Weekly Rundown

  • The Outsider… I wanted to watch this show but was waiting. I waited until I heard the Fresh Air interview from Terry Gross with Ben Mendelsohn. I hadn’t known he was Australian. The series is adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name and follows the story of a detective investigating a homicide that was committed while the main suspect was sixty miles away on camera. Supernatural and mysterious, the season finale airs this Sunday night on HBO.
  • Super Tuesday. There’s a lot of talk about this day being the day that a clear frontrunner emerges from the primaries. But, where did it come from? This brief history from NPR’s Domenico Montanaro gives the rundown of the term from its start in 1980 and illustrates which elections since then have enjoyed an absence of nomination battles.
  • A quote worth mentioning: “But the traveler’s world is not the ordinary one, for travel itself, even the most commonplace, is an implicit quest for anomaly.” – Paul Fussell
  • Stock Market ups and downs. It’s been an odd couple of weeks, with China being hit hard by the novel coronavirus, and pandemic fears reaching across borders. But, incredibly interesting to watch.
  • And a little bit more from Knives Out director Rian Johnson, this time on why a villain in a movie won’t use an iPhone.

 

Why facts and figures are just facts and figures

There’s a lot to be said for statistical analysis. Aside from the obvious, “There are three kinds of lies,” statistics help interpret the real world into manageable bits that our brains can digest. Because, if all we took in was raw data all the time, it would be difficult to make sense of anything.

Once information [from sensory organs] is processed to a degree, an attention filter decides how important the signal is and which cognitive processes it should be made available to. For example, although your brain processes every blade of grass when you look down at your shoes, a healthy attention filter prevents you from noticing them individually. In contrast, you might pick out your name, even when spoken in a noisy room. There are many stages of processing, and the results of processing are modulated by attention repeatedly.

Teach-nology

Statistics works much the same way that our brains filter out “noise”. By collecting data points from related information, we can visualize or understand more complicated systems of data that may otherwise be beyond our grasp.

When we look at a positive trend in the stock market followed by a precipitous decline of share values it can look like the world is coming to an end. But if we retrace the historical data points of the market we recognize its cyclical nature and understand that, at some point, the decline will cease and the market will rise again.

Mark Twain was attributed with the quote as saying, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”

So I guess what I’m saying is while we may not have the specific facts of a situation to rely on, we can believe that there is a historical context with which we can view it. Knowing that the Spanish Influenza killed approximately 50 million people between 1918-1919 isn’t as important as recognizing that these kinds of pandemics happen, such as in 1957, 1968, and 2009. Investigating what worked and what didn’t can help us today.

And these cycles occur across all industries, geopolitical affairs, and economies. It’s just a matter of finding an applicable context to compare then to now.

 

 

Economic Theory

Been looking at the economics of the nation this week. Will give it more thought as the year progresses, especially with the new Fed Chair. A low rise in interest could turn out to be a good thing.

But I’m considering debt, and the need of money being bondage. Once you take on debt, you start working for someone else.

The Communist system has been used in similarly broken states as Capitalism. Bartering, maybe, was a more honest system. But the accumulation of goods led to some or one wealthy barons working less and exerting control over others.

An imperfect system is the only way to maintain order. Too little pay and you have revolt. Too much, and the need to work is greatly reduced. The majority barely making survival pay (needing debt) induces conformity.

The Youth of America

I look around, and I can’t help think… It’s a breaking system. Yet, time and again I see that as it continues to fail, someone starts picking up the pieces, putting them back together, and doing it better. And I’m heartened by that.

We’ve had two significant movements coalesce in the first fifteen months of the Trump Presidency: Me Too and Never Again. Two slogans, each started some time ago, but both with more traction now than had ever been seen.

I believe the older generations have grown complacent. Even the older millennials are guilty of this. We’ve been frogs slowly boiling in pots of water, watching the rise of the age of information, instant access to nearly everything, as well as the reduction of privacy. We’ve slowly been acclimated, so it’s not something we specifically noticed. By the time the heat is too high, it’s too late for us.

The country has made some frightening changes. Amid record levels of prosperity and renown from abroad, we’ve upended system after system. Healthcare. Education. Gun laws. Civil rights. Military service. Worker’s rights. Women’s rights.

And in 2016, it seems even Democracy itself. We Americans of an age 30 or older are in no real place to fix this. Though it’s not impossible, it certainly seems unlikely. We can’t seem to cooperate long enough to take a bathroom break, let alone try and fix the system.

In come the youths!

It’s the younger Americans, and youthful citizens around the world, who are seeing this and saying, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Something is wrong.” They’re taking up the causes, and will only continue to do so, and improve on it.

As education moves to more testing and less teaching, the students will find ways of educating themselves. Maybe even reinvent the system that is currently failing them.

As levels of debt increase in the Nation, the young Americans will get behind spending moratoriums. Pundits have decried the millennial non-interest in driving as laziness. Yet, maybe it is a subconscious, or inherent move against the rampant consumerism that faces this country. Why does a family need three or more cars? What’s wrong with public transportation? And, if living somewhere where public transportation does have something wrong with it (anywhere not heavily metropolitan and without significant investment), then they’re going to get busy fixing it!

As race relations seem to endlessly be a matter of debate (white vs. black; white vs. Latino; black vs. black; white vs. white; white vs. very nearly everyone it seems), students who were raised according to the golden rule (do unto others) or general codes of ethics (everyone deserves to be treated with respect) feel that their parents and grandparents are acting irrationally, either cussing Trump and the Republicans, the NRA and anti-choicers; or cussing Obama and the Democrats, gun control and pro-choice. (I’ll rarely use the term pro-life to describe the Conservative Christian side in this, for as long as you can support the death penalty, you have no right to call yourself pro-life. I know there are those who are completely pro-life, but not all who call themselves pro-life fit the title.)

Seeing this irrational behavior, the kids are crossing boundaries. They’re more likely to find friends of different races, religions and creeds. It’s the parents that are trying to instill fear into the children. “Watch out for people from X. They are the enemy.”

Kids know better.

We’re a young nation, struggling for identity. Struggling to see who it is we are. I’m for one optimistic about what our future looks like. Yes, it seems that we have some form of derailment every other day. Yes, we have racism and misogynistic behaviors still shaking us to our core. Economic inequality and mass hysteria brought on my faulty media sources (or sources claiming to be media). There are dangerous people and damaged people. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s scary to be out among the Americans. But it also seems that we’re doing better, averaging in an upwards trend. And the youth are leading the charge.

We’re not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But each and every citizen, I believe, feels a desire to make the world a better place. And it is the youth of the Country that, I believe, hold the key to brushing off all the problems currently facing us, and moving us into the bright new future that is America.

Election day

For being the year after a presidential election, this past Tuesday was pretty hopping on the national political scale. Special elections and combative party politics left the people wondering if a message had been sent to the presidential administration or not. If you’re Republican, you’re probably thinking not (especially if you’re a Trump-supporting GOPer). If you’re Democrat, much of the day may have left you hopeful for next year’s midterms and the coming 2020 election.

But ultimately, what does it mean? When is our Country going to find its leadership again? The politicians fight and jockey for favorable position, seeming more interested in staying in power (or gaining more) than in fixing broken systems.

They call out to their prospective sides, bell ringing the “major issues”, and practically ignoring all others.

I heard a very interesting perspective the other day, regarding immigration. One person described it not as an issue of illegally crossing a border, but rather an economic issue. Here are people of South American cultures, growing up in tight-knit family units. The land they live on is fertile and usually quite gorgeous, and yet they can’t make a living wage working in that area. And that’s even taking into account the dramatic reduced cost of living in those areas.

So what option do they have to leave their homes, and their families, hoping to safely cross borders and make enough money to send back home, either to bring family here or to help them live down there? An issue of economics. Rather than increasing the money spent on detaining immigrants, on border patrol and on some kind of Great Wall of America, invest in means to provide South American countries to promote living wages.

Certainly there are those that would argue for the same in the US. And I agree. When families can’t afford to live by working full-time, the capitalist system is just as broken, especially when stocks markets continually break records, in earnings reports, valuations, and sales targets.

So many issues to tackle, and the nation’s leadership can’t seem to find ways to cooperate. Hell, we’re lucky when the majority of them are being civil.