In Praise of Socialism

The term “socialism” is sometimes used as an insult. Typically this tactic is used by those who feel that they’re strong supporters of freedom. They have been told, and have allowed themselves to become convinced, that socialism is the enemy of freedom. Hence their hostility.

In order to clear away the problems with this line of thinking, it would be useful to define what socialism is. I’m not a political theorist, just a concerned citizen, so I may not have the nuances nailed down. But I consider myself a socialist, so I’m happy to explain what I mean by the term. The principles of socialism, in my view, are these:

  • We’re all in this together.
  • It’s good to be kind. It’s bad to be cruel.
  • Life is uncertain. Some people are less fortunate than others. Most of us, at one point or another in our lives, have needs that we cannot easily satisfy through our own action.
  • To ignore the suffering of others, when we could ameliorate it, is a form of cruelty.
  • Some helping activities work most efficiently and effectively when administered by a central governing authority rather than by private individuals.
  • When those who are least fortunate are helped, society as a whole reaps benefits. To reckon the costs of helping without also taking account of the benefits is a form of cruelty.
  • Those who make decisions that affect our lives must be held accountable for their decisions.
  • Nobody has a right to special privileges based solely on their wealth, social status, physical strength, or possession of superior weaponry.

Taken together, these concepts provide a bedrock upon which specific social programs and broad social policies can be built.

I know a few conservatives of the libertarian persuasion, and I’ve tangled with a few in online discussions. Perhaps I don’t understand their views. If I don’t, I hope somebody will correct me. It strikes me that almost all of the principles listed above would be objected to by this type of conservative. (I’m ignoring Read more

Rescue Operation

This is not — repeat, not — an anti-Yamaha rant. In my experience, the folks at Yamaha operate in a consistently ethical and reasonable manner. At the moment I’m wrestling with their gear and feeling quite frustrated, but the fact that it’s Yamaha is more or less a coincidence. It could be any manufacturer.

The saga began about three years ago. I had reviewed the Yamaha Motif XS for Keyboard, and was so impressed by it that I bought it. As I had sold my other hardware synthesizers during that same period, the Motif is the only hardware synth I own.

For many years, my main sequencer software was Steinberg Cubase. Because I worked at Keyboard, I almost never paid for any of the music software I used, and that was certainly true with Cubase. I had what’s called an NFR (not for resale) license.

At some point Steinberg was acquired by Yamaha. Among the effects of this acquisition was the possibility of tighter integration between Cubase and the Motif. This is handled via a Firewire connection, which Yamaha called mLAN. (mLAN itself is now obsolete, I believe.) When I bought the Motif, I also bought the optional mLAN board, so I could integrate it with Cubase. When working properly, this is a sweet setup. Cubase Read more

Whip It Out

Back in the early ’70s I played in two or three bands. Did a lot of gigging, made a little money, had a bunch of neat experiences. Both of the bands that I was most involved with were composed of people I had gone to high school with. That made it easier to put things together, I’m sure.

In the late ’70s I was working for a fledgling music magazine called Keyboard, and I had a look around in the South Bay to see if I could find a band to play with. No luck. I answered a few classified ads, but what I encountered were either wannabe’s — people who had a desire to play, but were variously clue-impaired — or gigging bands who were doing commercial music of a type that I didn’t care for.

So I bought a synthesizer and an 8-track reel-to-reel, and got into electronic music. That was when I started writing science fiction too, come to think of it.

Lately I’ve been thinking I’d like to play some live music again — something besides the local community orchestra. So forgive me while I think out loud for a minute.

What I’m finding is that the scene is pretty much what I remember from 35 years ago. Today I was scouting through the musicians’ classifieds on craigslist. My favorite ad so far Read more

Because They Can

I have insurance covering my musical instruments through Clarion Associates in New York. I’ve had it for a number of years. If you’re a pro, you need coverage through a specialty company like Clarion. The big companies (State Farm and so on) will cover amateurs’ instruments, but not professionals’. Too risky. Clarion’s policies cover you wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. Or so I’ve been informed. I’ve never filed a claim, so I have no idea how eager or reluctant they are to compensate policyholders for losses.

This week I got my new bill from Clarion, and the premium had gone up by 25%. Naturally, I was curious to know why. A rate hike of that magnitude is not just inflationary, it’s extortionate.

So I phoned Clarion. I got a runaround. I got bullshit. The woman I talked to steadfastly refused to admit that it was bullshit, but it was. In the end, I told her I’d had enough bullshit for one day, and hung up on her.

Here’s what I understand, was told, or surmise.

First, you need to understand that Clarion is just an office in New York. They are not an insurance carrier. They take your application and your money, but the actual coverage is provided by an underwriter. When I first took out my policy, more than a decade ago, the carrier was Lloyd’s of London. The carrier today is a company called Starnet.

You can’t talk to Starnet. They don’t have a website, and they don’t have Read more

Beware of the Trolls

A couple of pieces I’ve posted this week drew fire from someone aptly named Null. I took the trouble to respond to his comments, but the process quickly grew annoying. I won’t be letting anything further from him remain on the blog, but I may as well leave those messages up. They’re educational, though perhaps not quite in the way one might at first expect.

It wasn’t until I re-read the course of the conversation that I realized Null is a troll. At no time did he voice an actual opinion. His entire output consisted of attacks.

Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. By default, I give people credit for actually wanting to engage in dialog. This is what trolls crave, of course. The more you try to reason with them, the more outrageous their responses. Their entire purpose is to goad and infuriate other people.

I do hope this individual seeks psychiatric help for his character disorder. It seems unlikely to happen, though. I mean, a psychiatrist would only put up with this kind of shit for about three weeks. After that it would be, “Get serious or go find another psychiatrist.” And of course the troll would try to argue with that — attack the psychiatrist for not being competent, for not really wanting to help, etc.

As Jim Morrison said, people are strange.

Move On … But Where?

Had a look at this morning. As usual, I like everything on their site. They’re totally on the money. It’s what I didn’t see that’s disturbing.

I didn’t see a speck of leadership. Dissecting the bad guys is an important part of the process — but what are you proposing in the way of social reform?

They have a page where you can “Help Write the Contract for the American Dream.” In other words, “We don’t know what should happen next, or what should happen instead. Maybe you have some ideas.” Sheesh.

I once sat through a corporate meeting in which the manager had us write a mission statement. It was a complete waste of time. I was already working in the department. I knew perfectly well what my mission was. But apparently my manager hadn’t a clue what we were doing. I’m sure she had gone to a management seminar where they told her she should have the department write a mission statement. So much for leadership.

So wants us to write a mission statement. That’s not leadership. That’s a vacuum.

Prominent Scientists

A little while ago I deleted a comment from Null, who took exception to my assertion that global warming is an established fact. Now I’m wishing I hadn’t. The WordPress dashboard doesn’t seem to keep trash — when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Null’s idea was that global warming is not an established fact because some “prominent scientists” disagree. This unsupported assertion got me thinking about why it’s not possible to have a rational debate with the terminally clueless. I could, and should, have left Null’s comment in place and said, “Okay, what scientists are you talking about? Point me to their articles on the subject.” But I already know, all too well, how that discussion would have proceeded.

To begin with, all rational people understand that global warming is an unarguable fact. The polar icecaps are melting. The only “scientists” who disagree with this would have, like, a degree in paleontology from Oral Roberts University or something. So the discussion would have unfolded in one of two ways. Either Null would have Read more

Republicanism Explained

For a long time I’ve been puzzled by how anybody could possibly vote for the Republicans, or take their party seriously. Yesterday, in one of those chit-chat sessions you get into on Facebook, the other shoe dropped. I now understand Republicanism.

It’s a religion.

To be sure, it lacks some of the trappings of what we think of as organized religion. There is no deity (though Saint Ronnie is often invoked). There are no chapels where the faithful may gather for quiet reflection — but the resemblance of Tea Party rallies to old-time tent revival meetings is not hard to see. The details of Rush Limbaugh’s commentary may differ from what a fire-and-brimstone radio preacher would spout, but make no mistake: Limbaugh is a preacher.

The significant point is this: The appeal of Republicanism, like the appeal of religion, rests entirely on Read more

Whee, the People

Somebody ought to go up to Capitol Hill and knock those idiots’ heads together.

The Republican Party is a gang of vicious thugs. The Democrats are slightly less vicious, but just as unprincipled and just as corrupt. There’s a great deal of empty posturing in Washington, D.C., but it’s a rare day when any of our elected representatives actually does anything that might help pull the nation back from the brink of ruin.

My own Congressman, John Garamendi, looks darn good riding a horse in the rodeo parade, but in scrutinizing his website, I’m hard put to find any indication that he has done anything worthwhile. Last year, in a follow-up to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he sent a letter to his House colleagues urging them to end offshore drilling. That’s an easy stand to take, but it’s not a comprehensive energy policy, is it? It isn’t even a bill, it’s just Read more

Logic and Faith

Ultimately, religious faith is irrational. Faith is the belief in things that cannot be (or in any case haven’t been) proven.

Beyond that, we all float in a vast sea of things that we “take on faith” — things that we’re told have been proven and believe have been proven, even though we haven’t gone through the steps of the proof ourselves. I take it on faith, for instance, that there are such things as electrons. People whom I trust tell me that the existence and properties of the electron are well established by scientific methods, so I believe in electrons without ever having seen one.

One of the key problems that arises, when the talk turns to religion, is that religious people are quite often convinced that the articles of their faith are in the second category rather than the first. That is, they themselves have not Read more