Random ramblings of a mind damaged by years of disuse and abuse. Also a place to go to be bored to tears.
The Random Comic Strip
Words to live by...
"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."
(The right to looseness has been officially given)
"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."
Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.
General Shinseki steps down but nothing really changed. And nothing will change much. The problems at the VA are "systemic", they say...
sys·tem·ic 1. of or relating to a system, especially as opposed to a particular part. "the disease is localized rather than systemic"
That is, the problems with the VA medical treatment are now a functional part of the system. How deep the roots have grown, I have no idea. Problems that are systemic tend to be the worst kinds. They seem so embedded in the environment of the malfunctioning system that to clear them, it seems easier to just abandon the system and replace it.
I have a minor disability aggravated by events during my time in service. It is nothing more than a hearing problem coupled with Tinnitus. I have lived with it for a very long time and I have adapted. For the most part, it is a minor annoyance; it doesn't interfere with my sleep, it might be affecting my balance, but its main effect seems apparent only when I take a hearing test. My Tinnitus mimics the sounds you are supposed to hear during these tests. It takes me longer than others to discern the machine's tone from the Tinnitus sound.
In general, it is not what I would call a "real" disability. It affects my quality of life only marginally. When I went to the VA, I expected nothing much. After all, there's not much that can be done about it. Oh, there are "remedies" on the market which may, or may not, work for some. But, as I said, it is a minor annoyance and I do not bother with these things. Yet, I was treated as if it was important, as if I was important. With sympathy and kindness, something I did not think would happen with a government agency. Something that rarely happens at the DMV, say, or with the Social Security system.
But I know about systemic problems. I have seen them in various places I have worked and in other activities; when the system itself seems to be the problem.
When a sports team is not performing, the general manager or the coach, is blamed and often loses his job. But, if the problem is systemic, that won't improve performance in the long term. It might shake things up enough that a short term boost in performance is noticed but it won't last. Maybe firing the guy in charge will help if he sets policy or encourages the attitudes which fuel the problem but it's mostly a cosmetic solution.
So I don't think Shinseki's resignation will matter much.
Google has built a prototype of an automobile which has no steering wheel or brake pedal. Everyone in the car will be merely a passenger. You get in, enter your destination, and it just goes there... at a maximum speed of 25 MPH. It's an ugly little thing.Like a Smart Car but without the bells and whistles. The principle behind it is to take control of the vehicle away from humans, who are fallible, as we know ("To Err Is Human") and place our faith in technology and programmers. But wait... aren't programmers human?
Why, yes, they are. All too human. I say this from experience with a GPS unit and from using the various mapping offerings on the internet. My Garmin has sent me to more than one hotel that didn't exist and given me highly questionable directions from time to time (not to mention the ubiquitous "Recalculating" squawks when I fail to follow the little dictator). I do not fault the technology (which reminds me that an update is available/needed but then has no update when I seek it). Still, I find my Garmin and access to Google Maps to be quite useful. But I trust them to be just a bit more accurate than the random bystander; not perfect.
When I was a mischievous lad in my mid-teens, I would often give incorrect, or circuitous, directions to tourists who were silly enough to ask how to get to some hotel, motel, or point of interest. I don't recall ever sending them into a dangerous area or getting them so lost they could run out of gas before reaching civilization again. And, sometimes, I gave less mischievous but still erroneous directions because I am human after all.
But what will happen when one of these little beasts gets into an accident? Will we sue the non-existent driver? The owner? The car-maker? The programmers? Currently, the law assumes the driver has control of the vehicle; that will have to change.
I tended not to rely on the kindness of strangers once I began driving but studied maps instead. I was a pretty good land navigator, if I do say so myself. If I was going to a town I was unfamiliar with, I would grab a map for it or, as soon as I got in the are, would study a map that that was posted at a gas station. Those maps, once a staple of every service station, have disappeared.
They've already started. Yet, California has the most restrictive gun laws in the nation; much more restrictive than federal laws. In spite of them, the gunman purchased his weapons and ammo legally. In spite of California's restrictive laws, he easily found a way to get the guns he wanted to carry out his plan of massacre.
As of this writing, he did not shoot his roommates (who were found dead after the shooting that was all over the news) but stabbed them... repeatedly... and viciously. As far as I can tell, he had been under a psychiatrist's care from an early age. Perhaps we need to investigate the psychiatric profession and their role in these crazed shootings. The guy who shot up the movie theater in Colorado was also under psychiatric care. I could be wrong but the shooter in the Connecticut elementary shootings was likely under psychiatric care.
So, do we blame the laws that did not prevent these killers from obtaining firearms? Or should we wonder about the quality of psychiatric care they received? The easy answer is more laws; perhaps laws that force all mental health workers to register their patients with law enforcement so that they can be put on a list of who is barred from owning/purchasing firearms. Too restrictive? It's the next logical step. After all, they are the ones who know who they wackiest of us are. Currently, they are only required to report threats made by patients. And it is possible that they they are the ones who must first deem the threat credible. Those who are involuntarily placed under psychiatric care are barred from obtaining firearms (per federal laws) but none of the last few shooters were involuntarily committed.
The only answer I can see is to repeal the Second Amendment and confiscate all firearms in the nation. Something I doubt will ever happen.
But it won't stop stabbings, baseball bat attacks, or crazy people from driving cars into crowds.
I almost added "Order" to the title. I am afraid that would have frightened some readers away. Not frightened, perhaps, maybe they would see that title and think it's a paranoid rant. It's not. At least, I don't think of it that way.
When I was a young man in my late teens and early twenties, I often wondered about how people coped with what I had been taught were oppressive systems. Places like Red China, or the Soviet Union, or Cuba. At the time, I figured it didn't much matter; that the system didn't matter all that much, that it would be one I would have been raised in, had adapted to. And, if I could have been conditioned to function under it, I could learn to function under any of them over time.
I also wondered about how I would fare in tightly structured societies where ritual was important. And within sub-cultures that also had strict rules and rituals to be followed. I have run into these sub-cultures for most of my life; the most obvious are religious orders which require rites to be performed by their adherents. Catholics have "Confirmation", for example, and Jews go through Bar Mitzvahs and Bas Mitzvahs. There are training periods for each wherein the young adherent learns the ritual in order to perform it at the appropriate time. I have come to believe that rituals are important and that training for them improves self-discipline. Even though I hate rituals myself and avoid them as much as is humanly possible.
But all cultures do this to some extent. And we indoctrinate our children so that they will "fit in." By "indoctrinate", I mean we teach them the cultural rituals, rules, and behavior patterns that will help them to be "good" citizens of the society in which we live.
I have lived all my life in (maybe I should say "on") a world where the country I lived in was the "Big Dog." I do not know what it is like to live in a "lesser" nation, a second-tier nation; one that had been a Big Player but was no longer. Or in a nation that had never been a Big Player.
What would the world be like if, say, China became the most powerful nation on Earth?
Yet, the White House maintains that it was the CIA that told them that the video was the cause of the attack. If the CIA was behind the Susan Rice and White House claims that it was the video that instigated the attack, why did the White House contact Youtube that very night... before the CIA had issued such a claim?
Add in the IRS scandal, the "Fast and Furious" scandal (where guns were supplied to drug cartels in Mexico), and now the VA treatment scandal and you start to wonder who is in charge and why they are so incompetent.
Many of the most annoying phrases I could think of can be found there. But it's a site that caters to writers (or "wannabe" writers... like bloggers).
My father used such phrases... one of them was "Do as I say, not as I do." But it was an empty phrase in his case because he never told me to do something he wouldn't. It is hard to argue with a man who walks the walk (another trite phrase which annoys me).
Nowadays (a trite word meaning "of late"), the verbification of nouns bugs the heck out of me. You know what I mean: "incentivise", "verbify", etc. By the way, etc. is an abbreviation of et cetera which is latin for "and other things." I often see it written as "ect" which is almost as annoying as "I could care less." The writers of that phrase really mean "I couldn't care less." When I see this, I think... lazy thinker... and write them off.
As I perused my email this morning, I came across a piece by John Stossel regarding the news and why/how it is reported. News is negative, is it not? I mean Dan Rather (for example) never opened a news show with "It was a wonderful day today, nobody died in some horrible and unnecessary way, all the planes that took off landed safely, no earthquakes, no tsunamis, nothing horrendous happened... perhaps tomorrow. Until then, I'll be bored silly."
Stossel's point was, I think, that we seek out bad news and we do not seek out good news. Oh, we do seek out good news involving those we care about but not in the world around us. The Germans have a word for it, schadenfreude, which I think is not defined accurately. Its meaning is:
satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.
I don't think we derive pleasure from others' misfortunes so much as we tend to be happy it's someone else's woe and not our own or those we personally care about.
I know what you are thinking... but this is not about the diet I mentioned yesterday. It's about cults of personality and dictatorships.
Most Americans have never lived under a dictatorship and haven't even visited a nation under such control. That may be behind the fascination with North Korea. It's so strange, so alien to our thinking that we cannot imagine life like that. And, if we cannot imagine it, then it must not really exist, right?
Celebrities travel to dictatorships and declare them benign, even wonderful places, and praise whatever leader is behind it. But, just as in the U.S., these celebrities live in a world rarely even glimpsed by ordinary folks and are kept shielded from the realities of life. We used to laugh at Thurston Howell III and his wife "Lovey" and their detachment from the reality of their predicament. They tried to live as they always had; above the riff-raff, insulated and in comfort. But they were no different from these dictator-fawning celebs I mentioned. Just caricatures of them. I see similar behavior in the Dennis Rodmans and Sean Penns of today. They go to Cuba or Venezuela or North Korea, stay at a posh hotel (or even the palace of the dictator) where they are treated in the manner they wish they could experience in the States and believe they understand the country and its leaders.
I have been to a couple of countries that were under iron rule at the time. I was not the guest of the leader(s), just another sailor in Uncle's Navy. But there were things I noticed through not rose-colored glasses because I was just another schlub allowed to wander about on my own. The cops with Tommy guns strolling the streets of Olongapo in the Philippines, the sand bags covering the entrances and fronts of political candidates' campaign offices, the reticence of the average person to speak of his government, the dirt floored jail cells stuffed full of people.
In Taiwan, a bar girl and I went to a movie where we were first treated to a film (about 15 minutes worth) of military strength and patriotism before the French movie with dubbed in English and two forms of Chinese subtitles played. Then there was that incident where a sailor took a picture of some big shots in a limo and had his camera smashed by a Taiwanese soldier in Taipei.
And I wondered... How would I behave in such a place? The answer was simple and obvious; I would blend in. I would keep up the appearance, I would do as millions of black people did in the early part of the 20th century in the U.S.; I would smile and pretend I was happy with the way things were (just as I did in the Navy; a dictatorship of its own) and only reveal my true feelings when and where I knew it was safe to do so.
The masses control themselves. It's a matter of survival and acceptance.
One has nothing to do with the other, I assure you. We have been on a diet for about a week. To be fair, it is Faye that is on a diet and not Frances or I. But when one person in a house is on a diet, all suffer in some way. In my case, I actually do not suffer but, instead, get more veggies in my meals. This is odd because Faye's diet is the "no carb" type and Faye doesn't eat veggies as a rule and does not change that to diet. Normally, meals in our house consist of meat, potatoes (or rice), and a salad. The salad can still be a part of the meal but, often, I get green beans or peas with mine. So, I am happy.
Now, let's talk about that sick part... It's the 24 hour "bug", what we usually call the "stomach flu." It is not fun. It is spread in the day or two before the disgusting symptoms appear. This is so that it can proliferate wantonly and so your friends can then hate you for inflicting it on them.
The only good thing about the illness is that the worst of it is over in a day. The bad thing (other than the symptoms) is the memory of it lingers well after recovery.
I am better now, as is Faye. And Frances should be well again by the time your read this.
When we are young, our parents often read fairy tales to us. Ignoring the fact that these are violent tales wherein people are killed in many ways (think what happens to the witch in Hansel and Gretel), these tales tell us of princes and kings and princesses and queens. The prince usually rescues the princess (who may not appear to be one but who is eventually revealed), carries her away on his white steed, marries her and they live happily ever after.
Young girls seem to take these to heart and seek their own Prince Charming to whisk her away, usually in their teens. It makes them vulnerable.
Young boys also take these to heart and dream of rescuing some fair princess (who may not seem a princess until some magic reveals this). It makes them vulnerable also.
Maturity means putting these fantasies aside, doesn't it? And accepting the reality that we cannot all be princesses and princes.
And, yet, I think we keep those fantasies and the worst of us seek to make them come true. They seek high office and all the perks and power that come with it.
I have a number of thoughts about the human condition. Some of these you might agree with, some you might not. This is just one of them...
IBM has a ubiquitous sign, it allegedly hangs in prominent places in every building they own and occupy. It contains just one word:
I looked into this and found that a Google search on "ibm think" would lead me to this:
"THINK was a one-word slogan developed by IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, Sr. It appeared in IBM offices, plants and company publications in the 1920s and in the early 1930s began to take precedence over other slogans in IBM. It eventually appeared in wood, stone and bronze, and was published in company newspapers, magazines, calendars, photographs, medallions -- even New Yorker cartoons -- and it remained for years the name of IBM's employee publication. You can still find echoes of Watson's motto in the brand name of IBM's popular notebook computers: the ThinkPad." [http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/vintage/vintage_4506VV2024.html]
It is something I believe few of us do, or do regulary. We tend to be reactive and we also tend to be emotional. This in spite of constant admonitions to:
Think before you speak. Think about the consequences of what you are about to do. And, of course, the one I (and, perhaps, you also) heard most often thoughout my youth:
"What were you thinking?"
We don't do that thinking thing often, do we? I even seek out hobbies where I can avoid thinking. Golf is one of them. My best rounds have happened while I was seemingly on auto-pilot. That is, I did no real thinking about what I was doing; just letting the muscle memory do its job while I paid little attention to what was happening. It was only after the round was over that I realized what I had accomplished. So don't get me wrong, sometimes not thinking is the better choice.
And, yet, one must think about it before choosing one or the other. Mustn't one?
I was intrigued by the first paragraph of the article:
In the world of higher education, we professors like to believe that we are free from the racial and gender biases that afflict so many other people in society. But is this self-conception accurate?
But, as I read through the article, I perceived a sense of disbelief that such a thing could be a part of the make-up of learned college professors. I got the impression that the writers were stunned at the results. And I wondered why... after all, these people are supposedly smart, supposedly insightful.
“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!” [Captain Renault in "Casablanca"]
The more I read (and, therefore, learn) the less I am impressed... It is in the free market that self-interest finds its finest expression; that is a cardinal point in individualism. If the market is regularly raided, by robbers or the government, and the safety of property is impaired, the individual loses interest in production, and the abundance of things men live by shrinks. Hence, it is for the good of society that self-interest in the economic sphere be allowed to operate without hindrance. But self-interest is not selfishness. Self-interest will impel the manufacturer to improve upon his output so as to attract trade, while selfishness will prompt him to seek the special privileges and state favor that in the end destroy the very system of economic freedom on which he depends. The worker who tries to improve his lot by rendering better service could hardly be called selfish; the description rather fits the worker who demands that he be paid for not working. The subsidy seeker is selfish, and so is every citizen who uses the law to enrich himself at the expense of other citizens. What Individualism Is Not
I grew up in a time when individualism was stressed as a virtue. But some were chipping away at it in favor of collectivism, teamwork, esprit de corps. Schools discouraged individualism even while rewarding it (honor rolls, for example). A class was a collective of sorts; seen as an entity of its own, it achieved recognition as a group or team which was headed by a revered leader.
In the 60's I grappled with conflicting ideologies. A natural (maybe family induced) conservatism was shunted aside for a time in favor of the lure of the liberalism of the day. My motives were impure, of course, being a young man in my early twenties. My main goal in life was getting laid as often as possible and the most willing of young women were to be found in liberal circles.
Climate Change is all over the news right now. It seems that Global Warming is already here. And we're all going to die! Sorry, that was a bit over the top.
I want you to know that I am not a Global Warming denier. I think it is quite possible that the planet is warming. What I am skeptical about is why it might be warming. I am also skeptical that we can have much, if any, of an impact on it; that we can slow it down or ever reverse it. And about why we should endeavor to reduce it.
The planet has warmed many times over the billions of years it has existed. It has also cooled many times We have cycled through warm periods and ice ages many times; few of which occurred during human habitation.
At one time, Wyoming had a hot sub-tropical climate, for example. It has been proposed that climate change influenced human migration. It seems logical that humans, starting out as hunter-gatherers, would follow game as it migrated so I find it also logical that shifts in climate would change migration patterns of humans.
I came across this while researching this post:
By the end of the last Ice Age, pretty much all the world's Mammoths had succumbed to climate change and human predation. Woolly Mammoth facts
Early humans relied on the Woolly Mammoth for protein and for raw materials for tools and weapons. But they died out. Did humans follow them into extinction? No, of course they didn't. They adapted. They changed their source of protein, they began something called animal husbandry, they began farming. Humans learned we could adapt to changing circumstances, to changes in our environment. We also learned that we could alter our environment. We began building canals to bring water to arid areas, we eschewed caves for structures we could build.
We didn't seek ways to keep prey alive, we found a way to keep prey penned and under our control. We learned to build shelters which could be used and abandoned... or even moved (tents)... as needed.
So why are we trembling in fear of climate change? We are parasitic in nature and we will continue to exist. If seal levels rise, we will move back from the seas or build dikes (though I would counsel against the latter except as temporary measures), if storms get stronger we will build stronger structures. We already live in hurricane, tornado, and earthquake prone regions. We accept those risks and learn to live with them.
Why not learn to live with this new round of climate change?
This was written some time ago, in early 2008, and posted three times before. I think I am establishing a tradition.Moms... we all have them, the vast majority of us love them. Appreciate them while you can. Life is much too short not to.
My mother is slipping away. She's 89 and she hasn't been herself for
many years. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in her sixties and was
put on a wonder drug, of sorts, called Aricept. It held the disease at
bay to some extent for decades. Her short term memory went first, of
course. But Mom, a clever woman, saw this as a benefit. Every day was a
new world, a new life. She always had an optimist's view of life. Now I
don't know what she sees or hears or knows. This disease took away the
woman who raised me. After my father passed away, I took her into my
home. We tried to care for as best we could but the time came when we
could no longer see to her needs. She has been in the care of some nice
people out at an assisted living facility for several years now.
I go to see her when I can... and when I think I can handle it. It's
hard on me. I remember her as a vibrant, cheerful, witty woman who was
always there when I needed her. She could always cheer me up when I was
down or life seemed bleak. Now she can't. Now I have to do that on my
own. And the worst is after I have been to visit her. I look for some
sign of recognition in her eyes and never see it. I visit just before
lunch because she seems the most animated at that time. I try to think
of things she used to say to me to cheer me up and repeat them to her in
the hopes they'll somehow break through that fog in her brain. She
seems loved by the ladies who tend to her needs. they all speak of her
with caring and joy. Some are as sad as I am to see her as she is now.
My mother had a way of getting a point across with humor. She would
admonish me to be careful by warning me that "If you break your leg,
don't come running to me." Or, "If you drown, I'll never speak to you
again." As silly as these were, they stuck in my mind. Nothing seemed
serious with her while you still knew how concerned she was. Her humor
has failed her now. She doesn't smile much and, when she does, there's
no way to know why.
It doesn't seem fair that this woman should
finish out her life oblivious to most of the things around her. She
read, she painted, she wrote stories, she even invented childrens'
games. Oh, none were ever published or developed but that didn't matter.
Her paintings were always flawed in some technical way; shadows fell
the wrong way, perspective just a little off. They were nothing you'd
expect to find in an art show but her family loved them. Her stories
were simple and naive. Her games too easy. But you could see her slight
off kilter view of the world in them.
Because I didn't get along
with my siblings, I spent many of my years far from my parents. I
rarely wrote or even called. It was never my way. I took after my father
in that regard. In the last couple of decades, I tried to re-connect
with my parents. I think I did re-establish some relationship to my
father, just a little, in the few years before he passed away. My mother
acted as if I was never far away. Now I don't know if she knows I
exist, that she had a son, what her universe is like. I think that is
what hurts the most... to not be a part of her life anymore.
Mom passed away on July 25th of 2008. Rest in peace, Mom, rest in peace. I miss you every day but you remain in my heart.
A portion of Obama supporters is upset with him because he made a speech at a Wal-Mart in northern California (Mountain View) on Friday. The speech was about alternative energy, encouraging it, and getting more people trained in it. Some of the supporters do not like Wal-Mart... actually, most of them don't like Wal-Mart... because of its anti-union stance, others think it is rotten to its employees.
I have no idea. I never worked for Wal-mart. I knew a woman who worked for Wal-Mart, she thought they treated her pretty well, especially during a period where her child was very ill. I also know a man who worked for them for a few years after he got laid off from the thrift shop he had been working for. He felt they treated him terribly.
Good or bad, I like Wal-Mart... as a consumer. Prices are low (I can depend on that), they often have my size in clothes... I apparently wear a very popular size since my size is rarely available in department stores... and I have developed a taste for their generic brand foods (Great Value); everything from their version of Miracle Whip to the pastas.
So, I have gotten into a routine where I go to Wal-Mart and do a bit of shopping every Tuesday morning.
I just hope I don't run into Obama while I am there.
One of the changes is in the frequency and, possibly, tone of my posts.I have tried, in the past, to refrain from political commentary except on Saturdays. Now, there will be more political commentary during the week.
Not because I want to bore you but because I am unhappy with the direction this country (our country) is headed. And I feel I must speak out. Don't worry, it won't be all political all the time but there will be more than this blog has had in the past.
I will continue commenting on the oddities of life, as I see them. Situations and news items that catch my eye and pique my interest will be brought to your attention. I am still interested in space, catastrophic meteor collisions (or the potential for them), human nature (both good and bad) and I will try to present these to you in the hopes they amuse you or get you to research them also.
Oh, and I will likely not be posting on a daily basis. I find it taxing and I dislike taxes.
The new censorship is not coming from the government. It doesn't have to. The people, the loudest among us, will provide it. The CEO of Mozilla was ousted because in 2008 he gave $1000 to the yes on Prop 8 folks in California. It didn't matter what his motives were then, it didn't matter that Obama and Hillary both opposed Gay Marriage at the time; what matters is what the loudest want now.
I tend to harp on Freedom of Speech. I think it is one of the most important freedoms for a society that claims to be democratic. Free speech is not supposed to be popular speech; it is supposed to challenge, to confront, to tweak the public mentality. And it may as well be prohibited these days. You no longer can trust in the privacy of personal conversations. Anyone can record a conversation easily with a smart phone.
Former Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice recently acquiesced to calls for her not to give the commencement speech at Rutgers. Why? I am saddened that she acquiesced. But I understand she is not a political warrior. She doesn't have the stomach for a fight of this kind. It's too bad. When some students at a university can dictate who can speak then there is no freedom of speech.
Yes, Freedom of Speech also protects bigotry, prejudice, and racism. And perhaps it should. It should never be "Freedom of Speech for those who agree with the majority." That is the worst kind of freedom; the freedom to conform and only to conform.
Yes, all is well again. We arrived home on Friday after traveling through, and then staying ahead of, a bit of rain in the last leg of the journey. If I had known it would be raining that last day, I might have insisted we finish the last three hours of the trip on Thursday. But my vote would likely have been overruled by Faye anyway.
In any case, we did finally get home... tired and worn out by the journey... but happy. I was happy anyway... because I was finally able to sleep in my own bed. Faye, not so much because being home meant washing a week or so of laundry accumulated on the trip home.
Chores. My chore for Saturday involved getting a much overdue haircut and then doing the grocery shopping... in the rain. Well, the shopping inside the store did not involve rain, just the trip to the barber shop and store and from the parking space to the door of each.
And my lawn needs weeding (my chore for Sunday). Understandable. The weeds are not the type that can be sprayed without killing the lawn itself and they have been growing for a month so they stand out nicely, making them easy targets.
I am no longer sure who "we" are, either. Few seem to care about this country. As long as they have their smart phones and game boxes, as long as there is Twitter and other distractions, whatever happens to the country is unimportant.
I am reading a book; a novel in two parts by Stephen King called Under The Dome and I am seeing any number of parallels between the story and the reality around me. There are many differences also. And do not think the TV series follows the book, it doesn't. Some of the differences are unimportant, some might be improvements over the novel, and a number are simply the result of the influence of television. The town of Chester's Mill is a microcosm of the country but you have to have a broader perspective, you have to ignore some things and maybe even see some things not as they are portrayed but maybe as something quite the opposite.
I think we lost the country around the 70's. Maybe around the time Nixon was in office. I can't be sure. Countries do not collapse overnight. There is a trite adage that goes "Rome wasn't built in a day." Well, it didn't fall in one either. It took many decades, centuries, to collapse into unimportance. This is the modern era, however, and things move a bit more rapidly.
We are moving inexorably toward the Decline and Fall of America. Fewer and fewer seem willing to stand up and be counted.