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Thursday, August 12, 2010

History's Humor and Dreadful Lessons

Well, a new semester is starting and all of us students gathered at the campus bookstore today, filed through the hallways like a serpent coiling up to purchase textbooks.  After spending the last two years going to classes, buying books, and dealing with the dreaded financial aid department (to tell you the truth, they're rather efficient at my school, but that's not what you hear in the scuttlebutt), I was thinking that I was getting thirsty, needing to go to the bathroom, planning for my lunch at 8:30 a.m., humming tunes to old TV shows, and wondering why we did all of this so we can pay $350 for two small bags of books!  

My first response (to myself... I began talking to myself as well) was "That's America for ya!"  The system puts us through the rigmarole so we can dish out all the state's money.  We're part of the well-oiled money machine (more closely related to a spoke, I should say..).  

Then I thought, "Well how could we make this simpler?  How could we make it less expensive?"  Yeah, I'm thinking how to save the country money.  Imagine that!  

Well, I remembered that while taking certain classes, the instructors rarely even referred to our texts.  Well, why not?  Because of that little thing that James Loewen likes to talk about in "Lies My Teacher Told Me."  Teachers don't come right out and say that the texts are mostly useless, they just use something else and assume that the money for your textbooks will get recycled anyway (sure enough, just before we finally made it into the bookstore - clouds parting, angels singing - a nice elderly woman handed us a book buyback policy card... they were buying the books back before we even purchased them! lol).  Of course, the price you get for an old textbook is much less than you paid for it.  I figure that's the textbook company's profit percentage so, the bookstore works directly with the financial system that we all have to deal with.  

Now, this is where it gets as deep and sticky as a pile of horse manure (I know... you needed the mental picture with "sticky manure").  This is the old system.  It has been done this way for centuries.  And, the powers-that-be want to keep what works best to generate revenue.  But, remember that most of my teachers didn't even use the textbooks?  What did they use?  They used today's innovative technology, like Powerpoint, Word, Access, or Excel.  Do these names sound familiar to you.  I'll bet they do.  How about Kindle, .pdf, .mov, or any number of file extensions that describe electronic media.  Electronic books and videos are what I used and I found them a great deal more educational than the dull, plodding textbooks that we've all grown to hate.  Even Wikipedia gives you great resources... I've had professors recommend it for the bibliographies (not to be used as an official reference itself you understand).  

Some people don't have computers, say the bookstores.  But, the colleges and universities most of their services online and virtually demand that you have to use them.   On one hand, they're saying, "Use the old system."  The other hand says "Here's something newer, faster, easier to use... and cheaper for us."  Well, I say "Why don't you put your textbooks online?"  They don't like reasonable questions... why!  This boy asked a reasonable question!  He must have a screw loose.  I still ask those kinds of questions... yeah, mostly for fun.

So, why are we still buying $350 worth of books that we mostly won't even use (indeed, are not nearly as educational as our many electronic sources and the internet... the internet, Wow!)?  Well, that question is similar to why do we pay income tax?  To oil the machine.  Where's Judge Andrew Napolitano?    

Here's some history (I knew you were wondering when I'd get around to that... slightly modified from Thomas Jefferson):  We are most easily taken advantage of when we fear the system... defined at similar times as a state of Tyranny.  But, when that state or system fears us, then we have democracy.  

What we have right now is a system that takes advantage of us, herds us into money making machines, so that the system (capitalization) can continue.  Judge Napolitano said that we live to serve the system, not the other way around, but that system was originally envisioned to serve us.  1787 changed all that with the adoption of the Constitution (the document of all documents... the holy of holies).  What the Constitution really became was the great compromise... the needs of the state versus the needs of the individual.  The state no longer functions by the people or for the people, as in the Declaration of Independence.  I know, ironically that wording comes from the Constitution.  But, the real democracy was in the Declaration, with "We the people...."  It was at that moment in July 1776 that WE functioned as a democracy and it lasted eleven blissful (ideologically speaking of course) years.  Today, the Constitution exists to serve the "libido dominati"... the great ego of the higher class, the ruling class, the people who already have money and  know how to make more, the Federalist Alexander Hamilton's (you know him, Mr. National Bank) sellout to the English system that we shed so much blood to denounce.  This is Hamilton's "compromise"... a central government that promised to grow in power, virtually unchecked.

So, we cogs and spokes stand in lines, wading through the mucky BS (Bureaucratic Shuffle), to get what the state is handing out so that companies run by the LD's can oil their machine and produce capital.  If this sounds familiar, it's the age-old argument made by Karl Marx... soundly denounced by the ruling class of America as detrimental to the American way of life (the opinion of the ruling class, remember), the old faithful red, white, and blue... Columbia herself in her elegant, flowing gold gown, who grew angelic wings to lead us in our divinely ordained "Manifest Destiny."

Do you know the expression, "seen through rose-colored glasses?"  This is another argument that is, encouragingly becoming well-told... Imperialism.  It's starting to get recognition from the American people... the idea that maybe our government made a mistake.  Took awhile!  It wasn't until the 1960's that we began to dump "virtual slavery" (still a long way to go, too) or recognition of the Native American as the actual owners of the land that we live on (don't worry... we're all natives, now).  A scant 19 years later, conservatives sold us to the highest bidder, removing controls that prevented corporations from taking advantage of us.  Now, we're all the slaves.  At least, there's no discrimination by color anymore!  But, mistakes were made, even if we didn't admit them then... or now.  The rose-colored glasses that were handed out since 1787, grew photo-gray and got darker,and can still be found in our textbooks (according to Mr. Loewen) and that may be why educated men do not like to use them.  It's taking time, but we're trying on a different pair of glasses... with clear lenses and no funny mirrors.  Judge Napolitano has a great and humorous way of telling this.  The main point is that he warns Americans, yet in a positive way... a true democrat who believes that when government abuses its power, then we the people who gave it that power have the right to take it back:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

 As Napolitano was trying to say (after Jefferson) was that we have the power to make our country what we want it to be... in 1776 or 2010.  But, simply going to the polls is not enough.  We must take an active part in establishing freedom, keeping an ever watchful eye on the "libido dominati" in Congress, removing them when they don't do their jobs, removing the damnable "Patriot Act," just like we removed the "Alien and Sedition Act" in the early 19th century.  At that time, we didn't have Islamic fundamentalists to fear... it was the French.  Yeah, the French.  I know... The point is that we react from fear and lose another notch of freedom each time we do.  Imagine this:  we reacted with the "Alien and Sedition Acts" that made it illegal to "bad-mouth" the President just because three French ministers snuffed our ambassador (imagine not being able to call George W. Bush a stupid redneck!  What would David Letterman do?).  Still, I'm sure that flying airplanes into buildings got a rise from us and more of our freedoms lost in that fight.  Still, we survived the French... we'll probably survive Al Quada too.   

Well, I came from the line at the bookstore, to the line at financial aid, and endured the BS (not Bureaucratic Shuffle this time) once more for the machine.  Out of all this, I'll get an education.  Of course, the statistics say that I'll be oiling machinery at Wal-mart most of my future.  I have more confidence in myself than that, however.  I'll keep my clear specs on, pay attention to what my Congessman Libido says and does (less to who he cheats on his wife with), no attention to silly distractions like Britney or Lindsey, and try to laugh and cajole regularly with my friends.  That's a good recipe for a "bon'as civis" or a good citizen, a watchful or observant citizen.   For, as I'm sure that Jefferson would agree, freedom must be constantly maintained.  It rarely comes to you of its own free will. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Definitions of Capitalization

What is very telling in American society is that we tend to think of "capitalizing" as not to take advantage of a resource, but rather to promote corporate, or American ideals and health.  This may be a mental justification of our system.  Our closest national relatives, the British people, began the capitalistic endeavors (which we have perfected) with Dutch ideas of business, capitalizing on resources such as slaves, tea, and rice... still, they do not focus on a definition of "capitalize" as anything else but what it is... "to take advantage."  Below is what an English dictionary entry for the word, "capitalize" says. This is followed by an American entry that is fairly common in most American dictionaries, including the Random House one on my desk now.  You can tell by the simple variation how we Americans rank the "to take advantage" definition of the term.

capitalize, capitalise [ˈkæpɪtəˌlaɪz]
vb (mainly tr)
1. (intr; foll by on) to take advantage (of); profit (by)
2. (Communication Arts / Printing, Lithography & Bookbinding) to write or print (text) in capital letters or with the first letter of (a word or words) in capital letters
3. (Economics, Accounting & Finance / Accounting & Book-keeping) to convert (debt or retained earnings) into capital stock
4. (Economics, Accounting & Finance / Accounting & Book-keeping) to authorize (a business enterprise) to issue a specified amount of capital stock
5. (Economics, Accounting & Finance / Banking & Finance) to provide with capital
6. (Economics, Accounting & Finance / Accounting & Book-keeping) Accounting to treat (expenditures) as assets
7. (Economics, Accounting & Finance / Accounting & Book-keeping)
a.  to estimate the present value of (a periodical income)
b.  to compute the present value of (a business) from actual or potential earnings

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

And now, the American view:

cap·i·tal·ize (kp-tl-z)
v. cap·i·tal·ized, cap·i·tal·iz·ing, cap·i·tal·iz·es
1. To use as or convert into capital.
2. To supply with capital or investment funds: capitalize a new business.
3. To authorize the issue of a certain amount of capital stock of: capitalize a corporation.
4. To convert (debt) into capital stock or shares.
5. To calculate the current value of (a future stream of earnings or cash flows).
6. To include (expenditures) in business accounts as assets instead of expenses.
a. To write or print in capital letters.
b. To begin a word with a capital letter.
To turn something to one's advantage; benefit: capitalize on an opponent's error. See Synonyms at benefit.

At least my Random House dictionary puts "to take advantage" as number six!  When I read a book on Tobacco business in early America that gave "debt to England" as one source of the American Revolution, I had to think about this.  The American Revolution erased our debts to England, for the most part.  After that, we had the freedom to "take advantage" as much as possible.  It became our ultimate creed, our "Manifest Destiny" to conquer the whole continent.  I don't know about you, but this was a hard pill to swallow.  

Education and religion are two areas where capitalization should not occur.  I know of few people who would dispute this.  But, commercialism has invaded our schools and churches and what was once the public sector has now gone private... again, capitalization of every available resource.  

The definitions that we have outlined for ourselves - the very essence of the idea - has been redefined to avoid the guilt that many of us still feel for what has gone in the past... the African and the Indian are only the most visible today.  What remains not-so-visible is what may eventually spell the end of what we know.  Change it now.  

A joke that I once heard states "Politics is merely the modern tool of the advantage-seeking capitalist that replaced the large, heavy bones wielded by their predecessors..."

I don't laugh at it anymore.  I'd like to do as my poor, yet wise and loving Grandma taught me instead... love thy neighbor.   She did and she was truly a happy woman.  Like I said... she was wise!

Update:  wikipedia definitions concur:

Verb [UK]
to capitalise (third-person singular simple present capitalises, present participle capitalising, simple past and past participle capitalised)
  1. (followed by on) To seize, as an opportunity; to obtain a benefit.
    The home team appeared to have the advantage throughout the game, and finally capitalised on their opponents' weakness with just two minutes remaining, scoring several points in quick succession.
  2. (writing, editing) to make use of capital letters (a.k.a. upper case).
    In English, proper nouns should always be capitalised.
  3. (business) to have, contribute or acquire capital (money or other resources) for a business.
    Some states require proof that a new venture is properly capitalised before the state will issue a certificate of incorporation.
  4. (finance) to convert into capital, ie to get cash or similar immediately fungible resources for some less fungible property or source of future income.
    If we obtain a loan using the business as collateral, the effect will be to capitalise our next ten years of income, giving us cash today that we can use to buy out our competitor.
  5. (accounting, taxation) to treat as capital, not as an expense. (This has implications for when deductions may be taken, at least under US law.)
  6. (intransitive): To profit or to obtain an advantage.
    The home team took several shots on goal but was unable to capitalise until late in the game.

Verb [US]
to capitalize (third-person singular simple present capitalizes, present participle capitalizing, simple past and past participle capitalized)
  1. (transitive) In writing or editing, to write in capital letters, in upper case, either the entire word or text, or just the initial letter(s) thereof.
    In English, proper nouns should always be capitalized.
  2. (transitive, business, finance) To contribute or acquire capital (money or other resources) for.
    Some states require proof that a new venture is properly capitalized before the state will issue a certificate of incorporation.
  3. (transitive, finance) To convert into capital, ie to get cash or similar immediately fungible resources for some less fungible property or source of future income.
    If we obtain a loan using the business as collateral, the effect will be to capitalize our next ten years of income, giving us cash today that we can use to buy out our competitor.
  4. (transitive, accounting, taxation) To treat as capital, not as an expense.
  5. (intransitive) To profit or to obtain an advantage.
    The home team took several shots on goal but was unable to capitalize until late in the game.
  6. (intransitive, followed by on) To seize, as an opportunity; to obtain a benefit.
    The home team appeared to have the advantage throughout the game, and finally capitalized on their opponents' weakness with just two minutes remaining, scoring several points in quick succession.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

1870 Storm... the North Carolina report from Wilmington

On February 9, 1870, the New York Herald reported on a big Nor-easter that affected the entire eastern seaboard.  Several excerpts from affected cities and their respective newspapers were included.  The below report came from Wilmington, NC: