secretive. We are being led around by the proverbial short ones.

Big Brother is here and he’s in drive time.

Humanization and Discomfort: Why I Think We’re Missing the Point

From the new blog    Esse Quam Videri by RosinaLeoneHS      A bright new voice. Read it.

Humanization and Discomfort: Why I Think We’re Missing the Point.

Intro to Music Production Assignment 6/4/15

Usage of the five most important synthesis modules

The five primary synthesis modules are, oscillators, filters, amplifiers, envelopes, and LCOs. Each module changes a particular element of sound and combined they comprise one complex whole. Today we will look at how we use these modules to create and modulate sound.

The first module is the oscillator. An oscillator creates sound electronically instead of mechanically. It does this by creating geometric waveforms. The main waveforms generated by oscillators are sine, square, sawtooth, triangle and noise. They are named based on the shape of the wave. Each waveform has different characteristics that produce certain types of sound. A sine wave produces a tone at a single frequency. A sawtooth wave includes a set of upper partials, or harmonics, creating a full, bright sound. A square wave produces only half of the harmonics, creating a hollow sound. A triangle wave is essentially a filtered square wave and a noise waveform is energy evenly spread over the entire frequency spectrum, creating simple white noise.

As we have said, each module modulates a specific part of the sound. In the oscillator, pitch is modulated. Because the pitch is modulated through changes in voltage another name for the oscillator module is a VCO, or voltage controlled oscillator. The other two modules concerned with the creation of the sound, the filter and the amplifier, are also controlled by changes in voltage and are called a VCF, or voltage controlled filter, and a VCA, or voltage controlled amplifier.

Next comes the filter module. The purpose of this module is similar to that of the EQ section of a mixer, removing or emphasizing certain frequencies and/or harmonics. However in a synthesizer the filtering changes over time. The main filter used in a synthesizer is the low pass filter. The waveforms generated by the oscillator are harsh, almost obnoxious. The low pass filter cuts out most of the overly bright high frequencies, which helps those waveforms sound more musical. The filter module can also use other types of filters, such as a band pass filter, to modulate other frequencies.

The filter is normally modulated by changing its cut off frequency over time. A filtered oscillator is a common phenomenon in the real world. The human voice is a filtered oscillator. The vocal cords are the oscillator and the mouth is the filter. Synthesizer filters tend to be resonant filters. All filters are delays and delays involve feedback, which can create resonance at certain frequencies. When the resonance level is raised it emphasizes the cut off frequency and makes the harmonics jump out at you as the filter sweeps through the frequencies. Increased resonance is best used when you want to hear the filter itself.

The amplifier module controls volume. A synthesizer’s amplifier, as previously said, is voltage controlled and designed to change volume very fast. The amplifier is modulated by the envelope, which is a set path that the sound takes each time the key is depressed and released. This path is defined by four controls, attack time, decay time, sustain level, and release time. Changing these parameters influences the shape of the note. The attack time determines how fast the note goes from zero to full value. Decay time is how long the volume takes to go from full value to the sustain level. Changing the sustain level determines at what volume the sound stays until the key is released. From that point until the sound reaches zero volume is the release time.

As you might imagine we can create many different envelope shapes, which greatly influence how notes sound. Different instruments have different shaped notes, and to accurately emulate them the amplitude envelope must match that of the instrument. For example an organ note goes on and off like a switch, and thus has a very short attack and release time with no decay and a high sustain. A plucked violin, a percussive sound, will have a short attack and decay with no sustain. In this case the decay time defines the end of the note, regardless of when the key is released. The amplifier envelope has a great deal to do with creating a note whose sound distinguishes itself from other notes of the same pitch and tone.

The final module is the LFO, or low frequency oscillator. The LFO is strictly a modulation module, because, in this instance, by low frequency we mean the sound generated is below the threshold of human hearing, or @ 20Hz. The output of the oscillator is therefore not heard and only controls another parameter of the sound. Most often the LFO controls the VCO. It works cyclicly and moves the pitch of the VCO up and down, over and over. This makes the LCO good for creating a vibrato, where the cyclic output of the LCO controls the frequency of the VCO output, making the pitch waver. It also controls the amount, shape and frequency of the modulation. Using different waveforms it can also create linear modulations, trills and other pitch variations. In a simple synthesizer the LFO output is often hardwired to the VCO input. But in a more complex synthesizer we can control more than one module to get a more natural vibrato that includes changes in amplitude from the amplifier and timbre from the filter.

One final thing to remember about synthesis is that we always need to be aware of the source of modulation, its destination and amount. This will help us keep balance and clarity in molding the sound we desire. Thanks for letting this old dude explain things from my point of view. I hope you have learned as much from this section of the course as I have.