Beyond the Cusp

October 21, 2014

Upcoming Midterm United States Elections, a Slightly Different Look

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Who is ahead in the different races depends on the state and even on the political leanings of the news or talk shows one follows. If you go to polling it gets even more confusing. Not only are the polls often slanted depending on who ordered the polling but it also depends on what the subject the poll is covering. Here are a few examples from some polls. A CBS poll recently showed that fifty percent of those responding said the Democrats are the party that “cares more about the needs and problems of people” while only 34 percent chose the Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republicans have a nine point lead concerning the economy, an eleven point lead on foreign policy and a twenty-one point lead on addressing terrorism in an October CBS poll. So, who wins; the party of the people or the party which appears to be more competent? These numbers are nothing new as often the Democrats have polled well on sympathy and feeling the people’s pains while the Republicans historically win on foreign policy and confronting threats from the outside world. The fact the Republicans are polling slightly ahead of Democrats on the economy is not nationally definitive enough to be applied to every race. The probability is that in the traditionally Democrat leaning states the Democrats will probably poll even or ahead of the Republicans while in traditionally Republican states the Republicans will poll ahead. The place where that mere nine point lead for the Republicans becomes evident will be in what is often referred to as the ‘purple’ states where the parties have split the wins between them would thus likely give the Republicans a slight lead on the economy. Unfortunately that may not transfer to votes as there is also the personality of the candidates as well as the effectiveness of their campaigns and whether there are third party or independent candidates on the ballot and from which side they will draw away votes. Libertarian and Constitution Party candidates tend to take more votes from Republicans while Green and sometimes Libertarian Party take more votes from the Democrats. But other than their campaign, their affability or their campaign commercials and use of media and social networks, the most important determining item will simply be which party gets the voters to the polls, period.

With this year not being a Presidential election year, the national party machines are operating but there are far fewer volunteers and fewer funds for them to make a large determining difference. This means that it will be up to the State and even more local party machines and the candidate supporting campaign staff which will make up a significant part of the get out the vote efforts. States with Gubernatorial elections this election will have more party influence than those without. What makes these midterms so difficult to make predictions is because there is no real enthusiasm evident in the electorate and it is very possible that both of the major parties will suffer from miserable voter turnout and thus calling the elections near impossible. There will be some states where polling data is so skewed to one candidate that there is almost no challenge to picking the likely winner short of an unseen stumble where the leading candidate is caught in a criminal act or other compromising situation. They do not even need to actually be guilty as that will depend on a court of law, but such accusations can sway the court of public opinion and that is exactly what elections are, the court of public opinion choosing those they feel are less guilty of potentially bad leadership. That has been the truth in all too many elections in the United States in recent times where people are literally trying to choose which evil is less harmful. Some have gotten to the point that they have finally refused to vote for the lesser from two evils and they refuse to ever again vote for evil no matter how slight. These voters are demanding the parties to put forth candidates who are capable of leading and representing the people with integrity and virtue. This might even lead to making a third party or independent candidate to have a real possibility to take elections and possibly change the American political landscape once again. Perhaps it is time for a new political movement as the last great movement was the Abolition Movement which birthed the Republican Party and the Whig Party was laid to rest. The more likely bet is that the two major parties have so slanted and poisoned the election laws throughout the United States that it has become next to impossible for any third party or independent candidate to make the ballot, let alone have any funds remaining should they manage to make ballot, and trust I know from where I speak. This is really a sad problem as this may prevent a new direction to be proposed and placed before the American electorate and instead continue forcing them to choose between two toxins, progressive Democrats who want to double the size of government every decade, or the progressive Republican who wishes to slow government growth so that it doubles only four or five times each century. Since both the major parties are in favor of growing government and the sole difference is exactly the rate of growth the American people can rest assured that over time the Republicans will seem like the Democrats of a few decades back while the Democrats will be breaking new ground which the Republican will fall in love with a few decades hence. Should this trend not be reversed soon the United States will continue in decline and only accelerate with time.

Beyond the Cusp

September 24, 2014

Why Religion Has Started to Die in Society

Almost three-fourths of those Americans polled by Pew Research agreed that religion is losing influence in American life. This is reported to be the highest this subject has ever reached and thus begs a number of questions. The most evident question is what have these nearly three out of four Americans done to bring religion back into their lives and the lives of those around them. Religion cannot retreat from its place in society all by itself; it has to have accomplices who no longer incorporate religion into their daily lives. It is probably a fair statement to say that if only half of those who polled lamenting the loss of religion in the public square would make a personal effort to bring religion into the square that this would be sufficient to bring about the start of reversing that trend. The other truth is that there has been a concerted effort by a small but vocal and bothersome minority which have aided the retreat of religion from the realm of the American society, and they will need to be fought tooth and nail if their nefarious deeds are to be slowed and eventually thwarted and reversed, but it will take most of that almost three quarters of America. If in the words “Under G0d” could be added to the Pledge of Allegiance by President Eisenhower on Flag Day, June 14, 1954, by a Joint Resolution of Congress, then religion can be restored to its rightful place in our society if the majority of Americans wish and act in a manner that assists rather than neglects the place of religion in their daily lives.

Of course there have been other forces at work beyond the control of the average person as an individual. These are mostly societal pressures which often react to the concerted pressures made by smaller groups which are better organized and financed thus giving their views weight beyond that of any number of individual citizen even should they be part of the majority, even should that be a vast majority as long as that majority has not mobilized uniting together and financing concerted efforts to push their views before those who control the establishment of laws or their enforcement. One can place blame on those in high office who permit or even encourage such regulations and laws which work against religion but before doing so there are a few items within their own lives which they would be better served by addressing them if their efforts should prove less than helpful. Before claiming that the powers that be have acted irresponsibly they need to review whether their own actions have properly portrayed through their lives the importance of religion. The most important single item one can do to show their support for religion and their desire to have it reflected through the society in which they live would be to regularly attend weekly services and being active in the organized religious activities related to their particular religious beliefs. Nothing sends the message to those in high office that religion no longer matters to the citizenry louder than empty pews in the nation’s churches, synagogues, temples and other religious services. Holders of political office are not so well tuned and sensitive that they can divine the thoughts of the people by some extrasensory means allowing them to form opinions and impressions of the people’s beliefs in some way other than drawing conclusions from the activities of the people. Short of making decisions formed by the actions of the people they can only respond to what it appears that the people are demanding of them and that is where a small minority can sway these lawmakers simply by inundating them with calls, e-mails, letter and other forms of lobbying. The regular citizen rarely writes their representative and believes that simply by voting for a person to represent them is sufficient to have that representative actually represent them without any efforts on their behalf. So, if one’s actions such as attending regular religious services or writing and calling their representative’s offices, both in the capital and locally, then they are simply relying on exactly what to assure their representatives understand the importance of religion is in their lives and how important it is for religion to be permitted in the public square. But what are some of the other forces pressing religion into retreat from its former place of prominence in American society.

As already mentioned, there are forces at work here which have as their sole intent to beat religion out of the lives and society no matter what the cost or dangers. One such group is the Freedom From Religion Foundation. This and other related anti-religion and anti-faith based organizations spend millions and concerted efforts to chase religion from the public square by any and all means necessary. Such groups have lobbyists who press their influence personally making themselves friendly and close to your representative, make letter writing campaigns whenever legislation they support or wish to defeat inundating your representatives offices both in the capital and locally even going so far as to assure that these letters no matter where they originate are postmarked within your representative’s district for maximum influence, organize phone campaigns calling your representatives offices not only in the capital but in every community within his district, and know all the other ins and outs of pressing your ideas and opinions maximizing their influence, which is all part of the political game. The problem is that they also are minimizing your ability to influence your representatives and often doing so using people largely who do not reside anywhere near you and share none of your convictions, but they have the clout to silence your desires and press their desires squelching all others. This is the most serious problem with representative governance no matter its form, the ability of a small minority to use potentially nefarious methods and silencing a potentially vast majority in the halls of power. There is an easy and available means by which such groups can be vanquished and silenced their influence without doing anything immoral or underhanded, but it does require good people to take actions and do so under the auspices of a joint effort through an organization to which they all belong and are active in, their religious institutions where they gather and worship together. Unfortunately, the empty pews are evidence to the reason such efforts are so easily ignored; they have few who can be motivated to make the voice of the majority heard.

There is yet another problem which may be another facet of the lack of people attending services regularly, or even at all even on the most major of religious days. This next reason, next excuse, may also be a result of lack of regular attendance as by feeling that these leaders stand alone makes them more vulnerable to the malevolent forces. These leaders of our neighborhoods, or at least in better times they were our true leaders, the pastors, priests, rabbis and other clergy, other men of the cloth who have come under attack by forces within our societies. Some of these forces are the same as the ones garnering undue influence over our political representatives and others are the arms of our governance which are simply responding to what they perceive as the will of the society as well as to the dictates of the courts which are influenced by the cases brought before them. When courts see that across the lands there are cases brought demanding the ban of all religious symbols from the public square and the only protesters with numbers are supporting these legal maneuvers, they can only act to support what they perceive is the law as they witness the people interpret the law. The clergy would have a greater standing and voice if their houses of worship were filled weekly by people enthusiastic in celebrating their faith. But when they preach to a small few each week then their strength and power is reduced to a level equal to the numbers in regular attendance.

The United States is approaching the place where Europe has already reached where the clergy fear to speak out against injustices or to oppose those in the government allowing government to stifle and mute their voices. They have fallen in influence so far that they now speak for almost nobody and are thus easily pressed into a corner where they speak solely of those things which are supported by those who appear to have the hearts and souls of the majority of the people. A society is molded and formed by those who have the support and power granted by the ones willing to force their opinions onto the seats of power. That seat of power potentially is the secular governance or it can be the pulpits of the houses of worship, that choice lies with the people. Attend the houses of worship in numbers and the government will notice and adjust to that influence. This has been proven in Europe where the Mosques are vibrant and well attended while the churches in the home of modern Christianity sit empty echoing the silence, providing they have not been sold and converted to Mosques. If people desire to see the future of their communities and in turn nations all one need do is seek where and which religions hold the wills of the people and have the greatest support and there lies your future. It really is that simple.

Beyond the Cusp

May 6, 2014

Can We Trust Future Technology?

Whether you call it Artificial Intelligence, the Singularity, Future Tech or any of probably a few hundred specific areas or identifiers of what future challenges are approaching faster than we are preparing safeguards or educating people to facilitate acceptance, and will acceptance even be desirable? Some of the recent big news stories have dealt with data mining and the use of massive amounts of data in predictive technologies. But there are other uses of these exact technologies which we do not appear to be anywhere near as concerned about other sources using these exact same technologies and very likely with less oversight such as charge card companies and retailers. Then there is the eerie side of the education system known best as Common Core which includes large amounts of data mining on the children as a part of their educational experience presumably to be better able to tailor the education system to each child’s predetermined preferences and likely path in life as determined by the data. One of the fears is this information could also be utilized to spy on and make determinations about the student’s home life and might be applied by the government to make determinations which families might be at risk for undesirable behaviors or activities. If you do not think that any of this is a fast approaching problem then try to explain why whenever you do a search for some retail item or make a few purchases online that your computer begins to display advertisements of related and similar items in the pop-up advertisements. This is accomplished through very similar technologies to what the NSA (National Security Agency) and other government law enforcement and spying agencies were accused of applying to the data mining information that caused such an outrage recently. Somehow the fact that Google, Target, Amazon, Wal-Mart and who knows who else including technology companies and advertising agencies are increasingly using to better mold their advertisements and sales promotions in order to increase their revenues by better targeting trends and potential approaching markets. The one truth we all are facing is that as technologies advance and are refined and improved our privacy becomes more threatened to the point where many of us have probably already redefined personal informational privacy downward lowering expectations of remaining anonymous.

 

There are those among us who have already altered our lives to attempt to forestall the onset of completely and totally compromised personal privacy. Some refuse to use Google when they search for items, but is Google actually contributing to the search engine you use instead and thus you still are feeding the Google data mining which they have admitted to using in their research to produce a better Artificial Intelligence software and predictive analysis algorithms all presumably to better serve us in the future. But are their intentions really all that altruistic or could there exist deeper and darker motivations in their use of our search terms and other on-line activities. With Google we are almost completely defenseless against their attempts to gather the data about us as they continue to swallow up new technologies and smaller companies to the point they are almost omnipresent in everybody’s on-line lives. Then there are so many possibilities for character data mining and experimentation which can be incorporated within the plethora of on-line games and interactive on-line experiences and sharing services such as Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, MySpace and other social networking sites even including the one no one admits to ever using any longer, AOL, you know who you are, and so do the data miners. The one good side to using AOL is that the data miners likely refuse to store data on you. Many have probably forgotten but there was a time when AOL was the Google of on-line social interactive media and search engines but that was another time and almost seems like another reality and so innocent and almost primitive compared to Google and the rest of today’s on-line media and social activities. Still, these interactive social media and life sharing sites we provide so much telling information about ourselves that we really do not appear to really be concerned with the amount of information and personal data we provide or how it can and will be used and not necessarily in ways which we would be completely comfortable about. So, where should we draw the line and claim no further intrusions and should these lines apply to private industries and companies or solely apply to government agencies and departments which are presumably restricted from many of these type encroachments into our lives and information by the Constitution. Amendment IV states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The question will pivot on the definition of what is unreasonable and how invasive would we define an acceptable level of gathering data on us and recording our communications on open networks and public forums. The younger generations appear generally to be less concerned as their lives have been lived with the all-pervasive technology and universal data sharing and personal on-line presence which is openly available to almost any and everybody while those of us who were raised during the ultra-high-tech Etch-A-Sketch era probably fear these technological advances and intrusions far more.

 

The next concern, or at least it should be, is how far will these technologies go and what can we expect future society to resemble. Will we have precogs facilitating the arrest of people for future crime as in Minority Report or will we have to have a special law enforcement department to hunt down artificial humanoid life forms as in Blade Runner or will the future resemble the horrors and enslavement of humankind depicted in the 1927 futurist movie Metropolis. The decisions of how far is too far and what qualifies as unreasonable or too invasive is something which society needs to address and define now and not wait until the technology creates a situation where the consequences are so abhorrent and unacceptable that the decisions made subsequent to this almost predictable coming disastrous circumstance that many beneficial technological applications are made illegal or restricted causing a new problem where avoidable problems are not revealed as a result of the overreaction to the initial misuse of technology. The consequences of upcoming technologies will be astounding even to the most techno-savvy amongst us and quite probably horrifying to those of us less comfortable and acquainted with the possibilities and influences which are coming into existence spawned as a result to the power of information technologies. This will be an even more worrisome situation with the IRS now will not only hold a complete financial inventory of virtually every American citizen but will also have universal access to the health records of the vast majority of American citizens and all should Obamacare actually fulfill its objectives of instituting a single payer government provided healthcare system. Adding this level of data availability across the departments of the Federal Government to the potential metadata collected by the NSA and with the storage and retrievability capabilities of the new data storage complex built on a two-hundred-forty-acre site near Camp Williams outside Bluffdale, Utah, the ability to profile not only every single American citizen but also every individual holding positions of power in every national government in the world along with a sizeable percentage of people simply deemed of interest and you have an incalculable potential for evil pursuits beyond imagination. The coming technological society will be something so beyond anything we can imagine, as the people developing these technologies are far more imaginative than the average person and even if they have only the milk of loving kindness in their hearts, the potential for somebody with nefarious intentions within the companies at the leading edge of these abilities cannot be ruled out, or at least should not be ruled out. The future has the potential to make life enjoyable and promising beyond belief but with such ability it can also turn in a completely opposite direction, and since the government is partnering with these efforts and underwriting much of the research, can we trust the government which includes among their members the most hated politician of your choosing. Imagine the worst example of humanity from the White House or Congress and imagine their having their fingers on every piece of information about everybody and the ability to predict future actions with a believably high level of accuracy and try to find what would be considered off-limits to these politicians. If that does not scare you then you either live the most pure lives ever lived or have no reason as nobody is without sin when it comes to political expediency. I, for one, wish and hope that the future will be all flowers and sweet music but in order to make that so, I also will expect the worst from those with whom we place our trust to make the laws and run the nation and even the world. Watch, verify and constrict government for as George Washington quipped, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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