Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Question 5: "Why Can't We Just Put This Stupid Shit Aside And Treat Each Other Like Human Beings?"

"After all," you say, "I might be a white dude, but the one-room apartment I live in bears a lot closer resemblance to the ghetto than the mansion Flavor Flav lives in. If you don't want me judging people based on the color of their skin, why are you judging me on mine? To say I have 'white privilege' is a cruel joke, considering that for lunch I ate a 'hamburger' that was a wad of ramen noodles between two slices of bread."

All of that is technically correct. And I completely get why a low-income, lonely white dude is sick to death of hearing about how his movies, video games, and jokes are racist or sexist or homophobic. The logic is almost impossible to argue with: "If their problems as women are on the level of getting Hollywood to cast a plus-size Wonder Woman, and my problems involve not being able to afford heat in the winter, then it's downright evil to belittle my real problems while demanding I worry about that trivial SJW Tumblr bullshit."

In other words, why can't we start treating each other like individuals based on our position in life, and just drop all of this race/gender stuff that just clouds the issue? Wouldn't that be the fastest way to make things better for everyone?

Sure, and we could totally do that, if we were merely people. The problem is that we can't just collectively agree to make the context of history go away, any more than a bunch of leaves can get together and decide that there is no tree; the roots of history are still feeding us. Blacks are still stuck in neighborhoods with terrible schools and no job opportunities where they're being groomed for a lifetime in the corrections system. Women who want to get jobs as software engineers will find themselves in offices that are 84 percent male.

So, while race is a social construct as are lots of gender roles*, that doesn't mean they're not real -- the systems we're living under today were all built with them in mind.

And if you are a white male in America, you're among the winningest of the winning tribes -- again, even if your own life is a disaster. This is why people say you have "privilege." It doesn't really refer to anything you have, but what you don't have. You may still get shot by a cop some day, but you won't get shot because you're white. As a male, your boss might be less likely to flirt with you, but will be more likely to take your input seriously. And so on.

Changing that doesn't mean they're winning, and you're losing. This isn't about you. There is no "you" at all, outside of this larger context. It's about continuing this winning streak humanity has been on, and trying to build a world in which everybody -- from the poor white dude in the trailer park to the black trans woman in Russia -- has the best possible chance to make something with their lives. We can disagree about how exactly to do that, but as for those people talking about the "good old days" and getting back to "traditional" values? The best thing I can say about them is that they can't possibly know what they're asking for.

Original Article

Monday, November 16, 2015

Question 4: "Why Do I Get Blamed For Things My Grandparents Did?"

Here's another really simple thing that every one of us completely whiffs on every time it comes up.

There is a difference between being "to blame" for something and being "responsible" for it. It's easy to see the difference in some situations (i.e., you're not to blame for the snow, but you are responsible for shoveling your driveway), but not in others. For instance, if you tell one of my fellow white people that we're responsible for helping fix social justice issues, they'll say, "But I've never discriminated against anyone!" And they'll mean it.

This is confusing because, as kids, we were taught that you clean up your own messes, and it's easy to accidentally expand that to: "You only clean up your own messes." It then becomes natural to say things such as "Why are you talking to me about racism when I've never owned slaves?" or "Why are you yammering endlessly about sexism when every day at school I get laughed at, while cheerleaders are worshiped as idols?"

Now, we circle back to the idea I introduced at the start -- you, hypothetical white male reader, didn't own slaves or systematically shut black people out of the economy for 150 years after. But, you are part of a greater whole, and, thus, you reaped some of the benefits. In theory, we should all have learned this in history class -- not just that slavery happened, but that we were all born at a certain level because we were boosted there by a complicated set of systems developed to reserve the best jobs, schools, neighborhoods, and social systems for people who look like us.

If they try to teach this in the classroom, critics will scream that they're making white kids "feel guilty for being white." But, there's that confusion again -- telling those kids they're guilty (that is, "to blame") for being white would be wrong. Telling those kids that, as white people, they are responsible for fixing inequality is just a statement of fact. The entire concept of civilization is that things are supposed to always be getting better -- each link in the chain is hopefully a little smarter, richer, and healthier than the one before. That's why the average American today dies at about 79, but the average ancient Roman died in their late 40s (even excluding those who died in childhood). But, improving means fixing things that are broken. That is, things that other people broke.

A helpful way to look at it is to view all of human history as a Dude, Where's My Car? situation. You wake up one day and find that you did all sorts of shit -- good and bad -- that you have no memory of. And it doesn't matter because it was still you. And I'm saying, it was literally you -- if put in the same situation, you would have done the same thing your forefathers did. The only reason you've escaped guilt, and the only reason you're able to watch old Bugs Bunny cartoons and cringe at how racist they were, is because you were born in an era after other people had already done a lot of the hard work rooting out that shit. You know what your great-grandparents didn't.

 You have to keep doing that work because there are still all sorts of imbalances that need correcting. Right now, there's some toddler with a brain capable of curing cancer, and we're never going to know because he was born in inner-city Detroit, and he's going to go to a bullshit school and grow up with no positive role models. And the moment he commits a misdemeanor as a teenager, society is going to declare him a lost cause and flush him away. The process intended to discover his talent, cultivate it, and get him into a lab curing your cancer is still in shambles. Please note that it's just as tragic if, instead of curing cancer, his best-case scenario is to grow up to be a good friend and father while doing oil changes at Jiffy Lube.

Helping to rectify that situation is one of the many, many things you're tasked with due to having been born in a fairly high place in the world. It's not "fair," but that's a meaningless word when referencing things you have no control over. You didn't ask to be born half-way up a mountain, but you were, and I need you to look down and realize that mountain is really a pile of bones.

Original Article

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Question 3: "Why Do People Act Like Sexism/Racism/Etc. Are Rampant, When Even Mild Jokes About Those Things Will Ruin Your Career Now?"

One of the big reasons for that upward spike in humanity on the line graph of the previous question is we started to figure out how to get the most out of humans. For instance, 1,000 years ago, if you were a genius born on a farm, it didn't matter -- it just meant you were going to be a genius who shoveled shit. Two hundred years ago, if you were a genius who was born as an African-American, it didn't matter -- you were going to live your life as a genius slave. A hundred years ago, if you were a genius who was born a female, it didn't matter -- you were going to be a genius who stayed home and changed diapers.

The upward surge in humanity has coincided with us taking down more and more of those arbitrary barriers because humanity realized it badly needs all those geniuses out in the field doing genius things. I don't even mean "Einstein" type geniuses -- humanity needs people who are geniuses at teaching, plumbing, repairing air conditioners, rapping, etc. And for millennia, we were arbitrarily telling 80 or 90 percent of our talented people that they had to sweep floors or dig ditches, purely because they weren't also born white male heterosexual Christians. Progress came when we started pushing for things such as universal education and literacy, along with rights for minorities and women to pursue careers and advanced degrees.

Sure, we framed this as "equal rights" and a heroic triumph of empathy over bigotry, but the system always secretly had this other, selfish motive. It's no coincidence that desegregation started happening after World War II, when lots of white soldiers came home from having served alongside blacks and realized these guys were capable of greatness when given a chance. It's no coincidence women were only allowed to join the economy after that same war forced industries to turn to them in an absence of males -- and found they could do all sorts of shit that had nothing to do with raising babies or ironing shirts.

All they needed was a chance. The advancement of society has, in fact, largely been measured in how good it is at giving people chances to be all they can be. And you can see where we are in that process by looking at what kind of chances people still don't have. (Hint: If you get shot by the cops at age 16 while committing a misdemeanor, you never had your "chance" -- giving people room to make youthful mistakes without dying is part of it.)

That brings us to the problem, which is that even though these changes unquestionably made the world better, the world still had to be dragged along kicking and screaming. The big flaw in humanity is that we always cling to short-term comfort over long-term prosperity (because we see ourselves as individuals, instead of part of a whole), and certain classes of people were benefiting from doing things the old way, even if humanity as a whole was not.

This is why there are still barriers up all over the place -- only 14 percent of top business executives are women, only 20 percent of Congress. A white person is almost twice as likely to have a college degree than a black one of the same age. You weren't born in the aftermath of the battle, you were born somewhere in the middle of it.

And that is the confusing part for most people reading this. All of those numbers in the above paragraph are, after all, way better than they were a century ago. We've clearly improved. So, when some white kid on Facebook starts asking why there isn't a White History Month, it's because, in his lifetime, he's seen that minorities and other marginalized groups have made greater gains relative to his own, without realizing they're still not on his level. He's only seen the part of the game in which these groups have scored the last five touchdowns, but is missing the fact that the score was 64-0 when that streak started.

And once again, it's for the same reason: That guy (and all of us, really) instinctively thinks history began with his own birth.

Original Article

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Question 2: "Why Is Everything Always Getting Worse?"

Let's talk about that "story" for a moment, the one we're all a part of. Here's the first thing you need to know about it:

That shit has gotten weird.

If you don't believe me, let me show it to you on a simple line graph:

That's a world population graph dating back over the last 1,000 years. Just look at it! Around 200 years ago, a freaking switch got flipped, and shit exploded. There is no comparing humanity over the last couple of centuries with anything that came before. It's like if you were driving home one day and saw that while you were gone, your goldfish had grown large enough to flatten the entire neighborhood.

But make no mistake: What you're seeing on the graph is humanity winning. Winning so hard that we're not even sure how to handle it. That up there is what every single species only wishes it could do. That kind of success requires utter mastery of the environment, food, health, and predators -- humanity just absolutely dunking over all we survey.

You and I were born right in the middle of this unprecedented and unfathomable winning streak, during a series of changes that are whipping by at light speed, rendering what we think of as a "normal human life" utterly unrecognizable to someone living just 200 years ago. And change is terrifying. Lots of the old rules have gone out the window -- they were written for a different time, with different problems in mind. Lots of the timeless advice you hear was spoken by people who never anticipated the world you're living in. If you find all of the shit grown-ups say to you to be contradictory and confusing, that would be why.

For instance, this is why you will endlessly hear people confusingly talk about how great things used to be, about how men used to be "real" men, how food used to be "real" food, and how people used to make honest paychecks doing "real" work. This is, of course, objectively wrong -- they're referring to a time when humans didn't live as long, didn't have as much, and lived lives with fewer options.

All that happened is these people were raised under one set of rules, only to find the next generation "breaking" them. So, you get a grizzled old guy who remembers when a hard day's work meant sweat, sore muscles, and danger. He remembers how that day ended with a meal cooked by a subservient stay-at-home wife. When civilization advanced to put that dangerous job in the hands of a machine that can do it 10 times faster and to give the stay-at-home wife the chance to pursue a career, the guy sees that old life as the "real" one and this new world full of cubicles and political correctness as the world having gone "soft."

But, listen closely -- when he boasts that kids these days "have it easy," he's accidentally complimenting the world on its success. Making things easier is, after all, the goal.

 Original Post

Six things to remember on the aftermath of the Paris 2015 attacks

#6. Ignore the Scoreboard

Allow me to quote that classic philosopher known as The Poster for Death Wish 2: "First his wife. Now his daughter. It's time to even the score!"

Well, in the wake of a terror attack, Step One is to forget about "the score" completely.

Even those of us who aren't Charles Bronson have this invisible scoreboard in our minds that tracks how many times we've been screwed over versus how many times we've done the screwing. Get into a nasty argument with somebody, and the scoreboard sets the agenda -- if Steve's girlfriend brings up the time he got drunk and shit in the top part of the toilet, he now has to bring up the time she selfishly got a tumor and ran up a bunch of medical bills. BOOM! Your ball, bitch!

But here's the ugly trick the world plays on you, and it's going to jack up your life every day from now to the grave:

In reality, the scoreboard is your opponent.

If that sounds like some Zen bullshit, let me give you an easy example:

Whenever some notorious rapist is caught, exactly 100 percent of the conversations or Internet comment sections about the subject will say, "I hope he gets raped in prison!"

See, because that would "even the score." But even five seconds' consideration demonstrates how monstrous that idea is: "rape is awesome, as long as it's targeted toward people who deserve it!" No, the cruel reality is that if that guy gets raped, the score isn't: Rapist 1, Society 1.

It's: Rape 2, Society 0.

See, because we've added to the sum total of rape in the world, and reinforced it as a thing that can/should happen, we have made it that much more common. Now think about the argument between the couple earlier -- with each new insult, was either side "winning" or "losing"? No -- the only loser was the relationship itself. Steve thinks the argument's Insult Scoreboard is showing Steve 22, Tilda 16* but the real score was Resentment 38, Relationship 0.

*I was imagining Steve Buscemi and Tilda Swinton as the couple, and I'm imagining the frantic make-up sex right now. This is not necessary to illustrate the point; I only offer this in the interest of full disclosure.

That scoreboard, it turns out, is nothing more than a manifestation of the most primitive, violent, reptilian part of your brain. Seeing someone wrong you and then letting it slide -- letting that "score" stay in their favor -- is almost physically painful. So, yeah, if SEAL Team Six had exploded bin Laden's skull on September 13th, 2001, we would absolutely have still gone to war. We'd have still been 3,000 deaths down on the scoreboard. No way we'd let that go.

So the next time you turn on the news and see that terrorists have blown up 10 children with a car bomb, that's the first step: Realize that the scoreboard lies. It will tell you that winning the game means dropping bombs that you know full well will splatter ten times as many children as collateral damage. The score -- the real score -- would then be:

Violence Against Children 110, Humanity 0

Now, here is the point in the article where I try to guess what you're saying in response to all this, and I'm pretty sure it's something like, "Oh, so we're just supposed to let the other side get away with it? We have to stand up for freedom and goodness, otherwise evil wins! This is a WAR!"

Actually, I agree! But ...

#5. Make Sure You're On the Right Team

Damn, that headline is making it sound like I'm about to suggest we should all consider joining ISIS. Don't do that! If anyone has already left to join ISIS in between having read the headline and this sentence, I apologize.

For the rest of you, ask yourself: When a bunch of terrorists blow up a school or shoot up an office full of cartoonists, do you think it's because they don't know we have guns and bombs and drones? You think they do what they do because they believe we're "too weak to strike back" and that we thus need to "show them how strong we are?"

Holy shit, dude, these people can read the damned news. They know exactly what we're going to do: We're going to overreact. We do it every time. That's why they do it. So stop, step back, and understand something that most of America doesn't:

They do what they do, because they know we're too weak to resist striking back.

Our knee-jerk, bomb-dropping reflex is our weakness. They are trying to exploit it, because retaliation bombings are how they recruit more terrorists to their side. And please note that when I talk about their "side," I'm not talking about Islam, or even Islamic terrorism. Their "side" is what I'm going to henceforth call Team Violence (and yes, I realize I've accidentally given them what would have been a badass name for a stable of evil wrestlers in the WWE). The bully doesn't fight because he wants to win; he fights because he wants a world in which everything is resolved by fighting (note: The bully himself doesn't realize this). It doesn't matter if he loses -- the moment you chose to fight, his side already won, and the world becomes more like the world he wants to live in.

It's the same here -- the terrorists aren't on the side of Islam. They're on the side of bombs.

What I have discovered, and what most of you will disagree with me about, is that it's irrelevant what banner they fight under -- if radical Islam went away tomorrow, Team Violence would just pop up again under some other name. Maybe this one doesn't justify it with the Quran; maybe they'll do it under the banner of eugenics, or racial purity, or environmentalism, or My Little Pony fandom.

So, in the wake of an attack, you constantly hear about how this is a clash of civilizations, a culture war between the primitive, savage religious fundamentalists and the more secular, Western societies. But the moment you buy into that idea, you've already joined their side. It's the side of tribalism -- the primitive instinct that says your "group" has to win at all costs, and I honestly don't care how you define your group (race, religion, country, way of life) because ultimately I think there are the only two sides:

A. Those who think their tribe has to dominate Earth;
B. Those who think tribes can coexist.

Hell, just look at how it happened last time: A group attacked us. We all agreed that we had to stop them, because they are intolerant of other cultures, do not respect human rights, and are violent.

We were told that we could only beat them by becoming more intolerant of other cultures ("building the mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks 'would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.'"), by no no longer respecting human rights ("Privacy rights for non-U.S. nationals are radical, and dangerous, even for allies"), and by becoming more violent ("There are a billion-plus Muslims currently active. If 1% are convinced fanatic Jihadis, that translates into somehting in the range of ten to twelve million. Which means that we need to kill a large portion of that ten to twelve million.").

In other words, "We can't beat them, unless we become more like them." It's like a doctor telling you he's going to get rid of your tumor by growing a bigger, meaner tumor next to it. Even if it works, Team Cancer wins, and you just fell for a scam that has been tripping up humanity for 200,000 years or so.

To avoid it ...

#4. Don't Scratch the Itch

Soon after the attack, commentators will appear on every screen in your home explaining in snide, sarcastic tones how the courageous choice is to hate Muslims -- like they're the lone, brave voice in a world afraid to hold such a controversial opinion.

The reality -- which you've known since you were too young to shit outside your pants -- is that your most automatic, unthinking reflex is always to hit back, and that growing up means resisting it. When you got frustrated with a toy, you broke it. When you feel the mosquito, you swat it. You get insulted by a YouTube commenter, so you call them an asshole. Each time it's that primitive, lizard part of your brain taking over. There's nothing courageous about it -- a dog can do it. Fucking plants do it.

It's the thinking part -- the human part -- that says to stop, resist the initial urge, and actually think about what action will make the world better. It's like resisting the urge to scratch an itch, and actually stopping to say, "Maybe instead of scratching the rash until it bleeds, I should go see a doctor about some dick ointment." And this is harder than anything on the list so far, because scratching the hatred itch feels so freaking good. It feels so good that we'll write entire books rationalizing it, to make it sound like the thoughtful, considered position. But you can never lose sight of this basic fact:

"Kill 'em all!" is the easy, lazy reaction. That's the animal reflex, the old tribal instincts lurching to the surface from that primal, caveman part of your brain. What's worse is that we are superstitious, irrational creatures, and this reflex quickly metastasizes into the oldest, most destructive superstition of all:

"This person wronged me, so in return I need to punish this person and everyone who resembles this person."

A thousand centuries later, that part hasn't changed -- it still feels good to think of everything in terms of a culture war. If the criminal is black, he isn't just an individual stealing a TV for weed money -- he's part of the Black Crime Problem. The obnoxious teenager in line next to me at Chipotle isn't an annoying individual; she's part of "This generation of entitled brats." Everyone who wrongs you becomes a foot soldier in an army that you must go to war with.

Resisting that idea takes hard, mental effort -- the equivalent of waiting for the skin cream to do its work while the itch prickles your groin like a swarm of scrotum ants. It means granting empathy and humanity to some absolute assholes who won't do the same for you. Remember, taking the high road isn't satisfying. Revenge is satisfying. Schadenfreude is satisfying. Taking the high road is like sitting perfectly still while a fly buzzes around your ear, forever.

This is where almost every morality tale you've ever heard -- from religious parables to prime time sitcoms -- gets it wrong. These stories always comes down to, "Doing the right thing feels great in the end!" The homeless man is grateful for the donation, the violent thug melts at the sign of kindness. That ain't how it plays out here in the real world. Out here, the bad guys see your empathy as a sign of weakness, and take advantage of it while taunting you. The homeless guy may take your donated blanket and wipe his ass with it. The friend you loaned money to might use it to get a naked mural airbrushed on his van. But you still have to take the high road.

Why? Because in reality, the only "culture war" is between the people who take the high road and the people who don't.

If it helps, you should ...

#3. Remember That Evil Is Rare, but Weakness Is Common

It's hard to find one person in 20 who agrees with the statement that "evil is rare," but it seems easy to prove. How many evil masterminds have you known in your life, versus people who were merely screwed up in some way? I've only known three or four diabolical masterminds in my entire life (other than Brockway), and one was a cat.

If you want a more factual example, let's look at, say, all of the murders committed in a particular year. The stats say that more than half of the victims were killed by someone they knew, or even a member of their own family (say, a husband killing his wife in a fit of jealousy). About 42 percent of all victims were killed in the heat of the moment during an argument, another 23 percent were killed in the course of some other crime (armed robbery, etc), and another 8 percent were killed in gang shootouts.

In other words, once you strip away:

* Everyone who killed while drunk/high/otherwise impaired;
* Everyone with a severe mental illness (Maybe 10 percent);
* Everyone who killed in a fit of rage;
* Everyone who killed while trying to commit some other crime (say, a burglary to get drug money goes awry);
* Everyone who believed they were protecting themselves or their friends ("We have to hit these dudes before they come after us");

... and keep going until you've got it down to just those cold, calculating criminals like you see in the movies, you don't have a whole lot of murders left. Oh, you'll have some -- crime bosses absolutely do order cold-blooded assassinations, and people do commit long, complex, premeditated murders for nothing more than a paycheck. But I think for every one cold, calculating mastermind, you have a dozen or a hundred mere knuckleheads.

That's the cop term (and I know my cop terms because before I worked at Cracked, I spent more than 15 years watching cop shows) for somebody who isn't a bad guy, but who just has poor impulse control, or is mentally unbalanced, or an addict, or just in general can't get his life together. They're lost, weak-willed people who fell in with the wrong crowd. Hell, we even interviewed an ex-Neo-Nazi who confessed that the Nazis were just the gang who approached him first. He actually fell in with a black gang later just because they were nicer to him during basketball games.

The problem is that, again, it's far more satisfying to imagine that everyone who wrongs you did it as an act of intentional evil or sociopathic selfishness. See, because if they're just sad screwups who spend most of their time victimizing themselves, well, then that would make it harder to fantasize about killing them. If their bad impulses, addictions, and irrational fears/hatreds hurt them even more than they hurt other people, then that means those impulses are the enemy. And what fun is that? Bad impulses can't be killed by any form of gun, missile, or kung fu known to man.

Hey, want to infuriate your Facebook friends? Show them how nice the prisons are in Norway. Want to infuriate a Christian? Don't tell them there's no God; tell them there's no Hell.

#2. Watch Out for Hitler

I can already hear it, from outside my window: "But what about Hitler?"

There is a particular form of bad argument everyone uses any time we're accused of having some kind of unproductive or destructive habit: we simply remember one perfect example of when that destructive thing worked, and then hammer that example over and over again like a club. It's our magical Staff of Shutting Down Criticism.

For example, your racist uncle will, with the slightest provocation, talk about the time he was suspicious of the new black family that moved into the neighborhood, and it turned out he was right! Their thug son broke into his car just a month later! This one, perfect example will be rolled out in response any time his racism is criticized. He says blacks are genetically predisposed to violence. You say there's no science to back that up. He pulls out that anecdote in response. He tells a racist joke, you tell him it's inappropriate, and he says, "You know what's in appropriate? BREAKING INTO MY CAR. Did I ever tell you about that time I caught that thug out in the driveway ..."

And when you suggest violence might not be the answer in any situation, Team Violence will always have the same answer:

"What about Hitler?"

Not just those three words -- they'll have crafted a perfect narrative that says A) Hitler was a perfect evil defeated by good; B) Hitler could only have been stopped by war; C) The "appeasers" who wanted to avoid war were the true villains of WWII; and D) Any discussion of what factors allowed Hitler to rise to power in the first place is irrelevant obfuscation. Therefore, if you protest the use of violence against any group, ever, you are effective pro-Hitler. ("If you'd made the same argument in 1941, we'd all be speaking Nazi right now!)

It should go without saying that even if I concede all of the above, that doesn't necessarily apply to any situation that has come along since, let alone all situations. So the more important question for that person is, why do you have a knee-jerk reflex to roll out the Hitler example any time the need for violence is questioned? Why is it that you even feel a touch of anger when doing it? Why do you feel the urge to be dismissive or snide in the process, implying the questioner is weak or naive? Why are you defending the use of violence as if it's sacred to you?

"Wait, so you're saying that the people suffering under brutal dictators and warlords today should just suck it up, because violence is wrong?" Nope! And again, look at how you immediately invented a perfect example to fall back to. If humanity progresses to the point that violence is used only by noble, oppressed populations against evil, totalitarian regimes in which no other options are available, we'll be in great shape.

Now, critics might even have a more irrational reaction, which is to say that the person questioning the need for violence is dishonoring "the troops" ("It's easy for you to sit here in your ivory tower and talk about 'peace' when those brave souls are out risking their lives for your sorry ass!"). But this also doesn't hold up to even the mildest application of logic: if you go up to a wounded war vet and say, "My man, I hope we create a world in which people like you never get shot and can instead live long, happy lives and raise grandchildren," I don't think he's going to take a swing at you.

But it was never about that specific young man anyway -- "Support our troops" and "What about Hitler" aren't invitations to actually discuss either subject. They're magic words intended to shut down further discussion, because the "Team Violence" part of our brain reacts to criticism in the exact same way that Muslim extremists react to cartoons mocking Mohammed.

Speaking of which ...

#1. Remember: We're Winning

Here's the final lie you'll hear, and it's one that I've railed against again and again and again. It's the assertion that violence always wins, because there is no match for it. This is why we're so scared of street crime -- even if you become a billionaire, some "thug" could stab you in an alley and none of your money would matter -- it's humanity's ultimate trump card. "What difference does it make that we have wealth and infrastructure and a thriving culture, if a bunch of violent extremists can just blow us up?"

The answer, of course, is that it makes all of the fucking difference.

This right here, this idea that ultimately violence is the only thing that works, is probably the most widely believed yet easily disproven lie in all of human history. The truth -- backed up by cold, hard facts, is that violence has been on an astonishing decline for thousands of years. Go back to the Middle Ages, and you find a murder rate 30 times higher than it is today.

In other words, Team Violence is losing. The only way they can win is if they can convince us that their way is the only way.

Think of it this way: If we go back to the Charlie Hebdo attack on the supposed anti-Muslim cartoonists, we can see how futile and self-defeating it is. After all, if your god is real, he/she/it doesn't mind being mocked. By definition, an all-powerful being isn't going to have those kind of insecurities. So that knee-jerk urge to smack down the critics is coming purely from the terrorists, from their own human fears and rage -- proving, in other words, that those violent men don't really have faith that their god is all-powerful.

But the key is to apply the same lesson to ourselves: if their god is real and all-powerful, then mere mockery cannot harm him. But also, if our society is right and strong and the best for mankind, then mere terrorism cannot harm it.

In both cases, escalating the violence is an act of weakness and fear. It's a crisis of faith -- the belief that your way of doing things is fragile -- a house of cards will tumble at the slightest tremor. That peaceful civilization just doesn't work.

Have faith in civilization. History says that they can't beat us -- we can only beat ourselves. Violence isn't on the rise; it's just in the news more often, because there's a lot of money to be made by pushing your Team Violence buttons.


Wise words

Friday, November 13, 2015

Question 1: "Why Do People Shit On Me Just Because I'm (White/Male/Straight/Etc.)?"

I'm going to tell you the weirdest and, yet, most obviously true thing you've ever heard:

You're not a person.

This is going to sound like some real Rust Cohle shit, but bear with me because deep down you already know all of this.

For instance, you already know that you are, to a certain degree, a product of your genes -- they go a long way toward determining if you would be physically imposing or weak, smart or stupid, calm or anxious, energetic or lazy, and fat or thin. What your genes left undecided, your upbringing mostly took care of -- how you were raised determined your values, your attitudes, and your religious beliefs. And what your genes and upbringing left undecided, your environment rounded into shape -- what culture you were raised in, where you went to school, and who you were friends with growing up. If you had been born and raised in Saudi Arabia, you would be a different person today. If the Nazis had won World War II, you would be a different person, still.

So, even when personal choices finally come into play, you're still choosing within that framework -- you can choose between becoming a poet or a software engineer, but only because you were raised in a world in which other people had already invented both poetry and computers. That means every single little part of your life -- every action, every choice, every thought, every emotion, every plan for the future, everything that you are and do and can potentially be -- is the result of things other people did in the past.

These mostly dead people shaped every little molecule of you and the world you inhabit. You are the product of what they did, just as they were the product of those who came before them. You are, therefore, not a person any more than a leaf is a tree. It makes far more sense to think of yourself as one part of a whole (the "whole" being every human who has ever lived) than as an individual -- you benefit from the whole's successes, and you pay for its mistakes as if they were your own -- whether you want to or not.

This is not abstract philosophy, this is not something you can choose to believe or not believe -- this is a statement of physical fact. Refusing to acknowledge it will only leave you endlessly confused and frustrated. For instance, when you show up at a job interview, or a trial, or the set of a porno, that whole context will walk in the door with you. Everyone in that room will be making certain assumptions about you and will hold certain expectations, based on the greater whole of which you are a part.

That means you can't think of your life as a story. You have to think of it as one sentence in a much longer story ... a sentence that doesn't make any sense out of context. But, understand the context, and you will understand your life.

Very few people are really able to do this.

Original here

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Advice from Dr House

You test drive a car before you buy it; you have sex before marriage.

We can try and pretend we're above it or we can try and intellectualize it away, but ultimately, shiny, pretty, perky things are good; and ugly, misshapen teenage boys are repulsive.

Do you know when your birth control pills aren't birth control pills?

What we think, say and do matters, in a big picture kind of way

People don't want a sick doctor.

If no one does anything, sick people often get sicker

Love makes you do stupid things

The eyes can mislead, the smile can lie, but the shoes always tell the truth

There are three types of people. Those that wait for things to happen; some that makes things happen; and those that wonder how things happen.

Nothing up my sleeves. Nothing in my pocket. There's something in my pants, but it's not going to help with this trick

Children are so filled with hope

Just because you can't feel pleasure doesn't mean you don't want it

Atheism is not about fun, it's about the truth

What's life without the ability to make stupid decisions?

Dying's easy. Living's hard

Yesterdays sluts are todays empowered women, todays sluts are celebrities.

If you talk to God you're religious. If God talks to you, you're psychotic

Love to gossip, but I’ve got work to do

You’re right about me being wrong and wrong about you being right

I need to slap you. For diagnostic purposes

The nameless poor have a face, and it's a pompous white man

You can have all the faith you want in spirits, and the afterlife, and heaven and hell, but when it comes to this world, don't be an idiot. Cause you can tell me you ... put your faith in God to get you through the day, but when it comes time to cross the street, I know you look both ways

You can't believe everything is your fault unless you also believe you're all powerful

Lower your expectations, it works on dates

We all make mistakes, and we all pay a price

Truth begins in lies

Stop relying on another human being answers and find some on your own

Atheism is not about fun, it's about the truth

Just because you don't know what the right answer is, maybe there's even no way you could know what the right answer is, doesn't make your answer right or even okay. It's much simpler than that. It's just plain wrong.

Pride and shame only apply to people we have a vested interest in, not employees

You know how they say, "you can't live without love"? Well, oxygen is even more important

You come for my advice? Cause I left it in my other pants

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Aylan της Χρυσούλας Λουλοπούλου

'Αφού, πουλάκι μου μικρό, δεν πρόλαβες να παίξεις
σε ακρογιάλια αλμυρά δεν πρόκαμες να τρέξεις,

πώς ξάπλωσες να κοιμηθείς, μελαχρινό παιδάκι,
σε στρώμα υγρό, χωμάτινο, του κόσμου σκουπιδάκι;…

Ποιο χέρι-βάζο σ'άφησε,μικρό μου λουλουδάκι
και στ 'ουρανού την πλατωσιά έγινες γιασεμάκι;

Ποιος σ'έσπρωξε και μούσκεψες, μικρό μου προσφυγάκι
και ταπεινά βολεύτηκες πλάι στο κοχυλάκι;

Εμένα δε με σκέφτηκες;Απ'τη βολή με βγάζεις.
Να καμωθώ πως νοιάζομαι, τώρα με αναγκάζεις.

Δυο δάκρυα κυλήσανε, μα όχι παραπάνω.
Έχω προβλήματα κι εγώ, τρέχω και δεν τα φτάνω.

Θα πάω στη ντουλάπα μου, να δω τι περισσεύει,
να στείλω για βοήθεια κι ελπίζω να βολεύει.

Απόψε δεν θα κοιμηθώ, φοβάμαι στα όνειρά μου
μην εύρεις πόρτα ανοιχτή και σπάσεις την καρδιά μου.

Καλύτερα να ξαγρυπνώ στην τύχη την καλή μου.
Τρέμω εκείνη τη φωνή πως είσαι εσύ παιδί μου..."

Saturday, September 05, 2015

12 angry men

A dissenting juror in a murder trial slowly manages to convince the others that the case is not as obviously clear as it seemed in court.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dust if you must by Anonymous

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there,
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come around again

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Ol age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go - and go you must -
You, yourself, will make more dust

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ξενοδοχειακή ορολογία

Μερικά απλά πραγματάκια που πρέπει να ξέρουν οι πελάτες και οι υπάλληλοι.

Το σύνολο των υπηρεσιών που βλέπει ή που ξέρει ο πελάτης. Καλύπτει τις υπηρεσίες κρατήσεις, Reception, main courante κλπ.

Ο χονδρέμπορος του τουρισμού. Μισθώνει αεροπλάνα κλείνει συμβόλαια με ξενοδοχεία και με τοπικούς πράκτορες που κάνουν την διαχείριση των αφιξο-αναχωρήσεων, μεταφορών και εκδρομών των τουριστών. Τις υπηρεσίες αυτές τις πουλάει σαν πακέτα διακοπών, μέσω των πρακτορείων ταξειδίων αλλά και από άλλα ηλεκτρονικά κανάλια διάθεσης.

Πρακτορείο ταξειδίων, συνήθως μαγαζί λιανικής πώλησης.  Τα πρακτορεία του εξωτερικού πουλάνε τα πακέτα των TOUR OPERATORS. Τα Ελληνικά πρακτορεία αναλαμβάνουν να παρέχουν υπηρεσίες για την καλή εκτέλεση των πακέτων αυτών.

Συμβόλαιο με TOUR OPERATOR ή και πρακτορείο ταξειδίων που ορίζει προ-κράτηση ορισμένου αριθμού δωματίων για συγκεκριμένη χρονική περίοδο και με πολύ χαμηλές τιμές.  Ο TOUR OPERATOR στέλνει κρατήσεις που γίνονται pick up από το ALLOTMENT, και ο ξενοδόχος έχει υποχρέωση μέσα στο όριο του πλήθους δωματίων του συμβολαίου, να δεχθεί τις κρατήσεις μέχρι την ημέρα RELEASE. Όσα δωμάτια δεν έχουν επιβεβαιωθεί από τον TOUR OPERATOR, μέχρι την RELEASE DATE, επιστρέφουν στο ξενοδοχείο, για να τα διαθέσει όπως θέλει. Τα συμβόλαια είναι συνήθως ετήσιας διάρκειας και κατοχυρώνουν περισσότερο τον πράκτορα παρά τον ξενοδόχο. Συμβόλαια ALLOTMENT, δίνονται σήμερα και στα ηλεκτρονικά κανάλια διάθεσης.

Συμβόλαιο σαν το ALLOTMENT αλλά τα δωμάτια πληρώνονται έρθουν δεν έρθουν. Λέγεται και GUARANTIE BASIS που συνήθως αφορά μίσθωση μέρους η και ολόκληρου του ξενοδοχείου σε τιμή πακέτο για μία σαιζόν.

Σήμερα υπάρχουν και μικτά συμβόλαια δηλ. μέρος των δωματίων δίνεται σε COMMITMENT και μέρος σε ALLOTMENT.

Αποδεικτικό στοιχείο πληρωμής του πελάτη τουρίστα για το πακέτο των υπηρεσιών που έχει αγοράσει από τον πράκτορα.. Συνήθως ο πελάτης έχει ένα για κάθε προμηθευτή (ξενοδοχείο, εκδρομή κλπ.).

Λίστα δωματίων του TOUR OPERATOR, με τα ονόματα των πελατών που θα έρθουν ανά δωμάτιο αλλά και τις υπηρεσίες που έχει αγοράσει. Με τις λίστες αυτές αλλά και με τα αντίγραφα των VOUCHERS που παραλαμβάνονται πριν από την άφιξη του πελάτη, ο ξενοδόχος έχει αυτόματα την επικύρωση των δωματίων του ALLOTMENT (pick up).

Περίοδος αποδέσμευσης των δωματίων ενός ALLOTMENT. Συνήθως είναι 7, 14 ή 21 ημέρες πριν από κάθε άφιξη. Μόλις περάσει αυτή η περίοδος, τα δωμάτια που δεν έχουν ακόμη επικυρωθεί από τον πράκτορα ή TOUR OPERATOR, ελευθερώνονται αυτόματα για λογαριασμό του ξενοδόχου.

Κατάσταση του TOUR OPERATOR,  με τα δωμάτια που έχουν ήδη αγορασθεί από ένα συμβόλαιο (πλάνο διαθεσιμότητας). Η κατάσταση αυτή αναφέρει πλήθος δωματίων ανά τύπο και ανά ημέρα για συγκεκριμένη περίοδο και αποστέλλεται συχνά και πολύ πριν από την κάθε άφιξη. Η κατάσταση αυτή, χρησιμοποιείται για να την συγκρίνουμε με το αντίστοιχο δικό μας πλάνο διαθεσιμότητας για το συγκεκριμένο συμβόλαιο. Αν το πλάνο του πράκτορα, έχει περισσότερα δωμάτια από το δικό μας, τότε έχει κρατήσεις που δεν μας έχει στείλει ακόμη και θα πρέπει να τις υπολογίσουμε στην διαθεσιμότητά μας (υπόλοιπα από Booking Positions). Μπορεί βέβαια να έχουμε και διαφορές από χειριστικά λάθη δικά μας, οπότε η σύγκριση αυτή, είναι διπλά χρήσιμη.

Ημερομηνία αποδέσμευσης για εκκρεμείς κρατήσεις (WAITING LIST, OPTION, Προκαταβολής κλπ.)

Όρος που ανήκει στην πολιτική Marketing του ξενοδοχείου ή και των συμβολαίων των ΤΟ. Όσο πιο νωρίς κλείσει ο πελάτης, τόσο μεγαλύτερη έκπτωση παίρνει. Πχ. εάν ο πελάτης κλείσει έως το τέλος Ιανουαρίου έχει έκπτωση 20%, έως τέλος Μαρτίου, έχει έκπτωση 15% κλπ.

Αφορά το Marketing και αυτή, και είναι με ειδική έκπτωση με συγκεκριμένους όρους. Πχ. Για κρατήσεις που θα γίνουν τον Μάιο, και αφορούν παραμονές από 1ης Ιουνίου έως 30 Ιουνίου, επιπλέον έκπτωση Χ%.

7=6, 14=12 κλπ
Δωρεάν διανυκτερεύσεις για συγκεκριμένη ελάχιστη παραμονή. Πχ 7=6 ο πελάτης μένει 7 νύκτες και πληρώνει τις 6, 14=12 μένει 14 πληρώνει μόνο τις 12 κλπ.

Τα EB, SPO, 7=6 κλπ, εμφανίζονται και συνδυαστικά στα πακέτα προσφορών

Αφορά κρατήσεις για τις οποίες ο ξενοδόχος βάζει σε αναμονή απάντησης τον πελάτη. Συνοδεύεται και από ημερομηνία απάντησης από τον ξενοδόχο (RELEASE DATE).

Κράτηση επικυρωμένη από τον ξενοδόχο αλλά όχι από τον ενδιαφερόμενο πελάτη, συνήθως πράκτορα. Η κράτηση αυτή αποδεσμεύεται με RELEASE DATE επίσης.

Το σύνολο των υπηρεσιών, κοινώς ΠΑΚΕΤΟ, που καλύπτει ένα συμβόλαιο ή μία επί μέρους συμφωνία με τον ξενοδόχο. Τα πακέτα ARRANGEMENT είναι
– RR   Room only                δωμάτιο μόνο
– BB    Bed & Breakfast,     δωμάτιο και πρωινό
– ΗΒ    Half Board               δωμάτιο και ημιδιατροφή (ένα γεύμα)
– FB    Full Board                δωμάτιο και πλήρης διατροφή (γεύμα & δείπνο)
– ΑLL  All Inclusive             Όρος που περιλαμβάνει επί πλέον και ποτά καθώς και χρήση ορισμένων υπηρεσιών όπως sports  κλπ.
Εκτός από τα ανωτέρω ισχύουν πλέον και νέα πακέτα, όπως HB και κρασί η κατηγορίες ALL ανάλογα με το τι ποτά περιλαμβάνει κλπ.

Όσες καταναλώσεις δεν περιλαμβάνονται στο ΠΑΚΕΤΟ ARRANGEMENT ανωτέρω (πχ. Ποτά, τηλέφωνα κλπ), ονομάζονται Extras

Μέγιστη ώρα άφιξης πελάτη που αποτελεί και ώρα αυτόματης αποδέσμευσης του δωματίου (ή των δωματίων) της κράτησης για λογαριασμό του ξενοδόχου. Σε μη επιβεβαιωμένη κράτηση ισχύει ο κανόνας ότι το δωμάτιο κρατείται μέχρι τις 18:00 εκτός αν έχει συμφωνηθεί κάτι διαφορετικό. Οι κρατήσεις αυτές λέγονταν και 6pm και έχουν λίγο πολύ καταργηθεί καθώς έχουν αντικατασταθεί με αντίστοιχες επιβεβαιωμένες (με πιστωτική κάρτα, προκαταβολή κλπ.)

Κρεβάτι που δεν περιλαμβάνεται στο δωμάτιο και μπαίνει επί πλέον.

Παιδική κούνια για μωρά. Μαζί με τα EXTRA BEDS αποτελούν στοιχεία που πρέπει να γνωρίζει η προϊσταμένη για κάθε άφιξη ώστε να τα τοποθετούν εγκαίρως στο δωμάτιο.

Κράτηση μη εμφανισθείσα. Συνήθως χρεώνουμε ακυρωτικά (CANCELATION FEES).

Αλλαγή κάποιου ή κάποιων από τα στοιχεία μίας κράτησης που υπάρχει  ήδη.

Aκύρωση υπάρχουσας κράτησης.

Το ποσοστό που προκύπτει από την διαίρεση του πλήθους των δωματίων που έχουν νοικιασθεί με το σύνολο των διαθεσίμων δωματίων του ξενοδοχείου. Η κάλυψη αυτή παρακολουθείται σε καθημερινή, μηνιαία και ετήσια βάση, καθώς και σε σύγκριση με την περσινή περίοδο.

Πρόβλεψη πληρότητας. Αν πραγματοποιηθούν όλες οι προβλέψεις (αναμενόμενες αφίξεις και προβλεπόμενες αναχωρήσεις) τι κάλυψη θα έχουμε. Το Forecast παρακολουθείται για μία μέρα, μία εβδομάδα ή και 14 ημέρες, από σήμερα και ενδιαφέρει άμεσα τους τμηματάρχες της ξενοδοχειακής μονάδας για να κάνουν έγκαιρο προγραμματισμό προσωπικού, προμηθειών κλπ.

Κράτηση δωματίου για κάποιες ώρες της ημέρας που δεν περιλαμβάνει διανυκτέρευση. Λέγεται και διημέρευση.

Κράτηση δωματίου για μισή μέρα που δεν περιλαμβάνει διανυκτέρευση. Συνήθως προκύπτει από πελάτες παραμένοντες που την ημέρα αναχώρησης ζητούν να μείνουν στο δωμάτιο μέχρι το απόγευμα. Σύμφωνα με τον νόμο, η χρήση δωματίου μέχρι τις 18:00, χρεώνεται με την μισή τιμή.

Οι τουρίστες συνηθίζεται να αγοράζουν κλίνη σε δίκλινο δωμάτιο (μισό δίκλινο), με αποτέλεσμα να μοιράζονται το δωμάτιο με ένα άλλο άγνωστο πελάτη. Οι πελάτες αυτοί έχουν SHARING ROOM.

Διαδικασία ορισμού του αριθμού ή των αριθμών δωματίου κάθε κράτησης. Η εργασία αυτή μπορεί να γίνει με την καταχώρηση της κράτησης ή την παραμονή της άφιξης ή (το συχνότερο) το πρωί  της άφιξης και πριν από την άφιξη.

Εργασία που δηλώνει ότι ο αναμενόμενος πελάτης ήρθε πλέον αλλά και έχει πάρει συγκεκριμένο αριθμό δωματίου (ή δωματίων). Αντίστοιχα για τον πελάτη που έχει αναχωρήσει ισχύει ο όρος CHECK OUT.

Διαδικασία εγγραφής των στοιχείων του πελάτη που έχει αφιχθεί. (στοιχεία ταυτότητος, συμφωνηθέντες όροι πακέτου και τιμές κλπ.)

Πελάτης που έρχεται στο ξενοδοχείο χωρίς να έχει κράτηση και ζητάει δωμάτιο.

Καταναλώσεις στα τμήματα του ξενοδοχείου που πληρώνονται μετρητοίς και δεν είναι χρεωστικά (επί πιστώσει).

PASSANT Λογαριασμοί
Λογαριασμοί που δεν ανήκουν σε δωμάτιο, αλλά σε πελάτη που δεν διαμένει στο ξενοδοχείο (εκδηλώσεις, Tour Leaders, κλπ)

Το ιστορικό του πελάτη – τα στοιχεία του, πόσες φορές ήρθε, που έμεινε, τι κατανάλωσε κλπ.

Το βιβλίο αυτό αφορά τον ΚΒΣ, είναι θεωρημένο και περιλαμβάνει τα στοιχεία κάθε πελάτη που έρχεται  στο ξενοδοχείο, τους όρους της συμφωνίας και τον αριθμό δωματίου. Το βιβλίο αυτό λειτουργεί μηχανογραφημένο σε ON LINE μορφή, καθώς ο  ΚΒΣ είναι σαφής ως προς τον χρόνο τήρησής του “με την άφιξη του πελάτη”.
Το βιβλίο αυτό λέγεται και ΒΙΒΛΙΟ ΠΟΡΤΑΣ.

Βιβλίο θεωρημένο από την τοπική αστυνομία στο οποίο γράφονται τα προσωπικά στοιχεία των πελατών (Ονοματεπώνυμο, διεύθυνση, ΑΔΤ, εθνικότητα κλπ)

Προτυπωμένο χειρόγραφο μπλοκ δελτίων όπου γράφονται τα στοιχεία ταυτότητος ή διαβατηρίου κάθε πελάτη που έρχεται στο ξενοδοχείο. Από τα δελτία αυτά συμπληρώνεται το Βιβλίο αστυνομίας.

Δελτίο του Ξενοδοχειακού Επιμελητηρίου Ελλάδος, στο οποίο γράφουμε το σύνολο των μηνιαίων αφίξεων και διανυκτερεύσεων ανά εθνικότητα.

Σύστημα λογιστικής παρακολούθησης των λογαριασμών των πελατών εντός ξενοδοχείου. Αφορά πελάτες που είναι μέσα στο ξενοδοχείο και δεν έχει ακόμη εκδοθεί ο λογαριασμός τους παρόλο που έχουν ήδη κάνει καταναλώσεις.

Για την Γενική Λογιστική η MAIN COURANTE είναι ένας λογαριασμός που περιλαμβάνει τα υπόλοιπα για τους “πελάτες παραμένοντες”.

Απο το site: MyHotel. gr

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Να' χα τη δύναμη - If I had the strength

Χωρίς το σύννεφο βροχή δεν κατεβαίνει
ούτε το δάκρυ χωρίς καημό
χωρίς τον άνεμο τα δέντρα δε λυγάνε
δε σταματάν οι πίκρες δίχως γυρισμό

Αχ να μπορούσα τα λιμάνια να τα κλείσω
να σταματήσω τα τρένα στο σταθμό
να 'χα τη δύναμη τα βράχια να κυλήσω
να μην αφήσω δρόμο για το χωρισμό

Γιατί κοιτάς τα μάτια μου τα βουρκωμένα
που παν στα ξένα σ' ωκεανό
γιατί κοιτάς τα χέρια μου τα λαβωμένα
που παν στα ξένα κι έχουν σφίξει κεραυνό

Αχ να μπορούσα τα λιμάνια να τα κλείσω
να σταματήσω τα τρένα στο σταθμό
να 'χα τη δύναμη τα βράχια να κυλήσω
να μην αφήσω δρόμο για το χωρισμό

There's no rain without a cloud
Or a tear without a pain
The trees don't bend without wind
The bitterness doesn't stop without a return

Oh, if I could only close the ports
Stop the trains at the stations
If only I had the strength to roll the rocks
to leave no road for a break up

Why are you looking at my teary eyes
that are going to foreign lands, to an ocean
Why are you looking at my injured hands
that are going to foreign lands and have held a lightning

Oh, if I could only close the ports
Stop the trains at the stations
If only I had the strength to roll the rocks
to leave no road for a break up

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ημέρες καρκίνου

22 Απριλίου 2015 - 04 Αυγούστου 2015

Απολογισμός: 104 μέρες

Beloved father, husband, and friend. We will always remember you

Μια φωτογραφία που δημοσίευσε ο χρήστης Maria Dellaporta (@dellaportamaria) στις

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Βρέχει στη φτωχογειτονιά - Rain is falling on the slum

My small and sunless alleys
and my low-ceilinged homes
Rain is falling on the slum
Rain is falling on the heart

Liar world, unfair,
you set alight my grief,
you are too small, you have no room
for my tormented sigh

My woes are countless
there are no more in the whole world
My days are passing by heavily
like the drops of rain

Μικρά κι ανήλιαγα στενά
και σπίτια χαμηλά μου
βρέχει στη φτωχογειτονιά
βρέχει και στην καρδιά μου

Αχ ψεύτη κι άδικε ντουνιά
άναψες τον καημό μου
είσαι μικρός και δε χωράς
τον αναστεναγμό μου

Οι συμφορές αμέτρητες
δεν έχει ο κόσμος άλλες
φεύγουν οι μέρες μου βαριά
σαν της βροχής τις στάλες

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Corfe Castle Puzzle

Online jigsaw puzzles from JigsawSite.com

Conviction of 'Auschwitz bookkeeper': An important, if belated, message for German people

94-year-old Oskar Groening was handed a four-year sentence in what is probably the last major war crimes trial in Germany. 'You can tell yourself you only dealt with suitcases,' the judge said, 'but you saw what happened there.'

The conviction of 94-year-old Oskar Groening, the so-called “Auscwitz bookkeper,” by a German court this week and his sentencing to four years in prison sent an important, if belated, message to the German public and the entire world.

“You can certainly tell yourself that you only dealt with suitcases," presiding judge Franz Kompisch of the state court in Lueneburg, northern Germany, told the defendant. "But you saw what happened there and your actions assisted."

Kompisch mentioned in his ruling that Groening was convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, even though he never actually participated in the murders themselves. As a bookkeeper, he “only” collected and recorded the property and money stolen from the Jews, sending the valuables to Berlin. That was enough for the court to convict Groening as an accessory to the murder of those who were killed in the concentration camp during the period he served there as an officer in the SS.

The judge relied on a precedent set in the case of John Demjanjuk, who in 2011 was convicted in Germany for his part in mass murder at the Sobibor death camp during the time he served there as a guard, even though he did not participate in the killings himself.

Demjanjuk died before his appeal was heard and before he served his sentence, but his trial allowed German prosecutors to reopen the cases of dozens of guards and others with junior roles at the extermination camps, who after the war lived ordinary and quiet lives.

In his ruling this week, the judge dwelled at length on Groening’s life and service in Auschwitz, in order to provide a factual basis for his ruling that Groening had acted of his own free will and was not “lured” into joining the Nazi party, as the defense claimed, because of his conservative family background.

“It was his decision. We saw your responses here, you are an educated person,” the judge said, as he described how Groening volunteered for the SS and was assigned to Auschwitz, where he decided to remain, despite the horrible crimes he witnessed there.

The judge also said that Groening could have asked to serve at the front, far from the concentration camps, had he wanted to. But he preferred to remain at Aschwitz, due to the potential danger of going to the front. It was his own choice. “I do not want to call you a coward, Mr. Groening, but you chose the easy way, and remained in your ‘office work,’” the judge said.

The trial, which is likely to be the last of its kind to be held in Germany, also raised difficult moral questions. About 70 Holocaust survivors joined the prosecution, attended the trial – and confronted Groening. For some, the four-year sentence for being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people was not enough. Others disagreed, attributing little importance to the sentence itself, which in any case will be conditional on medical examinations to determine whether Groening is fit to serve out his sentence at his advanced age. The fact that Holocaust survivors were given an opportunity to tell their stories was more important for them than the question of whether another elderly Nazi goes to jail.

The verdict also reminded the German public and the entire world of the weakness of the German legal system, which for decades avoided investigating, putting on trial or punishing people such as Groening. There were a lot of reasons for that, including the fact that many prosecutors and judges in West Germany after World War II were themselves former Nazis. Others supported the Nazi regime even without joining the party.

Groening and other SS members continued to live ordinary lives after the war and most died of old age, without ever being punished. Figures released in Germany last week show that out of some 7,000 SS members who served at Auschwitz, only 100 were put on trial and, of those, only 50 were convicted. Groening, it seems, will be the last of them.

Leon Schwarzbaum, who at 94 is the same age as Groening, came to court to hear the verdict last week. Schwarzbaum, a survivor of Auschwitz, now lives in Berlin. “I was in Auschwitz for two years. It was important for me. My whole family was killed. It was 30 people, and this is the last trial of an SS man who was in Auschwitz,” he told Deutsche Welle.

Originally Posted at Haaretz

Monday, July 13, 2015

Επι Ασπαλάθων - Over Aspalathus Bushes

Sounion looked beautiful
that day of Annunciation,
in spring once again.
A few green leaves
around the rusty stones
colour red and the aspalathus bushes
ready,showing their long needles
and their yellow flowers.
Not far away the ancient columns,
threads of an harp
echoing still.

-What may reminded me
of that man Ardieus?
A word of Plato I suppose
lost in my brain's ditches.
The name of the yellow bush
did not change all this time.
In the night I found the excerpt:
"They tied him in hands and feet", he says,
threw him down and skinned him,
drew him farther and tore him apart,
over the aspalathus thorns,
grabbed him and left him as a rag
down in Tartarus."

And so, in the nether world, paid his sins
Ardieus from Pamfylia, the sordid tyrant.

Επί Ασπαλάθων

Ήταν ωραίο το Σούνιο
τη μέρα εκείνη του Ευαγγελισμού,
πάλι με την άνοιξη.
Λιγοστά πράσινα φύλλα
γύρω στις σκουριασμένες πέτρες
το κόκκινο χώμα και οι ασπάλαθοι
δείχνοντας έτοιμα
τα μεγάλα τους βελόνια
και τους κίτρινους ανθούς.
Απόμερα οι αρχαίες κολόνες,
χορδές μιας άρπας
που αντηχούν ακόμη…

-Τι μπορεί να μου θύμισε
τον Αρδιαίο εκείνον;
Μια λέξη στον Πλάτωνα θαρρώ,
χαμένη στου μυαλού τ’ αυλάκια.
Τ’ όνομα του κίτρινου θάμνου
δεν άλλαξε από κείνους τους καιρούς.
Το βράδυ βρήκα την περικοπή:
“τον έδεσαν χειροπόδαρα” μας λέει
“τον έριξαν χάμω και τον έγδαραν
τον έσυραν παράμερα τον καταξέσκισαν
απάνω στους αγκαθερούς ασπάλαθους
και πήγαν και τον πέταξαν στον Τάρταρο κουρέλι”.

Έτσι στον κάτω κόσμο πλέρωνε τα κρίματά του
Ο Παμφύλιος ο Αρδιαίος, ο πανάθλιος Τύραννος.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Greece – What You are not Being Told by the Media #NoJusticeGR

According to mainstream media, the current economic crisis in Greece is due to the government spending too much money on its people that it went broke. This claim however, is a lie. It was the banks that wrecked the country so oligarchs and international corporations could benefit.

Every single mainstream media has the following narrative for the economic crisis in Greece: the government spent too much money and went broke; the generous banks gave them money, but Greece still can’t pay the bills because it mismanaged the money that was given. It sounds quite reasonable, right?

Except that it is a big fat lie … not only about Greece, but about other European countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland who are all experiencing various degrees of austerity. It was also the same big, fat lie that was used by banks and corporations to exploit many Latin American, Asian and African countries for many decades.

Greece did not fail on its own. It was made to fail.

Every single mainstream media has the following narrative for the economic crisis in Greece: the government spent too much money and went broke; the generous banks gave them money, but Greece still can’t pay the bills because it mismanaged the money that was given. It sounds quite reasonable, right?

Except that it is a big fat lie … not only about Greece, but about other European countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland who are all experiencing various degrees of austerity. It was also the same big, fat lie that was used by banks and corporations to exploit many Latin American, Asian and African countries for many decades.

Greece did not fail on its own. It was made to fail.

In summary, the banks wrecked the Greek government and deliberately pushed it into unsustainable debt so that oligarchs and international corporations can profit from the ensuing chaos and misery.

If you are a fan of mafia movies, you know how the mafia would take over a popular restaurant. First, they would do something to disrupt the business – stage a murder at the restaurant or start a fire. When the business starts to suffer, the Godfather would generously offer some money as a token of friendship. In return, Greasy Thumb takes over the restaurant’s accounting, Big Joey is put in charge of procurement, and so on. Needless to say, it’s a journey down a spiral of misery for the owner who will soon be broke and, if lucky, alive.

Now, let’s map the mafia story to international finance in four stages.

Stage 1: The first and foremost reason that Greece got into trouble was the “Great Financial Crisis” of 2008 that was the brainchild of Wall Street and international bankers. If you remember, banks came up with an awesome idea of giving subprime mortgages to anyone who can fog a mirror. They then packaged up all these ticking financial bombs and sold them as “mortgage-backed securities” at a huge profit to various financial entities in countries around the world.

A big enabler of this criminal activity was another branch of the banking system, the group of rating agencies – S&P, Fitch and Moody’s – who gave stellar ratings to these destined-to-fail financial products. Unscrupulous politicians such as Tony Blair got paid by Big Banks to peddle these dangerous securities to pension funds and municipalities and countries around Europe. Banks and Wall Street gurus made hundreds of billions of dollars in this scheme.

But this was just Stage 1 of their enormous scam. There was much more profit to be made in the next three stages!

Stage 2 is when the financial time bombs exploded. Commercial and investment banks around the world started collapsing in a matter of weeks. Governments at local and regional level saw their investments and assets evaporate. Chaos everywhere!

Vultures like Goldman Sachs and other big banks profited enormously in three ways: one, they could buy other banks such as Lehman brothers and Washington Mutual for pennies on the dollar. Second, more heinously, Goldman Sachs and insiders such as John Paulson (who recently donated $400 million to Harvard) had made bets that these securities would blow up. Paulson made billions, and the media celebrated his acumen. (For an analogy, imagine the terrorists betting on 9/11 and profiting from it.) Third, to scrub salt in the wound, the big banks demanded a bailout from the very citizens whose lives the bankers had ruined! Bankers have chutzpah. In the U.S., they got hundreds of billions of dollars from the taxpayers and trillions from the Federal Reserve Bank which is nothing but a front group for the bankers.

In Greece, the domestic banks got more than $30 billion of bailout from the Greek people. Let that sink in for a moment – the supposedly irresponsible Greek government had to bail out the hardcore capitalist bankers.

Stage 3 is when the banks force the government to accept massive debts. For a biology metaphor, consider a virus or a bacteria. All of them have unique strategies to weaken the immune system of the host. One of the proven techniques used by the parasitic international bankers is to downgrade the bonds of a country. And that’s exactly what the bankers did, starting at the end of 2009. This immediately makes the interest rates (“yields”) on the bonds go up, making it more and more expensive for the country to borrow money or even just roll over the existing bonds.

From 2009 to mid-2010, the yields on 10-year Greek bonds almost tripled! This cruel financial assault brought the Greek government to its knees, and the banksters won their first debt deal of a whopping 110 billion Euros.

The banks also control the politics of nations. In 2011, when the Greek prime minister refused to accept a second massive bailout, the banks forced him out of the office and immediately replaced him with the Vice President of ECB (European Central Bank)! No elections needed. Screw democracy. And what would this new guy do? Sign on the dotted line of every paperwork that the bankers bring in.

(By the way, the very next day, the exact same thing happened in Italy where the Prime Minister resigned, only to be replaced by a banker/economist puppet. Ten days later, Spain had a premature election where a banker puppet won the election).

The puppet masters had the best month ever in November 2011.

Few months later, in 2012, the exact bond market manipulation was used when the banksters turned up the Greek bonds’ yields to 50%!!! This financial terrorism immediately had the desired effect: The Greek parliament agreed to a second massive bailout, even larger than the first one.

Now, here is another fact that most people don’t understand. The loans are not just simple loans like you would get from a credit card or a bank. These are loans come with very special strings attached that demand privatization of a country’s assets. If you have seen Godfather III, you would remember Hyman Roth, the investor who was carving up Cuba among his friends. Replace Hyman Roth with Goldman Sachs or IMF (International Monetary Fund) or ECB, and you get the picture.

Stage 4: Now, the rape and humiliation of a nation begin under the name of “austerity” or “structural reforms.” For the debt that was forced upon it, Greece had to sell many of its profitable assets to oligarchs and international corporations. And privatizations are ruthless, involving everything and anything that is profitable. In Greece, privatization included water, electricity, post offices, airport services, national banks, telecommunication, port authorities (which is huge in a country that is a world leader in shipping) etc. Of course, the ever-manipulative bankers always demand immediate privatization of all media which means that the country gets photogenic TV anchors who spew establishment propaganda every day and tell the people that crooked and greedy banksters are saviors; and slavery under austerity is so much better than the alternative.

In addition to that, the banker tyrants also get to dictate every single line item in the government’s budget. Want to cut military spending? NO! Want to raise tax on the oligarchs or big corporations? NO! Such micro-management is non-existent in any other creditor-debtor relationship.

So what happens after privatization and despotism under bankers? Of course, the government’s revenue goes down and the debt increases further. How do you “fix” that? Of course, cut spending! Lay off public workers, cut minimum wage, cut pensions (same as our social security), cut public services, and raise taxes on things that would affect the 99% but not the 1%. For example, pension has been cut in half and sales tax increase to more than 20%. All these measures have resulted in Greece going through a financial calamity that is worse than the Great Depression of the U.S. in the 1930s.

After all this, what is the solution proposed by the heartless bankers? Higher taxes! More cuts to the pension! It takes a special kind of a psychopath to put a country through austerity, an economic holocaust.

If every Greek person had known the truth about austerity, they wouldn’t have fallen for this. Same goes for Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and other countries going through austerity. The sad aspect of all this is that these are not unique strategies. Since World War II, these predatory practices have been used countless times by the IMF and the World Bank in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

This is the essence of the New World Order — a world owned by a handful of corporations and banks; a world that is full of obedient, powerless debt serfs.

So, it’s time for the proud people of Greece to rise up like Zeus and say NO (“OXI” in Greece) to the greedy puppet masters, unpatriotic oligarchs, parasitic bankers and corrupt politicians.

Dear Greece, know that the world is praying for you and rooting for you. This weekend, vote NO to austerity. Say YES to freedom, independence, self-government, sovereignty, and democracy. Go to the polls this weekend and give a resounding, clear victory for the 99% in Greece, Europe, and the entire western world.

Original Article and More: Nation of Change

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Accurate representation of Greek - Europe relantionship #NoJusticeGr

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Types of star

Not all stars are the same and it is mainly their differences in mass that produce the wide variety of stars we see and many we can’t.

Red Dwarfs

Red Dwarfs are small stars with temperatures cooler than that of the Sun. They are the most common stars in our galaxy and are less than half of the mass of the Sun. They are positioned below the main sequence on the Hertsprung-Russell diagram.

Red Giants

Red Giants are cooler than the Sun, so they have a red–orange tinge to the visible light they emit. They may be over 100 times the size of the Sun and are stars near the end of their life. They come above the main sequence on the Hertsprung-Russell diagram.


Stretching across the upper regions of the Hertsprung-Russell diagram the Supergiants are truly enormous. Rigel is the brightest star in the Orion constellation and is a blue-white supergiant. Supergiants are high mass stars. Near the end of their life, when a supergiant dies, it explodes as a supernova, then shrinks to become a black hole.

White Dwarfs

White Dwarfs are faint but hot stars in the bottom left of the Hertsprung-Russell diagram. They are very small and dense, formed when a main sequence star reaches the end of its life. White dwarf stars gradually cool over time until they no longer emit light.

Brown Dwarfs

The smallest, dimmest and coolest stars are Brown Dwarfs. They appear at the lowest part of the main sequence on the Hertsprung-Russell diagram. They are also known as ‘failed stars’ and are very difficult to detect as they do not have sufficient mass for nuclear fusion to occur.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A sad day for France, a sad day for all of us #JeSuisCharlie

Always remember ....

Thursday, January 01, 2015


When we think about how our minds work, we tend to think that there is a lot of hidden stuff in there. If we really could think very carefully about all the things we know and why we think them, there’d just be an enormous trail of justifications and reasons. We can’t necessarily probe all those, but if we start to think about them, some of them seem to appear. I think, “Why did I do that one thing? Oh, I did it because of this... and I did that because of something else”, and off I go down a series of complicated justifications. It’s easy to think that it was just tucked there away in my mind, and that what I’m doing is exploring this internal space, this mental world.

But think about it for a minute. Supposing I ask you (as indeed was asked in quite a well-known psychological study many years ago) how some everyday piece of equipment works, for example, the air conditioner? So you think to yourself, “air conditioners, well, I must pretty much understand how they work”. Perhaps you could draw a little diagram, maybe a little exercise for you right now, just to see how you would draw a diagram to explain how an air conditioner works.

If you spend a few minutes having a go at this, you’ll probably find that you are amazingly baffled. It’s really hard to think, “Well, warm air goes in and cold air kind of comes out, and there’s something pushing it through and it sort of just gets cold”. How does that work? Well, after a bit of pondering, you might start to feel you don’t really understand this at all.

Interestingly, large numbers of people, when probed on this kind of problem, tend to think they do understand it, and they feel their diagram pretty well encapsulates what an air conditioner does. But really, they don’t. None of us do (or at least people who have done lots of physics and thought about it do, but it’s pretty puzzling).

Now, air conditioners are one thing. We’re not very familiar with those. But this is just a general fact about the way the mind works, that we have an illusion of understanding, which is much more rich and varied than the actual understanding inside us.

Say, for example, I ask you why you eat a particular breakfast cereal or why you live in a particular house. You may think, “That’s like the air conditioner. I must have a lot of thoughts about that and I can give you some”. But if you start to probe those thoughts and analyse them, you might find that they’re actually just as feeble, just as incoherent as your thoughts about how air conditioners work. That’s not surprising because human decisions, and the people who make them, are obviously far more complicated than air conditioners are.

Just one intuition to make you feel unsettled about the things you think you know and the justifications you think you have for your behaviour: Everyone who’s had a small child or has contact with a small child will remember the phase in which there’s a constant sequence of ‘why’ questions. The really puzzling thing about these ‘why’ questions is that you can answer very few of them, so things like, “why is the sky blue?”, or “why do we drive on this side of the road and not that side?” – almost any question a child will produce for you – has an immediate sense of, “that’s a simple question. I know the answer to that, it’s easy”... followed by utter bafflement.

I want to suggest that this is a very general problem. We’re seeing the world not just through rose tinted spectacles, but almost as if they were panoramic spectacles. We see a world which we think we understand very well. We think we see lots of it. We think we have a full view of what’s going on. But in reality, we don’t.

So if it’s the case that we understand much less than we think – we have an illusion of understanding about the world around us and ourselves – how is this illusion sustained? The answer is that whenever we ask ourselves a question, we produce an answer. If we ask ourselves another question, we cook up some answer to that as well. The trick is that we’re very good at creating these instant answers and it gives the impression that the answer is, as it were, lurking in our minds all along. But the instant answer shouldn’t be trusted. We just made them up.

Here’s an interesting example, a very old example from a great social psychology experiment of Festinger and Carlsmith. They asked people to do a fairly boring task: they had some sort of peg board, and you had to take the pegs and twist them a quarter of the way around, and then do it again and again and again with many different pegs –very dull – and you were paid a small amount of money (I think it was $1) for doing this task. At the end of the task, you had to get someone else to do it. So your task was to go out and find another recruit. And you either got paid a small amount of money to get another recruit to do the task, or a really large amount of money (I think it was $20, which – when this experiment was done – was a very large amount of money indeed).

When you go out to get that person (which you’re getting paid a lot of money to do), what do you suspect? You think, “the task must be horrendous; I’ve got to persuade some poor, unsuspecting person to do something which really has got to be fairly unpleasant because they’re paying me $20 to get someone to do it. I’m going to have to pretty much fool them, deceive them, into doing the task because if I told them how terrible it really was, then they’d never do it”. So it’s almost bribery from the experimenters that you’ve been given the task of recruiting some hapless subject, so it must be a really miserable thing to do.

Of course, the person you actually try to recruit is, in fact, a stooge of the experiment, as it’s all a con, but off you go. You’re paid a little or a lot to get another subject, and then you are just asked in passing what you thought of the original task. And it turns out that, as you might suspect given the way I framed it, people who have been paid a small amount of money to get another subject think, “well, it wasn’t too bad. It was a bit dull. That’s OK. It was perfectly fine”. But when you’ve been paid a lot of money to get someone else to do it, you think, “Well, it must have been awful”. So you say “it was a terrible task. I hated it. It was very boring indeed, in fact, quite unpleasant”.

Why do you think that? You think that because, as I’ve suggested, you’re trying to make sense of the fact that you’ve just been given $20 to encourage someone else to do this. If they’re paying you that much, it must be a pretty miserable task you’re getting someone to do, so you must not have enjoyed it, it must have been a miserable experience.

Now, that’s an interesting example of the general phenomenon. You might think as you go through a task (or any experience), “it’s good”, “it’s bad”, “it’s indifferent”. But according to the view that when you’re asked the question, “what did you think of that experience”, you have to cook up an answer. You don’t really know the answer. You think, “I don’t know. Let me think”. Then what happened afterwards – in this case, whether you were paid a lot or a little to get someone else to do it – can affect your view. So it turns out that in this experiment, as in many others, you infer what you must have experienced based not just on the experience itself, but on things that came later.

A rather different, but interesting, related phenomenon, which you may have noticed yourself, is called hindsight bias. So supposing you are wondering whether something’s likely to happen, or whether someone’s going to succeed in something, or whether you’re going to enjoy an experience.

Afterwards, you look back, and now you know the answer. Did it happen? Did you enjoy the experience or whatever?

Now, suppose we ask you what you thought in the first place. Suppose I go to a restaurant – I don’t know whether I’m going to enjoy it, it turns out to be awful. Then you ask me, “What did you think it would be like before you went?” Interestingly, and very consistently, I tend, if I had a bad experience, to think I probably might have had a bad experience. I was tending to be suspicious that it was going to be a bad experience. On the other hand, if everything went well, then I tend to have a positive glow about what I thought in the first place.

If you’re asking me after the event, what I thought before the event, I tend to shift and shuffle my thoughts in the direction of what I actually know to be true. For example, if you or I make a decision and it goes horribly wrong, we tend to think, “I should have known”, or “I half knew”, or “I feared this would happen”. If it goes right, I tend to think, “I always had a feeling that was going to work out, that new hire was going to be a success, or those builders were going to be great”.

The same story that we talked about earlier is going on. So it’s not the case that as I go through my life, I have a clear idea of what I think and how strongly I think it. When you ask me what I thought about something, I can’t look back in my mental record and say, “hang on, I’ve got a detailed record of all my thoughts, and there they all are written down, I’ll just have a quick look”. I can’t do that. When you ask me a question about what I thought in the past, I have to cook up an answer now. I have to infer what I probably thought. And of course, if you ask me whether I thought something would be a success or a failure, and I know it was a success, perhaps a failure, I tend to think, “it did work out really well, I know that, and that probably was something I suspected, because normally, I’m a fairly sensible person”. So I tend to twist my interpretation of what I thought in the first place towards what actually happened. I tend to be biased by hindsight.

Now, of course, this is something we see all over the place in the news and in daily life. People are always saying, “I knew that would happen”, “I knew that was a mistake”. And you may respond, “No you didn’t – we talked about it and there was no mention of this at the time”. But of course hindsight bias is a very powerful illusion and it fools all of us.

The reason is that we don’t have, as we flow through our lives, a clear record what we believe, of what we value, of the nature of our experiences. When you ask me a question about what I thought in the past, I cook up the answer now. If I know stuff now (like it was a disaster, and it all went horribly wrong) I can’t get that out of my mind, or ignore it to try and get back to what I really thought in the first place. It is quite possibly the case that there really is no answer to what I really thought in the first place.

Original Source: The Mind is flat
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...