November 27

A Capital Idea Part 94: The Freedom Scam

Here is another post about "freedom" as presented in the United States. I have written around the edges of this topic previsouly, but hearing or seeing so many Americans give obligatory "thanks" to our military for the second time in two weeks, made me realize that this is a scam perpetrated by the military-industrial-religious-political complex in the United States, and thus needs to be framed that way. Also, this time, I did some research comparing the "freedom" of the United States to that of other nations.

First of all, here is the scam. We are brainwashed into believing -- those among us who are susceptible to the message -- that it is American military might that made us "free" and keeps us "free." Our military "must be strong" and "must respond to challenges around the world" in order to "maintain our freedom" and "extend freedoms to other nations." Does this sound familiar? It should. This is the language of empire, and empires are destined to collapse to the right, under their own weight. How does this scam relate to the economy and capital ideas? The answer to that question does not require much of a stretch. We know that several trillions of our national debt -- probably most of the national debt which is such a hot topic in politics these days -- is due to military spending. This is a horridly misplaced priority, this military spending, however one conceives the motives to be. I would say that it is mainly in order to build and maintain an international military-industrial complex for the 1%ers, but if the motives are more noble, it is a horribly ineffective, even counterproductive, strategy. It only works as a strategy in order to enrich people who are part of the military business, to keep distant flocks of sheeple who work for tiny wages, under control, and to placate the enormous egos of American politicans.

In order to maintain the current military order, our government needs a certain level of cooperation from the public. It needs military personnel who are willing to carry out orders with unquestioning patriotism, for one thing. It also needs to justify in the minds of the public, the military budget and various military actions and bases around the world, for another. The lie which we are constantly subjected to, that we owe a debt of gratitude to the military for giving and maintaining our "freedoms," is the primary means by which public consent to these horrid policies is attained, as well as acting as an effective military recruiting tool. We are especially subjected to this enormous untruth during holidays, which tend to have conveniently militaristic (Veterans Day and Memorial Day) or nationalistic themes (Fourth of July and President's Day), or offer thanks to people such as military personnel (Thanksgiving and Christmas). Thus, the United States' military can go on spending profligately, military contractors can continue living in their mansions, and military equipment used to kill people, including Americans, around the world can continue to be perhaps the United States' biggest export. Meanwhile, international businesses feel that their overseas investments are protected, and American politicians can proudly point to the "accomplishments" of the military that they run, even while American troops are accidentally killing Pakistani soldiers as happened yesterday, or killing innocents by remote control drone attacks, and excusing their actions with an "Oops, mistakes happen!"!

If military spending "makes us free," then the United States should be the most "free" nation in the world by far, so is it? The answer is most definitely "no." There are a large number of nations which are just as "free" as the United States, if not freer, including military-less Costa Rica according to, which has been measuring freedom in the nations of the world since 1972 ( To be exact, there are 87 nations out of 194 nations for which their was data, which ranked as free in both civil and political rights in both 2010 and 2011 according to their surveys, one of which was the United States ( This represents 45% of the nations in the survey. Each nation can get a score from 1 to 7 on civil rights and on political rights, with lower scores indicating more freedom. According to the survey, the majority of the nations (48 of them) described as "free" in terms of both civil and political rights had scores of 1 on both measures, including the United States, the best scores that they could have had. Moreover, the percentage of nations considered to be "free" in terms of both civil and political rights has trended upward over the years since this measure began, beginning with only 27% of the nations enjoying such "freedom" in 1975. Thus, the rest of the world is "catching up to" the U.S. in terms of freedom, and most of these nations who are doing the catching up, appear to be ones that spend relatively small proportions of their national treasure on their militaries, at least, relatively little compared to the U.S., and also, they in no way owe their freedom to U.S. military "protection," based on my admittedly subjective perusal of the data.

On the topic of "freedom" in the United States, anybody who thinks that people in the United States are as "free" as people could be are living in dreamland. The following critique of freedom in the United States, for example, as well as the definitions of freedom used by Freedom House was presented in Wikipedia. "The definition of Freedom in Gastil (1982) and Freedom House (1990) emphasized liberties rather than the exercise of freedom, according to Adam Przeworski, who gave the following example: In the United States, citizens are free to form political parties and to vote, yet even in presidential elections only half of U.S. 'citizens' vote; in the U.S., 'the same two parties speak in a commercially sponsored unison,' wrote Przeworski" in 2003.

Apparently, and surely to be expected, "Freedom House" is basically a right-wing organization, so when I use its own statistics against it, that is damning evidence indeed. The quote continues as follows:

"More recent charges of ideological bias prompted Freedom House to issue this 2010 statement:

Freedom House does not maintain a culture-bound view of freedom. The methodology of the survey is grounded in basic standards of political rights and civil liberties, derived in large measure from relevant portions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These standards apply to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development."

Nonetheless, it seems pretty clear to me, that virtually nothing would prevent the United States from obtaining the highest possible scores in "Freedom House's" survey. There is a clear cultural and nationalistic bias there. The way that these ratings are obtained, is not by surveying residents of each nation, but rather, by having a panel of "experts" rate each nation on 10 political rights questions, and 15 civil rights questions, then obtaining average scores for each nation. Although the questions themselves seem good ones as far as I can tell, the reliance upon "analysts" and "academic advisors" (probably mostly or all U.S. citizens) for ratings seems very suspect in terms of subjective bias potential. Even with such bias, however, it seems very clear that spending our resources (i.e. human, natural resource and financial capital) at such an enormous rate as the United States does, on military endeavors, is not making us any freer. In fact, quite the opposite is most likely true. That is, it is impinging on both our civil and political rights, as well as our economic freedoms.

The fact that "freedom" itself is a bizarrely abstract concept, makes it easier to use as a tool to manipulate public opinion. I will end here with some of my personal perspective on the concept of "freedom" which helps to explain my constant use of quotes around the word, as well as helping to frame the topic.

First, the word "freedom" implies a lack of limits or restaint, as in being totally free to do whatever one wants to do. Of course, this is nonsense. Although using the word "freedom" tends to invoke the notion of unlimited choice, in reality, only an omnipotent being would have total freedom. Freedom is relative, and actually denotes being granted the right (or left) to make certain choices for oneself.

Second, the concept of freedom is biased toward an individualistic world view, which itself, is biased toward conservative ideology. We are taught to think of freedom as applying basically to the individual. There is such a thing as collective choice, or collective freedom, if you will, which operates at the societal level, and which outweighs individual freedom in many regards. Elections, if done fairly, are a good example of collective choice. However, the concept of freedom is seldom thought of as collective in an individualistic culture such as this, at least. Perhaps it is in more collectivistic cultures, which helps account for differing perceptions on topics such as civil and political rights. If members of the OWS movement began referring to themselves as fighting for the collective freedom of the 99%ers to direct their own governance such as by having truly fair elections, and truly representative democracy, it would help focus the movement. That is happening to an extent, which is a good thing, but due to our cognitive training it is difficult for Americans to stop thinking in terms of their own personal freedoms, and their own economic plights.

Third, the freedom that matters most is mental, not behavioral. Freedom (the right to make choices) can be thought of as having emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. However, the act of choosing, is essentially a cognitive process, aided by emotional processes. A person can have considerable freedom to behave as he or she chooses, yet still be mentally trapped into a certain way of thinking. On the other hand, a person who lacks much behavioral choice, may mentally be free to think and feel quite freely. (Think Stephen Hawking, for example.) We probably all have had experiences, in which we found ourselves trapped in a certain modality of thought which limited our ability to choose, or on the other hand, have found our choices taken away by others, but we essentially remained as free as before because our mental alacrity to think and feel as we pleased, remained unaffected. However, the discussion of "freedom" focuses obsessively on the idea of behavioral freedom.

Fourth, here is something which I have heard from several people to whom I am very close: Freedom is overrated. This is not to say that freedom is unimportant, but rather, that it does not always lead to the desired outcomes, as I understand it and agree with. The phrase, "Be careful what you wish for" comes to mind. Perhaps we would find ourselves happier and better off, if rather than obsessing over personal decisions and what is "right for me," we deferred somewhat to those with more experience and especially, to the greater, collective good. The concept of freedom that we have here in the United States, at least, and probably around much of the world, is akin to being a teenager who is given several credit cards, and told to go shopping, buy whatever you want, and money is no object. Now, that's freedom! It is for awhile, anyway. And people in such situations tend to be inordinately happy, until the bill eventually comes due, when they suddenly become alarmed and stressed. That is exactly what has happened with the huge scam that U.S. politicians and the military-industrial complex has perpetrated upon the people of the United States, and predictably, they don't want to pay; they want us to pay the bill and go through severe austerity in order to do so. Freedom in the hands of a fool, is a dangerous thing; it must be used wisely if we are to enjoy our freedoms.


Zenzoe 7 years 33 weeks ago

Your "Made to Love" post made some of the same good points, so I'll come here, rather than comment on both, if it's all the same to you.

Just a few things:

Yeah, I'm sick and tired of the glorification of the military too. The notion that we'd be no better than slaves, without a massive military budget devoted to slaughtering innocents abroad, defies reason. I think the majority of Americans would like to cut back the military, but then, a large number of us buy into that "maintain our freedom" meme; they respond like Pavlov's dogs, drooling over the flag, or a marching military band, or a uniform, in the same way they thrill to a football game. It's all sport to some Americans. "Go team go!"

It's ironic how small the threat of terrorism is, in reality, compared to other ways of dying. The following link has an article with a list of the ways people die, with the numbers, to show the lack of evidence to support militarization:

We had quite a discussion about, essentially, freedom at the "Sane Conversation about Abortion" thread, though it was a most insane conversation overall. I don't know if you read any of it, but despite the insanity, I came away with a clearer understanding of my own position on the subject. Abortion is probably too loaded a subject to expect a rational discussion, but it does present some interesting dilemmas about individual freedom vs. community interests. I tried to explain my position as being one within Utilitarian Ethics, where the "greatest good" is the goal, but where we not only look at the greatest good overall, but also for the individual. No situation represents an absolute rule to go by, or so it seems to me. Balance and reason is the goal.

You have said that freedom is a state of mind, mostly, but for a woman with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, it's hard to imagine any state of mind that could overcome her sense of involuntary servitude, where the State could deny her choice of abortion. State intervention in the reproductive choices women make enslaves women physically, tangibly and materially. States and religions that deny women reproductive choice deny women freedom in the most basic sense.

But that's just one example and not meant to start another thread about abortion. And it's not that I disagree with your points about freedom in the emotional sense. A woman may live in a community where birth control is available, but she may have had religious indoctrination that constricts her ability to choose reproductive freedom.

One other thing: Liberals have a definition of freedom, much of which you represent, above; conservatives, I do believe, have a definition of freedom that comes closer to license (excessive freedom that disregards others), in practice. Thus, we get Monsanto, Exxon and the rest of the greedy bastards that equate greed and self-interest with freedom. Makes me so mad.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 33 weeks ago

I think you just identified why football is so popular, especially in "the south." It's like a good ol' fashioned war to these people, without the gore, sort of a proxy war. The bellicose drooling of America warmongers seems to circumvent the more advanced parts of their brains, just as classical conditioning does, whether rooting for America in war or rooting for their favorite football team.

I think Thom has mentioned the same thing about the likelihood of terrorism compared to other tragedies, but since terrorism by foreigners is a metaphorical nail for our military hammer to hit, it gets big-time coverage. I believe it's called threat magnification, or something like that by people who work at the Pentagon. I have never been the least bit afraid of terrorism, and rightly so given it's rarity, but I am afraid of the way my government has responded to it, especially the Bush administration. I do think that foreign terrorist threats were used as an excuse to feed the U.S. military's appetite for money, prestige and something to do with all of their shiny new war toys.

I think I looked at the abortion thread once, but when a thread gets so long, it becomes difficult to review adequately, and I just don't have the time to spend on every thread of interest. I am sure you know what I mean. Plus, I seemed to get allergic as soon as I went to bed last night, didn't sleep very well, took a nap after lunch today but still am struggling to stay alert. However, I think the pragmatic approach that you describe with the greater good in mind exacly matches mine in regard to abortion. We certainly don't need a bunch more unwanted children in this world; we are not exactly having a people shortage, as it is. This reminds me, I read the local newspaper recently when I went to take my car for service. There was one editorial, about how we needed austerity measures in California because of its horrible debt which the editors no doubt attribute to greedy teachers and other public employees with their humongous salaries and benefits. There was one opinion column, by Rich Lowry, who is a well known conservative who wasn't finding anything much to like in the field of Republican Presidential candidates. There were five letters to the editor, the first of which claimed that rather than having a population problem, the world needs more people -- the more the merrier -- since more people "brings more prosperity." The second one was an anti-abortion letter, so between the two, the solution to the world's problems they would propose is to get a bunch of teens pregnant and make them have loads of unwanted babies. The third letter was blatantly anti-Obama from the conservative side, saying he doesn't deserve a chance so let's boot him out. I forget what the fourth one said, probably because my head was spinning by then, but it was definitely conservative too. The final one was about the momentous topic of who to name Riverside's City Hall after. That one will probably make the local news show. After reading the paper, I was gladder than ever that I stopped getting the paper in 2004 after it endorsed "W" for President again.

By the way, Riverside isn't that conservative as a whole, but the newspaper is. I think it is not doing well, but maybe that's a good thing, unless they get some better policies for their newspaper. I noticed that the newspaper is a lot smaller than it used to be, down to 2 sections. Occupy Riverside seems to be a significant force and it's not going anywhere. I suspect it will be a major contributor to the OWS movement over time.

I probably have a cognitive bias -- a cognitive cognitive bias -- in my psychological thinking. I generally think that cognition tends to have primacy over emotion and behavior, although things are very complicated. I think the research evidence tends to support the primacy of cognition too, meaning that thinking comes first and foremost, followed by emotion and action. That is probably where I get my opinion that mental aspects of freedom, both cognitive and emotional actually, take precedence over freedom of action, although clearly, when our behavior is restricted, it sure doesn't feel good and makes us think bad things too, so the entire topic is complex with multiple feedback loops as you seem to recognize. Maybe the best approach to understanding freedom is to see how all the parts connect with each other, rather than singling out one aspect of freedom. I do have one good friend who recently mentioned to me that in her opinion, mental freedom is "the only kind of true freedom," so clearly I don't go that far; I do think it's important to recognize that there is behavioral freedom as well as the other kinds.

That reminds me (again), that I never mentioned the toxic "Freedom isn't Free" meme. I think I wrote an entire post or two about that several years ago. I think that "Freedom isn't Free" is actually true, but in a completely different way than it has been presented to us. The true price of freedom is taking responsibility for one's choices -- individually or collectively -- a price that our politicians and military leaders seem unwilling to pay.

Finally, your observation that freedom seems to mean license to conservatives, is a very good one. I like that term, license, to describe what conservatives are trying to do. The difference between the liberal and conservative definitions of freedom was in large part what I was doing at the end of the post in defining my views of what freedom is and is not.

Zenzoe 7 years 33 weeks ago

I'm not sure what a "cognitive cognitive bias" is, and so I must defer to your understanding. I did want to mention, though, my understanding too—that with humans cognition and emotion are all wrapped up together, and that no decision can be made without emotional factors influencing it. Certainly, no balanced, ethical choice can be made only by cognition, without considering emotional factors. I say, "my understanding," though I'm not sure exactly where or how I came to have this opinion; I'm thinking it must have been Sapolsky, because he's my source for all things neurological and brainishy, if you will. Here's one fascinating article by the man, with indirect relevance here, entitled, This Is Your Brain on Metaphors. You might not have time to read it, but I think you'll like it if you do read it.

I get what is meant by mental freedom. A perfect example of it can be found in Sonia Jacobs' story of wrongful conviction and prison sentence, a story you may have seen on Democracy Now last Wednesday. In short, when she realized she was doomed to exist in a prison cell, rather than exhausting herself with rage and frustration, she decided to turn her cell into a sanctuary, through meditation and study. I suppose any "free" person has the choice of approaching life's insults in a way that liberates the soul. However, as liberating as Sonia Jacobs' choice may have been, she nevertheless was not in fact free, not physically free. It was only after she was exonerated and released that her life began again with a true sense of freedom.

Perhaps, in some cases, only the experience of real, physical imprisonment can liberate a person from the mental imprisonment of a neurotic lack of gratitude for one's blessings?

Incidentally, I'm wondering about Thom's seeming tolerance for magical thinking on his TV show last night. Of course, Thom is free to believe what he likes, but when it comes to his approving of charlatans who come on his program to claim they "remember deciding to be born" and "choosing to make a difference in the world" before birth, I get outraged. What the hell? I mean, here come two guys with a book they wrote, entitled, The Golden Motorcycle Gang, and during the interview they present their Five Big Questions, as presented in the book, one of which is, "Do you have any memory of having volunteered to go to Earth at this particular time," and they claim to answer Yes, that is, they remember making the decision to be born! And then, at the end of the interview, Thom says, in effect, "Thanks so much for your brilliant vision and insights..." and blah blah blah. I don't know what you would think about it at that point, but I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I know that Thom is big on new-age philosophy, but I didn't know he was that far gone.

But don't worry about my anger. Sapolsky says (are you bored with "Sapolsky says" yet? ^=^ ) that repressing strong emotion "...appears to exaggerate the intensity of the physiology that goes along with them," i.e., the physiology that leads to heart disease. Of course, I suppose having a sense of humor might bypass (no pun intended) the situation entirely?

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 33 weeks ago

I don't even remember being born, much less deciding to be born an earthling. That is pretty far out there in lalaland. How do they intend to gather evidence for their suppositions, or do they? I don't discount the possibility of something like reincarnation, but I certainly don't remember previous lives, or anything before this one.

I am not bored with Sapolsky. He -- Sapolsky is a he, correct? -- seems very informative and I seem to agree with your comments about what he says, at least. Thought, emotion and behavior are all mixed together and interacting. However, it could be said that free will and thus freedom, begins with thought. Here is another example. Consider instinctive animals. They respond to certain stimuli from their environment with prewired behavior; they do not think about it. Thus, they cannot be said to have free will or freedom. Until our ancestors evolved the ability to think, independently of environmental stimuli, they could not have had free will, either. Of course, thinking is not an all or none thing, so I am oversimplifying, but one cannot have free will without thought processes and the awareness that thinking brings. Instinctive animals can be wired with emotions, however. This does not make them capable of free will or freedom. Finally, every action that we take voluntarily, originates in our thought processes. However, it all winds up in behavior, with emotions playing their role on the way, so of course, our ability to act freely in the world -- to whatever extent that is possible -- concerns us the most.

My cognitive cognitive bias refers to a cognitive bias toward using saying everything begins with cognition, as I just explained. Psychologists could have other viewpoints, but I take the cognitive one. Behaviorists certainly would have a behavioral bias, and Humanists might have an emotional bias, although I am sort of a Humanist, but one with a cognitive approach. I do think that physical imprisonment can make some people aware of their cognitive freedom as your example of Sonya Jacobs indicates. When people can appreciate both their physical and mental freedom, they can do their best work.

I have heard that about repressing strong emotion, I think. There are physiological reactions that occur with each emotion, but when a person represses the emotion, they sustain that physiological state for a longer period of time, rather than resolving it. In other words, people who repress anger remain angry physiologically although they don't express the emotion. This is probably the case in people who "go postal." The cognitive approach would be that people could re-examine their anger and decide whether it is justified or not, which could result in an actual change in emotional experience from anger to something else, but if the anger is justified, repressing it is bad for you, so I agree that you should tell people that you are angry, and why. That is part of honest communication, definitely a Humanistic thing as well as a cognitive therapy thing.

Zenzoe 7 years 33 weeks ago

I can't believe a cat lover would claim humans are the only creatures capable of choosing freely, or having free will. I see behavior indicative of free will in my cats on a daily basis. My indoor/outdoor cat, Jazzy, for example, does not come in the house just because I open up the door for her; if she's not interested, she may look at me and consider her options, but, if she has better things to do she'll just look away, or walk off in another direction. However, if she's hungry, or ready to come in for the night, or scared, shwoosh!—she's in like a flash. Obviously, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. I'm sure you have lots of examples of cat will-power yourself. ;-)

I briefly landed on America's Funniest Videos the other night and saw a great example both of animal thought process and conditioned response: So, you see that a small, black dog has hidden under the bed, because his owner just said, "Bath time..." Immediately then, she says, "Walk?" and the dog, bursts out from under the bed to happily and eagerly run to the door, wagging his tail like crazy; "Bath," says the owner—the dogs scurries quickly, with tail down, back under the bed. "Walk?" she says, and he's out from under the bed again... So this goes on, back and forth, from under the bed and back to the door, all in response to the words, "bath" and "walk." Not only could the dog understand people words, it knew what it wanted to do and what it didn't want to do, and how to avoid it. However, I suppose you could say it didn't have free will, because if it did, it would know it was being manipulated and would not play the game. But I wouldn't agree. The dog's thinking process may be rudimentary, but its behavior still reflects a self, a self that has its own likes and dislikes, its own interests in mind.

You couldn't get a cat to do that, not because cats are not as smart as dogs, but because they are too smart and too dignified to cooperate with your game.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 33 weeks ago

Zenzoe, I wrote a reply but it disappeared. I am still having something wrong physically with mucous, headaches and fatigue which is hindering me, but I never said anything about cats or dogs in my previous post. Apparently I should have given examples of instinctive animals, or just stuck to talking about instinctive behavior. I did not say that cats and dogs are instinctive animals. They have instincts, but are not instinctive. They are smart, relatively sentient animals, which is why they make good pets. There may not be any good examples of a totally instinctive animal, actually, as even ones with very simple nervous systems such as sea slugs have been shown to alter their behavior through learning. When I was talking about our ancestors, by the way, I was going way back, I don't know how many millions of years, to when our ancestors were presumably small-brained, instinctive creatures, and the human species had not begun to take form yet.

I am fully aware of the willfulness of cats and dogs, especially cats. Look at what happened to my cat family this late summer/early fall as most of them wandered off of their own volition. It broke my heart and I don't know if they are okay or not, alive or dead, since I cannot find them other than Smurfull and the ever-loyal Gorjilina who are both fine. Gorjilina is a good example of a cat who seems to understand human language, by the way. She is very responsive to speech. My wife finds Gorjilina's sense of understanding to be amazing.

I am a believer in animal sentience and cognition, clearly. I just made a general statement about instinctive animals in the previous post to make a point, which is that instinctive behavior is not volutional, and thus, cannot be a matter of free will, but any volitional behavior must have started with a thought. This is the basis of my assertion that freedom originates from thought. Actually, one doesn't even need to talk about instinct in order to make that point. That was just to give a contrast with thoughtful behavior.

Zenzoe 7 years 33 weeks ago

Sorry you're sick.

Well, I figured you probably meant single-celled animals, or some such primitive form of animal life. I was sort of pulling your leg, you know.

My cat Zephyr knows people talk too, somewhat. When I say, "Look—birdie," she'll look out the window. But if she's on the couch with me and the TV's on, and I say, "Look at the TV—kitty cats," like when a nature program is on, she'll look at the TV. She loves watching animals on the TV. If she sees birds, after awhile she'll do that chatter thing cats do, like Hannibal Lecter. Talk about instinct.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 33 weeks ago

My cat Purrina used to chatter at the birds too, but most of the cats I have had don't do that. They usually become quiet and gradually stalk the birds.

Even single celled creatures have reflexive responses to different stimuli, so I guess protozoa would do. It's difficult to say that they are exercising free will. Cats, on the other hand, are very willful. Dogs are more conformist, but they also have a free will and personality.

By the way, many early psychologists thought that humans were instinct driven, but they turned out to be wrong. In fact, Freud more or less thought that people were instinct driven. We do have certain reflexes, but they are not very influential beyond infancy.

I think I had a food allergy. I am postulating that it may have been some preservative or some such in a package of shrimp that I bought at Winco. I cooked it with asparagus, mushrooms and ginger, plus oyster sauce I think. It tasted really good, but the period following eating it over 2 days were when I didn't feel well, with headaches, runny nose and fatigue. Yesterday, I was careful to put only natural stuff with no preservatives in what I cooked, not even any oil, and voila, I slept well and feel very well today. If it were an infection, I wouldn't have recovered so quickly, although I am only guessing about the cause of my problem.

Zenzoe 7 years 33 weeks ago

For the life of me I can't understand why the Message Board contributors hardly ever come down here to post. They're forever writing about freedom, values, greed and all the things we think about here, in your posts or other's posts in the blog section, but somehow they prefer the apparent ether regions of Hartmannland. So, what are we, chopped liver? (I do notice they don't get as loosie-goosie as we do...but that's to their detriment, I say.)

It does sound like you had either a food allergy or food poisoning. Maybe the shrimp was from the Gulf of Mexico... or Japan... Sorry, no terrorism intended. :-}

The last time I was at my son's place, they served salmon patties with dinner. I looked at the package to see where the salmon came from: Japan. So, like a complete jerk I told them I avoid food from Japan now, which prompted my son to say, with a smile, "Mom, I can't believe you don't carry a Geiger counter around with you. Think of it—you could test absolutely everything..." In return, I said, "Dost thou mock me?" which is something I ask a lot, because it happens a lot. But this time I didn't mind the sarcasm. I'd been rude. But, actually, I think it's a good idea to have a Geiger counter. I might just send for one soon. That way, I could bring it out at the dinner table and really be rude. I can see it now... Oh! What fun awaits me...

Too bad they don't make Geiger counters that test for BS. I have a built-in Crap Detector in my head, but it would be nice to have something a little more reliable, something I could hold in my hand and point at people. No, I'm not experiencing penis envy. The device I'm thinking of would be small enough, so that you could sneak it into your dentist's office, or into the restaurant where you're meeting a blind date, and you could point it at the potentially offending person and, if he or she is up to no good, it would send a text message to your cell phone, like, "This twerp is trying to pull a fast one on you;" or, "Certifiable," or, "Find the nearest exit, ASAP." And you could direct it at yourself too. So it might say to you, "No, you do NOT need a second piece of cheese cake." See, if they'd had such a thing during Freud's time, he could have saved himself a lot of ridicule over the years, because the thing would have told him, "'Penis Envy?' Give me a break!"

About fate and will: It occurs to me that while it might be our fate to be born into a certain family, in a certain community, in a particular region of the world, we are not doomed by such fate. That is, if I don't like my family, or my community, or my part of the world, I am free to move on. At least, if I have the wherewithal to make those changes, I can do so. However, what do we do, where family, community, or regional obligations, or loyalties, or allegiances factor in? Those can be factors that add to the richness of one's life experience, but they can also be enslaving, right? I admire people who can sever such ties and go off into the sunset of exploration, but I also admire the homebodies and those committed by loyalty and responsibility to family or community. Mostly we exist in a compromise between the two, I suppose.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 33 weeks ago

I have often wondered the same thing about people who rarely if ever visit the blog part of this site. I must give a little credit to Ren and to Polycarp since both of them have commented at least once on a blog post I wrote, but that's it. Others never seem to come here. It seems to me that the blogs are higher for the most part on both personability and on serious intellectuality, which is why I prefer the blogs although I also post on the message boards sometimes. Relatively few people on this site do both, but you, Dhavid, Nimblecivet and I are among them. These past couple of posts though, only you have been replying. The message boards seem more about people mixing it up. Sometimes I also make an effort to reply to other people's blog posts because I think this part of Thom's site needs more of that and more of a balance between the message boards and the blog area. I feel sorry for some of the blog posters who never seem to get replies, although anything I reply to I am truly interested in. There is one blog poster who writes large numbers of very short posts which must take him no more than a few minutes to do, often basically just with a link or a one sentence statement. I find this sort of monopolizing this area, especially since it is not uncommon for me to look at the 10 most recent blog posts only to find that 7 of them are by this same person within the past couple of hours. I think you know who I mean. I wish there was some sort of accounting for the length of a post -- perhaps a minimum blog post length if nothing else.

The shrimp were farm raised from Thailand, your daughter-in-law's (Julie's?) home nation. They seemed really small to be tiger shrimp, so perhaps they were something different, maybe some sort of saltwater shrimp raised in saltwater ponds. Maybe the wind was blowing that way from Japan. Tiger shrimp are freshwater, and people actually fish for them in ponds in Taiwan. I did that twice while I was there in August, which was really an interesting experience. I am always astounded by how large these freshwater shrimp have evolved to be. Speaking of instinctive creatures, crustaceans such as shrimp, crab and lobsters are about as stupid as stupid can be. Their little brains only know how to say "smell food, get food." It doesn't matter if somebody is waiting there to snatch them up.

I love Japanese food by the way, but Fukushima is really messing things up. Northern Japan does have a lot of indigenous Salmon and Japan as a whole has a lot of good, interesting foods, both seafood and indigenous plants. Chinese cuisine is still tops for me, though. Most of what I eat has some sort of Chinese influence. By the way, even Taiwan has an indigenous Salmon variety, but they are endangered and thus off limits for fishing. It would be interesting to have a geiger counter. I wonder what it would register around here. My father is a retired radiologist so he might register pretty high on the geiger counter.

I have a Crap Detector too, except that I call it my BSometer. I think it works pretty well, but it would be gratifying to have an actual machine that gives BS readings. I do find a lot of people sadly lacking in the BSometer department (not you, of course), so such a machine would be of great benefit to humankind. Freud was apparently one of those people lacking a BSometer, although he was an expert at creating BS.

Most of us U.S. citizens are descendants of people who "moved on" as I am sure you are aware. Actually, with immigration laws and anti-immigration sentiment around the world these days, moving to another nation is not that easy. However, it is pretty easy to move to another town, perhaps in another state, and not respond to one's relatives when they try to contact you. That would be really sad in my opinion, but for some people who have been abused by their own family in some way, that might be the best option. Getting back to the freedom topic, it can be enslaving to be expected to be loyal to one's family/culture/religion/etc. I feel sorry for some of the children of religous fundamentalists that I meet, because the conformity pressures to believe the same fairy tales as their parents and to adopt the same lifestyle are so extreme and restricting. My brothers and I had the opposite experience while growing up, although my father's parents were basically christian zealots. I think children tend to rebel against such authoritarian, unrealistic, irrational world views when given the opportunity. Actually, my father's parents were real sweethearts, but they had that really strict christian lifestyle according to my father.

Zenzoe 7 years 33 weeks ago

Just briefly, for now, because I haven't had my breakfast yet—I'm thinking a BSometer (brand name, BS-O-Meter), shouldn't be so difficult to invent. I mean, if they can make a computer/phone the size of a wallet, why not make a lie-detector small too? I'll bet some electronic genius could come up with a way, where a subject wouldn't have to be wired up. Don't they already have ways to "read" us from a distance? Anyway, Michio Kaku, the nuclear scientist, has a lot of interesting predictions as to all the inventions soon to make an appearance here on planet Earth.

Here's a joke about a lie detector robot:

To breakfast now...

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 33 weeks ago

Actually, a psychologist named Ekman along with his colleagues have been studying emotion for a long time, and one of his major interests is in using facial expressions as a form of lie detection. It turns out that most people, very strangely -- it seems to me that lie detection would have great functional utility and survival value even -- are lousy at it until they are trained regarding what to look for. There could potentially be some sort of device invented which could scan a person's face or evaluate a person's voice -- which also gives honesty versus lie cues -- and give an honesty reading, so what you propose is actually feasible. However, I am not sure how we could do this with written documents. Perhaps there is some kind of writing analysis which could work. It is known that people's writing styles are so individual that they are almost like a fingerprint.

By the way, Ekman's strategy is completely different from the so-called "lie detector" tests we all have heard about that have been around for so long. The "lie detector" machines merely detect sympathetic nervous system activity as manifested in one's skin, which is unreliable as a real indicator of honesty. Ekman's facial expression technique works much better, as his research has demonstrated. Why it isn't being used more is puzzling to me.

Zenzoe 7 years 33 weeks ago

I've heard that rapid blinking is one of the signs of lying. But I wonder too if sociopaths signal with the same facial signs as normal people. I'm still convinced that sociopaths often have super symmetrical faces —which have got to seem more trustworthy— and I know they can be terrific liars. Look here at Herman Cain:  You know he's lying, because he opened his mouth to speak; but he's also using perfect eye contact. I'll bet he has perfected the art of lying, maybe even to himself. There's no conscience in there, or so it seems to me. So, without a conscience, could one lie and fool Ekman?

Lie to Me was an interesting TV series I watched via Netflix, which featured a group of psychologists who assisted the FBI, etc., in their investigations, using psychological lie-detection techniques. From Wikipedia: "Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a brilliant psychologist with an expertise in body language and predominantly microexpressions and founder of The Lightman Group, a private company that operates as an independent contractor to assist investigations of local and federal law enforcement through applied psychology. Though often confronted by people's skepticism, Lightman uses any psychological technique he deems necessary to reach the truth, however elaborate or confronting." I know. I watch too many shows. But I'm pretty picky.

What this has to do with freedom, I don't know.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 33 weeks ago

Actually, I immediately knew what this has to do with freedom, and I think you will understand. The dishonesty of others impinges upon our freedom. Being ripped off by con-artists, for example, is certainly not good for a person's freedom. In a broader sense, we have a right to honest information. If we do not have the most accurate information possible, how can we make the best decisions? If misinformed, we cannot make informed decisions. Making misinformed decisions does not seem much like freedom to me. In fact, I think that some serious errors in this regard were made when the Constitution (and most likely the Constitutions of other nations) were written. We have a write to free speech as long as it is honest, but we do not have a right to deceive other people. Instead, we have a right to be told the truth, and an obligation to tell the truth as we know it, so IMHO this topic has a lot to do with freedom.

Sorry for the late reply; I had a busy day yesterday, and finals are coming up.

I do believe that rapid blinking is one of Ekman's signs of dishonesty, along with many others. I think the shoe Lie To Me is based on his research, so that is where it has had a real impact. Whether Ekman's techniques would work as well on sociopaths as on other people, is a good question. As you are probably aware, polygraph tests do not work as well on sociopaths as "normal people." It is possible that they also have different facial expressions than other people. I also thought of the possibility of having cell phone cameras which automatically analyze a person's facial expressions for honesty, but there could be some very bad liability problems if somebody tries to do that, should the device yield false results. Polygraph machines have the same problem, of course.

Herman Cain's dishonesty seems so obvious to me that his skill or lack thereof in terms of voice and facial expressions seem pretty irrelevant to me. I suspect he is about to quit campaigning, if he hasn't already. Newt Gingrich is a very well-known liar. I believe his ex-wives had said that he will say anything to get his way, not to mention that he is "what a stupid person thinks a smart person sounds like" as I have been hearing recently. I think he also provided the tipping point in 1994 which turned the Republican Party into a mean-spirited band of bullies. Romney is a typical, blow with the wind disingenuous politician, except that what loyalty he has is to his fellow (fellow because he is one of them) corporate moguls, exactly the opposite of what America needs at this time. Perry and Bachman are deluded fundamentalist conservatives, much like "W," and Paul is a deluded fundamentalist libertarian, but at least those 3 display some honesty, except for their willful ignorance.

Zenzoe 7 years 32 weeks ago

I guess you didn't catch Herman Cain today, announcing the "suspension" of his campaign? I'm wondering which meaning of suspension he had in mind— suspension, as in, his campaign has been temporarily barred from activities by his wife; suspension, as in hanging freely from a post; or maybe he meant an interruption in the intensity of his interest in his campaign of hitting on women; or maybe... I mean, suspension? Doesn't that imply temporary? I guess that's how politicians keep themselves "viable," for TV appearances and highly-paid speeches, etc. Oops, that's right—he's not a politician. He's a "man of the people."

His press conference today had him stacking so many lies one on top of the other, I thought his arms might fall off. But that's only a metaphor. As literal reality would have it, he did have a lot of trouble keeping his face from slipping completely onto his tie, given the depressed mood I guessed him to be in. He gave it his best effort, though, telling his lies with absolute confidence. Such dastardly media spinners, he cried! Oh dem cowardwy, wabbits! They made running for president such a "dirty, dirty, dirty business." Well, he should know about dirty business, eh?

I do think it's partly up to us to know when we're being lied to. Politicians lie freely; it's up to us to know a lying, political duck, when we see one waddling across the street, going, "Quack, quack, quack." What amazes me is how bloody naive people are. Do those Cain supporters really think Cain would give money to an attractive woman over a 14-year span of time, without friendly recompense? Oye!

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 32 weeks ago

I didn't see the press conference with Cain, but I had seen something about him re-evaluating his campaign. I figured he was deciding to get out before anything else hit the fan, but the damage is already done. It's astounding just how ludicrous he is being yet protesting his innocence in every case with such confidence. I guess that is what con-men do. Dem cowardwy wabbits. How dare dey make such scuwulous accwuzashins with da help of dair massive wiberal conspiwacy machine.

Suspension is designed to sound temporary --quite a euphemism, huh, unless he means he has been suspended in some fashion.

I think it is partly up to us to figure out who is lying, but unfortunately, people tend to think that they are much better at lie detection than they really are, and we do have a right to be told the truth. Many people are relatively clueless when it comes to knowing who is telling the truth, presumably those among us unfortunate enough to be lacking a BSometer, such as Cain and Gingrich supporters. Saying "oh, it's up to every individual" doesn't work for me when it comes to honesty and lie detection. If people as a whole were so good at detecting BS, humanity's history would be far less traumatic, and the world, a far better place than it is. We don't have to look far for examples of how people have been bamboozled in ways that led to tragic results throughout history. History abounds with sad tales of this sort. There should be some sort of legal consequences for those who do the bamboozling, but most of the time there don't seem to be any, unless they manage to break some law in the process and are held accountable. People need BSometer training too. I think it has been shown to work.

Zenzoe 7 years 32 weeks ago
Quote Natural Lefty:

Dem cowardwy wabbits. How dare dey make such scuwulous accwuzashins with da help of dair massive wiberal conspiwacy machine.

I love it. "Scuwulous accwuzashins...wiberal conspiwacy..." LOL!

Quote Natural Lefty:

Suspension is designed to sound temporary --quite a euphemism, huh, unless he means he has been suspended in some fashion.

I know that. Ha.

Quote Natural Lefty:

I think it is partly up to us to figure out who is lying, but unfortunately, people tend to think that they are much better at lie detection than they really are, and we do have a right to be told the truth. Many people are relatively clueless when it comes to knowing who is telling the truth, presumably those among us unfortunate enough to be lacking a BSometer, such as Cain and Gingrich supporters. Saying "oh, it's up to every individual" doesn't work for me when it comes to honesty and lie detection. If people as a whole were so good at detecting BS, humanity's history would be far less traumatic, and the world, a far better place than it is. We don't have to look far for examples of how people have been bamboozled in ways that led to tragic results throughout history. History abounds with sad tales of this sort. There should be some sort of legal consequences for those who do the bamboozling, but most of the time there don't seem to be any, unless they manage to break some law in the process and are held accountable. People need BSometer training too. I think it has been shown to work.

That reminds me: Speaking of BS. Remember Richard Nixon? Well, last night I happened on a video interview of Grace Slick. You may remember her song, White Rabbit, with all its implications of mushrooms and drugs, and you can probably imagine how such a hippie rock band might get the attention of the FBI? (sorry, if you already know this story) Apparently, Jefferson Airplane did get on the FBI list, as she tells it these many years later, because, when she was invited by one of the Nixon daughters to tea at the White House (Slick graduated from the same college), the FBI came along, as she waited outside before the tea, and pulled her out of line to say she wouldn't be allowed to attend. She was on their list. Well, it was a good thing for Nixon: Little did the FBI know, little Gracie had LSD in her pocket and planned to drop some into Nixon's tea. Oh dat waskawy wabbit! But can you imagine Nixon on Acid? Goodness, could that have altered the course of history, or what?

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 32 weeks ago

I wike to white phonetickwy, so why do peeple always say I white vewy funny?

If Nixon had taken LSD, I am afraid he might have gone paranoid and decided to nuke Russia. On the other hand, he might have seemed so crazy that he would have been replaced earlier than he was, which might have been Grace Slick's intention. I don't think her trying to put acid in Nixon's tea was a good idea, on balance, so I am glad it didn't happen. She probably would have decided against it, anyway, if she had gotten into the party. I doubt she is that impulsive but I don't know much about her, and I had never heard of that story before.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 7 years 32 weeks ago

The police always seem very careful to allow the Ku Klux Klan, or what is left of them these days, to have their public rallies, saying that they have to safeguard the freedom of speech of all, no matter how objectionable, but their tolerance in many communities for the Occupy protesters seems minimal or even non-existent in certain cases.

Zenzoe 7 years 32 weeks ago

In those more noticeable days of the Tea Party rallies, after Obama's election, when TP protesters showed up with guns plainly strapped to their hips, I called an office of the Secret Service to ask why this was allowed. Not only was it allowed because local laws did not prohibit citizen gun-toting, but they "weren't close enough" to President Obama to pose a threat. Hello? Can you imagine what would happen if an OWS protester showed up with a gun in his holster? I shudder to think...

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 32 weeks ago

Seriously? People are allowed to carry guns like a la a "western" movie? I thought they were only allowed for people with special permits in a few places, and not at all elsewhere. I really don't understand what is wrong with the police in this nation -- why they are so right wing, why they don't understand that OWS is on their side. The same goes for the military. I understand about the authoritarian mindset, so I guess that is part of the explanation, and the other part is their indoctrination, but I would think people in uniform who carry weapons would be a little less clueless. My message to the policeman who pepper sprayed the students at UC Davis was along those lines. Of course, this is a freedom issue, as in Tea Baggers and Ku Klux Clan members are being granted more freedom than OWS Occupiers.

It's good to hear from you Robindell. It's been just me and Zenzoe exchanging messages for a week or so.

In "related" news, I just made my final exams, logged onto the computer, and got a message from Nimblecivet saying that he had been quoted in an LA times article. He provided a link to the article and I read it. He is quoted under his real name in the article, twice. Maybe he will tell people on this site about the details of his interview. It was about Occupy San Francisco being asked to move their encampment, but the Occupiers are refusing to move. I wonder if Tea Baggers have ever been asked to move.

Zenzoe 7 years 32 weeks ago

Maybe, when you get a chance, NL, you could provide the link to the LA Times article with NC's quotes?

But, yeah, for example: "PHOENIX - About a dozen people carrying guns, including one with a military-style rifle, milled among protesters outside the convention center where President Barack Obama was giving a speech Monday - the latest incident in which protesters have openly displayed firearms near the president. ...Arizona is an ``open-carry'' state, which means anyone legally allowed to have a firearm can carry it in public as long as it's visible. Only someone carrying a concealed weapon is required to have a permit."

I thought I had a brilliant idea for a bumper sticker or T-shirt, but, as usual, somebody else got there first: Freedom Isn't Free: Tax the Rich

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 32 weeks ago

Arizona has gone to the wolves politically, apparently. Well, maybe the Jared Loughner incident has awakened them somewhat. The incident described in the article happened in 2009 before Loughner decided to kill his Congresswoman. Eunice and I had a good experience in Arizona this past summer, but we spent most of our time on "Indian Reservations" (Hualapai and Apache) which are run semi-autonomously and much more liberally than the non-reservation parts of the state.

"Freedom Isn't Free: Tax the Rich!" That's brilliant. It had me laughing out loud.,0,5794818.story

There is the link to the story which quotes "Nimblecivet" twice. I was hoping to hear from him on this site by now. I am not sure how he feels about his anonymity on this site, but I see no reason for him to be secretive about it. Here is a hint: His real family name starts with the same letter as yours, and even seems as though it could be the same ethnicity, but that is inaccurate since he said his name was of a different ethnicity and was shortened to make it more easily pronounced, or something to that effect.

Zenzoe 7 years 32 weeks ago

You probably need this item.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 32 weeks ago

Yes, I could use that for Christmas. I am always spilling tomato sauce on my shirts, and Eunice isn't here to dress me up and make me look all handsome before I go to school. Now she says she will not return until mid-January. Boohoo.

Zenzoe 7 years 32 weeks ago

Oh-h-h-h...that's too long time no see! Poor Mucky.

Yes, I thought you'd look cute wearing it. Actually, I'm the one who needs a bib. Either that or a drool-bucket... ;-)

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 32 weeks ago

I am a drooler too, you know. My mother said I was such a neat child. I don't know what has happened since then. It was probably when I hit puberty and started drooling at the gals.

I've got all these lovely big pictures of my wife around the house to comfort me and drool at, so I am okay. I am quite proficient at being self-sufficient like most environmentally minded progressives, actually. I do feel like burrowing into a hole and hiding when the tide is out, sometimes though.

By the way, I wrote another post yesterday, in case you didn't know: "The Public Economy" etc.

Zenzoe 7 years 32 weeks ago

I'm obviously quite good at solitude too, living alone all the time. In fact, I love it. But my gender may explain some of it, given that women, in couples, usually end up being the caretakers, the maids, having to follow their husbands around, picking up their socks and underwear. As for me, alone, I just leave my socks and underwear where I drop them —at least for awhile— and don't worry a whole lot about it. Nobody's gonna see it, or give me a nuggie over it. I'm FREE!!!

Of course, couples have a kind of freedom too, something I envy from time to time. But I guess that kind of freedom isn't my choice, for now, anyway.

Oh, yes, I still have to read your The Public Economy post. I hadn't noticed it before, so it's good you mentioned it. I'll go read it now. But it might be awhile before I get around to commenting, if I have anything relevant to say.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 32 weeks ago

I ball my underwear and socks up and throw them into my laundry bin while making a wish/prayer of some sort every evening. This is as far as my "sports participation" goes, and I usually make my "3-pointers." It's a pretty eccentric ritual, huh?

I think the key to being happy whether alone or not, whether single or as part of a couple, is living a life of good conscience and being happy with oneself. A sense of freedom and autonomy helps too, as in making choices which are productive and/or enjoyable as long as they don't any problems for anybody. To paraphrase Dr. Sun Yat-sen, according to my wife Zunliang, first, make sure you are not making things worse, then do something to make things better.

Oh well, I already added another freedom post on this site...

Zenzoe 7 years 32 weeks ago

I can't freaking keep up with you! Sheesh! ;-)

Add comment

Login or register to post comments

Come Cruise with Thom Hartmann in July 2020

Join me for an exciting Bermuda getaway aboard Oceania Cruises, the world’s leading culinary and destination-focused cruise line. Set sail on the reimagined Insignia for 7 nights beginning July 25th 2020. Take advantage of Oceania Cruises’ OLife Choice promotion, where you can choose shore excursions, a beverage package, or onboard credit – Oceania Cruises also includes Wifi! You'll also receive complimentary gratuities, a $50 onboard credit and two exclusive cocktail parties. Did I mention we are planning special onboard events with yours truly? Prices start at $1199.

Reserve your stateroom today by contacting Keene Luxury Travel, and mention the Thom Hartmann Group 800.856.1155

What Do Democrats Really Want?

Thom plus logo Thomas Friedman, the confused billionaire, told us decades ago that "free trade" is what made the Lexus a successful product when, in fact, it was decades of Japanese government subsidies and explicit tariffs that did so.