Philosophy Tuesday

Einstein is reported to have been very much enamoured with compound interest.  While it is unlikely that he – despite the memes floating around – ever proffered any highly quotable declaration on the subject, compound interest is quite a potent thing.  When the growth of something builds upon its previous growth, which then builds further upon that growth in turn, the results pile on real fast.

So it goes not only in the world of finance and savings accounts but also when it comes to all realms of self-cultivation, and in several ways.  For starters, as we develop our mindfulness and work to create clearings from old (and usually unintended) patterns, views, and straightjacketed ways of being, it becomes easier to do more of the same.  With less crud in the way we move more quickly, discover insights more quickly, and develop ourselves more quickly, further compounding our skills in mindfulness and in the arts of living and being in the world.

Even greater are the specific, measurable, as lived results that, as we create those clearings and unleash our agency, power, freedom, self-expression, and peace of mind, naturally show up in our lives.  All those things that we want build up on themselves, creating a compounding train of ever greater results and ever more of what we want.  And when something goes awry – for that is inevitable – we’ve got both the mental/spiritual clarity as well as a nice foundation upon which to remain mindful and thus able to deal with it with proper equanimity and while never denying our humanity.

And humanity is the pinnacle of this compounding greatness.  For just as easily as we can see how the positives in our lives can and do compound, we can easily recognize, get present to, and be willing to confront that negatives can also do the same.  A bad break here can all to readily lead to further bad breaks and downward spirals.  It may have happened in our lives, it may be happening now, but even more than that, it can happen to any of us.  And with that realization we can forestall our judgement about ourselves and, especially, about others.  When we see people down on their luck or struggling or acting out of sorts, who knows what paths were compounded from years ago?  Who knows their starting place?  Who knows what compounded itself downward?  And the same goes in the other direction too.  A single break or a position of privilege quickly pushes these two realms apart.  Neither our nor any one else’s position on the economic/social/etc ladder is ever a pure reflection of either morality or worthiness.

With this in mind we get to synthesize and compound all of the above, taking agency and working on self-cultivation to build ourselves and our lives (and the lives of those around us) while never losing sight that chance and happenstance is never far away, influencing outcomes and ready to put a thumb on the scale.

When we look at our designs for ourselves and the world and when we look at what we want to create and leave behind, we can ask “what do I want to compound?” and go from there.

Strike the E and the P from their name

At this point, I’m fully expecting mustache twirling.

The EPA, under direction from the current administration, suspended its enforcement of environmental laws.

Not just some of the laws and regulations – effectively all of them.  No monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, reporting, or certification obligations.  So long as the company says that it was due to COVID-19 and provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.

As if the EPA would request it.  Because there’s no end date set.

Even after the fallout from COVID-19 is done, this can stay on.

Plus the EPA has clearly stated that it won’t pursue penalties if companies break the rules.

There are not even any provisions to take action should a company do something egregious or if there is immediate threat to health – at best the EPA has said they would tell “state authorities.”

This is beyond reprehensible.  They are using the cover of a crisis to cause active and ongoing harm to people, to people’s livelihoods, to the future.  There could be another Cuyahoga River incident tomorrow, and they would shrug.

This is not good.

 

(And just to be sure both sides of their moustaches gets attention, they also just dropped fuel economy standards.)

BailoutBS

So wait.  In the last 5 years, airlines spent $44B on stock buybacks.  That’s 96% of their free cash flow.  Plus billions more on dividends.  They did not improve their services, nor improve their structure, nor, and this is the biggie, did they save anything for the inevitable downturns or other acts of woe.*

They act fiscally irresponsible, line their pockets, impoverish us, and now they want a bailout?  They have the audacity to ask for a bailout?  A bailout that is essentially in size of what they spent on buybacks?

This is why good governance is important.  This is why oversight is important.  This is why societal involvement and accountability is important.

THIS is why your/our vote matters!

 

* Nor, of course, did they boost their employee pay, or working conditions, or aid the consumer in any way… but that’s a whole other story.

** As a whole, the top 500 companies spent $5T on buybacks + dividends vs $4.5T in earnings — they are willingly and wantonly enriching themselves while foisting their liabilities into debt and the public trust & our pocketbooks (by both charging more and paying employees less, plus foisting costs into the environment into which we all live).  All aided by the recent tax code “revision” (read: giveaway).

 

#cdnpoli

Hello my fellow Canadians!  As we travel towards the polls on October the 21st (you are intending to cast a vote, oui?), once again I would like to bring my experience as a current expat to bear and provide some perspective on one of our national political parties, namely the Conservative Party of Canada.  Living as I am right now in a country that, at a federal level, has been pursuing many of the policies of the Conservative Party (or, perhaps more appropriate to say, the Conservative Party has been all to happy to crib from and adopt the policies from down here), I have a close(r) view of the impacts and end results of these policies.

To which should be our focus.  Like all elections, this one is about policy.  It is not about popularity or pageantry, it is about the theories and temperament of governance, the passing of bills, the direction of our laws, the shaping of our systems, and, most importantly, the results thereof.

And the results of the policies and politics favoured by the Conservative party (and their Republican role models) are not great.  In so many ways and by so many measures they have not brought and do not bring what is best for the country, its lands, or most of its people. Continue reading

Quote of the Day

“I saw Activision’s statement about why they “broke up” with Bungie over at GameSpot, but it’s like…  more than seven billion wasn’t “enough” according to the onyx spire they worship.  I don’t think they can be trusted to determine what constitutes enough.

I own a company, I understand that they have to make money, but the top of that organization is completely divorced from every other part of it.  It’s sick in the particular, unaccountable way that is an accelerant to revolution.  The people who generate the wealth they bathe in are so abstract as to be inconceivable.  I have some experience with this; there are people who will pulp you to get a “good year.”  One hesitates to suggest that they serve Evil Gods, you know, far be it from me to make a moral pronouncement, but their purposes are inimical to human flourishing.  The human being, essentially considered fungible and endlessly replaceable in its capacity to generate value, exists nowhere in their calculus.

The parable of the golden goose has endured for a reason, and that is because none of these motherf’rs ever seems to learn it.”

Tycho (from Penny Arcade)

The poison chronicles

“The lack of regulation meant that companies could pretty much put whatever they wanted into food with no fear of being held accountable. “[Food] wasn’t safety tested, because there were no rules requiring that,” says Blum. “It wasn’t labeled because there were no rules requiring that anyone tell you what was in your food. And it wasn’t illegal even if you killed someone.”

Companies were adding copper to vegetables to make them look greener and 20 Mule Team Borax to butter as a preservative—assuming it was butter and not beef tallow or ground-up cow stomach dyed to look like butter. Spices contained things like ground coconut shells, charred rope, brick dust, even floor sweepings. Honey was often little more than dyed corn syrup. The phrase “a muddy cup of coffee” might date back to this era, when ground coffee typically contained dyed sawdust, tree bark, or charred bone, and fake coffee beans were made out of wax and dirt. “I’m especially bitter about this, because I love coffee,” says Blum.

Dairy suppliers were among the worst offenders, adding pureed calf brains to milk to make it look more like rich cream, thinning the milk with water and gelatin, and then adding dyes, chalk, or plaster dust to correct the color. Worst of all, they added formaldehyde—then widely used as an embalming fluid to slow the decomposition of corpses—to milk as a preservative. (The additives were given innocuous names like Rosaline and Preservaline.) Hundreds of children were sickened, and many died, from the tainted milk. Formaldehyde was also used as a preservative in meat.

That was the driving force behind Wiley’s radical “Poison Squad” project. (He actually referred to it as “hygienic table trials”; journalists gave it the more colorful moniker.)  He recruited several young men to be his guinea pigs—all of whom signed waivers—and provided them with three healthy square meals a day. The catch: half of them also were given capsules containing borax, salicylic acid, or formaldehyde. Wiley started with the borax, thinking it would be the safest additive, and was alarmed at how quickly his squad members sickened.

The results convinced Wiley that federal regulation was necessary to protect American citizens from the dangerous and fraudulent practices of food suppliers. Naturally, industry leaders pushed back against Wiley’s proposed legislation. The National Association of Food Manufacturers formed around this time, along with chemical industry manufacturing associations, as companies pooled their resources to oppose the ominous specter of government regulation. They even instituted a smear campaign against Wiley. One trade journal called him “the man who is doing all he can to destroy American business.”

With Roosevelt’s support, Congress finally passed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.”

— excerpt from this great article at arstechinca

It’s amazing to me that this was just over a hundred years ago.  That until then you had to spend time and effort and worry to check every thing and even with that work could never know for sure if what you were getting was what you thought you were getting and you or others could easily be sickened or maimed or die.

It’s also a great story about the scientific method, of curiosity, of rigour, of courage in the face of opposition, and a commitment to your fellow human beings.

Definitively makes me want to read the book about Dr Wiley.

 

Shadow Ballot Addendum

I want to take a time out here to note something, even for those who are not in California or voting in the upcoming elections in the USA:  Though I post these infrequently, I don’t want to give the impression that only certain elections are important.  Quite the contrary.

They all are.

To that end I implore you all to vote.  In every election.  For every position.  Not just big elections for federal/national governments, but all the way down to your local elections.  Much of what affects your daily lives is decided at the local level.  Or the provincial/state level.  So-called “not important” or “not monumental” election(s) are rarely not important.  Swings of legislatures happen during these times of low turnout, and you may find things going in directions you don’t want them too.  So please vote.

And please remember that “not choosing” is still making a choice.  If you do not vote, or do not vote with thoughtfulness and care, then you are explicitly stating that you are fine with any outcome.  That whatever happens is fine by you.  Implicitly, you are agreeing with what comes.  So please vote.

If you feel your vote doesn’t/won’t matter, please know this:  it does.  There are those who want to convince you that you don’t matter, because it makes their job easier to game the system, stay in power, or bend things to their wishes.  Don’t listen to them.  Recent elections in many countries have been decided by very narrow margins, and unlike in the past many parties no longer interpret that as a signal to govern from the centre.  They push to the edges.  So please vote.

Protest votes rarely turn out for the better.  Avoid them.  Bring thoughtfulness and care to the polling booth.  And please vote.

If you think it will take too long/it’s too confusing to become informed, I invite you to consider that it does not.  Put aside a day.  One day (I usually spend around 6-8 hours researching my shadow ballot).  That’s usually enough to become grounded.  Then you can build from there, little by little until it becomes big.  Also remember the above: there are those who want to convince you it’s too tough, too confusing, you don’t have time, that it’s no fun.  Again, it makes their job easier to bend things to their wishes.  So please vote.

Thank you.

(And if you are in a country where voting is not permitted, or is wracked by violence, or corrupt, then you have my sorrow.  I push for the day when you will have your voice.  Wherever you can and feel safe to do so, even if things are corrupt, there can come great and surprising change when people band together. If you cannot or if things are just not safe, then stay safe and take care of yourself and those around you.)

De-framing the Conversation

I’m being specific here in saying ‘de-frame’ rather than ‘reframe’ – because I think the conversation has already been reframed in a misleading way, and I want to bring it back to the centre.

So here we go:  Regulations are, most often, about health, safety, and protection.

I’ve been hearing regulations being thrown about as an epithet, some evil force put upon by malicious entities designed to… well, they don’t really say, do they?  They just keep talking about them like they’re evil and bad and must be gotten rid of or else.

Thing is, they didn’t just come out of the blue.  They’re written into law to ensure a civilized and functioning society that is working to keep all people healthy, alive, and free to pursue what they want.  Without being burdened and oppressed by injury, illness, degraded conditions, financial shenanigans, hoodwinks, or a number of other things to have to deal with.  They are there to release us from malicious actors.

This talk about “regulations are the devil” and “if only there weren’t regulations, everything would be glorious golden roses for everyone” is beyond rose-coloured glasses, it’s disingenuous.

There is an intent.  “Don’t frick other people over.”  Few would have issue with that intent (and if you do, well, that’s telling).  We can talk about the most effective way to achieve that intent.  Please!  Let’s have that conversation. Let’s create that more perfect union.

But let’s not get all BS about it and turn the view about regulations into them being some sort of scourge.