I Haven’t Been to Paris; I Haven’t Been to Rome

Frank Moraes with Grumpy Squirrel - Stallman vs TorvaldsThe title of this article comes from Jonathan Richman’s song “New England”: “I’ve already been to Paris, I’ve already been to Rome; and what did I do but miss my home? Oh, New England!” There’s a bit of irony in the song when you consider that within about a decade, he would move to California, after writing, “I have been out west to Californ’ — but I missed the land where I was born.” Anyway, I haven’t been anywhere unusual. In fact, I’ve been the most normal place (for me) in the world: my bedroom/office.

Work has just exploded and I’m trying to keep up. I didn’t manage to wake up today until 1:00 this afternoon, and it is only now at 5:00 this evening that I’ve had time to start writing this. There are lost of people depending on me. And it’s nice to be wanted.


So what’s going on in the world of politics? Have you noticed that when it comes to national politics, the answer is “nothing”? Or rather, “The same as every other day”? Donald Trump is saying something that doesn’t make any sense but ultimately, he isn’t getting anything done and so we cn all feel a little better about that.

James Hohmann wrote The Daily 202: Eight Ways Trump Got Rolled in His First Budget Negotiation. That’s something that is kind of interesting, but hardly surprising for those of us who were paying attention. We expected that Trump wouldn’t be much into the job of President of the United States. But many (little brains) thought that he would be some kind of deal maker. If you paid attention to his business career, you certainly knew that “Trump Deal Maker” was nothing but branding based on no actual truth.

The article is about the budget deal that Trump made. Of getting such a bad deal for himself, Trump said, “I think the rules in Congress and, in particular the rules in the Senate, are unbelievably archaic and slow moving and, in many cases, unfair.” I hate a paraphrase a man as evil as Donald Rumsfeld, but you know, you negotiate with reality as it exists, not reality as you wish it existed.

Every time Trump says something like this, it makes Hillary Clinton’s main campaign pitch (which I disagreed with) sound all the more devastating, “Vote for me because I know what the hell I’m doing.” Trump famously said that “no one” knew healthcare was so complicated. Everything is complicated to Trump. And the fact that he has a bunch of money is just another example of how the rich are not allowed to fail in our society.

Space Exploration?!

Space.com reported, Wow! See Epic Views of SpaceX’s 1st Spysat Launch and Rocket Landing. Now I’m all for private exploration of space. But let’s get one thing clear: SpaceX and other companies are following in the footsteps of a very big NASA. And it will continue to be that way. Oh, NASA may not be long for this world. Conservatives would love to destroy the space program. And regardless, the US is a dying empire.

But it is collective action that has allowed us to explore the Moon and the planets and the rest of the solar system. Companies like SpaceX are just like pharmaceutical and internet companies that have made their fortunes on the backs of our collective action. This is one of the reasons I’m not a capitalist: it’s always individuals making money after the really expensive part of the work was done by the government. And to make matters worse, once these individuals make huge amounts of money off the backs of the government, they do everything they can not to pay the meager taxes that they owe.

In this particular case, it was a big deal that a private company did something governments have been doing since the 1950s. I see that and I think, “Oh, how pathetic!” But Space.com thinks that it is, “Wow!” To top things off, SpaceX launched from a US government location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. If you ever want to know how scientifically sophisticated someone is, ask them what they think of Elon Musk. He’s the Steve Jobs of science. And those who have been reading me for a while, know that this is not a compliment.

Richard Stallman vs Linus Torvalds

This makes me think of the difference between Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds. They are, generally, about equally smart. But Torvalds is not a creative man. And as such, he’s the much more famous of the two. It’s really interesting. Stallman — largely by organizing and energizing a large group of people — created a software structure. Torvalds came in and added one piece to it — a piece that would have been added by someone within a year or two. Torvalds without Stallman is nothing. Stallman without Torvalds is still hugely important.

For example, I’m not writing this on GNU/Linux, but I’m using a whole bunch of GNU tools. The truth is that it doesn’t much matter to me what kernal I’m running, as long as I have all those Unix tools that I’ve come to depend upon. Now in their cases, this isn’t a matter of money. But that’s usually how it is: whoever creates just the right piece of a technology at just the right time is the person who becomes rich. I still find it amazing that people don’t see this.

Some day, I think people will see the truth. They will get past their obsessions with facts that tell them that the GDP increased more this year than last, and start seeing that measuring GDP doesn’t really move them any closer to the truth. Richard Stallman does understand that the political and economic system we have is all messed up. It doesn’t even occur to a mind such as Torvalds that this is the case.

And Back to Donald Trump

So that brings us back to Donald Trump. He doesn’t much matter when you look at the big picture. On the small scale, he matters. People are dying because he’s president. And that’s why we must fight the Republican Party. But we also have to think much more deeply and see that regardless whether Donald Trump or FDR is president: we live in an immoral society.

I’m happy to be working more — to be valued by our immoral system. But to answer the rhetorical question of James L Brooks’ classic As Good as It Gets: yes, in this society, this is as good as it gets. And this should trouble a whole lot more people. But I find that most give me blake stares when I bring up the subject. They don’t see the problem. To anwwer Samular Becket’s rhetorical question: this one is good enough.

Well, not for me.

1 thought on “I Haven’t Been to Paris; I Haven’t Been to Rome

  1. Thanks to Elizabeth for the great picture! It’s really fun. I never look like I’m having fun in pictures.

    After a year of being unemployed, I get how good it is to feel useful (in my case, only marginally if that much). What’s crazy is we have practically how choice how to use our talents to feel useful.

    Most people like some aspects of their jobs. Even if the boss sucks and the job pays for shit, there’s certain problem-solving challenges which are fun to solve; it’s why people enjoy puzzles.

    Why can’t we solve those puzzles at institutions we’re proud to work for? Why does it always have to be some pointlessly greedy enterprise?

    It’s like running the first leg in a relay race where only the last runners can win a medal. There’s still a satisfaction in doing your part as well as you can. Yet the reward system is ludicrous.

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