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Archive for April, 2010

Why I fled Facebook

On April 27, 2010 I declared my Independence from Facebook.  I have broken ranks from the masses and ran for the exit, though I fear it may have been in vain and I fully expect to hear, ‘Relax, we are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!’  [1] 

“Why” seems to be the question Inquiring Minds want to know.  Why bail out on such a good thing.  To answer that I have to confess that I am not wired like other people, and I may be a little too, Fox Mulder-ish.  Where others see Facebook as innocuous and something good, pointing to the old friends and classmates that it allows one to reconnect with, I see it as more insidious where way too much information is being collected and the collected information is being used to mold an experience.  That is social engineering and a type behavioral modification.  When the machine dictates what you see then it can influence how you think.  In my mind that is dangerous.

Why did I choose April 27th?  This was a day of convergence turned divergence for me.  I had already been toying with the idea of leaving FB for a number of personal reasons but then there were two articles, a change to FB that confirmed one of the articles and one posting in particular that convinced me it was time to go. 

From one of the articles (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/27/tom-helou-internet-cybersecurity-al-qaeda-password-google/ ) there is a heads up regarding corporate security and privacy issues.  In part it says, “As the global recession drags on, sensitive information only becomes more valuable – and more vulnerable. Former employees, upset over a recent layoff in these hard economic times, have insider information that can be used to access company networks and obtain corporate data. Depending on how big their axe to grind is, now it’s all too easy for the disgruntled former staffers to plaster sensitive intelligence all over the cyber-world.”[2]   Now the phrase that pays in this article is “more valuable and more vulnerable.”  Anywhere there is the lure or temptation for making $$$ there is the possibility for corporate hanky-panky and industrial espionage.  This article also talks about last month’s attack on Google where their source code was hacked. Again the article points out, “Consumer records can be left uncovered in the process of a breach, and the virtual identities of millions are left for the taking. In 2008 alone, 285 million consumer records – or nearly one per American – were compromised.”[3]  So the problem is both real and imminent.  I realize that is true of all sites that gather personal information on its users.  So why do I worry about FB so?

Glad you asked.  Now as most of you know I am a conservative and I never in my wildest dreams ever, never thought that I would be on the same side of an issue with Sen. Chuck Schumer… but here I am.  Today, the 28th I ran across this article and find I am in league with the Senator and others as, “Senators ask Facebook to alter feature that shares info.”    The lead  for this story begins, “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s latest vision of making the social-networking giant more visible on the Internet may resonate with marketers, but not all of its 400 million members are sure.”  What that means is FB, in order to make more money for themselves, and create a personalized internet experience for you, will now be, ”involved intermingling your life as a Facebook user with other activities around the Internet.”[4]  In other words they are going to make your information available to other websites that you visit so that when you visit these other sites you get a page that has been customized to your personality based on your FB information . 

Now Facebook has already been doing this.  You know all those ads on the right hand side of the page?  They all have the like button with the thumbs-up in the lower left and the “x” in the upper right.  If you like the ad and give it a thumbs up you  will see more of the same type and category of ads.  If you click on the “x” then you see less of those.  I remember when they started using that information to customize the in house ads that we saw.  In a way I am thankful for the machine’s use of that information because I remember how ugly it was when the ad would pop up for unwanted hair removal  accompanied by the gal with the Sasquatch pits. I probably should have ran screaming from FB back then… but I stayed.  FB has now evolved to the point that it leads instead of following.  It is now powerful enough to dictate what it will do and how it will do it.  This is seen as a boon to the movers and the shakers and all the marketing types.  Cha-Ching!  I see this as social engineering, corporate manipulation and behavorial modification that is beyond my ability to control.  To my way of thinking this level of manipulation is dangerous and borders on brainwashing.   Of course we have been under such attacks since the first marketing ad that was ever put on a shingle and hung outside a business.  It has now taken on the sophistication of fine art and we just fall in line and get in step.

Then there was the app that sent me over the edge.  FB is full of all these “Fun” questionaires.  This is where FB seems to take on a darker air.  Take a look at the questions.  They are very generic it seems but if you look at those questions you see a profile developing.  The FBI could not do any better at gleaning information in a full on interview as people give up willingly in these questionnaires.  Now let’s go all hypothetical shall we.  Person “A” fills out several of these funzie questionnaires.  Putting all of their personal info on them: age, gender, likes, dislikes, wants, desires, traits they admire in others, types of people they like… you know the spiel.   Along comes person “B”, a friend of a friend.  Now “B” is a creeper, a stalker type.  They read about “A” and since “B” is well versed in manipulation they soon strike up a conversation with “A” and using all the information that was freely and willingly supplied by “A”, “B” soon gets into the confidence of “A” and from there the games begin.  Maybe “A” becomes a missing person not long thereafter?  Who knows… that is a hypothetical postulation but the information that is so freely shared with others is real and is forever in memory in cache somewhere. 

Now look at your info tab on your profile page.  What can we learn about you?  Lets see: age, gender, education, likes, hobbies, music, movies, relationships, books you read, email, websites, your political and religious affiliations.  This is the info that FB is opening up to other sites you visit so that they can “customize” your experience.  Maybe it’s just me but I remember that Michael Crichton techno-western Yule Brenner played in, Westworld  “Boy have we got a vacation for you… where nothing can go wrong!” [5]

I am at a transition point in my life right now and it seemed a good time to escape the assylum.  Arkham was getting crowded and I needed to work on other endevors, including this blog.  I am on the mend physically, and mentally and emotionally I have excised some demons from my past that have haunted me for years.  It is time to start some reconstruction amidst all the deconstruction that I have been doing here lately regarding my worldview.  I also have to devote more time to preparing myself to go back to work.  So here at this cross-road I choose to take the road less traveled.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost[6]

I may yet return but not right now.


[1] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eagles/hotelcalifornia.html

[2] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/27/tom-helou-internet-cybersecurity-al-qaeda-password-google/

[3] Ibid

[4] How to Take Control of Facebook Privacy, http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/27/control-facebook-privacy/

[5] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070909/combined

[6] http://poemhunter.com/best-poems/robert-frost/the-road-not-taken/

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 I Think About These Things…  (a bit dated but I still think about it)

The Mayan Long Count Calendar ends December 21, 2012.  Why is this significant?  I decided to research this event and found the following:

Is there something significant we should know about the Winter Solstice date of December 21, 2012?

Yes. On this day a rare astronomical and Mayan mythical event occurs. In astronomic terms, the Sun conjuncts the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic. The Milky Way, as most of us know, extends in a general north-south direction in the night sky. The plane of the ecliptic is the track the Sun, Moon, planets and stars appear to travel in the sky, from east to west. It intersects the Milky Way at a 60 degree angle near the constellation Sagittarius.

The cosmic cross formed by the intersecting Milky Way and plane of the ecliptic was called the Sacred Tree by the Maya. The trunk of the tree, the Axis Mundi, is the Milky Way, and the main branch intersecting the tree is the plane of the ecliptic. Mythically, at sunrise on December 21, 2012, the Sun – our Father – rises to conjoin the center of the Sacred Tree, the World Tree, the Tree of Life..

This rare astronomical event, foretold in the Mayan creation story of the Hero Twins, and calculated empirically by them, will happen for many of us in our lifetime. The Sun has not conjoined the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic since some 25,800 years ago, long before the Mayans arrived on the scene and long before their predecessors the Olmecs arrived. What does this mean?

Due to a phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes, caused by the Earth’s wobble that lasts almost 26,000 years, the apparent location of the Winter Solstice sunrise has been ever so slowly moving toward the Galactic Center. Precession may be understood by watching a spinning top. Over many revolutions the top will rise and dip on its axis, not unlike how the Earth does over an extremely long period of time. One complete rise and dip constitutes the cycle of precession.

The Mayans noticed the relative slippage of the positions of stars in the night sky over long periods of observation, indicative of precession, and foretold this great coming attraction. By using an invention called the Long Count, the Mayans fast-forwarded to anchor December 21, 2012 as the end of their Great Cycle and then counted backwards to decide where the calendar would begin. Thus the Great Cycle we are currently in began on August 11, 3114 B.C. But there’s more.

The Great Cycle, lasting 1,872,000 days and equivalent to 5,125.36 years, is but one fifth of the Great Cycle, known scientifically as the Great Year or the Platonic Year – the length of the precession of the equinoxes. To use a metaphor from the modern industrial world, on Winter Solstice A.D. 2012 it is as if the Giant Odometer of Humanity on Earth hits 100,000 miles and all the cycles big and small turn over to begin anew. The present world age will end and a new world age will begin.

Over a year’s time the Sun transits through the twelve houses of the zodiac. Many of us know this by what “Sun sign” is associated with our birthday. Upping the scale to the Platonic Year – the 26,000 year long cycle – we are shifting, astrologically, from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. The Mayan calendar does not really “end” in 2012, but rather, all the cycles turn over and start again, vibrating to a new era. It is as if humanity and the Earth will graduate in the eyes of the Father Sun and Grandmother Milky Way.[1] 

Ok, but it’s only 2008.  What is happening closer to today?  Let’s see, by law all analog broadcast television has to be digital by February 17, 2009.  “On February 17, 2009 all full-power broadcast television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital. Digital broadcasting will allow stations to offer improved picture and sound quality and additional channels“.[2] 

The countdown has begun.  I wonder why February 17th was chosen?  Maybe it has to do with Michael Jordan and Paris Hilton’s birthdays?  Or Geronimo died on this date in 1909?  The odds on favorite has to be,  Pope Pious the XII declaring Saint Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television on that date in 1958?[3]   

Many have questioned why conversion to digital is necessary.  According to www.dtv.gov congress decided dtv is necessary.  (strike one: if congress thinks it’s a good thing  hold on to your wallets.)   The DTV booklet on their site declares such a move is necessary to free up limited bandwidth for public emergency services usage (or so the argument goes) and that is a good thing but they attached a glaring rider… and new wireless services, such as wireless broadband.” [4] 

 So who benefits?  I am not naïve enough to believe the government is doing this on my behalf, for my benefit. Why is Congress so Gung-Ho about the public viewing DTV and HD programming?  That is another thing that has bugged me for years… why do they call it programming?  And what do they mean by programming?

In an Image driven culture DTV and High Def will once again draw everyone’s attention back to focus on the altar of the entertainment gods.  They were tired of their worshippers multi-tasking and wanted undivided attention .  So will DTV make programming (however you define programming) easier?

 part 2

So, what is the magic behind all this forced conversion?  I was a radio technician in the Marine Corps and I understand a little about signaling so I’ll see if I can keep this very simple.  The exact wording on this change concerns “full” power stations specifically for the February 17, 2009 change over.  What this means is the full power “analog” station uses what they call the entire envelope for a given frequency.  It takes tremendous power to drive such a signal so it is less efficient and more costly to provide.  What the FCC is doing is telling the “full power stations that they need to broadcast digitally on only a portion of the frequency band.  The full band of any given frequency has an upper portion (upper sideband) and a lower portion (lower sideband).  The current analog signal uses both the upper and the lower portions, pushing the entire width to deliver the signal.  What will now happen is the stations will use only a portion of that signal (usually lower) to deliver the signal.  It will take less power to deliver the signal and it will “free up” the rest of the frequency for other uses.  In turn it will allow the government to auction twice a$ many license$ for the $ame amount of frequencie$.   (cha-ching!)

So why won’t your TV work if the station stays on it’s current frequency when it cuts over?  Because your receiver will not be getting the entire signal it requires in order to process the picture and audio after the change over.   This will require you to either buy a set top converter (cha-ching) or a new television (cha-ching, cha-ching).

I still wonder if there is some connection between a enhanced visual image and programming?  If normal analog signal programming produced the couch potato… what will HD programming produce?  If DTV will allow multicasting on the same frequency can HD imbed subliminal images and programming that will only be able to be detected in the subconscious?  I’m not trying to be an X-files Mulder-ite here but I think about these things.

So what will 2012 bring?  Will it bring the next phase of human evolution?  When this once in 26 thousand years event takes place and the long count calendar is “reset,” will we find we are evolving to a higher plane of existence?  If it is so then it scares me to think that the next evolution of man will be built on the foundation of our current condition.   What will be the necessary agency that drives the change?  What overwhelming need will ignite the spark for change?  Will it be: Biological? Psychological?  Spiritual?  I don’t know since I don’t watch enough Oprah.  But next year I can see it in HD.  I digress.

Order cannot come from disorder, if there is no absolute standard where we can anchor ourselves morally we cannot hope for something better to arise from that which is already broken.  Without a standard there is no difference between “is” and “ought” and each one is left to practice what works for them.  Wait, we are already there aren’t we? 

It’s 2008, the Mayan long count calendar ends in 2012.  Charlie Manson will be eligible for parole in 2012.

I think about these things


 

[1] http://www.planetpapp.com/br21december2012/

[2] http://www.dtv.gov/

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_17  1958

[4] http://www.dtv.gov/DTV_booklet.pdf pg 5.

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“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

This arose as a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: (1)

Lord Acton took a great interest in America, considering its Federal structure the perfect guarantor of individual liberties. During the American Civil War, his sympathies lay entirely with the Confederacy, for their defense of States’ Rights against a centralized government that, by all historical precedent, would inevitably turn tyrannical. His notes to Gladstone on the subject helped sway many in the British government to sympathize with the South. After the South’s surrender, he wrote to Robert E. Lee that “I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.” (2)

In 1870 came the great crisis in Roman Catholicism over Pope Pius IX’s promulgation of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Lord Acton, who was in complete sympathy on this subject with Döllinger, went to Rome in order to throw all his influence against it, but the step he so much dreaded was not to be averted. The Old Catholic separation followed, but Acton did not personally join the seceders, and the authorities prudently refrained from forcing the hands of so competent and influential an English layman. It was in this context that, in a letter he wrote to scholar and ecclesiastic Mandell Creighton, dated April 1887, Acton made his most famous pronouncement:

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” (3)

_______________________________________________

I apologize for the history lesson but I felt is was necessary to lay a foundation for the argument I stated in the title. In this history of Lord Acton’s dictum we see that he makes application both in the political realm and the religious. Given today’s socio-political climate I could just as easily argue from the political angle showing the relevance of his statement to 2010 America, but I would rather persue my own leanings and follow the Religious path.

We see that Lord Acton himself made a stand against the corruption in religion that results from an unhealthy accumulation of power. In Lord Acton’s day it was a stand against the man-made notion of papal infallibility. Here today I wish to take a similar stand against a parallel crisis. Whereas the Roman Catholic system has a centralized Pope which Lord Acton recused for such a power grab as papal infallibility, I wish to make the same accusation against modern Christianity where the Local Pastor is infact a defacto local pope. Unlike Acton I will step over the Theological line and call into question the Protestant (and Baptist… for those Landmark folks who claim the Baptists were never protestants) use of the leftover Clergy/Laity system that came over from Roman Catholicism and whether such a system can be defended biblically.

My premise is that any man who is given authority over others will, if left unchecked, make full use of that authority for both personal gain and personal power. The amount of corruption by this person will ultimately be decided by the amount of power that is available. As Lord Acton says, “Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority.”

In modern Christianity most church congregations are based on a simple design. The authority is vested in the persons of the (so called) clergy, usually at the consent of, or at least the tacit agreement of the (so called) laity. This Catholic Idea of Clergy/Laity came from the teachings of Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprias, and Augustine who created and promoted the whole “Christian” class/ caste system. While not addressing the theological issues of this problem Lord Acton actually does a marvelous job of attacking just such a system, “There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” As true today as when Acton said it.

In Ephesians 4: 11-16 it says, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

In this passage we do not see offices to be filled but gifts that are given to “equip the saints for the work of ministry…”

Yet, by and large, most “churches” see the gifts as offices and positions to be filled. This idea of ecclesiastical offices would have been reinforced in the King James translation of Scripture especially since, thanks to Henry the VIII in 1534, the English monarch was also the head of the English church. The translators would be sure to frame their wording to reflect the offices of the church in deference to their King. Therefore, we see that the offices of the clergy were firmly established in a translation that was Authorized by a political ruler who was also head of the English Church at the time. This is the beginning of the protestant veneration of the person who holds the office rather than the service and the doing of ministry by the gifts given to the body of believers. This kills the spirit of service and produces professional “office holders” that I refer to as hired guns.

“There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” This has become a real problem in the churches of America today. Most churches today have a “pastor” who oversees the entire opperation, and there may be a deacon board that is either working with the pastor or against him… either way it is doubtful that either “office” is operating biblically. With the advent of the Professional Clergy there has been a rise in the cult of personality as well. The Professional is seen in a light that is clearly not biblical and we see that wheather by “influence” or by acquired “authority” these men rise to prominence. Even the small rural churches are patterened after this and the pastor is looked on as a man of authority over the congregation. And there is the rub.

The man holding the office is elevated above all the rest and his position is considered more sancitfied, more holy, and more powerful simply because of the office. This is heady stuff even for the best of men to guard against. The drug of power is very seductive and there are few men who do not succumb to it’s influence. At some point men holding these offices begin to believe in their own positions and begin to use both the assumed authority that the office brings and the power and influence it affords, for their own purposes. The Christian world is replete with tales of those who have abused their (so called)”offices” just as often and just as wickedly as any of the pedophile Priests in the Catholic church. That is the problem, the office creates a caste system where the Clergy is the ruling caste and the Laity is the subordinate serving caste reinforcing the political framework in the religious setting. At best men succumb to the evil over time; at worst men of poor character seek the office for the very reason we are discussing, to acquire power. Once the seduction with power begins the level of corruption will be commensurate with the level of power that is available.

Is there a cure? I believe that there is but it is so radical I doubt very seriously it would ever be adopted. The first step would be, to do away with the professional Clergy. Practically speaking this will never happen. The established Clergy and the pattern for their existence is too powerful. Never, of their own free will, would any of the professional “pastors” ever give up their position of power.  Even the meanest paid rural “pastor” would not willingly give up “his power” over even the smallest group of people. It is not about the money, heaven knows many, if not most, small congregations pay at or below the poverty level. No, it is about power to influence and control a group of people and mold their worldviews.(This is the danger of the passive approach to worship where a one-way conversation takes place.  The only view allowed in these meetings is the pastor’s.  This affords almost total control by the speaker to inject his own views as ‘god breathed’.  Whatever the “anointed”, “man of god” says while behind the “sacred desk” will be seen as, and accepted as, the “word of God”.) That is an especially strong allure for men of lesser character who are drawn to such positions. I have no doubt that there are good men who are trying to do what is right in these positions and I commend them and pray for them but the position itself is the enabler, the seductress; and even the best of men will, sooner or later, succumb to the temptation of power. We see a picture of this in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings Trillogy”.   As a Ring Bearer, Frodo Baggins had an awful burden to carry yet, even he failed in the end and succumbed to the power of the ring; unable to destroy it he claimed it for himself.  The thread through-out the tale is about power, the use and the abuse of it.  Many who would have taken the ring would have done so out of a nobel purpose but would have been corrupted by it’s power and their corruption would (like Sauron) only be limited by the (unlimited) power of the ring.

1. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/288200.html
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalberg-Acton,_1st_Baron_Acton
3. Ibid.

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Has anyone viewed the alter call as a typical cult trick?

What other “traditional” IFB routines are really mind/emotional control tactics?

Some of the answer is:

Altar calls are a modern manipulation started by Charles Finney in order to be able to make a head count so he would know how effective his manipulative techniques were. There is no “Altar” in a New Testament Church building. The Altar was where either an animal sacrifice was made or inscense was burned. There were no “Altar” calls practiced in the New Testiment Church until Finney started it. Finney did it solely to be able to get a head count of the “decisions” he had successfully brought about.
It has gotten harder to get people down to the “altar” so now all people are asked to do is raise their hands.

As for other mind control tricks, there is the whole range of rhetoric and falacious arguments from the pulpit, Ad Hominem, strawman arguments (here’s a list: http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#hominem ) most pastors are either religious Sophists or ignorant and unlearned men glorying in their ignorance and lack of education.

One of my favorite tricks is the pregnant pause…… and if the “preacher” does not get an immediate “Amen” or “Preach it Brother” then he will ask for one. And if he’s not getting enough “Amens” or “PIB’s” He will inject his own either with a “Amen?” or a “Now that’ll preach…” or “I don’t care if I am preaching, that deserves an ‘amen’!” These are subtle ways the “preacher” lets “his” congregation know that they need to appreciate his preaching more.

There is always the Immaculate Message announcement as the “self-anointed man of god” mounts the pulpit and stands behind the “sacred desk” and tells what an awful time he has had getting peace about what to preach, when all of a sudden that beautiful song by Sister Peaches Spandexburst  touched his heart and the Holy Spirit gave him the message. This sets up his message as god-breathed and prepares the audience to accept eveything he is about to say is infallable and directly from the throne of god. (kool-aide line forms on the right, bro Jim Jones will be serving today)

Can anyone think of some others?

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Now I understand why Hyles made such a big deal about halitosis, I see the source of the problem.

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