Tag Archives: the West Wing

Return towards Tyranny

To be honest, I never expected to be alive when this moment came. I did not fear or dread it, I merely did not expect it. Perhaps I had grown weak; perhaps I like all the others had become complacent. It also reopens an old wound. It was not me that started this; it was actually the work of an associate professor of strategy, economics, ethics, and public policy at Georgetown University (aka Jason Brennan) who gave us the ground works. In his book against Democracy which was published in 2016 we see ‘Should dumb people be allowed to vote?‘ I have always believed that voting was a basic right, yet should it be? And I am not devoid of criticism on self either. When I was young, I voted, yet I voted populist, the need of what some would call ‘my fairway’ and what might be regarded as short sighted.

I had little or no knowledge of the word policy (other than spelling it correctly). I would not comprehend a decent level of policy for another 5 years. I did not comprehend the exploitation of subsidisation and the impact on the quality of life until years after that. So was I in any place to give voice to who should direct a nation in any direction?

Jason introduces some and reminds many of epistocracy. Here we see: Epistocracies retain the same institutions as representative democracies, including imposing liberal constitutional limits on power, bills of rights, checks and balances, elected representatives and judicial review. But while democracies give every citizen an equal right to vote, epistocracies apportion political power, by law, according to knowledge or competence“. If nothing else, it is the showing of the failings through the current American president Donald Trump that is calling for such a change. There are examples in Australia and the UK for similar shifting, yet how to resolve it? There are voices that we have become too dumb for any democracy, yet in this, if we are about checks and balances, there is an upside to all this. In equal measure we will push towards the creation of an accountable press society. Meaning that some of the glossy news innuendo presenters could find themselves barred from ‘journalistic consideration‘ in some future. As dumb is becoming an issue, then too clever needs to be looked at as well. You see, some politicians are merely too clever for their own good and they have not been overly intelligent about it.

Political science site The Cut gives us additional goods via Jesse Singal. We see: “Whatever cutoff point you set for You Must Have This Much Knowledge to Ride the Epistocracy, it would in all likelihood be strikingly easy for rich people to meet that threshold, simply because of how money and privilege and education work, and the vast majority of the people who couldn’t get past the sign would probably be poor — and therefore disproportionately non-white as well” In this Jesse is right and we can partially solve it by having political science in High School, I admit not the greatest place. A place where most are sex, sport, gaming and procrastination driven, oh and there is an abundant need to imagine one of the sports illustrated swimsuit models doing a balancing act with her vagina on your penis (or is that the other way round?) Yes sex sells in so many ways and it gets you past more classes dreaming through the day. So we have a much larger problem than we think, but there is a growing consensus that the current democracy no longer hacks it.

Some might remember Starship Troopers, the movie. There is a quote that comes from Heinlein’s book: “When you vote, you are exercising political authority, you’re using force. And force, my friends, is violence, the supreme authority from which all other authorities are derived!” It is an important realisation that we all have this power and we squander it, at times almost utterly meaninglessly. The same book also gives us a ‘Citizens versus Civilians’ issue. When I was young I was living with the impression that this was merely a resident versus citizen equivalent. You see, the setting is: “Citizenship is a privilege, not a right, the competency tests help weed out the complete idiots and morons. Also, if you have to work for the right to vote, you will be more likely to study the candidates in order to use your vote better. That which is free is valued little, but that which costs much is valued highly“. We seem to have forgotten about the ‘privilege’ part and the current settings all over the world give rise to this shift. When we are seeing the implications here, we see that on one hand it would spell a massive advantage to republican based people, yet the balance here is that intelligence comes creeping in and there goes their advantage. Some even dug into that deeper stating that in the old style stage of militia (the age of the minutemen – 1645) only citizens were allowed military grade weaponry. So we would optionally have two optional advantages here, we get a natural culling of weapons and those who are wielding them and we get a less likely evolution of the populist politician, all advantages. We also accept that there are weaknesses in all this and it would never ever be perfect. Yet if it would be better to what we have now, would it be a solution to consider?

That is the question, is it not?

And when we consider some of the news we have seen in the last two days alone, this question is actually going to the forefront of many minds. Consider the Guardian Quote “Gorman points to 1957, the year the state constitution was amended and Utah became one of the last states to give Native Americans the right to vote. Ever since, he says, white GOP leaders – many of whom trace their ancestry to Mormon settlers who moved into the region in the 1860s, after the Navajo were forcibly removed by the US government – have used a host of tactics to suppress the Navajo vote“, it is not the first one and not the only one. Yet if we transfer this to the Jason Brennan change, would they not be equally disadvantaged? I see that as the Achilles heel in all this, because the idea that those too stupid to vote is not an issue to me, yet to evade those unable to get schooled into the right to vote is equally unacceptable. In the end, the Brennan solution might be the best solution if we can solve a few issues that are unacceptable. The Native American part is one, yet there are others and one example is found in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald gives a few parts. The one that seems to be an uplifting one is: “Mr Latham announced the move on Alan Jones’ 2GB radio program and said he joined One Nation to “fight for our civilisational values”“, yet the issue is larger. SBS (at https://www.sbs.com.au/news/parliament-warned-against-normalising-white-supremacy) gives us the goods that cannot really be placed in a single quote, even as: ““On the face of those words, without any context, you may think there’s nothing objectionable about that,” he said. “‘it’s OK to be white’ is a slogan used by white supremacists, by neo-Nazis who use it deliberately to make their ideas sound benign and unthreatening… It’s not about the literal form of the words, it’s about the meaning. If we are not careful about calling out the dangerous appeals to racial homogeneity, purity or integrity, then we can end up in a situation where parliament here in Australia can normalise white supremacist slogans.”” does drive the dagger home, we see that there is much more to former Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane. You see the danger of ‘normalise white supremacist slogans‘ is extremely dangerous. It is a fortune cookie philosophy stage where the sentence makes perfect sense, yet the meaning is pushed in another direction whilst not clearly pointing that out. It is actually explained pretty perfect in a TV-Series called West Wing. In the episode ‘Red Mass‘ we see this in action. The quoted scene:

Josh: Here he quotes Robert Frost. “Good fences make good neighbours.” Did he talk about that?
Donna: Yeah.
Josh: What did he say?
Donna: Basically, that if you stay within your personal space, you’ll end up getting along with everyone.
Josh: Is that what Frost meant?
Donna: No, he meant that boundries are what alienate us from each other.
Josh: Why did he say “Good fences make good neighbors?”
Donna: He was being ironic, but I still don’t see…

This is brilliant in so many ways, and it gets to be better when you know the history. You see Robert Lee Frost (1874 – 1963) was an American blessing for America. The stage where a person with two educations and no degrees bring an audience a creation that would stand the test of time, a stage where this man ended up receiving four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. So his work matters on several levels. So when we see the original poem Mending Wall which was done in blank verse that remains relevant even today. It involves two rural neighbours who one spring day meet to walk along the wall that separates their properties and repair it where needed.

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
if I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.

You see I identify towards self, in this day and age in another way. I like my fence when I watch a movie or play a game. I want to focus on these two and the small moments I have truly that are me are valuable, I embrace my isolation. It does not matter whether I work in a server room, whether I sit in a chair and dream of the day, all day long. I am with the thoughts I need to be, my creations continue to grow, the puzzle is solved and the interruption stops all that. Yet isolation in totality is a wrong thing, it is harmful to self. If one does not realise that, one harms one’s self more than others. We are all in need of our walls, even more so in this day and age of feigned positivity to the open plan offices that distract like no other. I am from the age of the cubicle and it never bothered me. When I work, I work. When I eat, I eat. It is simplicity yet it is also dangerous, I do admit that and the fortune cookie philosophy brings the dangers to that surface. If you can recognise the danger, the need for interaction becomes clear and important, I never opposed that. Yet too many voices go into one or another extreme and here is where we see the wisdom in Buddhism. Here we see: “maintaining a balance between faith and wisdom, and between effort and concentration. Faith opens the mind to the possibility of things that cannot be immediately experienced or understood. But if faith does not go hand in hand with caution, questioning and even a healthy scepticism, it can be very misleading“, balance is the great equaliser in all this. It has ben or the longest of times and not seeing that is a danger in itself. This now reflects back to epistocracy and democracy. When we optionally realise that they are extremes on the same line, we might see the danger to embrace either extreme. One might state that we need to embrace both and find a balance there. It does not negate all dangers, but it might remove a few and in the age where American votes were purged as they were seen dangerous to the vote for one side or another, we see the need to alter the reality we are in, to give shape to democracy and the need to hold it and the people wielding it accountable to the choices given, the promises not kept and the politicians and the press both to be held liable, even up to the point of criminal conviction. Freedom of the press is only an act of freedom it it also holds it responsible for the freedom that they exercise, in this President Trump has lately been proven more correctly than the responsible press is comfortable with. The bad apples in that basket are ruining it for all the pieces of fruit in that basket, and that was never supposed to happen.

That is seen when Tim Soutphommasane offers the one Kohinoor in the SBS article. A truth that seems to apply to the United States, the united Kingdom, Australia and a few other nations. That wisdom is: “I would even venture that it’s likely that naturalised citizens, those who have to sit a citizenship test, are likely to know a lot more about Australian democracy than those who have citizenship as a birthright.” I would state that it has become sad state of affairs in those nations as we are offered that one truth that shows the utter need of governmental change.

When we reflect that back to the stage of tyranny where the rule is not what we think it is. We still wipe it off the table as: ‘cruel and oppressive government or rule‘, yet hat is not completely true. You see, a more apt version is: ‘A government in which a single ruler has absolute power‘, this is more correct, or perhaps a little more complete. In my view it is the adjusted view: ‘A government in which a single ruler has absolute power, though an absence of checks and balances‘ that brings the stage of completeness. It is the absence of checks and balances in the ECB, the absence of it on Wall Street, as well as with the media and press, they are all elements of a stage that is shifting. Even as the people (mostly in the US) are staging the war against the second amendment as the meaning has changed to the largest degree. We see that the very same is happening to their first amendment. In the text we are informed of: ‘prevents the government from making laws which respect an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances‘, yet the part of ‘the freedom of the press‘ as they altered the ‘the people have a right to know’ the people have often been misinformed by not being correctly and completely being informed. The media, as the news, which created for the most their own demon ‘fake news’ is now a much larger concern and there are no plans to stem this tide on several levels (especially in the fore mentioned nations) giving us a much larger problem, driving us to a much less tolerant tyranny by our own design.

Until some of these problems are addressed and even redone we all as nations of vote eligible civilians and citizens are now approaching a stage where the idea of an epistocracy replacing democracy is more appealing than ever. We all got there in our own way, via our own path and when that change is completed the media will wish it had done its job more proper. It will cry and rant on the freedom of the press and that they can govern themselves and they will realise that accepting the Leveson charter might have been the easiest solution for them in many ways.

Even as I see the growing tyrannical push, the diversion towards an epistocracy is not the worst part in all this. In one blessing we should see that those in a monarchy will be in a much better place than those in any republic, yet this is not a new track. Consider Plato, who in Republic a work that is almost 2400 years old that discusses the morality of ‘the meaning of justice and whether the just man is happier than the unjust man‘, we assumed the former choice, yet over time both Wall Street and Apple have shown us (in the last 10 years) that the latter is the happier one and the people are catching on and they are all starting to demand change. A 2400 old work might in the end force our hands and whilst nepotism and flaccid politicians paved the way for such a large change, they are not the only cause. The fact that populations as a whole are willing to consider such a change is an actual plus point in all this, merely because such unity had not been seen in my lifetime to this degree and that is also a refreshing yet worrying notion.

Have a great day!



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A rare moment in time

I have been watching the news in several places, the papers (online), newscasts and other media. I saw how we see articles with issues that I predicted over a year ago. Now, let’s be honest, that what I predicted and that what now is not one and the same. I might have been lucky, that happens, yet that gave me the impulse to take a look into my mind (with some external support) and I got a revelation (odd how that happens).

There are moments in time that are chiselled to be with us forever, that part happens, a set of circumstances so unique that it passes the stress test of time.

It was 1976, I was in high school and I saw on TV something so unique that it would remain with me for all time; it is likely I will take the images into my grave. Even then there was a need for the direct in our eyes. This series delivered! I still regard it as the best Drama ever to be made. The series was called I Claudius and the fact that it is drenched in history and filled with flexible morals is what seems to catch us. Yet, is that enough? If we see TV series like Dexter, Trueblood and a few more HBO series. They seem to have the trademark on directness, so why did they not surpass a series made 38 years ago?

I believe that this is because that there is a lot more to the achievement. I think it was more than just timing. Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Brian Blessed as Augustus, George Baker as Tiberius, Patrick Steward as Sejanus, John Hurt as Caligula, Bernard Hill as Gratus, Ian Ogilvy as Drusus and who will ever forget Siân Phillips as Livia. It is not just the group of actors, but the fact that these actors would set new boundaries; some are even today regarded as the top of drama. I think that timing brought these people together and that part caused the effect that this was not a series with one or two diamonds in the rough, but we ended up with a series holding over a dozen exquisitely cut diamonds. A TV-series, which through timing has remained close to unmatchable.

I must of course mention that the book was an amazing piece of work, yet that is one factor we have all seen before, the fact that a book had been turned into such a vision by cast and crew was and has for the most remained a unique experience in TV series. It is ‘I Claudius’ that makes me appreciate how rare such moments are and hoping on regular repetitions such achievements are a waste of time.

When we see how productions are made nowadays, we see a shift from what was insightful towards what is to be expected. Now, the second part is not necessarily a bad thing as we avoid blunders, failures and flops, yet the opposite is also true, the chance of that 99.4% rated production becomes equally impossible. So do we set ourselves up for mediocrity? That is at the heart of the question, as we see movies, games and other forms of entertainment set into a matrix of ‘certain’ non-failures, we get just that, a non-failure, yet when we do that, we will endure a level of ‘entertainment’ that is not out there, that does not shift borders and that will not leave us in awe. Yes, we will get to some extent levels of originality. Waves of TV shows, like Gotham and a few others in the new millennia of comic book representation of TV shows, and some will prove to be good, expanding and even will become successes, yet, they will not get to the level that we got when someone had a vision, found the people and ‘I Claudius’ became a reality. Even the HBO version ‘Rome’, which shows life in those days, falls short. Spartacus, which was regarded as excellent and had a strong cast, but none gave the shine like Andy Whitfield, when he was lost to family and audience because of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, we got the cold reality of how large a jewel he was in that series. Lucy Lawless and John Hannah as well as a league of others showed an amazing performance, but the absence of Andy Whitfield became just too noticeable.

The link is the rarity, when we see series holding the New Zealand Actor Kevin Smith (as Ares in Hercules and Xena) and Andy Whitfield, we see that these rare treasures of charisma have a lasting effect on a series, losing them will hurt whatever series they are working on, which makes the overwhelming list of ‘I Claudius’ even more rare then we consider possible.

But is this just about casting? No, I think that the vision of the director is too often downplayed, as is the work the writers put into place. Should you doubt the latter, consider the massive success the West Wing was and the strength that the Newsroom and House of Cards are showing. In the name of the director, the scriptwriter and the players that are, we announce this series {insert fictive name here} to be a non-failure. It sounds almost deceptively mundane. You see, many of these series are ‘powered’ by what America considers and regards, so slow sales will get a series cancelled too fast. Star Trek, the original series is one of the strongest pieces of evidence, what was regarded as failure (and therefor cancelled), is still regarded as one of the strongest visions of originality ever to grace the TV screens. In that light we see similar issues regarding Firefly, what could have become a game changer was dropped before its time. Here too the trinity is almost a given. Joss Whedon is shown to be the new Steven Spielberg (a shared place with JJ Abrams) and he had a strong support cast. Nathan Fillion might be the number one player, yet the support Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin and Jewel Staite are undeniable. A series shut down before its time to shine. It is not the only time that this happened. The same reception was given to Doll House, what is at the foundation a mind shifting cyberpunk story was again cut short by that what the American audience did not understand.

Here is where we see the failure: yes it is true that America, catered to Americans, yet at present it seems that these deciders are forgetting that the European population is twice the size of America, the EEC alone is 50% larger than the USA, now consider that The Commonwealth consists of a few more nations all looking at these American series. This is taken into another direction as we see that HBO seems to address those needs almost perfectly and they are gaining strength, whilst British drama is actually a little on the decline. It seems that these deciders need to take new looks at how series are continued or dropped. Doll House is less than 4 years ago.

So where is this going?

It seems to me that the deciders of ‘where to leave the coins’ are looking at prognoses and not at the places where real visionaries come from. This has always been true, yet most true and very much most visible in the entertainment industry. It is shown as we see the game Test Drive a year late, yet, the verdict is a mere mediocre (at http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/driveclub-review/1900-6415900/). Is it a fair verdict? Hard to say, I am not much of a racing fan, but I consider the rating of Forza (an XBox one game) at 88% well deserved, a game that was very playable and looked extremely good. So as we see more PS4 games end up with mediocre ratings, the question now becomes will it affect the console war? Sony seems strong here, but in the end, consoles will not survive without really good games, and at present exclusive games on the XB1 are (I am sorry to report) better than the exclusive PS4 games, and at present Microsoft has a few more exclusive releases upcoming. Yet it does not end there, we see new levels of mediocrity by Ubisoft as they locked Assassins Creed both at 900p, so 20% below the PS4 maximum. I wonder what will happen when the gamers are treated to a failing AI in 6 weeks. Is that a given? No! It is not, yet the quote “because we thought that this was going to be a tenfold improvement over everything AI-wise, and we realised it was going to be pretty hard. It’s not the number of polygons that affect the framerate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we’re still limited to 30 frames per second” (source: eurogamer.net), yet when we see (if this happens) another AC game with iterated glitches as we have seen since AC2, then what will the audience cry? This will be at the heart of what will come next. We will know in a few weeks, yet the questions are rising all over the internet by gamers of all size and creed. They expect that a game will show the game at the maximum of possibilities of the console they chose, not what we at present regard to be some excuse of ‘parity’, time will tell how it is received.

I have accused Ubisoft before on the lack of vision, it is not all deserved as Watchdogs, even though not as great as expected did open new doors, not unlike the very first Assassins Creed and it must be said a few more are expected to come, showing that Ubisoft has vision, but these titles are yet to be released.

True vision, it is a rare moment in time when we face it, yet in this age of need, why do we not see more of it?


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