Nothing to Lose Sleep Over

 

Technology for helping people sleep appears to be a booming business, with everything from machines that mimic ocean wave sounds to sensors built into mattresses to adjust the sleeping experience for maximum comfort. Technology also is ushered out of the bedroom, in the form of light temperature filters for smartphones and electronic tablets. Sleep difficulties, especially for older people, are nothing to be taken lightly since lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can lead to all sorts of problems in the larger society, some of them dangerous, like driving a motor vehicle while deprived of good sleep.

 

One of the factors often ignored in discussions of sleep is how the natural sleep cycle of our species appears to broken up into two, and often three periods. The natural cycle seems to drop into the background during most of maturity for many people, giving rise to the common illusion that eight hours of continuous sleep from late evening through the night to early morning is the norm. Nothing could be further from the truth. The true sleep pattern for our species makes itself known in youth and in old age, when work schedules are less demanding. The young and the old typically sleep several hours from evening into the night, then are up for an hour, maybe more, and then back to sleep from late night into the morning. They also often partake of a midday nap.

RBunny21
Asleep, a 1904 painting by Rupert Bunny (1864-1947).

The introduction of widely available electric lighting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries played a part in resetting humanity’s internal clock, particularly for those living in industrial societies originating from northern Europe. Southern European societies retained a more relaxed rhythm and honored the tradition of the siesta, or midday relaxation. But in industrialized England and America the norm became 12 to 16 hours of work during all of daylight and into twilight at both ends of the day, followed by 8 to 12 hours of some sort of relaxation and sleep at home before getting back at it the next day. Sleep had to be concentrated in those hours, or foregone. Sleep at home when you got the slim chance, or fall asleep at the wheel of some dangerously unprotected machinery, risking death, maiming, or at the very least loss of employment.

To have been an insomniac working in a factory of the last centuries in the industrial north must have been utter hell, as it must be today for those working in the garment and electronics sweatshops of southern Asia. Some of the devices advertised for sale to help the sleepless may seem ludicrous or indulgent, but for those afflicted it may not seem so. The question is whether those who truly need those devices can afford them or are even aware of them. Probably not.

Madeline Kahn, as Lili Von Shtupp, sings “I’m Tired” in the 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles. Warning: foul language.

The sound of waves crashing, the gradual transition of blue light to red on electronics invited into the bedroom, and the monitoring of sleep quality, as far as that may be possible, all are geared toward the middle class and above, the office workers who have followed the 9 to 5 mold set for their kind one hundred years ago. Many work more hours than that, usually appended to the end of the day. All the same, sleep for them is crowded into the overnight hours, and if they don’t get it then they will miss out. There’s nothing wrong with them if they can’t sleep all 8 hours in the time allotted; it’s the mold that is broken and needs remaking.
— Techly

 

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We’re Going to Need More Dimes

 

When it comes to net neutrality analogies, many people opt for the internet superhighway one where there may be fast lanes and slow lanes or, on a content neutral internet, all lanes are equal. Since it’s hard to bring in the gatekeepers who set the rules for the internet on that kind of analogy, it might be easier to think of net neutrality or non-neutrality as related to a toll plaza, where the gatekeepers, such as AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast, charge different amounts and cause varying delays to the vehicles attempting to pass through their gates.

 

On a net neutral superhighway, the gatekeepers at the toll plaza charge roughly the same amount to every vehicle and pass them all through with equal alacrity. On an internet superhighway that is not neutral and grants wide discretion to the gatekeepers at the toll plaza, toll charges vary a great deal from vehicle to vehicle, and the gatekeepers might also hold up certain vehicles, making them late to their destination.

Storebaelt toll area
The Great Belt Fixed Link toll plaza in Denmark. Different colored lights indicate different payment methods. Photo by heb.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, after going through the motions of a public comment period through the summer on his proposed, Orwellian-named “Restoring Internet Freedom” gutting of the 2015 net neutrality rules, announced today that the FCC board of three Republicans and two Democrats will vote on rules changes on December 14. The fix is in, as it has been since early this year when Mr. Pai expressed his intention to overturn the 2015 rules, and there is little doubt how the majority will vote on December 14. It is still possible between now and then to bring enough public pressure to bear on Congress for that body to influence either the FCC board vote, which is not likely, or put in motion legislation to override FCC rules on rescinding net neutrality, which is the more likely outcome, if there is to be a positive one at all for neutrality advocates.

Regulation of internet access is too vital to leave up to the unelected five member board of a regulatory commission. The current FCC board has also recently demonstrated its irresponsibility to the country at large when it did away with rules preventing monopolization of local media markets by a single company, recklessly opening the gates to allow Sinclair Broadcasting to consolidate its control across the country.

In the 1974 film Blazing Saddles, directed by Mel Brooks, the citizens of Rock Ridge set up a toll booth to slow down the bad guys coming to destroy their town. Warning: foul language.

Congress could put an end to FCC favoritism toward big business by passing legislation, instead of allowing the FCC board to vote on rules after the formality of a meaningless public comment period, since the board Republicans will almost certainly vote against net neutrality despite the majority of public comments in favor of it. Congress is also beholden to big business, but at least it retains some ability to bend to the public will. As it stands now, after the December 14 vote the new rules will likely get challenged in court, and the legal struggle will eat up years, and all the while the internet gatekeepers will make fortunes extorting internet users who need to pass their toll booths.
― Techly

 

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Worse than Foot in Mouth

The pejorative expression “liberal media” has become a time-worn truth for some people after it has been repeated often enough, mostly by themselves. To them, attributing a news story to the “liberal media” is as good as saying the story is worthless. Their listeners are meant to take at face value the assertion that the media has a liberal bias, because they themselves never question the phrase. Of course the media has a liberal bias, because everyone says it does.

At least everyone within a certain circle says it does, and the people within that circle repeat the formula ad nauseum. Citing facts to these people about how the major media outlets are controlled by as few as a half dozen corporations, all of them concerned with promoting business rather than any leftist agenda, has no effect on them. They are addicted to the drug of blaming the faults of their right wing leaders on a mythical “liberal media”. Individual reporters within the big media corporations often lean to the left, but it does not follow that their personal views find their way into print or onto television or radio. The editors, who have their ears tuned to the desires of their corporate bosses, would not allow it, and they set the parameters for what will be in a news story and, more importantly, what will not.


Chuck Colson
Chuck Colson (1931-2012), officially White House Special Counsel in the Nixon administration, but unofficially the director of dirty tricks. After being sent to prison for seven months for his role in the Watergate scandal, he got religion.

Consumers of news media have no idea what is being left out, what questions are not being asked, and what assumptions are not being challenged. It is what a news organization leaves out that determines its political bias, more than what it releases for consumption. Yes, a newspaper may endorse the Republican or Democratic candidate for office, but what about the idea that neither candidate represents with sincerity any interests other than those of the business class that donated the largest sums to their campaigns? What about in the run-up to war in Iraq in 2003 the reality that there was very little skepticism of the Bush administration’s reasons for going to war from supposedly liberal media outlets like The New York Times and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)? To persist in labeling such organizations “liberal media” belies not only a willful ignorance of the facts, but a bent in political philosophy that is so far rightward it makes Rush Limbaugh appear centrist.

 

Before the 1950s, major media outlets were seen for what they were then and still are today – centrist or right-leaning organizations that were interested in a healthy bottom line, without investigating too deeply into the feathered nests of the owners’ wealthy friends in government and business. Starting in the 1950s with critical reporting of racial atrocities in the South, and continuing through the 1960s and 1970s with critical reporting on the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and the CIA, the major media strayed from it’s generally cozy relationship with the powers that be. It was an anomalous twenty to thirty years, and the Nixon administration sought to rein in the press using, among other tools and dirty tricks, the “liberal media” propaganda lie, repeated often. By the 1980s and the Reagan administration, a cowed press corps had reverted to previous form. By 2003, it would be difficult to distinguish the uncritical cheerleading among the press corps for the Iraq War from the rah rah press reports at the beginning of the Spanish-American War a little more than a hundred years earlier.

Harvey Korman and Slim Pickens brainstorm on the kinds of people they need to help them destroy the fictional western town of Rock Ridge in Mel Brooks’s 1974 film Blazing Saddles. No mention of any “very fine people” among them, however. Warning: foul language.

 

The “liberal media” excuse is a handy one, and some people will cling to it no matter how badly the current Oval Office occupant behaves or how heinous the words coming out of his mouth or from his Twitter tirades. Anyone who continues to excuse him by blaming the “liberal media” for slanting the words the president himself uttered in response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, is in denial about the situation and is suffering from cranial rectumitis so severe that no one else should have to listen any longer.
― Vita

A case of cranial rectumitis.

 

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The Check Is in the Mail

 

At the end of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, which can be dated to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, there was much talk in the West of a “peace dividend” on account of the anticipated reduction in military spending. The dividend never amounted to anything as far as average Americans were concerned, particularly since the Gulf War came along a year later, and then through the 1990s the US involved itself in flash points around the globe in its self-appointed role as world police force. In the new century, the so-called War on Terror has preoccupied this country and dragged it into middle eastern quagmires ever since 2001. That peace dividend looks like it’s never going to show up.

Counting minor skirmishes and interventions, America has been in conflict with enemies foreign and domestic for most of its history. Always in the past after a major conflict, the military would draw down its personnel and weaponry and return to a reduced level that was considered the peacetime military norm, even if small conflicts were bound to flare up. Again after World War II, it appeared the armed forces would follow the pattern and draw down, and indeed they did for several years in the late 1940s. But then the Berlin Airlift happened, heightening tensions with the Soviet Union, and more or less beginning the Cold War. Shortly after that came the Korean War. The country has pretty well been on a war footing ever since, a condition President Eisenhower warned against in his 1961 farewell address when he spoke of the military-industrial complex.

The Ladies' home journal (1948) (14763515784)
From The Ladies’ Home Journal in 1948, an article in the magazine described the trials of a young family making ends meet. Here the father balances the family books while the mother irons clothes. No doubt they juggled income and expenses in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, not billions or trillions.
In a 2012 speech at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama anticipated a peace dividend from reductions in American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, a dividend he said he would use to pay down the national debt and put Americans back to work repairing and improving infrastructure at home. Like the Cold War peace dividend, the dividend that was supposed to follow from over a decade of middle eastern wars also proved illusory. For one thing, our enormous military spending, larger than the military budgets of the next eight biggest spenders combined, has been done with borrowed money. Claiming a reduction in military spending would yield a dividend from the balance is like a homeowner taking $20 out of the household budget meant for repayment of various debts and calling it a windfall. Not only will the homeowner have to repay the $20 next month, but he or she will have to come up with an additional $20 to make up for the shortfall.

 

The other thing about this country’s huge military is that some interested parties in the military and in the defense industry like to keep it sky high. That is what Eisenhower was warning us about in 1961. These are people who, while they may not like war exactly – when it comes to actual military service, for instance, a good many of them seem to have other priorities – nonetheless have acquired a taste for the profits and power of the military-industrial complex. They are the friends of Halliburton and Blackwater, and they are in high places. They are the people who will see to it a peace dividend never gets beyond their own sticky fingers into the wallets of the American people who have paid for all their boondoggles.

From Mel Brooks’s 1974 film Blazing Saddles, with Harvey Korman and Robyn Hilton, and Mel Brooks himself as the Governor, this scene could just as well be depicting activities in the modern day Oval Office as in a fictional governor’s office in 1874. Warning: foul language.

There will not be enough money in the federal budget for fixing the nation’s infrastructure, moreover bringing it up to 21st century standards, until the obscene amounts spent on the military-industrial complex are drastically reduced. There will not be enough money for health care, for public education, for Social Security, for fighting climate change by ditching the fossil fuel industry in favor of renewable energy, for doing all the things we want to do to improve our society as a whole, and not merely improve the fortunes of the oligarchy, if we do not come to our senses regarding our budget for interfering around the world and in some unintended ways making it a more dangerous place. Throwing all that borrowed money into the war machine for the past 70 years has bought us a grand house, with a grand mortgage to match, and meanwhile the termites have been busy at the foundations.
― Vita

 

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Gee, What a Swell Guy

 

“This is a service. No one here pays me to go.”
― Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) speaking to constituents in 2017.

 

Earlier this week a congressman from Oklahoma, Markwayne Mullin, told his constituents at a town hall gathering that their notion that they paid his salary was “bullcrap” and that he alone had paid his own way through taxes over the years as a businessman. Hallelujah! Congressman Mullin further elaborated that his tenure should be considered a “service” from him to his constituents, and damn glad of it! This is truly a man who is God’s gift! If he took a side job at a convenience store rather than in Congress, those of us buying lotto tickets and fast food from him would feel blessed to have him deign to notice our proffered treasury bills. Glory!

From the founding of the nation, there have been calls from some to withhold all payment to those who selflessly serve in our nation’s deliberative bodies. Honor itself is its own reward, they argued, and no doubt Markwayne Mullin, selfless civil servant, would have been right there with them, refusing his congressional salary and cushy benefits, along with the extremely lucrative possibility of reaping even greater rewards from private sector lobbying once he left office. Not for Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, who proclaims loudly for all to hear “Bullcrap!”

Markwayne Mullin, whose daddy left him a profitable business at the age of 20, and who lined up for government largesse while decrying the distribution of the same, we thank you for telling it like it is. That’s what’s important these days! BULLCRAP, in belligerent all caps, that’ll set those lib’ruls back on their Birkenstock heels. Markwayne Mullin, according to your bio on Wikipedia you are a Cherokee Indian, and naturally that leads to considerable cognitive dissonance for the lib’ruls when they try to reconcile your heritage with your arrogant, bellicose ignorance in relating to your constituents. All the better for you, because you are in your own dickish way standing up for what you believe in, which apparently is tone-deaf entitlement and your own testosterone-addled studliness, and how many Indians can lay claim to that after 500 years of bloody history of white folks pushing them around?
― Vitawayne – Booyah!

 

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