Thoughts on Memorial Day

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Memorial Day, a national holiday in the United States was originally known as Decoration Day and set aside to commemorate the Union and Confederate deaths from the U.S. Civil War. It evolved through the 20th century as a day to commemorate all of the War Dead of the United States.

It is not a day to thank veterans. Continue reading

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Quote

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“We must have no carelessness in our dealings with public property or the expenditure of public money. Such a condition is characteristic of undeveloped people, or of a decadent generation”–Coolidge

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I am “For The Troops!”

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I was a career solider for the empire.  I started this career before I learned.  If I hadn’t been a state soldier, I may have never learned.  I fear that I would have been one of those “flag-waving” chickenhawks who think that everything the U.S. Empire does is for our freedom (ha!) and for peace.  Ironic how the loudest voices for violence are those walled up in the fortress.

Gassing up a death machine

Gassing up a death machine

Further, my status as a retired soldier rebuts the idiotic claim that you can’t fight for peace “if you’ve never served.”  Think of that, just for a moment.  Somebody [else] who discovers that war is nothing but organized mindless death before they ever even consider entering military service, thus they never become a trained killer for the State.  Somebody who puts their action with their beliefs gets some knucklehead who tells them, “it’s a good thing there are those wiling to fight for your right to be a hippie/commie/coward” or just “you’ve never served.”  …and yet, many lend credibility to those who have “served” (the State).  It’s like saying how can you know rape [or insert any sin here] is wrong unless you’ve tried it.  All the while, countless cowards sit in the fortress (see above) beating the war drums, calling for more cruelty.

While having committed a sin definitely is not a requirement to speak against it, those with a conscience that have recognized their wrongdoing do have a lesson to teach others.  It is my hope that my experience can do this.  As a teenager, I felt compelled to serve a higher calling.  I thought the U.S. Air Force would allow me to serve, that is, to defend freedom.  I entered the Academy already infected with the belief that I was protecting liberty, but I think the four years of indoctrination successfully planted the seed that would eventually lead me to the truth: that war as logical had to be forced on the mind.  The military academy did everything it could to convince me that the State was the ultimate defender of freedom.  That I was “better” because I would give up my life for its interests.  This teaching was effective in suppressing the truth, but it did not brainwash me.   In short, the “over the top” re-education provided by the military, starting with my Academy days, had the opposite effect of what was intended.  It took me years to work this out, but war after war after war helped me see the ludicrosity (yes, I made that word up special, just for this moment) of the State.

Yes, I have “served” and I think of war not as a last resort, but as a tumor on human thought…it is no resort at all, and its root is the State.  I am not so naive as to think war will be eradicated from our existence.  Humans are masters at violence and power, and when these combine there will be the smell of death to innocents in the air.  So what is one to do?  How does one build speed bumps on the road to war?  As alluded to, I am convinced it is to reduce (i.e. divide) the power first, rather than the violence, and the State is where the monopoly on power resides.  My only route is to persuade, and to persuade, and to persuade that power concentrated over so many subjects is how tyranny prevails.

A Warplane Graveyard: Imagine more of these here.

A Warplane Graveyard: Imagine more of these here.

Those who think that “war is not the ugliest of things” (vis-a-vis John Stewart Mill, read the full quote here), have given up.  There are so many more options available before violence is an option.  However, the State has us convinced that war is the way, way too soon.  Why?  When all you have is a hammer, then everything is a nail.

It is my hope that by thinking this through together, by continuing the dialogue about liberty, the individual will gain power at the expense of the State.  Then, when there is a call to war, nobody will come.  The effort of liberty-lovers will require persistence.  The belief in true liberty has to be so strong and pervasive, that action (or rather inaction) will be required.  It’s a grand goal, but certainly worth the effort.  Eventually, we may hit a tipping point of thought, where liberty trumps nationalism…one can hope, no?

You see, I am “for the troops.”  For their liberty, their sanity, and their safety.  Bring them home.

“We who have touched war have a duty to bring the truth about war to those who have not had a direct experience of it.  We are the light at the tip of the candle.  It is really hot, but it has the power of shining and illuminating. If we practice mindfulness, we will know how to look deeply into the nature of war and, with our insight, wake people up to that together we can avoid repeating the same horrors again and again” –Thich Nhat Hanh

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The Evil of Plural Pronouns (We & They)

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There is a real problem with plural personal pronouns.  It is embedded in our culture and our language, and it slips by the common observer without so much as a pause.  These are words like we, they, our, us, them, and their.  Today, I want to discuss the words “we” and “they.”  These words need to be discussed in depth because they matter in the deepest sense of how each of us frames our life.  In short, I think “we” and “they” have been a source of great and pernicious evil in society, and most importantly in breaking down the mind of the individual.

Whenever someone says something like, “We just need a sensible policy on this,” or “We all just need to stick together,” or “They’ve decided that some racial slurs are OK, but others aren’t” I shudder to think what this person means by “we” and “they.”

Let’s take my first example.  What if someone were to say, “We need to have a sensible drug policy.”  Well, this may be a cliche, but “what do you mean by WE?”  Do I have a say in the matter?  Is someone going to ask me to sit down and offer my ideas on a drug policy?  Do you mean the State of Texas, the elementary school down the road, the U.S government, the UN?  It is a very dangerous game to use the word “we.”  What really should have been said, and what is going to happen is “Somebody with power should force a drug policy down our throats, and I hope it will be reasonable because frankly, you and I will have no say.”  Government officials use the word “we” on purpose to imply their legitimacy…to enforce that they speak for you, and make decisions for you, but most of us just let that “we” slip by.  This is dangerous.  You give your tacit approval when you let others say “we” without asking why they want to include you in their logic, and in what group you are included.

We can do this together!

We can do this together!

One of the most tyrannical uses of the plural personal pronoun is when someone wants to speak for over 300 million people living in the geographic borders of the United States.  This implies that everyone must submit to whatever a small group decides…even if it is the majority of voters (which in fact represent a non-majority of the population):

  • We need tighter gun control
  • We need safer food
  • We owe our freedom to them (that’s 3 plural pronouns..woohoo!)
  • We need to lose weight in America
  • We all need health care
  • we, we, we…

A related aside:  it is a geographical accident that you or I were born anywhere.  Even though there is a need to belong, you were not born an American, a German, a Russian or whatever.  From my perspective, belonging to any group is voluntary.  You should not be forced into this group, and if you have to play along to get by, then so be it.

Now, on to “they.”  I have a specific example for this one.  A twitter friend was recently upset at how the slur of “cracker” was used on MSNBC (which they have done more than once:  here and here) seems to go unpunished, while other slurs get the hammer (I think THE example of this is when a non-black person uses the word “nigger,” in any context…I’m bracing for the hate mail).  Anyway, in her dissatisfaction she mentioned that “they” don’t allow some slurs to be said, while others were just fine.  I was confused by her term “they.”  Because I am so used to this word being said to refer to those who make the regulations, I thought that is what she meant.  Note:  Mentally, I usually make no distinction between the mainstream media and government; they are essentially 2 branches on the same tree. It got my feathers ruffled, because I thought she was calling for more regulation on the words that are said in public.  Of course, I will have none of that.  It is a slippery slope when those who are outraged by some or another behavior complain that “they” are not policing this enough.

Be careful what you say.  (Photos by (C) STROINSKI.PL)

Be careful what you say. (Photo by (C) STROINSKI.PL)

In the end, I think she simply meant all of those of the “politically correct” nature, rather than those in power who create tyranny (although these are often the same people, unfortunately).  However, it scared me.  It scared me because enough people might get outraged that they think “they” should do something (for all of “us,” of course).  It scared me that a government crony might take advantage of this outrage and issue more of “their” control.  It is for this reason that plural personal pronouns should be used precisely, and those who do not wish to be included in the collective should speak out, when these pronouns are bandied about.

It is my opinion, that the “they” in the media can say whatever they darn well please.  In fact, anybody can say just about anything they want to, legally.  That is what freedom of speech is.  It is up to the listener to exert his or her influence through their own choice.  This could be simply not listening/watching, sending the corporation responsible a communication of disapproval, or it could be exposing them to the public via their own communication.  Of course, I am speaking of how things SHOULD be rather than how they are.

In any case, I am very careful about those plural pronouns, and I do not think we should make them do anything.

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Democracy Numbers: 2012 Presidential Election

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According to this link, voter turnout was down in 2012 Election (article is a few months old, but I needed it for my math below).  A quote from the article:

“University’s Michael McDonald put the 2012 turnout rate at 60 percent of eligible voters. That figure was expected to be revised as more precincts reported and absentee votes were counted.”

Let’s see, time for “back of the napkin” math:

  • 50% of 60% = 30% for Obama and his ilk
  • 48% of 60% = 29% voted for Mitt and his cronies
  • 1% for Gary Johnson

So, 30% Democrats,  29% Republicans  41% None of the Above/Libertarian

That is of ELIGIBLE voters (not even registered eligible voters), which my source says (good enough) is about 207 million (of which, according to this only 150 mil are registered).  There are over 300 million in the United states.  I’m just saying.

Hmmm…so who has legitimacy?  I’m going with you…only you can govern yourself.

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We Need More Police Patrols!

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In my “News Flash: Nobody Crashed on The Antelope Valley Freeway” entry, I mentioned a single episode where a multi-car accident could be the catalyst for drastic measures in highway control.  The first of these measures to “fix” the crash crisis would be to add more police patrols on the freeway.

We Need More Police Patrols!

At what cost?  Contrary to popular belief, police are not free protection.  So, in order to have more police patrols on the Antelope Valley Freeway, we have several considerations.

1. We could hire more officers and buy more motorcycles or cars, equipment, guns and ammo.  Just how much does a single added officer cost per year?  Well, after reading this OC register article, I will estimate the annual cost to be at least $120K per year in Southern California (and this is a modest estimate…it does not include the top-end estimate of health care, retirement, education “bennies,” which of course the officer would receive).  But that is just salary.  Let’s not forget the vehicle cost, uniforms, ammo and gun.  The cost of a good police car would be at least $35,000 according to this yahoo discussion (maybe higher according to this piece) and the annual operating costs would be in the thousands.

Of course, the vehicle could always be confiscated through the drug war.  You know, that never ending war on people who wish to put things into their own bodies by people who know better than they do.  However, don’t be fooled.  In a monetary sense only, a confiscated vehicle certainly is not free.  Imagine the cost of the operation that obtained the vehicle.  How many man-hours?  Oops, I digress.

police cars

2. Instead of adding to the force, we could divert police resources to the highway.  This, of course is the lesser of 2 evils since this would be cheaper.  However, in the fantasy world of public opinion, it means less officers out there to deter “violent criminals.”  In reality, this actually means less officers to collect the bodies and assess the damages of crimes after the fact, so maybe it would be a better use for the officers.  Also, it would remove them from the previously mentioned “drug war” (a bulk of their workload, but probably less than traffic management), so they can collect fines from traffic violators instead:  six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Two considerations that nobody ever talks about:

1. How effective would more police be in resolving this traffic crisis?  I will keep this short.  Nobody ever does a results-based examination to tell if more police would really “help” in this situation.  Of course, in my hypothetical example there really wasn’t a problem.  It was simply a one-time tragic event that was not indicative of a trend.  The call for more police was simply a knee-jerk reaction, and the government is all too ready to respond with more taxes, more control, and questionable efficacy.  This is a micro example of the larger problem of the State.  Eventually, maybe years later, those extra officers will be diverted elsewhere (probably to the drug war…hee hee).

2. What is the impact on your personal liberty?  Very few ever consider the impact of having more armed employees of the State.  Not only do they suck away private capital and resources (the real source of innovation), but now the State increases its ability to reach out and touch you with it’s increasing monopoly on violence.  Because of calls to fix a non-problem, the State gradually usurps more power from you.

So what do you think about having more police patrols on the highway?

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Legislation follies: An Example from “Above”

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Here is a story about an FAA proposal to forbid pilots from using phones, laptops, or iPads in the cockpit at any time.
As with most laws these days (and throughout history), this is ridiculous legislation.  It is a perfect example of a government (perhaps a society) that thinks EVERYTHING can be legislated.  First of all, this one strikes a little close to home.  As a pilot, I use my smartphone to look up airfield data, approach information, important phone numbers, etc.  None of this requires internet connectivity.   It is a cheap alternative to expensive installed equipment, and thanks to fltplan.com and the free market (and the internet is really the only thing close to a truly free market any more), I have a wealth of information easily at my fingertips with a smartphone app.  I do this by managing my own workload.  Without any law whatsoever, I know that I don’t use my smartphone on final approach, in bad weather, or any other time that the workload is high.  Imagine that.
Why not make laws that tell pilots when they can look at each display?

Why not make laws that tell pilots when they can look at each display?

Similar to laws that try to legislate morality, no amount of rule-making will reduce if a pilot is distracted.  This requires professional attitude and discipline.  I simply do not want to waste time discussing about whether this is a good idea.  Of course pilots shouldn’t be distracted!

The real discussion is about whether government regulation is necessary in every aspect of human behavior.  The truth is that government regulation is simply not necessary in almost all endeavors.  This includes roads, traffic signals, utilities, and police, fire, and other security services.

Expand your thinking.  Here is a 7-minute video on how traffic management is simply not necessary (thanks John Stossel): http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/4304480/do-we-really-need-traffic-lights/
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News Flash: Nobody Crashed on The Antelope Valley Freeway

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Here is a thought that occurs to me when I drive along a busy highway.  In fact, my most vivid memory of having this thought is from driving down the Antelope Valley Freeway from Palmdale toward Burbank airport.  You can use Google’s street view tools to view this stretch of highway.  The street view of this stretch of road does not do it justice, as it shows a LOT less traffic.  Instead, picture bumper to bumper cars traveling at 80 miles per hour for miles.  I would be driving in this rat race, which happens every day, listening to my radio when all of a sudden I thought to myself, “There are thousands of cars within inches of each other hurling down this freeway at breakneck pace, and the majority of the time nobody hits anybody.”  You see the amazing thing (some might say miraculous), is not when someone gets into an accident and survives.  On the contrary, the truly marvelous thing are the accidents that never happen.  80 MPH, and all actions are coordinated.  There is nobody directing; there are thousands of independent thinkers cooperating to not hit each other.  There are mistakes, sure, but 99% of the time (or better) the ballet continues with no mishaps.  Everybody gets where they are going…every day!  Simply amazing!  Essentially, nothing happens as a result of this activity.

traffic at night

Yet, I can still picture a tragic pile up or a multi-vehicle and fatal accident on this stretch of highway that would elicit calls for action.  These calls might sound something like this:

  1. We need more police patrols!
  2. We must lower the speed limits!
  3. We need higher traffic fines.
  4. Let’s tax fuel to reduce traffic.
  5. If we build a monorail between Palmdale and Burbank, it will reduce traffic.

It certainly is possible that such actions might have some effect on the accident rate on the Antelope Valley Freeway.  The question, however, is how much effect?  Moreover, what are the third order and beyond effects on individual liberties, and your freedom to travel?  What about the cost?  What about the opportunity cost?  What about unintended consequences?

I will address each of these “calls for a cure” in turn…starting in my next post.

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The Difference Between Building and Destroying

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Destroying is easy, building is difficult.  The examples abound.  To kill a man is quite simple…all it would take is a powerful enough weapon…think of the game Clue:  revolver, rope, wrench, candlestick even!  On the other hand, to save a person is a much more complex thing.  It requires expertise in biology, an understanding of how the body works, the interconnectedness of all the systems.  To repair a body correctly usually requires a well-trained team.

Simple

Simple

Complex

Complex

Eating food is simple.  All you have to do is throw it down the gullet.  Poof, it is gone.  You’ve destroyed it.  To prepare a great meal is another thing.  You have to plan, to measure, and everything has to be timed.  For your meal to be a masterpiece, you must tend to every detail.  Building requires time and understanding.

Designing and creating a building of any type requires quite a bit of work.  You have to sit down with all of the engineering equations to figure if it will stand.  You have to consider form vs. function, and whether an artistic impression will be left with the inhabitants.  You have to consider all that the structure will be used for.  Then, you must hire a team of contractors and builders who work together to erect it.  In today’s world you need a team of lawyers and accountants, not to mention tax experts as well…you have to make sure everything is up to code.

On the other hand, isn’t destroying a building very simple?  You just blow it up with a giant bomb…poof, it is no longer a building, but a pile of rubble.  If it is wooden, it could be set alight with a match and a can of gasoline.  The building would then be ashes.  Destroying is simple.

Boom!

Boom!

Beware of simple solutions.  If something seems to good to be true, it probably is.  Something for nothing usually means somewhere, somebody is being destroyed.  Or possibly, you are being broken down in a ruse.  There are simple concepts that are helpful, but simple explanations often are a result of a failure to consider second and third order effects.

Slow down.  Take some time to consider whether your thoughts, your ideology, or your concept of reality is correct.  To build you must take time.  By being in a hurry you risk destroying.

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