A comedy classic from WKRP in Cincinnati.
Archive for the ‘America’ Category.
I’m fascinated by disaster and failure. I’m not talking natural disaster; although fascinating in themselves (who around back then does not recall when Mount St. Helens blew up in 1980?) natural disasters don’t provide teachable moments the way a man-made failure or disaster does. Soon the Discovery Channel and The Science Channel will simulcast a scripted movie about the Challenger disaster. The movie is based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir “What Do You Care What Other People Think” and will invariably show how Science and the human analytical mind went from a cloud of smoke and debris at 50,000 feet to the reason for the disaster: an O-ring seal in a solid rocket booster. Such failure analysis is why travel on large aluminum jets is the safest method of transportation in human history, going from perhaps the deadliest form of transport to the safest in less than a century. Such success came about through hard detective work the scene of each disaster, followed by a long period of investigation and analysis where the failure was pinpointed and most importantly, having the lessons learned applied to the rest of the industry.
The bible for those interested in the study of failure is German professor Dietrich Dorner’s 1996 book, The Logic of Failure. The book is based on a set of cognitive experiments done with software simulating a small town’s society in the US, and a fictional area in the Sahel. The studies found that while participants came from varied walks of life and backgrounds, “People court failure in predictable ways.” It then ties the experiments to real life failures such as the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. As a systems analyst involved with complex multi-million dollar software development programs, I consider the book “must reading” for everyone in IT. Feel free to pass along a copy to those behind the Obamacare rollout.
Five years ago the people of Iraq had, thanks to the blood of thousands of American and allied soldiers, achieved a level of freedom unparalleled in their history. The national sport of kite flying was legal again and girls headed to school in Afghanistan. al Qaeda and its affiliates were on the run and confined to lawless patches in northern Pakistan, northern Nigeria and Somalia. Iran was boxed in between biting sanctions that undermined the regime internally, successful American military operations on either side of it, and an Israel ready, willing and backed by American leadership to attack Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons. China was busy flooding the world with cheap crap, content to use North Korea as its proxy to stir up trouble in favor of the regime in Beijing. Our relationship with Russia had begun drifting away from engagement towards confrontation over its aggression towards Georgia, but Russia was clearly a state in decline both internally and internationally. Even Syria was seen as a player, with Democrats having genuflected at Bashir Assad’s feet, Nancy Pelosi having claimed “the road to peace begins in Damascus” in 2007, four years before Vogue’s schmaltzy interview with the Assad family, “A Rose In the Desert.”
Today Iraq is a client state of Iran, its skies filled with Iranian cargo planes resupplying the Assad regime in Syria and Hezballah in Lebanon, its social fabric once again ripped by car bombs as the Sunni/Shi’a war rages on the ground. The Obama administration, convinced of its failure before it took office walked away from American success in Iraq by its refusal to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Baghdad. Historians will one day ask “Who lost Iraq?” and the answer will be Barack Obama. Immediately after setting up their base in Afghanistan in 2001, the Marines buried a piece of steel taken from the World Trade Center rubble on the site. Soon the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies will reclaim this as a war trophy as the kites and girls disappear from the streets, and the music that has filled the air in Kabul since 2001 will be replaced once again with silence punctuated by gunfire and explosions. Again historians will ask “Who condemned these people to savagery? Who lost Afghanistan?” Again the answer will be President Obama, a man who once called Afghanistan “the good war.”
After taking power President Obama fluttered around the world on what critics like me called his “Apology tour,” apologizing for American misdeeds both real and imagined, in the belief that the new-found humility would please our friends and sway our enemies. The Obama Administration has accomplished exactly the opposite. Today Iran is expanding its “Shi’a Crescent” throughout the Middle East, and the only ones standing in the way is Israel in an unlikely (and unspoken) alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. This after a popular rebellion took the streets in 2009 that could have changed the course of History, but it received no hint of support or backing from the Obama administration and it was ruthlessly crushed. It will be decades before the people rise up against the theocracy, if they ever do.
Today from Morocco across northern Africa to the Sinai, and from Nigeria across the continent to Somalia Africa burns with Muslim extremists allied with al Qaeda. Obama’s support of the rebellion to replace Mohammar Khaddafi in Libya has opened a Pandora’s Box of weaponry built over decades by Libya’s Great Loon, handing AK-47s, RPGs, and anti-aircraft missiles to everyone with an axe to grind and a Koran burning a hole in their hearts. Where there had been one failed state 5 years ago, Somalia, there are now at least 3 (Somalia, Mali, Libya) with numerous others (Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Western Sahara) circling the drain. After Khaddafi’s fall al Qaeda training camps sprouted like mushrooms across North Africa and the Sub-Sahara, breathing the lawlessness that the Libyan Debacle created, and repaying the Obama administration for its “lead from behind” strategy by killing an American ambassador and his three bodyguards in the first such incident in 30 years.
Although the administration’s failure vis-a-vis China is not as bad as the disaster it has created in the Middle East, the Obama Doctrine of placating our foes while dissing our friends has been noticed in Asian capitals. South Korea is developing closer ties with China at the same time Japan rearms and prepares to ditch its anti-war constitution ghost written by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Nations like Pakistan who haven’t really decided whether they are American allies or its enemies see no downside to throwing their lots in with the Chinese or Iranians. Pakistan even provides China the tail-section of a top-secret stealth helicopter used in the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, America’s enemy number 1 watching porn in air conditioned comfort on Pakistani soil. There is no blow-back, no consequences suffered for entertaining the man responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans, and none for handing over the tail rotor section to America’s greatest military adversary. And to top it off, the true hero of the event, a local doctor who had the guts to help the Americans confirm Bin Laden’s identity, sits in jail as a traitor to his people. If anything playing up to America’s adversaries almost wins respect from the Obama administration itself. China understands this best, waging a cyber war against the US government and private industry without retribution.
Then there’s Europe. When the Obama Administration hasn’t sacrificed its allies to appease its enemies in Teheran and Moscow, it bugged their phones, proving yet again this administration’s inability to differentiate friend from foe. “Everyone does it,” is not an acceptable excuse for a superpower. There is absolutely no reason the US should be bugging Angela Merkel’s phone just as there is no reason it should be spying on 10 Downing Street. Perhaps the mushy-headedness that comes with moral relativism has blinded the administration to the differences of say, between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, or David Cameron and Ayatollah Khamenei. The “Special Relationship” with the UK is special for a reason, one that is much older than the inhabitants of the West Wing and much more sublime than the political wonks can comprehend. Ditto the German Chancellor. Frau Merkel was born in East Germany and has first hand experience with illegal and unjustified surveillance. Unlike some of her predecessors, she has not risen to power on an anti-American platform, and has done an exemplary job of aligning the interests of Germany with the broader interests of Europe and the United States. Spying on her was a stupid idea that should never have been approved, and once approved, it should have been cancelled, and if not cancelled it should never have been revealed. Yet a contract DBA waltzed off with the keys to the entire American Intelligence in the worst espionage failure since Klaus Fuchs handed the Soviets the Bomb. Again, no consequences. No one fired let alone jailed.
Many on the right have concluded that this is all by plan, that the Obama administration and his Democratic party supporters have been intent on taking the ship of state and intentionally running it aground because they are socialists or communists. In the Irving Kristol Lecture to the American Enterprise Institute on February 10, 2004 Charles Krauthammer suggests it is more complex and subtle than that:
“What I do know is that today it is a mistake to see liberal foreign policy as deriving from anti-Americanism or lack of patriotism or a late efflorescence of 1960s radicalism.
On the contrary. The liberal aversion to national interest stems from an idealism, a larger vision of country, a vision of some ambition and nobility – the ideal of a true international community. And that is: To transform the international system from the Hobbesian universe into a Lockean universe. To turn the state of nature into a norm-driven community. To turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law – of treaties and contracts and UN resolutions. In short, to remake the international system in the image of domestic civil society…
And to create such a true international community, you have to temper, transcend and, in the end, abolish the very idea of state power and national interest. Hence the antipathy to American hegemony and American power. If you are going to break the international arena to the mold of domestic society, you have to domesticate its single most powerful actor. You have to abolish American dominance, not only as an affront to fairness but also as the greatest obstacle on the whole planet to democratized international system where all live under self-governing international institutions and self-enforcing international norms.” – Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passion, Pastimes and Politics
Seen in this light, Obama’s foreign policy has not been a failure at all. It has accomplished exactly what it was intended to do. It has weakened America’s foreign policy hand across the board. America’s military is weakened through political purges of its officer corps, lack of direction and budget cuts. Its diplomatic corps is undermined by the lack of protection of its staff, as proven in Benghazi, by the White House’s high-handedness shown towards America’s closest friends the UK and Israel, and the spying program targeting American allies as well as its enemies that State Department personnel are forced to explain in their host countries. Its adversaries Syria, Iran and North Korea are all in better positions than they were five years ago. Ditto China and Russia. As the US weakens its enemies strengthen, and its allies are then forced to either band together (EU standing up to Russia and encouraging Ukraine to join, ASEAN nations co-coordinating efforts to balance China) or leave its sphere of influence entirely (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps Israel in the Middle East, South Korea in East Asia).
Obama has domesticated America on the international stage, to use Krauthammer’s term: so now what? Where is the Golden Age promised by Locke and the internationalists? If they are correct, a humbled America should encourage its enemies to stop their own military buildups (they don’t need offensive military capability with America’s gone). North Korea and Iran no longer need nukes now that American nukes are rusting away awaiting destruction as Obama unilaterally disarms. Without American backing Israel should engage its enemies diplomatically in a desperate bid to secure peace with the Palestinians. The world should be much better today than it was five years ago.
Is it? I suppose that depends on your perspective. Five years ago Americans could have traveled safely throughout Africa except for one nation Somalia. Today I’d hesitate to walk through the narrow streets of Zanzibar as I once did freely nearly two decades ago, and have struck Valley of the Kings in Egypt off my bucket list until further notice. Northern Kenya, Mali, Eritrea, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Western Sahara, and Libya are now no-go areas for Westerners. I suppose that’s great if you can’t help but shout Allahu Akhbar every time you touch an AK-47, but for the rest of us things have gotten worse not better under the new regime.
Dietrich Doerner writes, “For them (people who failed most often at complex analytical tests) to propose a hypothesis was to understand reality; testing that hypothesis was unnecessary. Instead of generating hypotheses, they generated ‘truths’.” The Obama administration came to power proposing a hypothesis, that the world would be a better place with the United States weakened. It treated this hypothesis as a truth, steadfastly refusing to let go of it, sacrificing ambassadors, diplomatic relationships built over generations, and American influence in the process. When Doerner’s study participants failed, they invariably blamed others for their failures just as the Administration has focused the blame on the GOP.
When the Obama administration took power I and many others had hoped it would govern from the center, that things wouldn’t be as dire as we had feared. We hoped that it would try its crazy ideas, learn they didn’t work, then try something else. But they didn’t learn. They stuck to their “truths.” Five years on our foreign policy is a shambles, America weaker and friendless as it has been at no other time in its history. The disaster is worse than we expected, and we still have 3 full years left in this president’s term.
Will America be able to survive this epic failure? Thirty-two years ago Ronald Reagan took power and turned around foreign policy debacles of the previous Carter administration pretty quickly. Will a Republican president be able to do the same after eight years of disaster? And what if the GOP selects the wrong candidate and Hillary Clinton wins in 2016? How much failure can this country accept and still survive?
I love American football. As a kid I loved playing pick-up games of it in our suburban backyards and touch versions in the street. Our city was cursed with the St. Louis Football Cardinals who eventually took their stinking-on-ice team to Arizona where they still suck, and most of my friends were from outside the area so I took to supporting their teams. My friend Ron H. was from Philadelphia, so I started rooting for the Eagles. But this was the era of the Steel Curtain, so I found myself cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers as well. In fact I liked almost all the football teams except for my hometown disappointments.
After my bohemian period during which I thought American football was jejune and bourgeois, I had fallen in love with a woman who rekindled my interest in the Philadelphia Eagles after we moved into the area. I’ve rarely written about the sport because I have nothing to say beyond the usual “Go Birds” and the attendant “Cowboys Suck!” that comes with being a Philly fan. After moving south of the Mason Dixon, I have paid hundreds of dollars to watch the Eagles and other NFL teams play on DirecTV every season.
But every season the game seems to lose some of its appeal. Maybe there are too many penalties in an attempt to make the game safe. Maybe it’s because I’m growing older and have seen some pretty bad things happen to people. Maybe it’s because I’m just turning into a big pussy. But there’s only so many times I can see a player get hit and lay motionless on the ground while holding my breath before I begin to think something is wrong both with the sport and my enjoyment of it.
I love the sheer athleticism on display. I revel in the impossible plays just like any other fan. And yes these men are paid millions to destroy their bodies, but does the lucre they are paid free us fans from guilt? We are being entertained by men damaging their bodies in ways we would not do ourselves, or allow our children to do. I didn’t let my son play football even when he expressed interest in the sport. At the time I was more worried about a broken neck or ruined knees. That was before CTE, Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease that destroys the brain and is specific to the sports boxing and football. Soccer players don’t exhibit it, nor do baseball players or lacrosse players. CTE does not wait until players are in their 70s or 80s to exhibit signs; it has been found in the brain of an 18 year old football player.
I am no nanny. If you want to kill yourself with drugs or whatever, fine – do so just not in front of me because I have a conscience and I will intervene to stop you. That is the way I was raised. For the past few years my conscience has been stirring when I watch American football, and seeing this program on PBS pretty much seals the deal. The NFL has denied the existence of CTE the exact same way the tobacco companies denied cancer caused by smoking. Recently the league has pushed the problem into the future by calling for “more study” just as the cigarette companies called for further research on lung cancer when the Science behind the causative link between smoking and lung cancer was unequivocal. What they’ve done is criminal but not surprising given the amount of money league owners have invested in the game.
Many of my friends have turned to European football known as soccer here in the States, and while watching the game seems about as exciting as watching a cat lick itself, at least I can watch it without my conscience stirring.
Perhaps technology can someday come to the rescue. Imagine: no penalties, no guilt, and as violent as we can make it. We could watch a true Steel Curtain descend on the opposing robot team and pulverize them, sending bits of plastic, steel and oil flying. Then, and only then will I be ready for some football.
In South Philadelphia row upon row of abandoned naval ships are moored together, stripped of their fittings and rusting silently. A short way down the Delaware River sits the rusting hulk of the cruise ship SS United States, a once majestic liner, completely gutted of anything of worth leaving only a hollow shell, whose memory of better days fade as one by one those who sailed on her pass on. Anyone who has ever worked in Philadelphia and driven past these silent sentinels regularly during his commute must appreciate their presence. These abandoned ships inspired me whenever I passed them. What battles did they see? What great men served on them? What ports did they call at?
Photographer Walter Arnold specializes in what he calls the “art of abandonment,” photographing scenes of collapsing buildings and rusting machinery, finding beauty and meaning in places and things that have been ignored or forgotten. These scenes are at once sad yet beautiful, like mournful poems or the contemplative serenity one might find in an old cemetery. He briefly describes the genre below.
I discovered Arnold while roving through the art galleries in Asheville North Carolina. When you’ve seen thousands of photographs and paintings of mountains and rivers a photograph of a barber chair in an abandoned prison catches and holds your eye.
Arnold emphasizes the ephemeral nature of his subject matter by using a technique called high dynamic range imaging in which several photographs of different exposures are combined to increase the level of detail and to increase the difference between light and dark regions of a photograph. He also prints his photographs on sheet metal, which brings out the highlights while breaking down the formal barriers between viewer and subject matter created by frame and matte.
He also captures the abstract geometry of a scene. A cubist fantasy in “The Matrix“, a photograph taken at a derelict lace factory in Scranton. Conch-like circles in “Beneath the UFO“, an image of a play structure beneath an empty school in St. Bernard Parish Louisiana. Parallel lines and intersections in “The Ruin of Harlot’s Hall“, a photo of an abandoned brothel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. A diving board looms like an abstract sculpture above an empty pool in “I’m Still Here,” a folded piece of origami among lines racing away into the distance.
Time and Nature are critical players in his photographs, and the photos remind the viewer like a Roman general’s slave whispering in his ear that regardless of our successes in life, we eventually fall to both. The motorcycle in “From the Earth” seems to burst out of the photograph while at the same time fights being swallowed by the earth. As the viewer we know which will ultimately win. In “Encroachment,” a photograph taken at the Majestic Hotel, a modern-looking and clean hotel room is under siege with the first tendrils of vines writhing across the carpet and up the walls. It’s only a matter of time before the straight lines of the room and bright white walls are softened and sullied by Time and Nature. Perhaps the finest example of this is arguably his most famous photograph, “The Final View,” an image of a plane’s cockpit taken in an airplane graveyard in Florida and the inspiration for a short film by Ron Howard, “When You Find Me.”
As a photographer who is somewhat new to the medium, having picked up a camera in 2006, Arnold is still exploring other subjects such as nature and portraiture. He even shoots weddings. These are technically very good and appealing in their own ways, but the images of abandonment are what haunt me, whether imagining the last song played on a broken piano, the final ride of a Ferris wheel or the last joy ride taken in an old car.
The following originally appeared here.
Race relations are far worse today than they were 5 years ago. In fact I would go so far as to say they are worse than they’ve been since the 1970’s but I lack the proof to back up the statement beyond my gut telling me. Obama has squandered an opportunity brought about by his skin color to heal the wound of racism on the American body politic, and instead has chosen to use race to further divide Americans for his own political gain in the pursuit of goals held by a small elite cadre of white liberals.
I’m not surprised. Although a product of an African and an American, Barack Obama has never been an African-American. Instead of being raised in the African-American experience from birth, he grew up in an unusual, sheltered environment abroad and living with his white grandmother in Hawaii. Instead of growing up in a black culture shared by many white Americans, he grew up in the white subculture of ultra-leftist academics, an elite which believes it understands blacks better than the blacks themselves. This culture sees African-Americans as a group that is completely devoid of responsibility for its condition and as a result incapable of governing itself, needing the intelligent white elite to do so. This elite also sees white people who do not belong to this subculture as evil, racists responsible for the legacy of slavery and for all the attendant problems of race in America. For example the administration has been silent on Black on black violence, except to use it to attack whites and their culture of “god and guns.”
This elitists viewpoint held by Obama and the white elite backing him is blind to the common experiences of whites and blacks today. African-Americans and Caucasians live together at levels unprecedented in our history. They share common goals such as decent schools for their kids and well-paying jobs for themselves. Their cultures intermix with white teenagers listening to black rap and cheering on black sports players, while African-Americans listen to country music stars and enjoy comic book hero movies with characters rooted in the white culture of the 1940s and 1950s. These commonalities are completely invisible to Obama and his backers; all they see is what they want to see: any black-white conflict that fits their pre-existing beliefs. When that conflict turns out to be a poor fit, like the Trayvon Martin murder case, they are forced to make up such racist idiocies as “white Hispanic” to squeeze the event into their belief system.
The irony is that the views held by Obama and his white elite backers are now more racist than the society they are trying to impose them on. Americans don’t want to be hyphenated and divided anymore: they want to be united in hope, and working together to build a better future. But the white elite rules, and America continues down the path towards ruin creating a mess that will take decades to clean up. What a wasted opportunity.
4 years ago a jury acquitted black man who acted in self defense, shooting a white teen.
There were no protests, no Springsteen songs dedicated to Christopher Cervini, no multi-city marches.
Because it didn’t fit The Narrative.
It was a simple need, eight Philips head inch-long wood screws with a quarter inch diameter, but it proved beyond the capability of a $50 billion hardware store.
The Wife had purchased a Boos Block table with a metal base online. The purchase came in separate shipments with no instructions, templates or fasteners to put the two together. I thought this was a mistake and called the Boos Block company. They directed me to the online merchant who explained since they sold tables and bases that could be mixed and matched, they couldn’t provide hardware or templates to cover all possibilities. That seemed a bit of a stretch for your average homeowner willing to spend $600 on a 36 inch round of wood, but the customer service rep explained that the people buying these tables knew how and had the hardware to install them.
I laid the table top upside down on the floor and within an hour had measured and drawn a template that centered the cross-legged base with an X-shaped spider onto the wooden bottom. I then took measurements of the wood and spider’s thickness, and determined that I needed inch long wooden screws. The spider used up a quarter inch of that length and the table was 1.5 inches thick so the screws would embed half-way through the top. I checked my inventory and of course had no screws matching the need, so I stopped at the big box “home” store to find the screws while running errands in the area.
The older I get the less of a fan I become of these large stores. They are geared towards meeting the needs of the average home owner, selling low quality low priced items sourced from China. The moment you stray from the this formula you’re out of luck. Evidently as I age I’m becoming less average because I find myself either walking out of the stores without finding what I need or making compromises and buying what I don’t want with increasing frequency. Yesterday was no different.
The average store size of this retailer is 116,000 square feet. Of that they devote approximately 40 linear feet to screws. This may seem a lot until you realize how many types of screws there are. Wood screws. Sheet metal screws. Philips head, flat. Carriage bolts. Metric and imperial. Because I had carefully measured the table and its base I knew exactly what I needed, but the amount of space devoted to wood screws was just a fraction of that 40 linear feet so it quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for. A store associate saw my dismay and tried to help, but all he could offer was inch long wood screws with bolt heads. I hadn’t measured for the clearance a bolt head requires, but I bought the screws anyway hoping they’d work. It was another compromise purchase and like so may others I’ve made at the store it failed; none of the ratchets that fit the bolt would fit into the base’s holes. So I chucked the screws into a screw drawer and cursed my stupidity for compromising again.
This morning before work I stopped by the local hardware store, a family run operation with only a fraction of the big box’s square footage. The proprietor greeted me as soon as I walked through the door and I told him what I wanted. He walked me over to the screw section which took up a large portion of the center of the store, and found exactly what I needed. I was in and out within two minutes and $1.20 poorer but wealthier with the right screw for the job. Oh, and the screws were cheaper than the compromise ones I bought from the big box retailer.
For years I have been seduced by the size and supposed selection of the big box stores but no more. Every time a project has ground to a halt over a missing part or a broken Chinese-made tool the local hardware stores have been there for me, somehow managing to have exactly what I need in their tiny, crammed-to-the-rafters spaces. I’ll admit I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit this now at such a late age; I should have known better years ago. But as the Wife says, there’s no time like the present to stop being stupid, and like most of what she says, she’s right.
That sometimes “white Hispanic” men don’t murder black teenagers just as the OJ Simpson verdict proved that sometimes black men don’t murder white women (and their friends).
I should be pleased with today’s Supreme Court rulings supporting Gay Marriage since I support gay marriage. So why am I not happy with today’s rulings?
Part of it is the fact that today’s rulings do not end the government’s involvement in marriage. I believe that marriage is a purely religious institution and a secular government has no role in it. The traditional role of government in marriage is due to two reasons. First it provides a legal basis for the treatment of property particularly in regards to inheritance. This has been stretched to include the division of property in the case of divorce, but it should be remembered that until relatively recently divorce was uncommon and in many cases all but illegal. Secondly government involvement in marriage is to insure the nurturing and growth of future citizens – children. In the past marriage provided the economic means necessary to keep children out of poverty, and even today poor children are more likely to live in single parent homes than in homes with two married people. One of the best arguments I have heard against poverty is “If you don’t want to be poor, stay married.” It is a truism I have seen firsthand, and one that I take to heart whenever the Road of Marriage becomes bumpy.
But this traditional involvement for the “sake of the children” has been corrupted by Leftists who have seen the success of other institutions like the Catholic Church in successfully inculcating its values in the young under its tutelage. All Communist and Socialist political parties have “youth wings” whereby the State or (or state-wannabees if the socialists have yet to take power) indoctrinate children in party ideology. In the United States and Europe Leftists have been successful at turning public education into youth indoctrination camps which is why children fear global warming more than car crashes even though they are more likely to die or suffer serious injury in a car wreck than the consequences of rising global temperatures. Libertarians have traditionally opposed state sponsored education, and this indoctrination is one reason why, so that chops at that leg of support for government involvement in marriage.
As for property there is nothing in existing law that couldn’t handle that separately from marriage. All that is required is that one must be of legal age to participate in a contract. If a New Zealander decides to marry his ewe, he must find a church willing to accept such an arrangement, but he won’t be able to leave his house to Bessie and the minute he touches her he will be subject to animal cruelty laws and existing laws against bestiality. But if a man decides to set up a household with his two wives from a Muslim marriage, so be it. He can enter into a property contract that specifies who gets what when the household is dissolved according to civil (not religious) law. As for spousal rights granted by marriage, we already have Power of Attorney, a contract that specifies who is responsible for someone in the event they are disabled or unconscious. If a lesbian wants her lover to decide whether to pull the plug on her in an ICU, then so be it, as long as there exists a power of attorney. The State has a traditional function as the enforcer of binding legal contracts that is separate from marriage, so removing itself from the “marriage business” will not impact that function.
So without these two supporting pillars the State has no reason to be involved in marriage. Expanding the definition of marriage to include gay people isn’t going to change that . Perhaps in the long run it will accelerate the disentangling of the State from the religious basis of marriage, but in the long run we are dead to quote Keynes.
The Supreme Court rulings also serve as a distraction from the scandals that are threatening the very foundations of our government, providing the Obama Administration breathing space with which it can build barriers to protect itself from further scrutiny. The domestic spy scandal, the IRS scandal, Benghazi – all become yesterday’s news as the President and his minions bask in the media limelight of the ruling, portraying themselves as great protectors of gay rights (in the US only; the administration is silent over the oppression of homosexuality elsewhere) while continuing to undermine rights such as the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, religion and the implied privacy right granted by the 4th Amendment.
For some reason, likely a shared ideological worldview, the American press simply refuses to hold this administration accountable for anything. Under this administration Iraq has unraveled, the economy limps along in a zombie-like state neither dead and showing few signs of life, Afghanistan has been lost and it’s only a matter of time before the Taliban return to power and pull girls out of school. The intervention in Libya where America “lead from behind” has turned North Africa into a well-armed nest of insurgents. Dithering over Syria and a nuclear armed Iran has encouraged America’s enemies and demoralized our allies. Obama’s constant stream of nagging, threats and harping in speeches have proven American threats to be worthless to its adversaries. Threats are no longer backed with force and therefore are ignored. The only enemy the Obama administration seems willing to engage are the Republicans and journalists who defy to propagandize the Administration’s narratives, forcing Victor Davis Hanson to opine “if only our foreign enemies were Republicans.” Republican leaders are corrupted, spurned or out-maneuvered as they have been on “immigration reform” and journalists like Michael Hastings and Andrew Breitbart are found dead under suspicious circumstances. If only the same happened to the likes of Bashar al Assad, Hassan Nasrallah, or the Ayatollah Khamenei. Instead this administration entertains one of their representatives in the White House.
Thank heaven for the British press which, while even more Socialist than most Democrats, is willing to “speak Truth to Power” to use one of those Bush-era slogans one no longer hears these days. After all it was the Guardian, an outfit that makes Pravda look as right wing as the Wall Street Journal, that broke the Snowden Affair. It is also the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail that continue to report on the scandals deviling the administration, making the UK a window for opponents of this administration by exposing the group-think politically correct atmosphere that has corrupted American journalism.
So hoorah gays can now get legally married! Meanwhile this country continues its slow descent into totalitarianism, it’s Fourth Estate castrated and sedated, and people who challenge it either are audited by the IRS or end up dead. Congratulations, but forgive me if as a wedding present I send the Bill of Rights – even though by the time it arrives it will have been shredded.
James Taranto writing in the online Wall Street Journal:
A more abstract form of this parochialism is the multiculturalists’ frequent insistence that “only white people can be racist.” In this view, racism is perhaps the greatest moral failing of which human beings are capable—but nonwhites are absolved of moral responsibility for their racial prejudices.
But moral responsibility is the essence of humanity. It is what sets Homo sapiens apart from other animals. Assigning moral responsibility to whites while denying it to nonwhites is therefore a way of dehumanizing the latter. Multiculturalism turns out to be a disguised form of white supremacy.
I’ve personally found multiculturalists to be incredibly intolerant while rural Southerners, pilloried by the media and intellectual elite, as much more laid back and accepting of all kinds of differences. I think it’s because the poorer rural people are forced by necessity to get along with those of different ethnic, religious and ideological backgrounds because they can’t afford to live in like-minded, monocultural enclaves like Cambridge MA where NPR reigns (Speaking of which: I would bet that NPR employs more minorities than actually listen to it. Ever catch the names during a public radio pledge drive? Not a Jackson, Patel or Dominguez among those donating cash for coffee mugs and tote bags.)
This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said ““The wise man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation, and his scale of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature. The foolish have no range in their scale, but suppose every man is as every other man,” except in this case, the multiculturalist prides him/herself as being more equal than others.
So the LA Times reports a Pew Study finds gun crime has plunged even while American perceptions of it assumes it has risen. Setting aside the obvious issue of what is driving Americans to one conclusion while the facts lead to another, the study raises some other, less obvious issues.
If guns are to blame for violent gun crimes, one would have to assume by the study that the number of guns in American hands have fallen. Yet the opposite appears to be the case, with the highest per capita gun ownership in the US, with roughly one gun for every American man, woman, and child. Over the past four years guns have flown off the shelves, and it is likely there are more guns in private hands today than there were four years ago, although the exact number is difficult to know since such records are not kept. But gun manufacturers are working overtime to fill order backlogs, and the most popular weapons such as AR-15 “assault rifles” are hard to come by. Gun prices have risen as demand has outstripped supply, yet fewer of these weapons are being put to criminal use.
Because as gun rights supporters have been saying for years, guns don’t kill people, people do. If the opposite was the case American streets should be awash in blood, but they aren’t as writer Barry Snell notes. As as the Pew Study shows, American streets are safer today than they were a generation ago.
So while the Pew Study punctures the liberal myth that guns cause violence, it also pokes a hole in the conservative myth that the breakdown of the traditional family is the root of violent crime. During the same period of the study, the number of out-of-wedlock births has risen. Non-traditional marriages such as those between homosexuals have become more accepted. There are record numbers of people cohabitating. If the breakdown of the family was supposed to lead to a more violent society, it hasn’t.
More likely it’s demographics. Crime spiked in the 1960-80 period as the Baby Boomer generation reached their teens and twenties, the peak time for criminality. As people age they become less impulsive and their criminal behavior is either held in check or condoned in jobs like Federal Reserve Chairman or Goldman Sachs executive. Of course the demographic news isn’t entirely good. While the Baby Boomer generation is less criminal, it is older and requires the smaller cohorts of younger generations to support it in its old age. So younger people might have less chance of being mugged in New York City than their grandparents did, but they’ll be mugged by the taxman. This could explain why suicide rates are spiking among middle aged Americans – proving that guns don’t kill people, aging hippies do.
Six years ago I wrote about how conspiracy theories were alluring, thereby attracting attention of some conspiracy theory believers in the comments section of the post. In the days since the bombing attacks in Boston I have watched the conspiracy theories blossom into full flower, something that two of my friends noted.
D starts off the conversation (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT AT LINK BELOW):
I can’t help myself. The whole thing seemed off from the beginning. Tell me I’m losing it?
We have an administration that lies to the people and tells them their lives have never been better. You have a media that repeats these lies over and over. Yet people look around them and ask themselves whether or not this is true and realize that their lives aren’t better and that they are being fed a constant stream of lies. This is made worse by the administration’s trumpeting of itself as the most transparent in History when the opposite is the case.
Is it any wonder that conspiracy theorists are going crazy over this event?
I founded my blog to counter the conspiracy that thrived after 9-11. Today we are witnessing a similar blossoming of such theories made more potent by the toxic political environment Obama and the Democrats have created during his tenure.
People such as the poster of the article aren’t crazy, D, not with this administration in place. I still believe Occam’s Razor and even Carl Sagan’s statement that “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof” proves his/her argument is wrong, but he or she isn’t crazy and neither are you for considering such things in our poisonous political atmosphere.
My friend J chimes in:
The conspiracy theory is the perfect example of confirmation bias because if you’re looking for it you’ll find it. That being said, something still stinks about this whole thing. Did these guys shoot the MIT police or didn’t they? Did they rob that 7-11? If you just committed a terrorist attack why would you do either of those things, let alone stay in Boston? And what about the Saudi national that was in the hospital under armed guard that is suddenly being deported, especially since there are pictures of agents carrying a spool of det cord out of his apartment?
And another thing…Chechens? Since when do they give a shit about the US, they terrorize their own people (Beslan, opera house)..and its not like we’re Putin’s BFF.
These guys are some of the best analysts and managers I’ve worked with in the banking industry, and neither one of them is stupid by any stretch of the imagination. The three of us also read Zerohedge, and the comments over there remind me of the intellectual free-for-all that followed 9-11 when the attack became a giant Rorschach test. Anti-government libertarians and anarchists see the attack as a “false flag” operation with the Tsarnaev brothers puppets pulled by strings controlled by Obama (if you’re a Republican), the Koch Brothers (if you are a liberal), and the Jews (if you are an old-school asshat.) Some of these people are clearly nuts, but the vast majority of them don’t trust their government or the media.
It’s difficult to trust an administration that conducts “Operation Fast and Furious,” a program by which the federal government provides guns to Mexican drug cartels in exchange for dead border patrol agents and gun control in the USA. Or an administration that refuses to investigate the death of its own ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi Libya or even allow the survivors of the attack to speak to Congress. Or an administration that demands more gun control laws while refusing to to prosecute gun crimes in Chicago, one of the country’s most violent American cities. Or the billionaire mayor of New York City who states after the Boston attacks, “(Y)ou’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.” As one commenter put it,
“We’re going to suspend your rights to protest, bear arms, privacy, and trial by jury.”
“To protect you from terrorists.”
“Why do we need to be protected from terrorists?”
“They hate you for your freedom.”
Evidently Bloomberg forgot Franklin’s quote “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Perhaps since liberals long ago stopped teaching about “dead white men” like Franklin, Bloomberg never learned that.
Are people being paranoid when they question the official narrative when the administration is full of people who use terms like “narrative” to describe factual events? As if there was no Truth, just a made up story that everyone agrees upon. How very relativist.
Henry Kissinger is credited for the saying “Even paranoids can have enemies,” and while I still personally believe the facts will prove the Tsarnaev brothers are guilty of the attacks in Boston, the behavior of this administration, its media handlers, and the Wall Street kleptocrats that keep it in power makes me at least somewhat sympathetic to the conspiracy theorists’ seemingly outrageous plots and cherry picked evidence. The Tsarnaev brothers may have committed this terrorist attack, but there are other crimes that are being committed today in the halls of power that are going unpunished and ignored, and that behavior becomes the fertile soil in which conspiracy theories will continue to germinate and thrive.
Update: Questions about the attack linger. For example, it turns out the surviving Tsarnaev was unarmed while he was hiding in the boat. If so, then how did he shoot himself in the neck? And how could there have been a firefight? He hid in a fiberglass boat, one that was shot to pieces by authorities using .223 caliber ammunition. I own a .223 rifle, and its round can perforate tree stumps 2 feet thick. The boat offered as much protection as a newspaper. Either the authorities can’t shoot worth a damn or the Truth has yet to be exposed. As my friend J says, something still stinks about this whole thing.
In 2008-9 our country experienced an unprecedented meltdown of its financial system brought on by the cosy relationships between government regulators, politicians and bureaucrats. In response the Federal Reserve embarked on a program whereby the it stole money from the bank accounts of 98% of the country and shifted it to the wealthiest of American society through depressing interest rates paid to savers on their accounts below the rate of inflation, meaning that for every $1,000 in your bank account you lose $30 every year to inflation. This subsidized those with money by providing them with low borrowing costs, allowing them to leverage their wealth for even greater gains in the stock market. It’s not good enough that a billionaire invests $100 million in the market; no, he must use that $100m as leverage to control a billion dollars worth of stock. The stock market has become a casino where small investors are left to chase nickels in front of steam rollers while the government funds the wealthiest segment of society. Worse, the Cyprus Model has put paid to the idea that bank savings are property and protected by the law. Instead savers have become “speculators” and their savings “investments” to be wiped out whenever banks need a bailout. It must not be forgotten that the initial bank bailout, the first put forward by the European Union, looked to steal 6.7% of guaranteed savings below 100,000 Euro. The European Union isn’t exactly communist China or Soviet Russia yet it completely ignored its own law of guaranteed deposits (the EU FDIC) and took the money. Is such an event possible in the United States? Yes. Unlikely perhaps at this point, but still possible.
To support this stock market bubble the federal reserve has flooded the markets with currency yet denied such actions, euphemistically called “quantitative easing”, are inflationary. Government bureaucracies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) manipulate employment statistics to make it appear as if good times are here to stay by excluding the long-term unemployed and those who have given up on finding a job, meaning that if your wife is working and you’re looking for a job, our economy will improve by you staying at home and watching daytime TV since your household will go from 50% unemployment to 0% unemployment. Similarly the BLS manipulates inflation rates by discounting the volatility of food and fuel, the largest categories all but the very wealthiest people spend their money on besides taxes and housing, and making “qualitative adjustments” that hide inflation. In addition companies are passing on higher production costs to consumer through stealth inflation, providing less product for the same money. The profusion of dollar stores are proof of the success of this strategy since shoppers at these stores believing they are getting a bargain while in reality they are paying more per unit of good than at other stores. 4 loads of Tide for a $1 might seem a deal until one goes to a supermarket and finds a 40 load box of the detergent for $7.
Not one person from the banking crisis has been indicted or prosecuted by the Obama administration or Congress, a fact that spawned a PBS Frontline show “The Untouchables.” Could this be because the federal government would be prosecuting it’s own? Former SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro resigned and has taken a position at Promontory Financial Group, a bank consulting group, but promises not to lobby the government she once worked for. That has led to Forbes wondering what other of her qualifications Promontory is willing to bill $1,000 – $10,000 an hour for. She’s among numerous ex-federal employees at her new digs. Check out the nifty graphic at ZeroHedge listing Promontory employees and their former positions in the government. Yet we are supposed to believe this revolving door between regulators and those they regulate is free from moral hazard. In the comments at ZeroHedge someone calls the place a “high end whorehouse.” It it were taxpayers wouldn’t be the ones being screwed.
Banks like JP Morgan-Chase and investment firms like Goldman Sachs are considered too big to fail, taking their “skin” out of the game and replacing it with the American taxpayer’s. If JPMC or Goldman’s risky investments turn out well, it’s “capitalism” and their corporate managers and shareholders are rewarded; if they bomb it’s no big deal. The shareholders or managers are still rewarded as they were in January 2010 when banker bonuses were “bigger than ever” according to the New York Times even after the economic collapse of 2008-9. The American worker will simply work a few hours to provide the taxes the firms need to be bailed out, that is if she has a job. It’s a great system if you are Lloyd Blankfein GS’s CEO who earns upwards of $100 million a year at Goldman Sachs. It benefits Democratic politicians like Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama too since Blankfein is a large donor to the Democratic party.
Then there’s the debt. To call it a “mountain of debt” is to betray a shallow awareness of the world’s topography. Here are some neat visualizations of our debt in $100 bills, and an impressive sounding statistic that’s hard to visual: a line of $1 bills would stretch from the Earth to Uranus. We’ve reached a point where analogies lose their meaning, although the current debt being greater than the country’s entire output in 2011 must be at least a bit sobering to even the drunkest Keynesian economist. The best way to consider the debt is by making it personal. Since 2008 the debt has expanded by $26,000 per person. Multiply that number by those in your household and ask yourself if you feel that amount richer over the past 4 years. That would mean an extra $78k for my household, enough to drop the Wife’s med school debt by 40% or replace our aging cars, each with over 150k miles on them, as well as buy a new car for the Kid. If you don’t see that money, where did it go? Ask yourself: are you better off today than you were 4 years ago? Then ask Lloyd whether he is.
The system is corrupt yet we do nothing about it. We are told happy days are here again, that the stockmarket is at record highs, yet those of us who dabbled in the market prior to 2009 have still not recovered from the losses suffered then, leaving us on the sidelines of this rally. Small investors piled into the market and out of the market late back then, proving they were the “greater fools” and some are doing so today as the market skyrockets and smart money looks for the exits. Sure our 401K’s are expanding, but the numbers are meaningless for anyone other than those planning to retire in the coming months before this bubble bursts. Self employed people and contractors like myself don’t have 401K’s, we just have our wits and an ever sharpening skill set that we use to stay employed, but both are slowly being eroded by time as we age and the younger cohorts below us grow hungrier and more competitive. Time will unravel us, and when it does we will be poor and destitute, remembering the hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxes paid that could have gone, should have gone, into our retirement funds but didn’t. At that point we’ll be on the side of the 47% who don’t pay taxes, but by then the government will be completely broke. We shouldn’t expect any sympathy from the generations coming up in our shadows, since both Left and Right are in agreement that theirs will be the first generations to have lower living standards than preceding generations. It doesn’t help that we’ve sent them to substandard schools whose sole purpose seems to be to employ Masters of Education degree holders instead of actually teaching our children the skills they need to succeed in life.
The collapse of our education system is proof of our sick society, one that raids the education budgets for the young to pay for the guaranteed pensions of the old, one in which the only people who treasure marriage these days are gay and everyone else hooks up like a shed-full of feral cats in heat, with an increasing percetage of the products of these unions are on ADHD medication. I’d need to be medicated too if I was forced to sit still with a body full of hormones and brimming with youthful energy, taught by teachers who, like the children of Lake Wobegon, are all above average, all 98% of them. Conversely, Walter Russell Mead points out ”only 78.2 percent of American students graduated high school in 2010. Sixty-seven percent of all fourth graders could not read at grade level in 2009. And only 32 percent of eighth graders and 38 percent of twelfth graders were reading at or above grade level that same year.” Of course if we measured education aptitude by the number of body piercings and tattoos we’d lead the world.
David Stockman, former Reagan budget director, is getting beaten up in the press for his book The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America. Journalists, products of the Masters of Education employment entities described above, look at the highs of the Dow and discount Stockman’s thesis that the system we have today is more akin to the monopolies and crony capitalists that spawned the progressive movement over a century ago rather than some Randist free market anarchic paradise that they instinctively fear. The treatment of Stockman is similar to that shoveled out to Bob Woodward for daring to criticize President Obama game of chicken with the sequester, as J-school graduates leaped in defense of their icon in the White House attacking Woodward with various ad hominems that any of the profs would have failed them for had they used them in class (or rather, a class where failure was an option – evidently a rarity these days where students can pass without actually studying.) Watching Woodward, a man whose politics I disagree with yet whom I respect for helping pull off the greatest journalistic story of the century, being attacked by the likes of Andrew “I’m here, I’m queer, blah blah blah” Sullivan was like watching a fine thoroughbred horse attacked by a swarm of flies fresh from their home in a dung pile. But such is the fate for anyone who dares call “shenanigans” in the current climate where anyone who can’t continue deceiving themselves is lampooned, debased, or in the case of Woodward, threatened.
Our problems aren’t just economic either. The Obama administration has fled the Middle East and attempts to appease Iran by refusing to support the rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria.
“I think that the United States has not taken a more active role in Syria from the beginning because they didn’t want to disturb the possibility, to give them space, to negotiate with Iran,” Javier Solana, the former European Union foreign policy chief, said Monday at a Brookings Institution discussion about this week’s talks. Solana, who was a top negotiator with Tehran in the nuclear program until 2009, added, “They probably knew that getting very engaged against Assad, engaged even militarily, could contribute to a break in the potential negotiations with Tehran.”
As Walter Russell Mead notes this could be a catastrophic mistake.
If Solana is right that this policy has been driving the White House all along, this is Obama’s initial Iran failure—remaining silent during the 2009 Green Revolution—on steroids. Weakness doesn’t win you the friendship of bullies. And if this dispatch is right, we should expect some ugly repercussions from the Sunni Arabs, the Israelis and the Turks. All these powers want to see Iran’s claws clipped and they want Assad to go; all of these powers chiefly view the value of their US ties at the moment in the light of the confrontation with Iran. If they come to feel that the United States is willing to throw the Syrian lamb to the Iranian tiger, their trust and confidence in the United States, and consequentially America’s power to get things done in the region, would go into a deep eclipse.
Things don’t look any better on the other side of Asia with North Korea promising to attack the United States. So far the US response has been mild, yet that hasn’t stopped the press from asking White House spokesman Jay Carney if that hasn’t provoked a communist dictatorship whose people are being starved to death on a steady diet of leftist propaganda and grass. But their carbon footprints are tiny, for now. How much carbon will be released by a nuclear strike on Osaka or Guam? Quite a bit I suppose. In any event we soon might find out if North Korea acts on its threats.
A whole industry is set up to use imagery and fantasy to modify our behavior so that we buy something, yet somehow a related industry employing the same techniques but for entertainment purposes ie exempt from responsibility when an admittedly sick individual dresses up as villain of the violent movie being shown to the audience he then commences to massacre. The Roman Catholic Pope is labeled as an extremist for calling abortion murder while a doctor who performs late term abortions and keeps the tiny feet of his victims in a jar as memento mori is lauded as a hero. The billionaire mayor of New York City makes it his personal mission to rid the city of large soft drinks while the city’s crime rate rises and the city becomes less friendly to all but society’s richest and poorest.
But when all is said and done, who is to blame for this mess that we find ourselves in? We are.
We didn’t demand for the bankers to be tarred and feathered (well, we did but failed to hold our elected leaders accountable for allowing the bankers off scot-free.). We continually vote in the politicians who offer us platitudes instead of common sense and plunder the public purse for the benefit of the monied elite regardless of their party affiliation. We engage in bitter fights over issues that don’t impact us directly (I’m not gay, on medicaid and I can’t get pregnant, so honestly just how worked up can I get about gay marriage, social programs and abortion?), yet ignore the issues that unite us and affect our daily lives. We vilify other Americans for their differences yet are willfully blind to the commonalities. Intellectual laziness encourages us to accept stereotypes and straw men built by those who feed on hatred the way a maggot feeds on the flesh of an open wound instead of putting ourselves in the other’s position, or to use an old cliche, “walking a mile in the other man’s moccasins.” We have Obama himself saying, “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” accepting a stereotype and succumbing to a form of elitism and intellectual laziness by belittling his opponents instead of attempting to understand them and winning them over. We’ve accepted the low standards of education because we’ve been trained that “fighting city hall” or in this case the school board is futile. So our kids read less than we do, they can text faster and know the special combo to beat the god Zeus in the “God of War” video game. They’ll be alright. Right? We keep our heads down, do what we are told and hope that our dreams come true, the way they do on TV between the ads for drugs to help men get it up and women feel not so down.
We should be ashamed for what we’ve done, or more importantly, not done, expending the effort to fight for accountability from our elected officials and receiving their heads in baskets after they ignored us 4 years ago. Today the problems are even worse, the threats greater, yet we continue on the way we did before the 2008 financial meltdown and on September 10, 2001, fighting among ourselves without giving the other the benefit of the doubt or the dignity our opponent deserves. To paraphrase my late mother-in-law, we chose this path, and we did so because we are idiots.
Chicago is considering a law requiring seatbelts or other type of restraints for pets in vehicles. The reason for this is the distraction unrestrained pets can cause drivers behind the wheel. Such a law strikes some as common sense, but not everyone.
I drive with unrestrained pets in my car. As someone who loves all animals but especially dogs I am aware of the risks. I’ve had a flying lab-border collie mix and a min pin missile inside the car during sudden stops, and recognize the potential danger I put these animals in whenever we “go bye-bye.” Restraining them properly in the vehicle is in their best interest, and because of that I am going to change my behavior, not because the State threatens to fine me. The guilt from the pain I’ve caused one of my animals is much worse than any fine the State can levy.
But the purpose of the law isn’t the danger people like me put their animals in: it’s the danger to others caused by distracted driving. My problem with the law is there are many different types of distracted driving. Recently a young man in my area was killed after he reached for a bottled water that rolled between the seats. Are we going to ban unrestrained drinks? Perhaps billionaire Mayor Bloomberg might, but I believe there is a better way. The law is a blunt instrument: legislators cannot foresee every possibility to adequately address each in a law, and therefore the law might make a few people believe the government is doing something while all it is doing is causing trouble for otherwise law-abiding citizens who get pulled over and fined while driving with an unrestrained beagle zonked out in the backseat after a “tutor” appointment at the vet.
The problem isn’t unrestrained dogs or unrestrained water bottles in cars: it’s distracted driving. Now it would be nice if every driver could be free from every possible distraction, from barking lap dogs to billboards, text messages, cute girls, cell phone conversations, intense arguments with passengers, loud music or deep thoughts. But drivers will never find themselves in a perfect distraction-free bubble, so why fight it? We are wasting our time trying to prevent distractions, and worse by legislating against them. For one thing, one of the worst offenders of distracted driving has always been billboards, yet the outdoor advertising industry has successfully killed legislation banning them. For another there will always be cases where something is distracting to some but not all.
I’ve been thinking alot about Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Anti-Fragile, and how to apply it to daily life. For those unfamiliar with the book or the concept of anti-fragility, think of it as the old Chinese maxim, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Stress breaks fragile systems, but makes anti-fragile systems better. Our immune system is an excellent example of an anti-fragile system. Every virus you’ve been exposed to, whether through childhood immunizations or illnesses you’ve suffered, just make you less likely to become seriously ill from those or related viruses.
Is there a way to apply the concept to driving? We already do: through experience. As the parent of a new driver, one of the challenges I’ve faced is teaching the Kid how to react when driving gets unpredictable. Some parents try to startle their kids to help teach them to react by shouting “STOP!”, others simply drive with their child long enough so that he or she faces unforeseen events such as another driver cutting him off or running a red light. Our experiences behind the wheel teach us to become better drivers through the close calls we’ve had that we never forget. Like nearly falling asleep at the wheel on Interstate 55 in the middle of Illinois, or beginning to accelerate at a light as a car with no lights runs the red light at high speed and misses t-boning my car by mere inches, or zoning out in a day dream and failing to see the lady stopped just ahead.
We can’t pass 500,000 miles of driving experience to our kids, but perhaps we could train them to better handle distractions as in this Farmer’s Insurance commercial highlighting the trouble caused by distracted driving. We should be teaching drivers how to handle distractions while behind the wheel, how to maintain focus no matter how bad the distraction. Are you allergic to bees? What if one stung you while driving? How would you react? Could you remain focused enough to pull over to the side of the road safely? Perhaps instead of banning certain distractions we should be revamping our driver’s education curricula to handle distractions. Driver’s education courses geared towards experienced drivers would also be good, the payoff being lower insurance rates. Such courses would focus on maintaining concentration while driving, teaching how to prioritize attention so that driving always remains at the top, and learning how to avoid slip-ups like reading a billboard that catches the eye or a pretty girl walking down the sidewalk seen in the rear-view mirror, even texting and eating while driving. What matters is not the distraction but maintaining the concentration necessary to drive safely. In that respect the scenario shown in the Farmers Insurance commercial isn’t far off the mark.
Our society has become so legalistic that it’s almost inevitable the solution to a problem becomes a proposed law. Whether it’s something minor like unrestrained dogs in vehicles or tragic such as the Newtown School Massacre, a segment of the populace usually demands somebody do something, usually “for the children,” and our lawmakers are only happy to oblige. But the solution to every problem should not be a legal one; there are far more effective ways of achieving the goal of laws without resorting to them if we as a society only allow ourselves to do so.
Philadelphia Magazine looks at what it’s like being white in the city (“Being White in Philly“), the bedsheet wearing racists. Since I’m a racist for opposing Obama, and racist for believing that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, I figure it’s only racist of me to pass along this article to all my racist readers. If you haven’t viewed my racist article on race “You Can’t End Racism By Being Racist,” do so now. If you don’t, you’re a racist.