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Opinion

One of the coolest things I learned from elementary school was taught just outside the classroom. In the early 1960s, marbles on the playground were phasing out of popularity. However, I managed to catch the tail end of the action on what was an incredible macrocosm of social and financial principles. Long before “economic inequality” was touted as an evil of society, marble players had their own version of “wealth disparity” with those who owned the lions share of bumblebees, steelies and cat's eyes. Marbles were a free and open system with disputes settled in a mostly peaceful manner. A good player never had to buy marbles, he won or earned them. The holdings of marble magnates tended to grow, while the less diligent and proficient players needed to tap into their allowances to keep in the game. If my memory serves me right, I was mostly marble middle class.

 

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“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” - Aldous Huxley, “Ends and Means”

If 2014 was the year of militarized police, armored tanks, and stop-and-frisk searches, 2015 may well be the year of technologized police, surveillance blimps and scan-and-frisk searches.

Just as we witnessed neighborhood cops being transformed into soldier cops, we’re about to see them shapeshift once again, this time into robocops, complete with robotic exoskeletons, super-vision contact lenses, computer-linked visors, and mind-reading helmets.

Similarly, just as military equipment created for the battlefield has been deployed on American soil against American citizens, we’re about to see military technology employed here at home in a manner sure to annihilate what’s left of our privacy and Fourth Amendment rights.

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President's Obama's new proposal for free community college will certainly get some people talking. The “free” part will be disputed while others will proclaim the proposed multi-billion dollar increase in government spending as an “investment” in the future. The Prez wants more students to populate college and he's got a plan for it, pending congressional approval.

However, what if the problem is that too many people are going to college, rather than too few? What if most of higher education were actually a costly screening process benefiting a handful of folks while indebting generation after generation? What if, education and learning isn't dependent on “going to school?”

We live in an age in which data is retrievable in mass quantities, in real time, and some of it doesn't even involve Facebook. Memorization still has a function, but the standard of spending years in a classroom learning information should be reexamined especially since most of what we learn in school flushes down the memory drain rather quickly. Albert Einstein said “Never memorize something you can look up.” Yes, I memorized that. Unlike E=mc2, I understand that piece of Einsteinian wisdom.

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Inscribed in the lobby of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia are the words, "And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) That phrase is very peculiar, particularly in the light of the recent U.S. Senate report on CIA torture practices. I'm not sure about the truth being found, but being free from prosecution seems to be a theme. In the 500-page-plus Senate document, the word “moral” appears five times while legal is referenced 564 times.

I never thought that we would ever be debating the merits of something so abhorrent as torture. What's next: Should those suspected of witchcraft be burnt at the stake? What about human sacrifice, maybe the Aztecs were on to something. Who cares if there is no evidence that it works, (just like torture) perhaps under the right circumstances, throwing someone into the volcano might actually bring security to us all.

I blame movies and TV in part for the fast tracking of torture. In film, we are often presented with an omniscient or a quasiomniscient viewpoint. Not only can you tell who the bad and good guys are, we know pretty much what they are up to as well.

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