Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lessons Taken From the Tears of the Mighty

 A Warning About Any Expectation of "Equanimity"

Some time back MeanMesa contributor, Cameron, has already delivered his own strikingly sincere, teen age version of an impassioned adolescent Philippic concerning "equanimity."  During this, he very reasonably counseled that Short Current Essays, now that its internet visitorship has grown so robust, should "step away" from the old red meat ad homonyms of its earlier, less mature editorial appetites.

However, for this post that well intentioned "warning" is to be joyfully disregarded.  This baby is going right back to the old habit of those rancid, straight red meat, ad homonym epithets which populated this blog during the outrageous years of the Bush W. autocracy.

The Tragi-Comedy: Mitch McConnell
A Senatorial Incident of "Voluntary Self-Dissolution"

In terms of the now infamous MeanMesa ad homonym, let's begin with this.

That insipid creature with the bulbous smirk lurking behind those ridiculous "Koch bottle" glasses is a fraud.  Granted, there are any number of existential "alternate possibilities" which might leech up from the swamp gas to mitigate such a claim, but they are awkwardly unlikely ones.

 Nonetheless, MeanMesa -- always famously overly generous when it comes to criticising such miscreants -- probably might yet owe the high borne ideal of "equanimity" at least some token, modest effort.  Still, the old crow's fit of paralyzing terror at the prospect of facing a vivacious movie star, Ashley Judd, in a Kentucky Senate race reveals a previously unseen "garden of fears" apparently constantly plaguing the old Southerner.

We see evidence of this in McConnell's reaction -- he felt profoundly threatened with the prospect of a Senate race with Judd.  

McConnell's frenzied "marching orders" to his 1950's political machine were to eviscerate the potential rival, even before she became a candidate -- starting with a fizzy mix of ad homonyms straight from back woods Kentucky, McCarthy's Communist menace and a drawling sermon on the danger of a Hollywood Delilah.

In the end, Judd decided not to challenge Kentucky's incumbent Senator, but even the threat [Judd's public approval was a mere four points below McConnell's in pre-nomination polling] initiated a flood tide of campaign checks from the billionaires who created the Senator in the first place.  The "pregnant question," however, remains.

How could such a leading bulwark of the mindless unanimity of the zombie-like Senate Republicans have been so frightened? 

The Senate Minority Leader never appeared to be vulnerable in his own constituency. His bombastic demeanor in the Senate was hardly the performance of man plagued with any "constituent caution" whatsoever.  The insinuation was that Kentucky amounted to a homogeneous blob where midnight would find every voter in the parking lot of the American Legion beer hall swilled full to the gunwales with rot gut suds and hours of FOX News from the "lectrik radjeo" blaring behind the bar.

So where did this highly visible lack of confidence originate?  The panic reaction caught the media quite by surprise.

MeanMesa, earlier in this post, called the Senator a fraud.  There are many other derogatory terms which could be added, but settling on just this one, the blog is duty bound, right here, to "put up or shut up."

Let's examine a few of the most pretentious contradictions between the image Senator Mitch McConnell presents in the Senate Chamber or on the national media and the quaking old fool who over reacted so viciously and vehemently at even the slightest hint of an election challenge by an opponent who had never run in an election before.

Seven Unlikely Ways McConnell Might NOT Be a Fraud
The Senator's Defense at Trial - we have to give the man a chance.

Employing the greatest effort possible, the Senator's erratic behavior might be explained away if there were some sort of -- admittedly unlikely -- "additional factor."  Exactly what "unlikely possibility" would be required to rehabilitate the old Senator's reputation from MeanMesa's "fraud" status?

Let's look a few.

Unlikely Possibility No. 1: ...that Senator McConnell's Kentucky constituency is wildly in favor of the total paralysis of the government through blind, unilateral obstruction including the savage cuts to federal spending inside the state.

Senators are, ostensibly, elected to speak for a state's interest in the Congress.  This can certainly include representing fundamental positions held by a majority of the state's citizens.  One would presume that, subsequent to being elected,  such a representative Senator would present those positions, propose legislation advantageous to those positions and oppose legislation which might contradict those positions.

However, reviewing Mitch's recent behavior in the Senate, we see a Minority Leader who seems to have never heard of Kentucky.  If there is an actual ideology manifest in Mitch's comments, it is the remote "think tank" ideology of the billionaires who own the Republican Party, not the position of a majority of Kentuckians.

A quick look at Mitch's political page (link here) reveals his understanding of the responsibilities as Senator from Kentucky.  Notably, it shows the void of sponsored legislative initiatives but emphasizes the services his office might provide for the well connected.


As your United States Senator, I am committed to helping the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. One of my main responsibilities is to assist Kentuckians with issues or problems they have with any federal government agency. If you have not been successful resolving your case, I have a trained staff that stands ready to assist you in working with the federal bureaucracy.

Provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974 require me to have your written permission before making an inquiry on your behalf. Therefore, please download and print the privacy release form and mail it to me, along with a clear and concise letter explaining the nature of your problem. 

In this letter, please be sure to include any relevant claim number from the agency involved in your case. In addition, please include any supporting documents or correspondence that may further explain the situation. Please send the completed form, your signed letter, and any supplemental information to the following address:

Senator Mitch McConnell
601 West Broadway, Suite 630
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Phone: (502) 582-6304
Fax: (502) 582-5326

If you are in need of immediate assistance or would like to speak to one of my Constituent Service Representatives, please feel free to call my Louisville office.

Privacy Act Release Form - pdf (19.7 KBs)

State Government Issues

As your United States Senator, I have no authority to intervene in matters involving a state agency. Some of these matters include food stamps, Medicaid, child support payments, and insurance regulation. If you have a problem involving a state agency, you should contact the Office of the Governor of Kentucky at (502) 564-2611. Also, you may contact your state senator or state representative for assistance. Please go to or call (502) 564-8100 to locate your state elected officials. You may also go to to find information on any state government agency.

Legal Matters

I also do not have jurisdiction in matters pertaining to civil or criminal cases.  This includes family court matters such as child custody, child support, and divorce issues.   Also, I cannot give legal advice or intervene in legal disputes, whether in civil court or criminal court.  If you need legal assistance, please call the Kentucky Bar Association at (502) 564-3795.

McConnell's home state has suffered through the ravages of the the looting by the cronies in the Bush W. autocracy.  Mitch, himself, oversaw and supported the Senatorial "work" which looted his home state, already one with a stubbornly truncated economy and heavily reliant on federal spending.

Unlikely Possibility No. 2: ...that Senator McConnell himself is either an ideological purist of an unknown type,  driven by deeply rooted principles of corporate fascism or is simply another mindless, dancing puppet of the oligarchs who own the Republican Party.

If either of these possibilities were the case with Senator McConnell, we would have seen him proposing legislation -- either directly or via his Senatorial minions -- to serve these "masters."  However, the Senator only mysteriously blocks legislation.  In MeanMesa's most generous estimation, there is not really any particular sign of ideological continuity in the Senator's obstruction, making it much more likely that the old cracker simply receives instructions over the phone, following orders on the Senate floor later.

It is also apparent that Mitch has an "information crisis" which might now be characterized as the now infamous "Romney FOX fog."  We have to assume that he is quite aware that his Senate antics elicit neither a "positive" nor a "negative" response among Kentucky voters -- nationally famous for being direly "information challenged."  

Romney's "information crisis" materialized very embarrassingly on election night, perhaps shaking the confidence of some Republicans with respect to the Party's quality of handlers.  Yet, here we have McConnell acting, for all intents and purposes, as if there is a massive majority of voters following his vacuous political maneuvering in lock step.

There might possibly be a small group of wealthy Kentucky resident politicos who are as reactionary as their oligarchic role models, but certainly not enough to count as a dependable election base.

Unlikely Possibility No. 3 [and 4...]: ...that Senator McConnell didn't really mean it when he groaned out his now famous quip "Our first legislative priority is to make Barack Obama a one term President."

"Obama phobia" has been thoroughly discussed already, but with the case of the "un-interpretable"  Senator McConnell, we encounter a host for the racist outlook with the Congressional power to destroy everything in his path -- including all manner of vitally needed economic recovery legislation.  Federal programs with that "vitally needed" rating certainly extend to relief for Mitch's recession torn home state, too.

The question is extremely straightforward.  Did Kentucky voters stream to the polls with a single interest point in McConnell's last election?  Was the primary voter issue to make Obama a one term President?

Was Kentucky doing so well that there wasn't any other Congressional priority which could top this one on the minds of voters?

The 4th unlikely possibility is actually a joke -- a little something to break the melancholic tedium of falsehoods and frauds.

Unlikely Possibility No. 4: ...that "Unlikely Possibility No. 3" has careened into the post 2012 reality to become "Our first legislative priority is to make Barack Obama a three term President."

While humorous, this 4th unlikely possibility actually represents something of a challenge to our democracy.  The map of the 2012 election results shows a drastically dwindling share among the ranks of Americans voters still willing to cast a ballot for a Republican candidate.

The "red states" are now isolated to the sore losers of the Civil War and the fly over ranches of the deep central portion of the country.  The number of "self-identified Republicans" has continued to plummet even after the election.  The Party, acting officially, is still mired in the Biblical fundamentals of loving job creators, hating gays, loving guns, hating Mexicans, loving ridiculous corporate tax loop holes, hating college students, loving war, hating women, loving Israel, hating Arabs and operating the country's money crazed media as if it were a "wholly owned subsidiary" -- which, of course, it is.

Although Mitch McConnell's Party might, at some point, wake up, it also may continue its "self destruct" cycle.  MeanMesa, as of now, is profoundly uncertain which would be worse.

Unlikely Possibility No. 5: ...that Senator McConnell has amassed an immense personal wealth by performing as such a good servant in the defense of the oligarchs' "sacred tax loop holes," and is now so rich that he no longer particularly cares if he's ever re-elected again.

The most recent reports suggest that Mitch, after 36 years of government employment, has actually not amassed what would be considered great wealth.  The part of his record which the public can access estimates that the perennial Senator from Kentucky is worth a paltry $25 to $30 million.

Among the Republican Party's owners, the oligarchs who issue the orders that McConnell and the others so dutifully obey, $30 million would probably not be enough to finance one of their venom drenched, corporate Super Pacs for a full week.

Unlikely Possibility No. 6: ...that Senator McConnell has either the ambition, the distant expectation or the credentials of becoming a "leader" for the Republican Party.

Although the GOP, essentially devoid of any particularly attractive leadership possibilities, might someday chose Mitch for a run at the Presidency, the reality of the process doesn't bode well for any potential candidate.  The owners of the Republican Party don't like leaders who might even possibly ever act like leaders.  Instead, they have shown an embarrassing infatuation with "place holder" candidates they can trust to "follow orders" once ensconced in the Oval Office.

Oligarchs don't like real leaders because they think that everyone is like they are.

A quick review of recent Republican Presidential candidates -- Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney -- explains this point.  Unattractive, unnotable, unpopular, under achievers and largely incompetent ideologues bubbling up through the scum which now covers the "choice pool" of strangely acquiescent "inheritance billionaires" who have been genetically provided with sufficient wealth to be deemed "blessed," but who have an almost sterile void of individual initiative about anything beyond the latest scheme to divert even more cash into the pockets of the oligarchs calling the shots.

No where among them was a soul with even the slightest murmur of energetic effort to capture the hearts and hopes of the country which the same Republicans had just finished plunging to a morass of fear and hopeless despair.

While Mitch might fit the overall profile, he would almost immediately, faced with the personal requirements of a campaign, reveal -- among other things -- that he was simply not nearly fast enough on his feet.  After Romney, the check books would be wanting someone considerably more fluent than McConnell.

Interestingly, if one were to interrupt the relentless lament of a modern conservative while he parrots about the hopelessness of it all, with the simple question of "So, who would you like as President?" the most likely answer would be an utterly unelectable choice such as Ron Paul or Paul Ryan.  

The GOP has no leaders.  In fact, the GOP has no policy, no platform and no candidate -- only a litany of carefully manipulated complaints from its well trained base.  There are, indeed, hands of the wheel, directing the thing, but these are the hands of the unseen oligarchs.

Unlikely Possibility No. 7: ...that the Senator has secretly funnelled massive amounts of pork into Kentucky.

Some pork actually gets spread among constituencies, but an alarming amount winds up almost exclusively in the pockets of the well connected.  In the cases where it gets "spread around," perhaps for bridges to the property of individual developers, school repairs performed by "favorite" contractors or as subsidy to "no bid" projects which still help the public interest, local economies actually benefit.

Naturally, the corruption seriously lessens the efficiency of such expenditures, but at least some part of the purchased results provide a benefit for a wider public.  Enough of these "inefficient" pork barrel subsidy projects can, conceivably, begin to prop up a state economy if they continue long enough.

Yet, the economy of the State of Kentucky is anything but "propped up."

This has been the "business model" of the Southern states since reconstruction. Even though the palatial plantations and their insipid, racist plutocrats are long gone, the shadow class society with rigidly enforced, unavoidably stark wealth concentration proves disgustingly durable.  Mitch is a lifelong benefactor -- and political parasite -- of this.  His base in Kentucky will continue to elect him to desperately sustain even a distant echo of this old "ante bellum" dream regardless of how bad it gets for the "little people" there.

When Sabotage Becomes Treason

We know that this list of possible explanations for McConnell's erratic character could endlessly increase, but you get the idea.

This "fraud" business is a federal picture of a state issue, too.  When it comes to diverting social resources into the illicit gain of a small elite, the dysfunction  is unilateral and pervasive.  While specific outrages can be grudgingly accepted, Kentucky is saturated with a myriad of them. We must understand the traditional classicism of the place to understand the nature of Mitch's electoral base.

The poor in Kentucky are subject to a "social fraud."  All sorts of opportunities and advantages commonly taken for granted elsewhere in the union as features of living in a modern society -- things such as quality education, functional civil works like water, sewer, regulations protecting the health of citizens, an operational economy which serves more than the elite, a rational justice system and others -- fall prey when resources are relentlessly directed to the oligarch class.

If the Senator's motivations were driven by any of these remotely comprehensible, yet still quite despicable, ulterior motives we could explain his anti-democracy appetites while, of course, still not respecting them. However, the Senator's arcane Congressional behavior seems to elude any mundane definition.

How could such a consistently destructive megalomania have survived the "representational correction" we had all previously assumed to be an inevitable part of the democratic system?  He can't actually have a constituency of uninterested, uninformed, masochistic Kentuckians, and there doesn't seem to be any particular ideological foundation for his ascent and maintenance of power.

Yet, here he is, violently sabotaging every effort the nation makes to recover from the damage previously inflicted under his watch.  He is a relic from past times when a politician was expected to be -- and accepted as -- a caricature with a cartoon existence.  For a while such a creature might be expected to survive strictly as an unnoticed parasite, but the system was supposed to correct such anomalies, given time.

Mitch McConnell might be nothing more than an innocent, mysterious abnormality with respect to his incomprehensible motivation, but also, he may even be a myth, an ideological doppelganger, standing in the place of an actual politician, answering only to an incomprehensible, impossible, invisible class of puppet masters.

In either case, he is hardly a Senator.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

History's Test: Modern Education

A Quick Visit to the Enterprise
Not the air craft carrier, the space ship

Indulge MeanMesa for a paragraph or two.  We can benefit from a short visit to over view a few scenes from an episode of Star Trek, in this case, from the "New Generation" series.

While Captain Picard and half a dozen children are in the turbo lift, something happens to the ship.  The Captain is injured and disabled, and the turbo lift is stuck between decks.  The children, little boys and girls attending school aboard the Enterprise in the story, are all around ten years old.

After a few minutes of dramatic acting, it is clear that the Captain is hurt too badly to solve the problem.  He asks the children if they have any ideas which might help.  A ten year old boy in the group offers [roughly] the following:

"We can reverse the polarity on the turbo's main drive coil by withdrawing the power feed injector and re-routing the main drive circuit bus.  Then we can divert the low voltage lines from the turbo cabin's passenger control bank, and feed it into the retractor mechanism to free up the lift and restore the turbo function."

[By "roughly" MeanMesa quickly admits to not having the precise script.  However, that is not the point to be made, here.]

Can we get there from here? (image source)
 We can enlarge our perspective to include an even greater body of technology at work in a day to day process.  Although the sets for an episode of Star Trek is usually contained within the ship,  Of course, there are other ships just as complex technologically as the Enterprise, but there are also farms and factories.  

In fact, according to the script, there are worlds -- many worlds.  The government behind the Enterprise isn't called the Federation of Planets for nothing.

Every tiny glimpse of such a civilization, regardless of where one might be standing at the moment, would reveal sophisticated, complicated, complex technology everywhere, performing every imaginable sort of work.  Of course, there would be computers, but connected to those computers would be a dizzying array of other equipment.

A "federation" of 23rd Century planets filled with people would require a great deal of work just to keep going, and, if the vision of Star Trek is an even somewhat reasonable estimate of future conditions, more than an elite few would need to be able to operate, program and repair all that machinery -- many more than an elite few.

More than an elite few would also be required to continue designing and creating even more sophisticated machinery as things went along -- again, many more than an elite few.

In fact, for the worlds of Star Trek's "Federation of Planets" to work, hundreds of millions or billions of people would need to be "educated" in a way quite beyond what we might think of when we said that word in 2013.  Those millions of people operating, and perhaps more importantly, understanding those billions of machines would not have found the ten year old's suggestion at all remarkable.

Technological Illiteracy

With not too much a "stretch of imagination," we arrive at a rather unsettling conclusion.

The processes of "education" being employed today could not possibly "educate" the millions or billions of Federation citizens to the level required for the civilization to function.  Our modern system would fail in two important aspects.

First, although it might be conceivable to educate a student to the far advanced level required for expertise in a number of very narrow areas of technology, but for that student to be functionally "acquainted" with a wide set of technological applications would be out of the question.

Second, the time required for a student to become thoroughly "educated" in even a few narrow fields of technology -- either fundamentals or applications -- in the current scheme amounts to decades.  The cost of such an education continually expands as the course work becomes more and more advanced, and the curriculum becomes more and more exclusive the higher the student advances.  There is neither time nor resource for broadening expertise with "out of specialty" course work.

We can easily think of these issues at the university or graduate levels, but we will also have to start thinking of the same issues at high school, junior high and elementary school levels.

Anticipating a future similar to the one we can glimpse in Star Trek episodes, we have a very bad feeling that we're really not meeting the challenge at any level.  Further, that "challenge," while it may be the case today, will not be judged in the future on any metric devised by educators or politicians.  Instead, we would watch a gradually increasing series of technological disasters as society enviously embraced the advantages of advancing technology but failed to produce citizens capable of operating it.

New Mexico, home for MeanMesa and Short Current Essays, is a contemporary example of this.  Jealous of the modern processes in other, more educated states, New Mexico has rushed precariously into the duplication of these technologically advanced societies without a population of workers with the fundamental literacy required to actually provide the staff to run them.

The examples are heart breaking, but quite immediate.

Convicted murderers are released from prison after mistakes running State record keeping software.  New Mexico drivers with a dozen DWI arrests continue to have prosecutions dismissed from a failure to schedule testimony by arresting officers.  Failure to collect property tax -- for years and after all kinds of property development -- is routinely "discovered" amid the chaos of records in an assessor's office. 

Technical manufacturing businesses that promised "local hire" percentages in incentive contracts find themselves unable to fill positions with "local labor."  Still, UNM, the State's premier university, already suffering a precariously doubtful academic standing, mindlessly divert millions from teaching resources to the athletic department.

The high school graduation rate for Albuquerque is in the 55% range.

This list of examples could be increased to an alarming length.

Perhaps most discouraging of all, this social catastrophe is comfortably accepted as a calamity without remedy.  Not only is there no promising plan to remedy it, there is no particular interest, either.

Interestingly, there is essentially no denial that our world is advancing to an exponential adoption of new technology. It will be neither a sudden discovery nor an entirely unexpected development when we find ourselves mortally reliant on the technology while unable to direct or operate its function.

The two propositions contradict each other -- they are paradoxical.  It is a paradox demanding constant service -- even among those ostensibly "wise enough" to know better.

Education Required to "Operate the Human Race"

While we have been discussing technological literacy,that is, the knowledge require to operate a civilization based on advanced technology, there is another side to what is required.  The information or wisdom of this "other side" has everything to do with furthering our collective experience as humans.

Without this, the technology itself will destroy our future -- and, probably, us, too.  We've come close enough to this in the recent past.  Thankfully, during that last episode -- nuclear Mutual Assured Destruction -- the mass of populations constituent to the folks with their fingers on the button had an understanding of this other kind of literacy adequate to dissuade their leaders.

The technological capacity to construct intercontinental ballistic missiles was, in that past encounter, balanced by knowledge originating in the likes of humanities, poetry and philosophy.

We face the consequences of a similar illiteracy today.  The voices currently defining the nature of "necessary" economy, "necessary" conditions and standards of living and other awkward contemporary "necessities" validate their models with highly technological justifications and priorities.

This headlong rush to "necessary" economic and social "efficiency" is countered by the voices placing greater value on "operating the species."  This natural inclination to demand a balance between the sides contemplating our path forward is the fundamental basis of the modern conflict.

Having said all that, it would be easy to argue that our problems derive primarily from education, that is, that education, somehow, would mitigate the conflict.

Not the kind of education we are conducting currently.

Public school or torture chamber? (image)
Disabuse yourself from any imaginary image of modern education you may have -- especially if it one which implies a process which will -- autonomously -- gradually correct itself.  The current process measures its own success in ways disturbingly similar to the disastrously artificial metric directing its efforts classrooms.

In fact, contemporary education will not only not solve this dispute, it is a primary contributor to it.  By this, MeanMesa is referring to both kinds of education -- the technical and the humane. In a social culture which MeanMesa has frequently described as one of "intellectual tyranny" the humane has, unnoticed, slipped into the role of "secondary model."

It is not.

The Paradigm of Stupidity

The ten year old in the turbo with Captain Picard didn't concentrate his studies on turbo lift mechanics.  We can assume that all manner of things are taught in the Enterprise's class rooms, yet, there he was -- quite well equipped to propose a mechanical "fix" to a situation which would have paralyzed Princeton's physics department for a decade.

To validate the title for this section, we'll need to take a hard, cold look at the education paradigm we've gradually created.  Just as is the case with very many "modern" things, we see a "free form" dinosaur creeping toward an unknown goal, moving with the inevitable inertia inevitably enjoyed by anything obsessively seeking validation from hundreds of years of questionable past performance, a crushing void of imagination and a statutory annual domestic budget of billions of dollars.

In the larger picture it has been the consistent intention of humans to value the accumulated knowledge and experience of the species and to feel absolutely compelled to share that history generously with the young.  While there may have been many incentives to expand the human understanding of just about everything, one principal motivation has been precisely this almost organic impulse to guarantee that future humans know continuously more than previous humans.

The necessary acceptance of the profound responsibility of educating the young has atrophied amid competing priorities.  The old species-wide determination to be creatures with a perpetually improving grasp on all things, all knowledge, all thought and all possibilities has ebbed, a victim of shifting values which seem committed to permanently obliterating the historic passion.

Now, we find this "chicken arriving home to roost."  The educated elite have dutifully provided the technological advances we've craved, but that craving has clearly overshadowed human "species fundamentals" with alluring trinkets.  Although now obscured in the mad rush toward even more technology, both the technical and the humane have been consumed by the allure of voracious, intermediate applications.

The "arriving chicken" may be most visible in our growing inability to balance our infatuating new toys with more mature "duties" incumbent on our basic natures, but those other areas of humane interests have accompanied that descent.  The population of humans participating in such necessary creative efforts has declined to reveal an increasingly minuscule elite class with the background fundamentals, creativity and resources to create.

The great remainder of humanity is relegated to consuming -- and occasionally, fighting over -- what has been created.

Education has been transformed in a predictable way by the collateral transformation of the basic values which have driven it historically.  The success of the process of education has been coarsely married to a new, competitive metric as if all those interested in the task were interested only in preparing consumers capable of utilizing the constant arrival of the "latest creations."

The education industry has succeeded in crushing the innovative spark with which humans have accomplished so much in our past.  The industry has also refined, groomed and mastered its new credentials of self-judgement, effectively promoting the new idea that no one else can correctly evaluate the "great success" of the "modern technique."

Considering the results, it is a well educated version of the ancient adage concerning the Emperor's new clothes.

MeanMesa will return to this topic in a future post.  It is high time for a frank discussion not on the nature of education, but rather, on the nature of knowledge.  Specifically, we can no longer avoid the physical difference in a person before and after he has learned something.  If just a few nagging technological issues can be resolved, there will be a free offering, too!