What’s to Celebrate, About THAT President or THIS One?

I think I do a pretty good job of staying away from politics in discussions among mixed company.  If I can do it, why can’t others?  Why do I have to open the mandatory e-mail in my workplace and find a missive congratulating Barack Obama on a job well done?  There was no analagous message wishing luck to Donald Trump.  When I reflect that a few responsible people have been trying over the past decade to get Congress to remedy our exposure to Electro-Magnetic Pulse events with no success whatever at the federal level, and that a single such event could kill 300 million Americans within a year, my blood boils.  Granted, George Bush II was on watch when the alert was first raised: his administration led the charge to do nothing (being preoccupied, apparently, with monitoring all of our private communications).  Under Obama, however, not only has understanding of the impending threat deepened and been more broadly disseminated (no thanks to the mainstream media); the man has actually equipped Iran–one of the two most likely perps of an EMP attack in the near future, based on our observation of missile-development programs–to become an active threat.  Meanwhile, he’s wasted months and months of precious time and treasure-loads of precious resources ginning up concern about climate change.  Manhattan may be under water in 2075!  That’s obviously a far greater issue than the death by thirst, starvation, hypothermia, and rioting of nine out of every ten citizens, possibly by 2020.

A job well done… really?  Define “job”, please.

Contrarily, newscasters on all the FOX sister-stations produce queues of talking heads communicating the hope of “ordinary Americans” that President Trump will “make their lives better”.  The problem, it seems to me (as an American and a Constitutionalist), is that one man should have so much power as to be able to make our lives better or worse.  I don’t want anyone making my life better.  I want bureaucracies everywhere to get their fingers the hell out of my life, so that I may make it better if I have the energy or worse if I commit errors rich in good life lessons.  I want to be treated as an adult instead of a child; I don’t want a new daddy-figure who artificially supplies work for me instead of intrusively choosing my diet for me.

A student told me yesterday that you can’t collect water off your roof in these parts for filtering and drinking.  He said that it’s illegal.  A little research suggests that he was wrong in terms of state law.  Nevertheless, he may be right in terms of certain municipalities and subdivisions, which have all kinds of patently unconstitutional restrictions on what one may do.  Government entities on both the micro- and the macro-level are busily gnawing into our basic freedoms.  If you look hard for them (i.e., outside the mainstream media), stories are superabundant about the Bureau of Land Management telling a rancher that he can’t water his cows because of a rat or an owl.  My brother-in-law claims that the county in which I hope to build a retirement home will require me to have an outlet capable of servicing an electric car, even though I have no intent of ever owning such a car.  (I may drive ten miles, perhaps, in a month.)  All of these “do-gooders” are stifling the very resourcefulness and independence that will be needed to confront… oh, say, a major EMP event.  And if such an occurrence were to happen naturally (as it certainly will within a few decades–lead-pipe cinch), then it might ultimately wipe out the human race.  In the meantime, though, our keepers will have nudged us benignly toward vehicles that don’t directly use fossil fuels… and those marginalized voices who protest, like Dinesh D’Souza (a man of color, by the way), will find themselves not-so-benignly doing significant prison time on some trumped-up charge relating to improper completion of complex paper work.

I don’t see the Trump Administration flashing any signs that it will reverse the “job well done” by Barack Obama in these areas.  Trump isn’t abolishing any of the more oppressive and dictatorial departments: he’s just replacing their directors with his partisans.  So… my assessment is that you’re pretty much on your own.  Chacun pour soi.  Filter your own water without telling anyone, grow your own garden and hope that ATF’s drones don’t misidentify it as a marijuana plantation… and, in general, put your hope in your own two hands.  Get over the celebrations: there’s nothing to celebrate here.

The Robot and the Helot: Neither Side Gets It

I read a story today about a Canadian study that found living in close proximity to heavy traffic bad for your health.  The toxic emissions and stirred dust were not the only suspected culprits.  Interestingly, noise was believed to be a major factor in (for instance) the relatively high incidence of dementia among those dwelling less than 70 meters from traffic arteries.  Now, 70 meters is about the length of a football field!  Many of us live much closer than that to constant roar and rumble.  It’s a sad discovery… or a disquieting theory, if you prefer; but it also makes me smile.  I’m not amused because an inner sadist rules my tastes, but only because I’ve been warning people about this sort of thing all my life–admittedly, on the basis of mere intuition.  I never had a study behind me before.  And there also appears to be no corroborative study behind this one.  Why not?

Well, because it’s just junk science, some would say.  The academics are at it again, trying to drum up alarm against the innovative, high-tech free market that has driven unimaginable economic growth around the planet for two centuries and virtually eradicated poverty in First World societies.  Or… it might also be that the corporations and their government mouthpieces responsible for most grants to academic researchers would never hear of anyone cracking the lid on such a Pandora’s Box–not on their dime!

Conservatives–or people who style themselves conservative–need to get their act together.  Driving peace and quiet out of our communities was never a conservative undertaking: it was always definitively subversive to the established, traditional way of life.  To argue that mankind must adapt to the fits and belches of mechanization, even though machines were supposed to improve life for mankind, is to be a marketplace progressive–an advocate of any product or sales strategy that produces material wealth.  This vector is soon (as in about three decades) going to lead us straight to the point where we fuse with robotic technology.  Would anyone like to explain to me how such a trajectory may be described as conservative?

But the other side appears to be just as clueless.  I recently finished watching a Netflix documentary titled Killswitch about the all-too-effective efforts of big government and its private-sector cronies to suppress the free and open circulation of information.  The case is quintessentially libertarian; and, except for the side of it which pertains narrowly to national security (e.g., keeping a secret nuclear deterrent under wraps so that bad guys won’t labor on developing the next generation of horror), I’m entirely on board with the argument.  But why does every free-speech champion in the flick believe that more government offers an answer?  Just because suppression often begins in a private-sector, mega-corporation lust to maximize profits doesn’t mean that the public sector is our savior by default.  On the contrary, the hard fact that government hacks are always up for sale is what confers upon businesses the power to suppress.

I don’t know what the ultimate answer might be, or if it exists… perhaps some genuine and informed kind of populism: but its thrust must be to insist that regulators back off rather than that they pile on with more “well-intended” regulation.

The documentary’s blindness to this most basic of facts made me want to chuck my TV out into one of those busy streets around my house.  I could claim dementia as my defense.

The Fight for Right Has Only Armies of One

A young man who shall remain unnamed recently explained to me his secret of success on Linkedin.  He contacts dozens of mates at his college whom he has not necessarily ever met, expresses a willingness to endorse their special skills on the website, and invites them to do the same on his page.  Result: lots of endorsements.  Problem: the endorsements are largely fake.  But the problem was mine, as I sat listening.  Virtually no one else today seems to care about such picky moral details.

It’s easy for someone in my position to opine grandly, “The Golden Age has yielded to the Age of Lead and Ash.  These young ones… the only reason they’re innocent is that they can’t conceive of a moral principle.  They like little savages!”  Yes… and whose fault is that?  The generation that raised them, perhaps?

I just returned last night from an exhaustive trip to look over some acreage that I’d like to buy, four states away.  I thought that I had booked a hotel at a really great discount through AMAC, the Association of Mature American Citizens.  And indeed I had… but no thanks to AMAC, whose Internet link had essentially routed me through some existing service like Travelocity–where your reservations are prepaid and inalterable.  The Association had not really created a special discount for its members, in other words: it was parasitizing online resources that already existed, and charging a membership fee to do so.  It happened that I finished my business a day early, and of course I didn’t want to blow the expense of another night’s stay.  When the hotel staff insisted that my giving thirty hours’ notice made no difference–that I was paid up for the full time whether I liked it or not–I called AMAC for some back-up support.  The date was Friday, December 30–a work day even for the notoriously vacation-happy USPS; yet I heard nothing but recorded messages.  Now, if I were still a member of AARP, my discount would have been locked in and I could have adjusted the days of my stay as long as the hotel received due notice… and a live person would have answered my calls.

I left AARP because I intensely disliked its backing of big-government causes with my membership fees.  AMAC explicitly advertises itself as the freedom-loving, small-government alternative.  Forgive me if, at the moment, I consider it little more than a scam.  I’m reminded of the very worst con I ever fell for in my life, wherein I lost $5,000.  The operation styled itself CBC (for Christian Businesses C… something-or-other).  I was about to lose my current job, and the soothing, somewhat fulsome promises and good humor of the Elmer Gantry CEO made me think what I really wanted to think: that here was a brother in the faith who had no stronger motive than helping out people in my precarious position.  Boy, did I get screwed!

There are a lot of “bad agents” in the world right now, and “men of good will” (as the French say) want to oppose them.  They want to be on the right side, and they–we–will likely rally round anyone who cries, “Out on thee, vile person!”  We think we’re showing solidarity against the forces of corruption.  Only problem is that being the standard-bearer of the virtuous opposition creates all kinds of opportunity to exploit and scam.

I’ve pretty much decided that there is no virtuous opposition… almost never.  Most of the good wars you wage must be fought alone.  As soon as you put on a uniform, you start to melt–imperceptibly–into the ranks of more bad guys.

Verify before you trust–and then trust no more than you absolutely need to.

Why I Avoid the “C” Word Now

Whenever you do any posting on the Internet, you need a bundle of words and phrases that tell the world–in no wasted space–exactly who you are and what you’re up to.  Good luck with that!  In starting this blog, I was once again faced with the chore of distilling myself into keywords, a ritual which is but one of the e-world’s resemblances to tribal primitivism.  What feathers are you wearing?  Do you wipe your warpaint over the cheeks or the forehead?

I have hazarded the word “Christian” on these occasions before… but I won’t go that way again.  About twenty years ago, I wrote a novel titled Seven Demons Worse and tried to market it through a tiny publishing company which had been assigned a FAX wherein 666 appeared prominently.  My “Christian” clientele crucified me–even though the seven demons are an allusion to one of Christ’s parables.  Generally speaking, more often than not, somebody in my part of the woods who wants to assess your religious faith will ask, “Have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior?”  And if you return the serve and ask him, “Have you?” you’re likely to get such a cataract of mawkish, quasi-narcissistic sentimentality that you’re reaching for an umbrella with one hand and disinfectant with the other.  Yet if you should ask this person further, “What is the Christian calling?  Is it to help others, or to serve the spirit that others are often trying to throttle in themselves?  If that spirit is the key to our identity, then what comtribution to it does our individuality make?  And do we live eternally only in one great spirit, or does our unique nature continue to color reality beyond this life?”… well, you’ll soon be rid of your companion.  Such questions are received with the same smiling, nervous, arm’s-length discomfort as an outburst from a Turret’s Syndrome sufferer.

So that’s a “c” word which I no longer pin to my lapel when I go audience-hunting.

The one I avoid most cautiously, however, is “conservative”–and not because I’m averse to conserving.  On the contrary.  I want to conserve a pace of life measured by human steps, where people pass each other on sidewalks and speak civilly.  The new “conservative” wants more cars on the roads because more businesses will be reached and drilling for oil will provide more jobs.  I want to conserve an independent way of life where my needs are few and basic enough that I can meet them mostly through my own efforts.  The new “conservative” mocks people like me while proudly confessing his addictions to the latest i-gadgetry and the most convenient remote-control mechanisms.  I want to conserve my dominion over myself and also a certain stilted system of manners that keeps us from grating upon each other too directly.  The new “conservative” wants his appetites satisfied without government intrusion and increasingly allows himself crude displays under the guise of free speech.

That’s not the world of my grandfathers.  I see nothing in this new dog kennel that I want to hold tight.  Indeed, I see an ideology of flux trying to distinguish itself from progressivism by disdaining every centralized–and centrally promoted–vision of the “common good”.  I don’t like thought-police, to be sure: not in the least.  But I want to preserve my freedom of thought precisely so that I may think.

If conservatism is merely intellectual moonshine, then… then I’ll just drink water, if it’s all the same to you.  And even if it’s not.