Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stuff Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Have

Envy and contempt: hella things.

colombia picadillo in pot

I looked at this and I could “feel sorry” for myself. The pot is at least 10 years old. I think it cost about $13 and it’s a Mexican rice pot. The spoon is “poon” – my grandmother’s spoon. It’s a wooden spoon of at least 50-60 years of age. So far, so good. The end is burnt and hardened like iron.

This is stuff Hillary Clinton doesn’t have, never did have, and likely never will have. Worthless items, of no meaning or import to anyone. Except me.

bowl and zucchini

Then there is this. An enamel bowl, at least 33 years old. It was one of my wedding gifts. I still use the Henckels Eversharp knives I received as a wedding gift from my aunt and uncle as well.

Again, things Hillary Clinton doesn’t have. Things of no value to anyone else, of no import, of no worth.

Cooking at home, cooking simple, nutritious food: this is a pleasure I think, that Hillary Clinton doesn’t have.

When people are so damn greedy, they might take things from others. But they cannot take from us that which we, intrinsically and essentially, are. They cannot take away from us our families, our heritage, our memories and our culture. The thing is these days, we are sharply aware now, of what has happened, of what is happening, of what will come if we do not act to stop it.

Here is this little woman, who cooks and cleans and folds and works 10-12 hours a day. Who has laughed and loved and done her very best. That cannot be bought or sold. But neither can it be bowed or destroyed. The greedy, the empty and the shallow have just gone too far. And it’s up to those of us who really have families and pride and life to stop them and to take it back. For our children, grandchildren and all those who will come after us.

The same as my grandmother gave me that spoon.

An English Teacher Parses Bernie V Hillary Language

Bernie Sanders is all about “us” and “we.” Hillary Clinton is all about “I” and “you.”

Why is this important? In English class we work on the different meanings of those words and how they are best-used. As a class, we learn together the skills needed to read, understand, learn and communicate required today and on into the future.

Because of my students, because of my daughter, and because of her friends, and because of the work I’ve done for the past five years, and because of how hard it has been getting our publishing company off the ground even with the very best possible writers, mission and work, I started listening to Bernie Sanders. Based on what I heard once I opened my ears, eyes, mind and heart, now I support his candidacy for President. Above all, I support the message that we’re all Americans and it’s about time America worked for everyone, not just people who …

Communicate like Hillary Clinton.

How the candidates communicate is an accurate reflection of how they operate right now. And, as they say in a lot of environments, “past performance is the best indicator of future behavior.”

The messages being sent by the Sanders campaign vs. the Hillary Clinton campaign could not be more divergent. I am not referring to the “issues.” I’m referring to how they communicate on the most basic level.

Some people respond to Hillary’s constant use of “I” and “You” in that order. This is a very traditional type of campaign language. I am aware that a certain number of people respond to being told “You do this for me” with the implication of later, “I will reciprocate on your behalf.” This sometimes works in kindergarten (“You clean up those toys and I’ll give you juice!”), and it also exists in the fake world of business and customer “families.”

im fighting for us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammatically, the Hillary poster is a fake “us.” As a slogan, “Fighting for us” has what English teachers call an implied or elided subject. The full sentence written out would be “I am fighting for us.” The message may not be clear: “Fighting for what?”

“Us” exists in the Hillaryworld only in the same sense customers exist for Cox Cable. Can’t pay your ginormous, ever increasing bill for spotty service? You are no longer part of the Cox family.

Business. English. Life.

not me usI believe that many more people are responding and even more in the future will, when they see and hear the messages of Bernie Sanders, respond, because he is using the words “we” and “us.” When he uses the “I” word, it is in an appropriate sense — the way we work on in class. He refers to others and their ideas, then responds with his own. For example, when he is asked a question about his position on an issue, he responds with a simple sentence like “I believe ______________” or “I think _____________.”

How Different is Bernie?

This being the era of the listicle and endless streams of data, of course someone has compiled a list of past Presidential slogans (1828 to present). In nearly 200 years and 200 slogans, the word “us” only appears three times: “Grant us another term” (Ulysses S. Grant), “He kept us out of war” (Woodrow Wilson), and “He’s making us proud again” (Gerald Ford). The word “we” only appears once: “Yes we can” (Barack Obama). Of the group, only two were successful — Si se puede (2008) – which, unironically, was coined by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, people who got some work done; and He kept us out of war” – Woodrow Wilson, which was essentially untrue (over 116,000 American lives lost in WWI – a staggering 11 million other lives lost in military conflict alone; 30 million total including ‘collateral damage’).

We do not work on history in our English classrooms per-se, but we do talk a lot about context. And the context here is that, despite the historic nature of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy — she is by far the most serious, full-on female candidate for the office of United States President, just as Barack Obama was by far, the most serious, full-on African American candidate for that same office in 2008 — she’s running, walking and talking as retro as any on that 1828-2008 Presidential slogan list. Maybe even more retro.

cox logoLet’s consider another of the limited “us” examples — when Woodrow Wilson was running for President, women couldn’t vote. The ever-brutal Ann Coulter has famously said that “Women should not have the right to vote” as traditionally, womens’ votes have gone to candidates of whom Ms. Coulter disapproves.

The first election in which women could vote was the 1920 election, between Warren G. Harding (R) and James Cox (D). I just learned for the first time that Cox’s VP running mate was a young, pre-polio Franklin D. Roosevelt. Harding and his VP Calvin Coolidge won. Three of these guys are on Presidential dollars, but Cox, sadly, did not make it. However, you totally do know who James M. Cox is. Every month you are lining the pockets of his descendants and Cox shareholders. (I am putting this mostly because that Cox logo says everything I am saying about Hillary Clinton’s grammar messaging from a business perspective – the fake “you” and fake “friend” and just ugh. This is where that 1% comes from, what it is today, and it has been with us such a very long time).

But Professor Casil, what does business and history have to do with pronouns?

Today’s powers-that-be and pundits are all on about how “uncivil” the campaigns are and they’re paying special attention to how lousy candidates are speaking of each other (but really – they’re mostly complaining about Donald Trump). Historical campaigns were a lot worse than today’s campaigns, as a number of historians have pointed out.

But those old-time candidates didn’t have Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, none of it, in 1800. People had to either tell others stuff or they had to print it in broadsheet newspapers that cost a lot of money and time and trees. Later on, Abe Lincoln spoke from the back of trains, and wrote his speeches like the Gettysburg Address on the back of envelopes … probably to save paper.

It gave them time, I think. Time to think about who they were, who the voters were, and what they were doing. I’ve read quite a bit about the time Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln spent on their speeches. I know about President Nixon’s yellow legal pads, and Ronald Reagan’s notecards. President Reagan goes up in the historical rankings each year; they called him “The Great Communicator.” By the way I am writing about language and its relationship to communication with the American people, not political parties.

im youve always had my back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This message isn’t unique, it’s pretty much every Tweet sent out by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Someone thought about this. They think it is a great thing to say to voters.

So, let’s break this message down. If someone said that to you, like, oh, say, your friend, your co-worker — how about your spouse? Your spouse says,

“You’ve always had my back and I’ve always tried to have yours.”

What do you anticipate they are about to say next? You don’t have to be a professional writer or English teacher to know that answer in the “real world.” This message has been sent out thousands of times to over 5 million Hillary Twitter followers.

The next statement after that “I’ve always tried to have yours” is  “I _______________” – I cheated, I lied, I let you down etc.

Im with her

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OMG for free! Really? I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to use my limited text messages to let Hillary know I’m by her side all the way! But when she gets there, where do I get to go? I get to stay right where I am until the next campaign when I get to text her again!

Two research psychologists at the University of Texas, Austin have been keeping track of Presidential campaign language. They analyzed the way candidates have been speaking in debates and Town Halls, using a quantitative system – as one of the researchers, Kayla Jordan, says,

For each debate, we looked at the percentage of each candidate’s speech that were I-words. For example, if a candidate said 100 words and 10 of them were I-words, then the frequency would be 10.0%. For the analysis in this post, we then averaged these frequencies across debates for each candidate to determine on average how often they use I-words.

I words past Pres comparison

The system the professors are using is a blunt instrument that just counts words. Reference to “I” alone isn’t a measure of self-centered-ness. It’s “I” in conjunction with “you” or any other noun or pronoun.

What is the difference in these two sentences:

“I want to tell you people something,”

and “I want to listen to you.”

Bernie Sanders’ messages do include the “I” pronoun. But it is in a very inclusive context.

i cant do this alone bernieI leave it to you to parse the meaning of this message, created by Aaron Bowersock. The thing about creative art is, it becomes something new and different to everyone who views it. I see this as a true message. No candidate can govern alone.

This isn’t about who says “I” more. It’s about the meaning of what the candidate says and how their language reflects their capabilities and who they are.

One candidate isn’t just in control of what he says and does, able to communicate well and clearly with others. He isn’t just making people think he cares. One candidate has truth echoing in every message, visual, verbal and combined.

The elided subject or object in

“A Future to Believe In”

is either “We [have]” (subject) or “[for] us” (object). We and Us.

This could just be about words. But it’s really about our lives, our values, and how we want to live. A lot of people who haven’t shared my experiences think that Bernie Sanders just wants to spend a bunch of money, take their tax dollars, and waste them.

cost of free college

He would not be that candidate. And yes, these figures are true, not even counting the money we will need to pay to care for our veterans over time. We did not question one penny of this; and to what benefit? Well, we have recently seen some “benefits” in Paris, and in Brussels. We don’t hear much about all the other countries and suffering because *Cox Cable and all their friends.

As to how much is paid for college, it’s worth considering what the ROI is on our existing schools – with our public colleges and universities already providing a poor or negative ROI and student loan debt totaling a whole lot more than that $760 billion estimated cost. Where do people think the interest on those vast $1 trillion+ student loans goes? It goes to the 1%. There is not a government-involved program developed in the last 30 years where a significant amount does not go to the wealthy around the world. It isn’t government in isolation, it is what every establishment person and entity associated with each of the main parties is fully and completely complicit in. Student loans? Does the word “SallieMae” sound familiar? Home loans? “FannieMae.” In what way would flat out paying one time for college be so much worse than this backdoor method which is ruining students’ futures and lining the pockets of the rich like a 1% cash back 24% interest credit card?

abortion tweetIs it really so important what your “issue” is? Maybe you truly feel that whether or not a total stranger of a different religion to you has an abortion or not is the most important thing in the world. Maybe that will dictate how you vote, how you go to work every morning, what you eat, where your kids go to school, what type of car you drive if you can afford one …

Hell that’s the way Mr. Cruz thinks, isn’t it?

That’s the way he speaks to others.

But this tweet didn’t come from “Lyin’ Ted Cruz,” it came from Hillary Clinton two days ago.

Because like 1976. The Bicentennial year.

It’s 2016 and more women are going to college and graduating now than men. We do not need equal pay to the dollar. We need pay. We do not need to protect a woman’s right to choose. We need to treat each other like human beings. I wouldn’t talk to a dog (especially not!) like Hillary Clinton speaks to me and I certainly would never address a student in that manner.

But that’s just me. I don’t know – yet – about the rest of us.

“Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You, but What You Can Do for Hillary”

I first heard of the way Hillary Clinton’s top female supporters were talking about young women who supported Bernie Sanders from my 23-year old daughter.

madeleine-albright-quoteA strong Bernie supporter, she was steamed that Gloria Steinem had said on Bill Maher’s show that young women were flocking to Bernie’s rallies because that was where the boys were. Steinem doubled-down by adding that women become more “activist,” (I believe that was the word used) as they grow older, because they “lose power.” There is no other way but to interpret that statement as “When you’re young and hot, like me, you’re powerful!” You’re where the boys are, honey. Burn your bra so they can see your titties better!

My biggest memory of Steinem was that she was a Playboy Bunny. I thought for real, but I was told no — she’d gone “undercover” to expose the dark underside of Hef’s Playboy palace of pulchritude. That’s some play-literation. When I’m not showing my titties and ass to old men in my dating age range (85-95, like Sumner Redstone) sometimes I like to play around with words. When I turn 54 next month, I’m anticipating I’ll be limited to dating gentlemen in the Willard Scott birthday age range (100+). And how lucky I’ll be! Why hardly any woman my age even goes out in public any more, much less has any “power.” Not Hillary-type-power, anyway. Not Gloria Steinem level muscle.

Then, out came the public information that at many of Hillary’s rallies, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was lecturing audiences that women, especially young women, should vote for Hillary because, and I quote, “There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.”

She prefaced this by saying, “We can tell our story about how we climbed the ladder and young women — you think it’s been done — it’s not done.”

Here’s the thing, Ms. Albright — there’s not a young woman in the audience for Bernie or in my classrooms who thinks it’s “been done.” And, dear lady, even in my powerless age range — hardly any of us think it’s “been done,” either. If you, or your candidate, had taken even five minutes to listen (I do use my words carefully, – I usually do a bit of reading and writing before I wash my hair, put on my go-go boots, and go out and snag some of those older boys) to women under age 30 and especially under age 25, you would hear what is important to them. Listen. It takes time, energy and commitment to listen.

It takes time, energy, caring and commitment to engage with the American people and listen to them, not just stand up in front of audiences and repeat the same sad, tired, retread talking points about abortion, raising the minimum wage, and free birth control pills over and over again. Most Americans have respect for the first two female Secretaries of State, no question; I certainly did, but it shrinks by the day. These most recent incidents point out something glaring in our entire culture. The people we often (not always) turn to as leaders, may not be deserving of those roles.

Based on the behavior of both Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Albright in these recent events, and just looking at their demeanor at these rallies — at the vast gulf between their reality and the reality of most Americans (especially young women) — I sit here and say prayers of gratitude that we weren’t all incinerated while these women were the our country’s top diplomats.

Hillary and madeleine albright

I’m sure about 50 billion pundits will point out that if a conservative man introduced Donald Trump at a rally and hollered, “There’s a special place in HELL for men who don’t vote for Trump!” this would not only be SNL skit fodder for years, it might even surpass the “Dean Scream” moment for radio and TV replay.

Did these three women get this way because they are older? I was absolutely stunned to learn that Gloria Steinem is 81, Madeleine Albright is 78, and Mrs. Clinton, 68. I note that Mr. Sanders is 74 years old. Gloria Steinem is certainly too old for him; besides, everyone knows that powerful, rich guys like Bernie date women in their late 20s and early 30s. You know – like Sean Penn dates girls in high school.

Wait. Back to what occurred to me. See, Ms. Albright and Mrs. Clinton were both our top diplomats, serving several years each — and in fact, one of Mrs. Clinton’s top arguments against her opponent Mr. Sanders and all of the Republican opponents, is that she is the most-experienced foreign policy candidate by far.

That well may be, but it makes me feel cold and afraid, if she was the best and would still be, in representing our country among other nations, and in tense negotiations or circumstances where our troops or nation would be at-risk. Because she doesn’t seem able to even take 5 minutes out of her busy day to engage with actual young women and discern their concerns on even the most basic level. She can’t take another 2-3 minutes to determine why younger women would support Bernie Sanders.

I have now read approximately 12 interviews with Mrs. Clinton. Not once, in any of those interviews, did she use the words, “I listened,” or “I heard,” followed by a specific example of any American’s concern or interest. She certainly uses “I” a lot, but she never says, “I listened to __________________ and heard that ___________________.” She merely asserts her opinion as if it’s obvious. Just as did Madeleine Albright. I listened to what she said (ha ha ha ha ha – sorry). I can discern that she strongly believes the reason many younger women are supporting Bernie Sanders is that they think the “battles” she and Mrs. Clinton “fought” are no longer needed.

Unfortunately, neither of these two former top diplomats, nor Ms. Steinem, the Ms. Lady, seem like they are very good listeners. As I am 53, I don’t really remember any of them showing strong listening skills at any time. It isn’t for reasons of sexism, as asserted by TV performers like Lena Dunham, that many people are referring to Mrs. Clinton as “shrill.” She does raise her voice when she believes her message wasn’t heard.

I have, throughout my life, heard many people assert that their political opponents were “dumb” or “stupid,” and often “evil” when they had positions or opinions in opposition to them. Or, often – they were just their opponents, perhaps agreeing in most circumstances.

I only read part of The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump and only watched a few episodes of the many Apprentice shows. But even Donald Trump emphasizes listening skills, and discerning the other person’s interests and motivations. And I’ve seen him demonstrate this and make assessments of his observations of the people trying out to be “The Apprentice.” I’ve watched his daughter Ivanka listen acutely and think about what she says before responding. Certainly, I see these behaviors in action every day in the classroom, in the business environment, and they were the primary determining factor between success or failure in the social service programs I used to work with, raise funds for, and manage.

Not once, would I ever make any decision without consulting others, nor would I ever make any announcement or pronouncement in any class, without ensuring I had listened to people and gotten the best understanding I could of their opinions, needs, desires and concerns.

I have no doubt, since I am 53 years old and have been around the block, including volunteering for Carly Fiorina’s Senate campaign in 2010, as well as a number of local campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s –

I can’t believe I’m writing this, that it’s even a question. Does no one even question that their local mayor has better listening skills than Hillary Clinton or Madeleine Albright? This is way beyond “out of touch,” this is never in touch. Never, ever, never.

I just read an interview with Bernie Sanders where he was confronted with the problems caused by some of his male supporters with harassing women who don’t follow their “party line” about Bernie, using extreme sexist language and being jerks. So, Bernie said, and I quote, “We have heard about this.” He then expressed strongly that could not be a part of his campaign and that was not what they were about. I am sure his campaign will take steps to stop it.

So I guess there’s a special place in Hell for me. And how lucky our country is that these two top-notch listeners didn’t get us all killed by their assumptions and bullheaded forging straight ahead with whatever they want to say, just raising their voice when they experienced disagreement or others were not doing exactly what they wanted.

Leadership isn’t about yelling until people cave or just talking louder or saying the same thing over and over, or about “guessing” what people want because you find it impossible to take even a few moments to listen non-judgmentally. Really – it isn’t.

But what would I know? I’m 53. I have no power. Not like powerful people like sexy 81 year old women’s leader Gloria Steinem.

 

 

What is Rape

We hear a lot today about “rape culture.”

Amy July 2014Listen to me.
All of you.

It is no honor to you, beautiful young women, that some man wants to take you.

It is honor to you that he wants you to be his wife. That he wants to raise children with you.

So for many young black men, this option isn’t there.

They want sons and grandsons. They would provide for them. But instead: they are in prison. That is what our world does. It stops our young black men (and brown ones) so that there is less competition for the white ones.

Well, I’m at the top of the heap lady-wise.

Just like me. I am as I am on purpose. On the edge. I dare females to compete with me in such competition as we have.

Could I be as sexy as Kim Kardashian? Please. I don’t have any cosmetic surgery. I am more mentally and physically fit than she and many others of her ilk. That’s a good thing, as a young child counted on me to provide for her and protect her, and my baby with Down Syndrome most certainly did. It is down to blood, food, warmth, succor — I’m sure Kim would know that and do that if she had to.

Anyway, we are talking about cave stuff. As if we women are the barest things. Sexually attractive, physical endurance. What about our minds?

We are such stuff as dreams are made of.

We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

It is our ways. It is what and who we are.

So, though gentlemen, I may please you well, I may have some utility as well. I hope you understand me.

American Sniper

I knew bits and pieces of Chris Kyle’s story before American Sniper came out. Since I’m not from Texas, here are the parts I knew:

  • I had heard about a former Navy SEAL who got shot, together with his friend, by a vet with PTSD – while they were trying to help him.
  • I had heard about a former SEAL who got sued by Jesse “The Body” Ventura, because of some dispute about a bar fight or Jesse insulting SEALS, and that the vet had died. I heard that “The Body,” who’s pretty obviously a douchebag, was continuing to pursue the vet’s widow and thought – more Jesse Ventura douchebaggery. I read his excuse or reason for why he wanted to keep going after the widow and thought “douchebag.”

When I saw the trailer for American Sniper, I could tell it would be good, and was a little surprised to see when it said “based on the true story of America’s deadliest sniper.”

“That’s Carlos Hathcock,” I thought.

It was. I learned differently when I learned more about Chris Kyle, and of course Carlos Hathcock was his hero.

Then I saw my friends making comments about “liberal” criticism of the movie. Oh, well, it’s Clint Eastwood, I thought. Any monkey can tell from the film trailer alone, knowing nothing else, that it’s not a “pro-war” movie. I thought it would be a lot more about the concerns of collateral damage in Iraq. It’s about what it is to be a man, ultimately. There’s not a decent man out there who would see this movie and not think, “That is the kind of man I aspire to be.”

The part of American Sniper that most-struck me was the conversation with Chris’ family at the dinner table, during which his father says, “There are three kinds of people in the world: sheep, wolves, and sheep dogs.” Their dad wants to know which kind of person his sons are. After a brief discussion of a schoolyard fight during which Chris defended his brother, it becomes clear: Chris is meant to protect the sheep from the wolves.

Yes, I like this movie, but I like it because it’s a true story and one we need to hear. I have confidence that the movie is true to Chris Kyle’s story – and he had one hell of a clown car life*. One colorful post-war incident in Chris’ life was an attempted truck-jacking during which two complete idiots tried to steal his truck at gunpoint. Chris shot both dead, then calmly called the police, who upon arrival, learned they were in the presence of a living legend. This isn’t in the movie. Because there’s so much else.

There’s been a huge evolution in war movies and in movies about male stories, and Clint Eastwood has been a big part of it. His recognition that Chris Kyle’s story was one people would want to know shows this evolution. Nearly every Clint Eastwood movie I’ve ever seen is about what it means to be a man — an American man. I saw some commentary from Iraqi men that they wanted Iraqis to make movies about Iraqi men — exactly right. And they were secure enough to realize that American Sniper is about an American man. It didn’t need to tell the Iraqi stories (though if the critics bothered to look, the film did show the sniper Mustafa and made it clear – before the war, he was an Olympic medalist. It shows Mustafa leaving his home, wife and child to go out to kill – just like Chris Kyle). It showed a brute terrorist, “The Butcher,” the second man to Zarquawi, who tortured women and children with a drill. For Mustafa, I think the SEALS had respect and fear. “The Butcher” was justifiably what Chris Kyle said, “a savage.” I’m pretty sure the same thing motivated Mustafa as motivated Chris Kyle, just the same as it motivated the NVA sniper that Carlos Hathcock killed in a similar long-distance sniper showdown. Hathcock realized afterward that his NVA enemy had him in his crosshairs, and if he hadn’t made his shot at the second he did, he would be the dead one, not his enemy.

People do far, far worse things than Mustafa, Chris Kyle, or even the fictional “Butcher” in American Sniper.

It makes me feel pretty good to see some of the commentary from those who don’t like or are disturbed by the film. They almost look like some of my reviews.

“American Sniper” is an artless nuance-free hate piece built on insultingly unsound narrative ground. (that could be from “Amazon customer” but the guy did put his name on it)

Cooper looks the part, having bulked up for it, but he can’t do anything with the blandness of the character the script has given him. (I could think of a lot of words to describe Chris Kyle but “bland” isn’t one of them)

It’s like Chris’ father said. “There are three kinds of people, son. Sheep, wolves, and the sheep dogs who protect the sheep from the wolves.”

Michael_Moore_2011_Shankbone_2I can’t make up my mind whether the American Sniper critics, including those relentlessly “fact checking” the film, are sheep who perversely want their throats torn out, or the sort of limping, cringing, weak, runty wolves who lag behind the pack to lap up the spoils of meat and bone from the kills of the alpha pack members. I’m pretty sure Bill Maher is in that latter category. There’s also the fat wolf who can only howl for food.

I have no doubt that if he were here to say it, Chris Kyle would be the first to say it would be a better world if we didn’t have war. Because he was a sheep dog.

He didn’t make the war. He wouldn’t have made the war even if he could have. He was one of the many who fought in it. He did what he had to do, and what’s more, he was a real hero, because he and his family suffered just as all vets and their families do. He came home, he dealt with what he had to deal with (the aftermath, including PTSD) and was helping others when another vet who was worse off took his life.

American Sniper does in a few seconds what other films take an entire 90 minutes to do: show PTSD. I am among the women who can have some understanding of the scene where Chris sits with a beer, facing the TV, hearing and seeing the sights and sounds of war. Children scream, bullets, grenades and rockets fire. Then the camera turns to show a TV that isn’t on at all. That is PTSD. So is the scene where he’s sitting, not hearing a word Taya is saying, and jumps up to protect his son from the family dog, who was just playing. The people who say American Sniper doesn’t portray what PTSD is — do not know what it is. Chris Kyle did overcome it and he did so by helping others: one of the best ways. In the very end, Taya says he did come home, and he did.

Another of the best things about the film is the way it portrays Chris’ relationship with Taya and his children. It doesn’t draw back at all from her situation. She is coming out of the hospital after learning their first baby will be a boy, and she’s on the phone with Chris. She tells him it’s a boy, and then the firefight starts. She’s left alone, listening to this, and has no idea if her husband is alive or dead. There’ve been many days where I faced something that big alone. People are praising Bradley Cooper’s performance and rightly-so, but they should also praise Sienna Miller. She portrays Taya as strong and loving and amazing, a woman who holds the family together, but who also tells Chris that he’s losing himself (naaaahh, the movie doesn’t portray PTSD or the costs of war … this great man almost lost himself and his family because of what he was called to do!). At the end, when Chris calls her and says, “I’m ready to come home now” in the middle of another firefight, it is so . . . it would touch anyone’s heart.

Unless they were Michael Moore. In which case, I’m guessing he’d cry over a Philly cheesesteak. Double meat, double cheese. Whatever his favorite foods, he won’t be getting them at Brann’s Steaks and Sports Bar in Michigan.

Although Chris Kyle’s story will inspire most normal people, most people would not want to be Chris Kyle for real. Because there’s three kinds of people, just as his dad said.

***

*Clown car life – like a “clown car” plot where so much is stuffed in one story it can’t be believed. I have a clown car life for a woman, and I’m embarrassed about it.

Sustainable Humanity / Human Sustainability / The Human Equation

There’s a way that most “futurists” view the world. It’s typically tech-focused. Some are very big thinkers — far bigger than I could ever imagine.

In March, Vernor Vinge was on a panel with me at the science fiction convention in San Diego and he turned to me and said in a quiet, mild tone (and I could have the figures wrong), “If we want large-scale interstellar travel and colonization, it will take three-quarters of gross global product for 20 years.”

Oh, I thought. That’s an awful lot …

“It will be worth it,” he added. A twinkle flickered in his eyes.

It may well be worth it. And it may well happen. And the one point I will quibble with Vernor about is – I’m sure he’s correct about the vast amount of resources and concerted effort required given current assumptions. But if the human dividend pays and we achieve genuine sustainable humanity, then concepts like “gross global product” will not apply.

People Drive Technology and There’s Nothing to Fear

I don’t think that the “technological revolution” has resulted in improved lives for most on the globe. I think improved lives for most on the globe drives the “technological revolution.” Without people, there is no technology. Technology is growing so rapidly because our previously-developed tools are enabling the development of more tools, just as some of today’s 3-D printer manufacturers are using their own 3-D printers to make more printers to sell. I had forgotten how chilling was the essence of Vernor’s original technological singularity paper. The abstract reads:

“Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”

People Aren’t the Only Intelligent Life on Earth, Much Less the Universe

The previous human era may well end and I say “good.” I would like to think that any new superhuman (or nonhuman) intelligence would provide insight which is difficult, challenging or impossible for humans. The intelligence might well have these insights. It might not communicate them at all, or it might communicate them in a way people can’t understand. Like dolphins and whales could probably tell us a thing or two about life and the ocean. But we’re not very good at listening to and communicating with them. Most assume they are “stupid.” Like chimps. Dumb. Like dogs. Idiots. Dogs of course, have been known to diagnose melanoma. This phenomenon inspired the development of technology which uses a nano-sensor to detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to diagnose melanoma. The ready-made “organic technology” (dogs) have also been trained and used in this process.

Waste

Which brings us to the human dividend. Vernor’s pricetag of two decades worth of the majority of global economic product in exchange for space exploration would be less daunting if the full potential for human economic and social development were realized. And we are living in a world just transitioning from one where it was not only acceptable, it was lauded to exclude half the population (females) from higher education, business management and, unimportant though it is in the larger scheme of things, voting and political participation. It was also acceptable, and often lauded, to exclude males of different races and ethnicities from higher education, business management, and any meaningful political involvement. In terms of waste, most people understand the concept of wasted food. In 2013, according to a report prepared by BSR for the Food Waste Alliance covering the majority of U.S. food manufacturers and restaurants, more than 44 billion pounds of food were disposed of through landfills or incineration. food waste 2013The big red block isn’t big companies or grocery stores or even restaurants. It’s people at home. energy ROI US 2010

 

As to energy, there’s a concept called EROI or “Energy Return on Investment” that is probably controversial since it shows that some alternative energy sources have a much better return on investment than others. The EROI is a simple calculation of the ratio of the amount of energy produced by an energy source and the amount of energy required to obtain the energy from that source. So, hydro power is by far #1 with 100% EROI. That’s because it’s actually “free” and requires no investment of energy to “create.” Wind power is also very good, as an alternative energy source as compared to … ethanol and biodiesel. The problems with these two should be evident, since they require growth and processing of crops.

Slaves

The continued “energy debate” and instant sidetracking of many people to fears of global warming if they use plastic grocery bags is little surprise, in a world that thought for thousands of years that using people as energy sources was a great idea. The “energy slave” concept was discussed by Buckminster Fuller. It refers to the concept of human labor necessary to produce energy and the benefit that people get from “non-human energy slaves” – i.e. they’d have to have that many actual slaves to maintain their lifestyle that’s currently able to be pursued without human slave labor. Of course he made a map. If a society relies upon literal human slaves, when its EROI shrinks too low, the society actually collapses. This problem has been proposed as the reason for the fall of the Roman Empire and the Mayan civilization. In other words, there was too little food to maintain the lifestyle and the slaves that provided the energy and work for these civilizations. Today, we still have plenty of slaves. They are allowed certain amounts of free time, but their minds are still locked in patterns of thinking built in previous centuries. Previous eras. We have women today who still look at life the same way as their great-great-great-great-great grandmothers. We have men with the same attitudes as any number of Victorian manservants.

What Really Frightens People

Freedom.

The Human Dividend and the Choice

Slave – or free? With freedom will come wealth beyond most people’s wildest imaginings. What we have today is beyond the wildest imaginings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. The technological revolution didn’t and doesn’t drive human development. It’s the other way around. And our way to the future doesn’t lie in the same people making technology in the same manner as they have in the past. It lies in all of humanity achieving its potential. And those potentials are as unique as each person. The person who makes a new iPhone screen is not intrinsically more valuable than a great massage therapist. The person who develops a new home security system isn’t a more important, valuable person than the person who starts a free range cattle business.

The human dividend, if we allow it to pay off, can be seen in the career of the great chemist Percy Julian. Percy is referred to as “the forgotten genius.” He is noted for being the first African-American chemist (and only the second African-American) inducted into the National Academy of Science. He held over 150 patents. All of the compounds he synthesized were made from natural plant materials. They are all safe, none were ever challenged or found to be ineffective or harmful, and nearly all are still in use today. percy julian in labPercy Julian’s initial breakthrough medication was physostigmine, an alkaloid which has been used to treat glaucoma for over 65 years, and which is showing benefits in treating Alzheimer’s disease. When he worked for Glidden (yes, the paint people), Percy produced sterols from soybean oil and converted the sterols to a variety of medications, including progesterone and other beneficial sex hormones such as estradiol and testosterone. One of his processes continues to be the most widely-used process for producing hydrocortisone and derivatives, used to treat arthritis. In nearly every chemical process he was called upon to work, he reduced cost of manufacture ten-fold or more.

This is what is important about Percy Julian. For his race, he performed untold services and gave tirelessly. The world in general, is an immeasurably better place, because Percy Julian lived in it. And it was no surprise to me that Percy Julian understood what it meant to be fully-human, and what the human dividend really was, and how it could be earned and achieved. When he received the Honor Scroll given by the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Chemists, he addressed the audience with issues of humanity, God and nature.

Historians of tomorrow may well ask why scientists did not join the human race in our time when the opportunities were so great and the means at hand so magnificent. (Hesberg, qtd. in Julian)

What does all this mean to you and me of the world of chemistry? To begin with, I cannot, and I hope you cannot, accept the blank statement that “Science is Amoral.” While this may be said of its methodology and specific aims at a given time, Science is something more than methodologies, symbolisms, and technological devices; it is vastly more than the creation of mere things; computers and mechanical robots are only incidental by-products of its spirit of inquiry. Science, like all man’s noble endeavors, involves the whole personality of those who pursue it. To say flatly that Science is amoral is to separate this man-made discipline from man himself and from the destiny of man. . . .

The challenge to us in the great debate with Humanists is clear. Too many of us have been satisfied to seek Truth only through the medium of certain facets of our discipline. We should have been the strong right arm of the humanist, but for the most part, we have not carved a basic social philosophy out of our endeavors. And yet where would one find more appropriate experience for such a philosophy than ours, where we live amidst the incomparable beauty of Nature’s truth, Nature’s objectivity, Nature’s solemn and honest justice, Nature’s grand nobility and bigness where no smallness can prevail in either mind or matter, Nature’s understanding and tolerance where even the lowliest creation — whether it be the bee or the lilies of the field — performs its functions with dignity and glory, Nature’s understanding and delicate balance, where on the one hand microorganisms can bring about the most dreaded disease, and on the other, bequeath to us the wonders of penicillin and aureomycin.

In terms of waste, the man who spoke those words, made those many beneficial compounds and medicines, and who contributed vastly to our economy, could well have stopped school in 8th grade. He in fact completed only the 8th grade before going to DePauw University and successfully graduating, eventually becoming one of the first African-Americans to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry. Percy Julian, as a young boy on his grandfather’s farm, accidentally came upon a young man who had been lynched, hanging from a tree. Percy himself could have been lynched, if he’d been unlucky. Percy Julian’s work didn’t just heal people with safe medicines made from plants. His work drove the development of soybean crop production in the United States. The U.S. has led the world in soybean production for well over two decades. China is the major importer of US-grown soybeans, and soybeans are responsible for 75% of US oil and fat consumption.

I have questioned for years: how many Percy Julians are there out there who never get the education he fought so fiercely to achieve and the job opportunities he pursued with a vigor the average job candidate cannot imagine? The human waste we are comfortable with is beyond calculation.

Economically, we are many hundreds of billions richer because of Percy Julian’s work. I believe it is fairly said that we have cost ourselves many hundreds of billions because of all the Percy Julians out there who were never able to make it into the fields of endeavor where their talents and abilities could produce new work, new insight and new endeavor.

Valuation

 

Let’s give an average of $10 billion increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the lifetime of work of a significant scientist, engineer, entrepreneur or other creator. And let’s compare this with the social net cost of someone who could have that capacity, but who instead, never achieves it because they never receive the opportunity. The average high school graduate (not dropout) can expect to earn $1.2 million over the course of their lifetime. So, the human dividend potential for each Percy Julian-like creator is $9.99 billion. If we have a thousand such individuals in the United States alone (not remotely unrealistic), then that is a trillion dollars. If we have more – say 5,000 – Well.

That’s the 40 cents off every dollar our government is presently borrowing to pay to keep people in lousy schools, eating lousy corporate food and getting fat and sick, so they can use our government-semi-sponsored health care and “vote the right way.” Yes, this does feel like the energy slave concept. How many people are required to be kept away from that which they are born to do, are brilliant at, and can contribute to, just so some people can feel good and spend time with their pals telling each other stuff they already know? Like this and this. My thinking here is far from original. All while I was growing up, there was a commercial on television, often aired during “Wide World of Sports.”

Stop Judging and Start Listening

I’m not arguing for higher taxes to continue the current educational system. I’m arguing for people to open their eyes and ears and minds to something new, and above all, to accept that while we recognize and value the past and contributions of others, we should also make room for new voices and new contributions.

I watched the final episode of “How the Universe Works,” which was a dumbed-down version of information I learned at LaunchPad this past summer. With one exception. The show covered astroseismology, or the “music of the stars.” This is the development of audio technology to listen to various stars, thereby determining their size and placement on the sequence of stars. Young astronomer Keivan Stassun explained how simple, quick and affordable the technique, using an unconventional (for astronomy) sense was: hearing.

What We Can Hear

I hear the difference between the “old” scientists and the “new” on such shows. The “new” scientists like Keivan are soft-spoken and talk about possibilities and potentials. The “old” ones … well, we grew up with those. They continue to hold court. For a time. Oh, such expensive dates they are! I think next time, perhaps we should make them pay for their own dinners.