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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Artificial Intelligence and the end of Anonymous

Today is the anniversary of the suicide/execution of Guy Fawkes. He was one of the leading conspirators of the failed "Gun Powder Plot of 1605," which was a plan to blow up Parliament, in London. The plan failed because a few of these Catholic gun-powder conspirators wanted to exempt fellow Catholics from the planned act of terror. Thus, a letter of warning was sent to Lord Monteagle:
A few of the conspirators were concerned about fellow Catholics who would be present at Parliament during the opening. On the evening of 26 October, Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter warning him to stay away, and to "retyre youre self into yowre contee whence yow maye expect the event in safti for ... they shall receyve a terrible blowe this parleament"
Guy Fawkes was captured on the 5th of November as he left the small rented storeroom beneath Parliament that the conspirators had filled with gunpowder. He was tortured and eventually revealed the names of the other conspirators who were likewise captured and then later executed in the most horrific manner British authority could devise. It was a grisly fate that awaited them on January 31, 1605, all save Guy Fawkes himself, who managed to leap off the gallows' scaffolding and break his neck in the process, thereby saving him from experiencing the agony his co-conspirators would soon endure.

Beginning that year and every year since on November 5, England has celebrated Guy Fawkes Night—or Bonfire Night—where they ceremonially parade a masked effigy through town before burning it on a bonfire. During the celebration it became customary for children to don cheap paper Guy Fawkes masks and beg for money.

This nascent attempt to defy authority with an act of anonymous terror is today a common occurrence, especially in the Islamic dominated regions of the world map. Anonymity, destruction, and flouting authority are the trademarks of Anonymous, and are symbolized by the stylized mask of Guy Fawkes you see above.

The name Anonymous is synonymous with faceless anarchy. Its members either individually or collectively attempt to punish governments and/or powerful corporations who take actions that they deem offensive or unfair. In Project Chanology, Anonymous members wore Guy Fawkes masks and protested outside of "Scientology churches." From there, the group branched out into a variety of goals which at this point seem to me to be so completely unfocused that if Anonymous can be said to actually have a goal at all, it's that of some deranged cyber-lawnmower-man punishing whatever blade of internet-grass that dares to poke its head above the rest. Check out Timeline of events associated with Anonymous, for a more thorough and detailed list of the exploits of Anonymous.

While it's possible that in their early history they considered themselves a force for good, fairness, humanity, whatever, today they're merely faceless pirates roaming the internet seas in search of fame and fortune. They've lost sight of whatever worthy ends they once pursued and today have been subsumed by the ignoble means they employ, alone. They are destruction for destruction's sake, nothing more. They pursue notoriety and fame, purely for the sake of their own fragile egos. They have become pathetic, childish, and absurd. Anonymous destroys purely for the sake of high-fives and acknowledgement from like-minded members. To me, the fact that Anonymous has become an organization whose goal is merely notoriety, is the most laughable irony I can imagine.

Anonymous is nothing but a terrorist organization and as such must be exorcised from the face of the Earth. They're criminals; so of course they wear masks! The difference between a freedom fighter and a criminal is that a freedom fighter accepts the consequences of his pursuit of a worthy goal, while a criminal tries to hide from the consequences of his pursuit of a selfish goal.

Anonymous must be unmasked. Its members must be exposed, hunted down, and finally, they must face justice, just as Guy Fawkes faced justice on this day 409 years ago. It will take the combined genius of humanity to defeat them. I believe that the only successful way to unmask these criminals is through development of an artificially intelligent anti-hacking system which analyzes previous hacking exploits and learns to identify patterns which they have in common. Legitimate users follow particular easily recognizable patterns while hackers follow different ones.

Ultimately any successful anti-hacking system must learn to ask the question: If I were the owner of this website/data repository, would I want this information or access to be granted to this person...or not? Because this question requires discernment, true artificial intelligence will be required to ever usefully answer this question.

h/t Hankering for History's Today in History

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Can John Kerry Top Hillary Clinton's Debacle in Benghazi?

We are sometimes confronted by something odious that we do our best to ignore. Maybe it's a dead cockroach on the office floor. Maybe it's a bum with his hand out. This morning it was on Google New's front page, and I found that even though I struggled mightily to ignore the headline, finally the compulsion to inspect this nugget of obscenity was just too much. The headline read: "Can John Kerry Top Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State." I thought to myself: holy crap I hope not!

But seriously, I knew what Peter Weber the author of this warm cupful of adoring puppy vomit was really going for. He sat down at his word processor and asked the question: how do I compare two sunrises? How can I ask the smell of warm rain on a summer day to compete with the smell of a field of flowering honeysuckle in the spring? If Zeus and Superman battled it out, who would come out come on top?

It's like Benghazi never happened. It's as though we weren't transferring military weaponry including assault rifles and stinger missiles to the same Al-Qaeda forces who are now using them to stage uprisings throughout Africa. Hillary Clinton's days holding the title of Secretary of State are arguably the most damaging that our country has ever faced. If lies, backstabbing, and outright treason are the measure of success then no, I don't see how it's possible for John Kerry to ever top Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.
The son of a U.S. diplomat, Kerry grew up "among the rubble of Berlin" and other locales in post–World War II Europe, so "he has diplomacy sewn into his DNA," says the AFP's Jo Biddle. And he has spent his entire 28 years in the Senate as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the last four as chairman, so he's no stranger to America's current challenges in the world or the foreign leaders he will now confront as the country's top diplomat. But "he has big shoes to fill." Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "has won accolades and the expansive title of 'the rock star diplomat' during her four years on the job." How will Kerry stack up against one of the most popular secretaries of state in modern times?
What a miserable pathetic hack this guy Peter Weber is. Really, it's people like him in the press who cause me to despair. I don't see how our nation can survive when people like him are allowed to publish a thousand words of saccharine sweet complete and utter bullshit like this.

Monday, January 28, 2013

College degrees and cargo cults

I'm one of the few these days who doesn't possess a college degree. The most recent census data shows that because of this I'll only earn $32,493 annually, as compared to someone with a bachelor's degree who will earn $59,415. Obviously then a college education is a sagacious investment, right? Those with four-year degrees are earning nearly twice as much. Allow me, please, to throw a monkey-wrench into the intricate windings of these your apparent assumptions. Correlation does not imply causation.

It's amazing to me that supposedly educated human-beings don't apply this fundamental scientific paradigm to their own educational achievement vis–à–vis their earnings. Yes it's true that people who have achieved higher levels of education tend to earn a higher salary. That cannot be denied. There is certainly a very strong correlation between the two. However, what can be implied about the relationship? Does a degree cause higher pay, or are the two things merely outcomes of the same underlying cause?

Consider the cargo cults of the pacific islands, post WWII. These primitive aboriginal islanders observed events during the war that left a profound influence upon their culture. During the war, first the Japanese, and later Allied forces, airlifted supplies, built landing strips, temporary control towers, and living quarters on their islands. Because of this the natives experienced a dramatic increase in their own wealth and quality of life. There was a correlation between the activity they witnessed—planes landing on airstrips—and their own well-being. What were they to do once the war was over and the advanced culture abandoned them?

Because the Melanesian islanders failed to understand the difference between correlation and causation, they foolishly engaged in elaborate and pointless construction of mock-ups of landing strips, bamboo airplanes, coconut headphones, rows of signal fires, etc. They believed that these ancillary indicators of an advanced culture—without actually having the advance culture itself—would magically endow them with the wealth and benefits they associated with the advanced culture that had now left them behind. They didn't understand that the landing strips and planes weren't the cause of the wealth these pacific islanders experienced; these landing strips and planes as well as the attendant food and other supplies were merely the outcome of an underlying cause which is that an advanced culture needed to temporarily occupy their tiny island and in doing so airlifted in tons of food, beverages, and all manner of technological marvels that these islanders could only conceive of as somehow magical.

Supply and demand is one of those simple concepts that people proceed to completely ignore after gaining a rudimentary understanding of the concept. Its importance when making life-shaping decisions should never be ignored yet that is precisely what is happening today.

If you're in the commodities market and you find out that California oranges are having a banner year and a bumper crop, you're going to bid lower on those orange futures, and so is everyone else. A vast supply of oranges means that each orange is less valuable. Recently some investors thought it would be a good idea to send a spaceship out to try to find an asteroid made of platinum or gold. Imagine what would happen if they succeeded? If they not only found an asteroid in space with as much as a million tons of gold in it, but then succeeded in bringing it back it would devastate the commodities markets. As the story unfolded, the price of gold would pogo up and down with every success and every setback. Ultimately if that gold landed safely on planet Earth, the price of gold would fall to that of silver, perhaps less. One could expect the same thing were the asteroid comprised of platinum or diamonds. It is the scarcity of these rare minerals rather than their functional utility that causes their innate value to be what it is.

All that I've mentioned is common sense and only someone lacking such, would argue the point. What then can be said about this recent huge push to credential every human being on the planet with at the bare minimum a college diploma? I can easily imagine that there was once a time when a high-school diploma had real value. Think of represented in concrete terms the fulfillment of a course of some twelve years of rigorous study. A graduate had mastered basic understanding of various fundamentally important studies in the maths and sciences as well as language and culture. These days when you check off the box that says high-school diploma, it's merely a formality. They may demand you provide two proofs of American citizenship but everybody knows they're not going to demand a look-see at that high-school diploma. It's a given. As such it has little real worth. If you're looking for a job and you claim a high school diploma on the job application without actually having one, it's the same as having one. It's not something that is normally checked on. It's assumed to be true, therefore for this reason, a lie is as good as the truth.

As progressivism progresses I foresee a day when a bachelor's degree will become the equivalent of yesterday's high school diploma. That is to say that it will be equally universally assumed and equally valueless. Why bother checking to make sure an applicant really does have something that practically everyone actually does have? So do we move up one level with tomorrow's master's degree becoming the equivalent of yesterday's bachelor's degree?

For those who suspect that I'm jumping the gun and who still believe that a four-year college degree is a thing of value, I present for you this study which I will quote in brief:
Nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they're overqualified, a new study out Monday suggests.

The study, released by the non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity, says the trend is likely to continue for newly minted college graduates over the next decade.

"It is almost the new normal," says lead author Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the center, based in Washington.

Vedder, whose study is based on 2010 Labor Department data, says the problem is the stock of college graduates in the workforce (41.7 million) in 2010 was larger than the number of jobs requiring a college degree (28.6 million).

That, he says, helps explain why 15% of taxi drivers in 2010 had bachelor's degrees vs. 1% in 1970. Among retail sales clerks, 25% had a bachelor's degree in 2010. Less than 5% did in 1970.

"There are going to be an awful lot of disappointed people because a lot of them are going to end up as janitors," Vedder says. In 2010, 5% of janitors, 115,520 workers, had bachelor's degrees, his data show.
In conclusion, the only thing that can be demonstrated—and even this with ever less frequency—is that people with college degrees make more money. This fact fails to examine why they make more money. Is it because their college learning magically allows them to be more productive? Does that diploma somehow mystically confer upon them the ability to more efficiently crank out more widgets than the less credentialed? Does it allow them to sell more blenders or even to have the conceptual understanding of—for instance—the law of supply and demand? This foolish pursuit of credentials in a world increasingly oversupplied with college graduates is to me, as equally foolish as a tribe of savages on some pacific island strapping coconuts to their heads and marching up and down between the rows of signal fires.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

At long last, is the honeymoon finally over?

This is a one of those iconic images that says it all. It represents something that I've been noticing lately. It's a turning point. You wouldn't have seen something like this a few months ago. More and more, it seems as though mainstream media is losing its star struck awe of Obama. We're actually seeing news regarding Obama that's no longer being spun as the Messiah speaking from on high. Does this fly picture signal that now that he's won the election he's fair game, that he can be criticized perhaps even ridiculed? It's probably too early to tell, and will perhaps depend on how well he focuses on what the progressive liberal media expects from him.

Martin Bashir—an unabashed progressive spinmeister who I'm sure you've come to despise perhaps as much as I do—has come far enough around on Obama that recently we were permitted to learn on his show that perhaps Obama has been the recipient of more soft-serve creampuff questions than most people are aware of.
Judges and attorneys have for at least the past fifty years been far to the left of mainstream working class Americans and so Obama's string of court victories both on Obama Care as well as immigration was virtually assured. Therefore it is with some surprise that we are told that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has unanimously ruled that Obama's NLRB recess appointments are unconstitutional. This decision is a startlingly clear rebuke to this ex-Constitutional Law Professor. It's a clear signal to Obama and the Whitehouse that they've overstepped their constitutional authority, that these unilateral decisions which infringe on the separation of powers had better cease, and that Obama had best get himself in check tout de suite

To me, Obama's apparent and sudden loss of popularity is a lot like those child stars that emerge suddenly and inexplicably, and depart just as suddenly and just as inexplicably. For however long they ride their wave of popularity they're feted and worshipped, but when the glamour and gold-dust starts to wear off, the journey to has-been status happens so quickly that it might as well be teleportation.

Is this going to be four years of bitter sour-grapes lame duck President Obama stymied at every turn? We can but only hope so. Obama's traditionally brazen attitude wherein he says and does whatever he wants while the media covers and runs interference could be a thing of the past. Did you notice how quickly the Beyonce lip syncing story got out there? The media not only didn't try to cover it up, they actually reported it. It was to me literally surreal. It's been more than four years since the mainstream media actually did any kind of investigative reporting and I had forgotten what that was like.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Walking Buzzards Chapter 11

I'm reading Hampton Sides' book Hellhound On His Trail. It's written from a certain perspective that comes across vaguely but unmistakably. This is not a book report per se; it's more an opinion report. Let me quote for you a few passages that stand out particularly for me:
They made less than a hundred dollars a week, and because the city regarded them as "unclassified laborers," they had no benefits, no pension, no overtime, no grievance procedure, no insurance, no uniforms, and especially noteworthy on this day, no raincoats. The "tub-toters" of the Public Works Departments were little better off than sharecroppers in the Delta, which is where they and their families originally hailed from. In some ways they still lived the lives of fieldhands; in effect the plantation had moved to the city. They wore threadbare hand-me-downs left on the curbs by well-meaning families. They grew accustomed to home owners who called them "boy." They mastered a kind of shuffling gait—neither fast nor slow, neither proud nor servile, a gait that drew no attention to itself.

Now, as Crain, Cole, and Walker headed for the dump, their clothes were drenched in rain and encrusted with the juice that had dripped from the tubs all day. It was the usual slop of their profession—bacon drippings, clotted milk, chicken blood, souring gravies from the old kitchens of East Memphis mingled with the tannic swill from the old leaves. Plastic bags were not yet widely in use. No Ziploc or Hefty, no drawstrings or cinch ties to keep the sloshy messes contained.

So the ooze accumulated on their clothes like a malodorous rime, and the city provided no showers or laundry for sanitation workers to clean themselves up at the end of the day. The men grew somewhat inured to it, but when they got home, they usually stripped down at the door: their wives couldn't stand the stench.

This undignified job these poor men were doing—without the protection of a labor union the author makes quite evidently clear—ended predictably and very badly. After an undignified life these nouveau-serfs ended up somehow caught inside the death-trap of the compacter on the back of this reportedly unsafe waste removal contraption.
The screams were terrible as the compactor squeezed and ground them up inside. Crain frantically mashed the button. (the off button) He could hear a terrible snapping inside—the crunch of human bone and sinew. The motor moaned on and on.

The story of the fatal accident scarcely made news in the Memphis paper the next morning. There was just a small item in the Commercial Appeal—a drab announcement with all the emotion of a bankruptcy notice.
This terrible accident was the catalyst that ignited the Memphis sanitation workers strike on February 12, 1968 which I assume—having not yet gotten that far in the book—that King was later somehow involved with.

I have a dilemma. On the one hand I'm trying to keep an open mind and read this account of the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the motivation of the killer leading up to it. On the other hand this vivid description of such unimaginable suffering and indignity that was routinely suffered by downtrodden black people of that time is so completely outside of and foreign to my own experience as someone who was born in 1967 and grew up without seeing any of it, that it’s difficult for me to even imagine it. They say it was that way, so I suppose it was, yet ... just a few years later in my first year of kindergarten in 1972 Georgia, I never witnessed any of this racism that they say was so prevalent.

How did everything change so quickly? Was it really the death of one man? Should I believe what Mr. Sides is telling me, or should I put more faith in how it was for those I knew, those around me? This account again reinforces my personal belief that I have a different history, that I grew up in some other universe and somehow shifted into this parallel dimension, this darker, meaner, so much more savage dimension.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Why does it matter? I'll tell you why it matters!

A friend of mine doesn't understand why it matters that Beyonce lip-synced the national anthem at Obama's inaugural address. Not only was it breathtakingly dishonest, not only did it put the icing on Obama's grotesque towering cake of lies, it lit the candle and then blew it out too! That the national media's only response to this is to ask why it matters, is really such a stunning sentiment, such a failure of comprehension about what being an American means that really, I don't understand why there aren't 300 million broken televisions sets littering every street in the nation. Why does it matter? Are you kidding me!

This whole controversy reminded me of an earlier one of the same kind. If you haven't ever seen Tosh.0 on Comedy Central you're missing out. Daniel Tosh, the host, picks a variety of funny YouTube videos and while they're playing makes funny comments. He picks one of those videos and invites the participants on his show for what he calls: “web redemption.” I mention this because you know who deserves redemption? Rosanne Barr. I know, I know. She's nothing but a psycho liberal kook these days, but I want you to think back, back to when she was a little more on the normal side. It was before her National Anthem days. Take a look at this:

Yes, it was awful. It was awful in a lot of ways. It displayed a complete lack of understanding by both Rosanne Barr and the people who thought this asinine rendition of the anthem would be entertaining, perhaps even funny? They didn't get it. They thought it would be funny to put a comedian in a situation for which she was entirely unsuited. She was completely unable to hit the high notes, and she was flat through most of the song, meaning that either she'd never been coached through it or she was even perhaps intentionally making it worse. I thoroughly believe that both she and those responsible for putting her out there were totally surprised by the audience's reaction. They didn't see it coming. You see, they don't understand patriotism.

I'm unable to do a television redemption like Daniel Tosh is. I'm unable to invite Rosanne Barr on my show and explain where she went wrong, and allow her to try again. I can't do any of that. However with simple words I'll try to explain to her—in case she happens to read this and to anyone else who doesn't understand—why the National Anthem is not a laughing matter, nor a lip-syncing one, and why it matters.

Rosanne...Okay I've listened to you sing. Honey...I'll be blunt. Don't quit your comedian job okay? You couldn't sing happy birthday with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing harmony. It's not your fault. You have your funny moments but the National Anthem wasn't one of them. You see, you understand what's funny most of the time, but in this case you don't understand patriotism. If you did it wouldn't have gone like this.

Most of us have family that have been here for more generations than we even know about, unless the family genealogist drags out his scrap book and bangs it into our heads. This is your Great Uncle Danny Carpenter. He was killed in WWII. This was Danny's wife Phyllis...and their daughter—your aunt—Aunt Ellen. Almost every American has a family member somewhere in their line that saluted a flag, took an oath and fought on foreign soil to protect freedom back here on American soil. Many of those who fought, also died in that fight. Can you understand that it was not just their sacrifice, it was also ours. They lost their lives and that's a terrible loss when they were so young, but we who lost them, lost also . We lost all those years we could have had with them. With the children they never had, the stories they never told. The love and brotherhood they never got the chance to share with us.

If you can't understand that then try to understand this: Many Americans came here to America seeking a better life. They left everything behind, their families, their friends, their jobs, their homes, everything! They bet it all on a hope and a prayer. They came here and some of them didn't even speak our language. I'm talking about the ones who came here legally by the way, not the ones who sneaked across illegally. I'm talking about the ones who followed our rules from day one and agreed to obey our laws. When they made it, when they looked around them at their new lives, their new friends, their new family, new job, new home, new everything, they felt not only pride in their accomplishment, not only pride at being an American, but pride of America itself. That's patriotism, too. Can't you see Rosanne how at some point any of us would look upon the symbol of our freedom and feel proud? Can't you see how angry you would feel if you were us and some idiot like you spit on our symbol? Rosanne this Country is the last hope of mankind. I know you don't believe that today. I know with your millions and your private plane and all it's hard for you to understand that for the rest of us, this is it. This is our home and we don't want you stinking it up with your unpatriotic not even remotely funny anthem shrieking.

It matters Rosanne because we, our family, our friends, every one of us, feels this amazing feeling that I guess you don't understand. Maybe you'd think of it as brainwashing, Rosanne, honestly I'm not sure that people like you ever could understand that feeling. It's the pride you'd feel watching your son win the ballgame with a grand-slam home run or a touchdown. It's both the joy and the sadness you'd feel watching your daughter kiss the groom. It's the reason we're here. It's the meaning of life. And listening to you sing what you sang makes us angry Rosanne. It's the fury you'd feel if someone threatened your three-year-old daughter. It's the feeling you'd get if someone stood up in front of you, pulled out their peter, and then literally pissed in your face. Are you starting to understand yet Rosanne? There are a few things we would give our lives for. They include God, family, and the USA.

Rosanne the only way you can make this right is by trying to understand where we come from, and how proud we are to be Americans. You don't piss on me, my family, my Bible or my flag. If you're disrespectful or dismissive to any of those, you're not going to hear any of us clapping; you're going to hear the opposite. Now dry your eyes Rosanne and read us your 500 word essay on what patriotism means to you. Good. Now Rosanne I want you to lead all of us as we all sing the national anthem. You lead, and don't worry about it; we'll hit those high notes.

As for you Obama and you Beyonce...


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My daily battle for sanity

What causes insanity? Is it genetics? Is it environment? Do we all carry within us the seeds of insanity such that fertile ground will see it grow? I'm not completely sure. It's my opinion however, that it's a mixture of both genetics and environment.

Some people are slow to wake. You call their name. You gently shake their shoulder. They open their eyes and look at you. But still, you can see something that's not quite right in their eyes. It's like they're there with you, and yet they're split-off somehow and still partially living in a dream. You can ask them questions and they'll answer you but their answers reveal that they're not quite here with you in this world ... in reality.

I've often wondered if those unclassifiable cases—like schizophrenics for instance—have somehow gotten partially stuck in a dream. They're here with us, yet also somewhere else in a dream. Luckily for me, I doubt I'll ever have that problem. I'm a light sleeper and wake instantly and alertly.

The kind of insanity I'm most susceptible to is stress related. I remember once about twenty-six years ago when my girlfriend's mother lost it, and had to go to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. On the day it happened, it was as though I was one of those clinical observers watching an experiment as inexorable pressure was applied until finally the breaking point was reached. Mrs. Bristle—not really her name—had two older daughters and one younger son. The daughters were both in high-school and the son was a year shy of kindergarten. As a boyfriend it was understood that I could never ever take any side but that of my girlfriend but in this particular case I knew she was wrong. So I remained silent. Still, I feel partially responsible because I stood by silently and did nothing.

This is what happened. Two girls and one boy were told to be silent because their constant noise and chatter was upsetting this wife and mother. The father was away on a business trip as he often was; doing whatever it is that engineers do.

Mrs. Bristle announced clearly and forcefully that she needed quiet because the pandemonium in the house was about to make her go crazy. You see? These children were applying force to the breaking point—pressure—and the purpose of this force was perhaps to get their way, perhaps to have fun, perhaps to drive a mother crazy. I don't really know. They wanted, whatever it was they wanted, and so with the single-minded energy that only the young have, they pursued whatever goal it was they had in mind.

When Mrs. Bristle clued them in to this, her mental weakness, you could almost see their eyes light up! The noise and bedlam redoubled. The louder she screamed for quiet the louder they became in return. I sat on the couch amazed and astounded. What was happening here? It was a complete loss of control. Mrs. Bristle was breaking down before my eyes and her children were literally throwing themselves against the walls of her sanity over and over. It was evil. And it worked. I'm the one who called the ambulance and that was also the end of that particular relationship.

And so finally I come to the point. There are those who will push you to the breaking point and then past it, if you let them. Don't ask them for mercy because that only encourages them. I don't know if evil is genetic or if it's like a disease in our environment that slowly infects those who're susceptible and finally turns them into complete and utter evil bastards, I only know that just like there are crazy people, there are also evil people that try to drive them crazy.

There are two ways I know of to ease the pressure before you totally lose it. The first is escape. Everyone seeks escape much of the time. Every night for instance we escape for about eight hours or so while we sleep. There's also the escape we find in entertainment. Whether that's television, movies, books, video games, internet activities, alcohol, drugs, eating, gambling, etc, there are many ways to escape. Unfortunately there are some that are very destructive. Drugs and Facebook head that list. If you're popping pills, piercing a vein, or poking your Facebook friend, you probably need professional help.

The second way to ease the pressure is by actively pushing back. This is almost always uncomfortable, it's usually difficult, and it can sometimes backfire. People don't like it when you push back so they'll naturally try to punish you in a variety of ways. Your boss might try to trap you in some kind of verbal imbroglio where you come out and admit that you think he's either an idiot or an a-hole. All he needs is a concrete expression of disrespect and he can then redouble the pressure he can bring to bear against you. Remember that whatever you say can and will be used against you whether you're under arrest or not. So, again pushing back against pressure can definitely backfire. With that said however, it's the only way to permanently relieve some of the pressure.

If your spouse says she wants you to do more, just know that she's applying pressure to get whatever it is that she wants. At that moment you have to decide if the relationship has grown too one-sided and if you believe that she doesn't do enough you should definitely push back. If she says she wants you to do more, tell her you want her to do more. Be specific. I can't stress that enough. Tell her you'll write up a list of the things that she's not taking responsibility for and that you'll get back to her once you have everything jotted down. You don't have to be able to come up with this stuff on the fly. You just have to be able to explain that there are areas which could definitely use some improvement. The same thing goes for work. If co-workers are constantly trying to foist their own responsibilities off on you, then you have to think of a way to safely push back. Remember that just like Israel discovered, sometimes when the question is life and death, for your own peace of mind, you may have to push them back much further than they ever expected.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doing business in the Golden State never gets easier

Yesterday from about 3:00 PM to after 6:00 PM I was stuck in one of those endless meetings. Our company is going to have to change the way we do our payroll for California. We're doing business in multiple states and with the exception of the Golden State we have a fairly free hand to keep our own pay schedule. California law now decrees that employees must be paid within seven days of the end of a particular pay period. Our normal routine elsewhere is to pay on Thursday for the pay period ending on the Sunday eleven days earlier. The reasons for taking eleven days to prepare our payroll are various but they all come down to one thing: the incredible complexity of our far-flung system.

For one thing, in most of our client locations there are no time clocks. We assign security officers to more than 300 client location throughout the country. It is thus impossible to centrally and electronically account for their time. We rely on time sheets turned in, client time tracking systems, supervisor log sheets, post-commander schedules, etc. It's complex...very complex. But we've managed to get it done within those eleven days week after week. It's a part of the job I've been doing for the past 16 years.

Time tracking is only a small part of the picture of course. There's also all the other little things that go along with payroll that nobody ever thinks about; all the child support and wage garnishments; all the various state licensing required in order to be a security guard and the tracking of license expiration dates, continuing education, state fees to be deducted from paychecks, etc. In addition to this mandatory complexity we also offer payroll advances. This is a highly popular feature of working at my company. You don't have to go to one of those nearly-criminal check-cashing payday advance fly-by-nights. We don't charge interest because they've already worked the hours and we already owe them that money. They're just getting it a little early. Did I mention our employee taxi service? You say your car is broken down? For a nominal fee we will transport you to your post. All these licensing fees, payroll advances, transports, child support requirements, tax levies, and garnishments in a thousand different flavors are all waiting their turn to be handled within that eleven day window. All-in-all payroll is a rolling nightmare that resets every Thursday.

Except that now ... we have to get California's payroll to them by Sunday night. What a screaming nightmare! It just doesn't ever get better does it? When was the last time that California did something that made it easier instead of harder on employers? They've already got this insane overtime system where if employees work more than eight hours in a single day, hours after eight are paid at time-and-a-half, while hours after twelve are paid at double-time. Moreover there's the seven day rule. If any employee works seven or more consecutive days without a day off—even if that's only one hour a day—the seventh and every day thereafter are paid at time-and-a-half—with hours over eight paid at double-time. Finally last but not least there's still the time-and-a-half after 40 hours in a week rule. In short it's not hard to get paid time-and-a-half or double-time in California.

So do we try to pay everyone in the entire country by Monday and keep one pay-day, or do we have two pay-days? Two payroll tax deposits? Two sets of payroll registers...and on and on and on. I'll save you the suspense it's the latter. It's stuff like this that makes me believe that the entire state of California is likely to go the way of Detroit. So you'll understand my confusion when I stumbled upon this:
SACRAMENTO -- As he prepares to deliver the third State of the State speech of his third term on Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown will be peering down from a lofty political perch that he may never ascend to again.

Even this late in his political travels, the 74-year-old Brown can safely be called a political phenomenon. He's fresh off producing what many are calling a "miracle" deficit-free budget only two years after inheriting $27 billion in red ink. And the budget came only two months after he shocked the political world with his triumphant tax-hike ballot measure, Proposition 30.

Brown now has a command of the Capitol stage as only a handful of California politicians -- one of them his father, Gov. Pat Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown jokes with reporter during a news conference where he unveiled his 2013-14 state budget at the Capitol in Sacramento, Jan. 10, 2013. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)-- have enjoyed. And it's a good time for the son to have the wind at his back, as he prepares to push through a slew of major projects, ranging from a bullet train to a huge new water project.

"It's been a long time since any governor has been riding this high," said Ethan Rarick, director of UC Berkeley's Matsui Center at the Institute of Governmental Studies. "I'd say that Jerry Brown 2.0 has disproved skeptics every step of the way. If the economy goes south, they'll come back. But for now, it's hard to see how you could've done better than he's done."
They're touting revenue they haven't even collected yet and proclaiming that their deficit worries are over! What a scream! I don't know why they don't build five or ten bullet trains if all it takes to balance the budget is raising taxes. Why... who knows what they could do if they just raised taxes to one-hundred percent? You know what? That's a funny thing actually, because I found exactly that story recently where the magnificent and sagacious Governor Jerry Brown did exactly that:
Golden state leaders expressed shock and dismay today when the State Treasury announced that income tax revenues for the last quarter had dropped to near zero in spite of a recent increase in the effective income tax rate to 100%.

"This is not possible" said a visibly shaken Governor Jerry Brown as he sunbathed under a full moon at the state capitol. "Before every one of the umpteen-odd times my administration has raised taxes, we've commissioned studies by prestigious universities on the potential effects. Each of those studies concluded people really don't care about tax rates and that quality-of-life issues, like being able to sing Kumbaya on the beach while stoned, are more important to the public. Every single one of those studies predicted revenues would go UP after we increased taxes, but every time they fell. It simply doesn't make sense - studies by prestigious universities are never wrong."

Brown said he would propose commissioning a study by a prestigious university to study the previous studies by prestigious universities.

New state treasurer and former theatrical producer Max Bialystock was particularly alarmed at the latest figures. "Our projections were for one trillion dollars in revenue this quarter and every penny of that has been allocated already: 100% for the teachers pensions, 100% for the state employees pensions, 100% for the governor's pension, etc, etc. Requiring one trillion dollars and collecting zero dollars puts us in a big hole - I don't have the exact figures in front of me but I'm sure it's a lot."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pink fuzzy slippers and so-called assault weapons.

You've almost certainly seen a pair of pink fuzzy slippers. They're warm and cozy and nothing any real man is going to casually wear around the house. By using the phrase "real man" I mean a heterosexual male who demands that there be no unfortunate misunderstandings about his sexual orientation or about his ability to protect himself and his family. Real men typically cultivate the reputation of a being stand-up guys. We won't duck a fight, and we don't wear pink fuzzy slippers.

Now then, a lot of people misunderstand why that's so. They ask questions like: why are you so unsure about your masculinity? Do you hate homosexuals because secretly you are homosexual? Are you afraid that if you put these slippers on, that suddenly you'll get the urge to kick up your feet and dance around singing show tunes? Questions like these are all designed to put someone on the defensive, to stifle debate and silence dissent. When I was a kid one of the most devastating and vicious insults you could throw at somebody was to accuse him of being gay. If you called him a homo or a fag that was nothing less than an invitation to fight that could not be avoided without being forever tarred as the homo you'd just been accused of being.

Today the same vicious tactic is still being used. Even though they do it a little more circumspectly, it's still merely the same asinine accusation which is designed to silence any guy who is so asininely accused. Asking a husband and a father of six kids if he might not be a "closet homosexual" because he refuses to wear fuzzy pink-slippers is not only disgusting and demeaning, it's not just dishonest, it's also downright evil. I think you have to really examine the personality and the motivation of a person who would stoop that low.

I was an Army brat, son of divorced parents who both remarried. They took turns with custody each year; so every year it was a different school. If you're an army brat like me, you know that kids like us, we get in a lot of fights growing up. Every new school is just another place where first we have to prove ourselves. Sometimes it was possible for me to avoid a fight by intimidating the guy they'd picked to test me. If you can jump in the air and execute a perfect spinning back kick at above head height it can sometimes daunt that boyish battle fever. Of course nowadays everybody's a Karate Kid so I'm not sure how well that trick would work anymore, but nevertheless, being perceived as tough is still the best way to end up not actually having to fight.

Let me reiterate that point. If they believe you can kick their ass, you probably won't have to kick their ass! Which brings me back to those pink fuzzy slippers and finally to that so-called assault weapon. The same paradigm holds true for boyhood schoolyard combat as it does for adult confrontation.

Suppose that my rifle was friendly looking. Suppose I had a pink-fuzzy rifle with a seven round clip. I guess something like that would even be legal in the state of New York. It's so cute and adorable! It has little bunny ears right on the barrel, and instead of the scary-sounding metal on metal scraping sound of a gun cocking, when you pull the hammer back on this fluffy rifle it makes a delightful mweep-mweep sound like an excited bunny offered a carrot. Instead of a big scary open barrel down which a home-invader can almost see the fires of hell, there's a cute bunny nose complete with whiskers.

Can you see it? Can you envision this travesty, this misguided mockery of a firearm? If you can then maybe, just maybe you can see the one overwhelming problem with it? If it's not scary looking, if it doesn't announce by its appearance that somebody is close close close to death, then in all likelihood the person holding it will be forced to either pull the trigger or watch first in impotent terror and later with unendurable sorrow as first they take away his pink fuzzy gun and later do whatever they choose to with him and his family. Do you understand my point? If they believe you will kill them, you probably won't have to kill them!

When I was twelve years old, I had proved my responsibility enough times that my parents put a great deal of trust in me. On this occasion I'm about to tell you about, my mother and stepfather—both radiologists working at the same practice—had to go to Atlanta for a seminar. We lived in Augusta at the time and so they asked me if I was okay spending the night on my own. Sure I said, what could go wrong? Famous last words!

My sheltie—that's a miniature collie—woke me up in the middle of the night barking like crazy. I heard a banging sound like somebody was slamming a door over and over. I grabbed my nunchaku and headed out into the living room to find somebody about my size, maybe a little bigger, wrenching and yanking at our VCR. This guy was too stupid to unscrew the cable from the back and was just trying to tear it loose. I screamed "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" and I flourished my nunchaku extravagantly. I'm not into false modesty so let me just tell you that when you see me work my chucks you're going to be certain that I can definitely kick your ass. He dropped the VCR and ran downstairs where he scrambled through the window where he'd broken in. I called my grandmother who came over and then she called the police. They never caught the guy who broke in, but here's the take-away...I didn't have to use my chucks on anybody because when the bad guy saw I knew what I was doing with them, he didn't want to test me.

An "assault weapon" isn't an assault rifle. It's not designed to auto-fire multiple rounds. It's not designed to invade foreign countries or defend borders. It may have a folding stock. It's sinister, black, and shiny with scary looking bits poking out here and there for uncertain reasons. It may even have a bayonet! But honestly, I've never heard one story where the mass-murderer bayoneted his victims. So what is it about so-called assault style weapons that so alarms the gun-grabbers? Being scary-looking isn't a design flaw. It's supposed to scare the living shit out of anybody it's being pointed at. That way, maybe, just maybe...the person it's pointed at doesn't have to find out the hard way that it doesn't matter whether it's pink and fluffy or black and sinister, it still fires the same deadly hunk of lead at supersonic speeds.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Coronation of Emperor Barack I

Click the picture above to see Obama in his full-size majestic splendor. Well, I suppose that there are some people who will say that this painstakingly crafted rendition of a famous French painting is offensive. The original painting features the coronation of Emperor Napoleon I, some 208 years before today's coronation of Emperor Barack I.

If you find that you are offended, then just know that some of my arduous and painstakingly artistic efforts will not have been in vain. For today President Obama is Emperor Barack I. I can't think of a more apt comparison than Napoleon Bonaparte and Barack Obama. Men of such infinitely monumental egos as these two have but seldom glorified this mundane soil by trodding upon our humble Earth.

Today I look back upon my formative years. I was taught that I have the freedom of speech, albeit with numerous caveats. I can say what I want even if it offends others, and yet I was also instructed that I don't have the right to say certain things. There are words I'm forbidden to use and concepts I'm forbidden to illustrate. There are many ideas that are racist or sexist or bigoted or hateful that I'm not allowed to explain lest someone's imaginary world view become threatened by the hateful speech of reality.

It is only through the power of this implacable thought-control that Obama finds himself in the position he stands today. When you look back on the election and you wonder how it is that Obama won, consider not the things that were said but those left unsaid. Why didn't Romney mention reverend Jeremiah Wright? Why didn't he mention the flagrant forgery of a birth certificate? What did Obama have going on with Fast and Furious, and how can Obama protect Attorney General Eric Holder with executive privilege unless Obama himself was involved in it? Why didn't Romney ever mention Fast and Furious? Why did Romney allow the Benghazi boondoggle to go practically unremarked upon? In every case the answer is the same. It was the unparalleled power of the thought-control that was put in place by a vast left-wing conspiracy composed of the mainstream media, public education and subsidized universities, unions, and the Democratic Party.

This conspiracy was formed to do one thing, and that was to silence all contrary and dissenting voices. It was so successful that today we will coronate an Emperor who can at long last finally abolish the useless freedoms found within the Constitution and institute in their place a true and lasting state of identical wealth and equality of outcome for every citizen.

No longer will America be the land of the free. Instead we will be the land of the fair. Fair means everyone will have the same wealth as everyone else. No more will the poor have to huddle in front of a space-heater while the other five rooms in their house are left cold. No more will the rich live like princes in their mansions eating pheasant under glass and drinking hundred-dollar bottles of wine, while the poor are forced to eat hamburger-helper and drink Kool-Aid. No more will some kids be forced to ride the bus to school while other more fortunate kids are chauffeured in a Rolls Royce. Instead there will be a fairness doctrine that will be instituted by Imperial Decree.

Because wealth will necessarily be confiscated from the rich, there is probably going to be some anger and perhaps even unrest. Those who find themselves less well off than they were, may become bitter. They may even become defiant. Perhaps even—dare I suggest it?—openly rebellious! Let me be the first to inform you that rebellion and any kind of insurrection will absolutely not be tolerated in this new Empire of the United States. There's not going to be any kind of civil disobedience either! Because guns are a tool of rebellion they also are no longer going to be tolerated.

There's no use crying over spilled milk or lost freedom. You're going to have to look on the bright side. Yes, Obama Care will necessarily cause the cost of health care to skyrocket. Yes, new EPA regulations will necessarily cause the price of gasoline, electricity, and natural gas to skyrocket. And yes, coal will just have to stay in the ground where it belongs. So, if you work in the coal industry you'll need to look into food stamps and subsidized housing. See this is the bright side. Even though prices will go up and wages will go down, because of this you'll at some point be able to qualify for government assistance. There are all kinds of programs for the poor. The bright side is this: Poor is the new rich. The price of everything is necessarily going to go up, and this while everyone's wages will remain flat or perhaps even fall. This is for our own good. You see, we're too rich. Sorry, but America is just too rich.

Yes, that's what I said. Even the poorest American is too rich in global terms. Spreading the wealth means spreading it off of American soil and onto lands and peoples that hate us because we are too rich. Emperor Barack understands that hatred caused by jealousy can only be appeased by making everyone on Earth equally rich—or as some would say—equally poor, depending on your perhaps biased standpoint.

On this, Emperor Barack I's coronation day I am sure that many of you who voted for Emperor Obama are happily hailing Obama while fingering through your rosary beads, and thanking God and Jesus for these four more years of Hope'n'Change. My own hope and my own fervent prayer is that those of you who are responsible for Emperor Barack The First, will get everything that you've asked for and everything that you've got coming to you.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rules are rules?

Lance Armstrong is a dirty cheater. He's also a philanthropist who's spent countless hours helping millions of cancer victims and their families. Some people love him; some people hate him. I don't really have an opinion, although what I remember most about him is a dodge ball movie.

I won't make many friends with my argument here today. I won't find many who agree. That doesn't matter. I hope you consider what I have to say fairly, and if you want to talk about it, please feel free to comment below.

I don't think that taking performance enhancing drugs is cheating.

I said, I don't think that taking performance enhancing drugs is cheating. Whether it's safe or not is a different question, and certainly one that should be examined, but I'll never understand why everyone thinks there's something wrong with it.

Let's look at both sides of this argument:
The use of performance enhancers is cheating because it violates constitutive rules of the activity. Since such use is cheating, it is wrong and we should expect the disqualification of competitors who are caught doping. This conclusion is established through a simple and straightforward argument. Cheating is the deliberate, knowing, and voluntary violation of certain constitutive rules in order to gain a competitive advantage. Since the violation is knowing, the attempt to gain an advantage is illegitimate and unethical, and the advantage sought is thus unfair. The knowing and voluntary use of proscribed substances is an attempt to gain such an unfair advantage. Some specified performance enhancers, anabolic steroids for example, are listed as proscribed substances in certain sports. The deliberate use of steroids is thus an illegitimate attempt to gain an unfair advantage. We conclude that their use is cheating.
Well, I've just got to say it. I'm flummoxed flabbergasted and appalled! That's the argument against performance enhancing drugs? I re-read that paragraph several times and all it says is that rules are rules. You can boil it all down to that one sentence: Rules are rules. What a fatuous and asinine argument that is! Why? Why are rules, rules? What were they before they were rules? Not-rules? I'm serious. Every time somebody holds forth with the rules are rules, point I just feel like winding up a bitchslap like Roger Clemons winding up a fastball. So what? Rules are rules? I suppose water is water too? U.S. Water, Mexican water. It doesn't matter because guess what? Water is water, right? What, you have a problem with Mexican water Amigo?

Here's the other side:
There is no difference between elevating your blood count by altitude training, by using a hypoxic air machine, or by taking EPO [erythropoietin]. But the last is illegal. Some competitors have high PCVs [packed cell volumes] and an advantage by luck. Some can afford hypoxic air machines. Is this fair? Nature is not fair. Ian Thorpe has enormous feet which give him an advantage that no other swimmer can get, no matter how much they exercise. Some gymnasts are more flexible, and some basketball players are seven feet tall. By allowing everyone to take performance enhancing drugs, we level the playing field. We remove the effects of genetic inequality. Far from being unfair, allowing performance enhancement promotes equality.
Well, that's just a solid argument in my book. I'd like to hear your argument against that one. I'll just bring up a few more points and call it a day.

Some people say that using performance enhancing drugs is cheating because people who follow the rules don't use them and therefore the ones who do have an unfair advantage. Well, that's true I guess, as far as it goes, but then again, competitors use a variety of strategies that other competitors don't use, many times because they can't afford them, many times because they don't know about them, many times because they're physically unable to follow them. One thing is certain; the ones who utilize the most effective training strategies tend to win the most competitions. Here's what gets me though: when it gets right down to it, the only argument is that it's unfair to use them because other competitors don't use them and so they just don't do it... because rules are rules! Do you see where this is going? "RULES ARE RULES," IS NOT AN ARGUMENT!!!!

Ok, let's look at this a different way. What if we subject the whole performance enhancing argument to my favorite technique: Reductio Ad Absurdum?

Suppose your argument is that because these performance enhancing drugs are not natural, because they're artificially invented by some mad-scientist type in a laboratory somewhere it's just naturally wrong. You see artificial is unnatural and therefore should not be allowed. We don't want some crazy mad-scientist Dr. Jeykll pharmaceuticals causing Mr. Hyde up in here. Yes that's right! We're only going to allow natural herbal supplements. But what if?... What if somebody found a plant that did the same thing as anabolic steroids? Let's just pretend that this plant has been growing in the jungles of Borneo for thousands of years. It's a secret closely guarded by the Ibu Dayak, a tribe of headhunters. These savages have been shrinking heads since time immemorial and seeing as how they don't want their own heads to be shrunken in return, this performance enhancing plant they've discovered is a highly prized, highly valued, closely guarded professional headhunting secret.

Ah! but then you say: No No No! Rules are rules! Absolutely no performance enhancing drugs whether they are natural or artificial are to be allowed. Except vitamins of course. And maybe some other stuff that's not all that effective. Well actually there's a whole list of artificial mad-scientist chemistry that's apparently okay to use. I guess a board or a panel gets together and looks at the evidence. If the artificial or naturally occurring substance actually does have real physical benefits it's not allowed. So by that logic I suppose we should also prohibit protein? And exercise? And practice? These are all things people take or perform before a competition that helps them perform at a higher level during competition.

Taking performance enhancing drugs during the off-season is not allowed. They call that cheating. Ok, well, since we're declaring something somebody does when they're not even playing the game cheating, how about we also declare that what the competitors' parents did before they were even born can also be cheating? I mean, if chewing an Ibu Dayak headshrinker leaf, five years before you ever even learned how to ride a bicycle is cheating, then obviously that means that if your parents chewed it before you were born then you're now likewise perhaps a cheater today. I'm sorry sir, it's come to our attention that your mother was spotted chewing a leaf from Borneo when you were living in her tummy, therefore you'll never be allowed to compete in any sport in the known universe...ever. Sorry about that old boy, better luck next incarnation. This is Reductio Ad Absurdum. How far back are we going to go to make sure there's no cheating? Adam and Eve?

Before you stand up and declare that I've just erected a straw man fallacy, consider the state of genetic science. Who is to say that scientists won't genetically engineer a super athlete in a test tube and then put it in mama's tummy? Would that be fair? What if they gave a kid flippers? Not allowed you say? Well what if I'm some kind of mutant-freak with webbed feet and because of my naturally occurring mutation I become a world-champion swimmer is that fair? If that's fair then what about a mechanical advantage Like Oscar Pistorius? If he can have blades then who is to say what kind of artificial appendages a swimmer could have? You see where this is going don't you? I guess we'll just have to come up with something regarding how effective these fake legs/flippers are allowed to be. There will have to be a panel or a committee or something. They'll need to make some rules...

If genetic manipulation is against the rules, what about a program where the top competitors are selected and crossbred so that ever more talented and powerful athletes are born? This is not natural selection it's artificial selection and therefore...You can't compete because both your mother and your father were athletes and that unfair pairing constitutes a sort of reproductive cheating strategy...sorry pal, rules are rules.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It's The Violence Stupid!

Cause and effect are often complicated. In the national gun-rights vs. gun-control argument, the left categorically refuses to admit that any cause of violence exists other than guns, and therefore any solution other than banning guns is a waste of time. We can't change people is their argument so we have to make people less capable of doing harm. They don't want to examine what makes people violent. They don't want to admit that it is our culture of make-believe violence glorified on television, in movies, in music, in video games, comic books, and clothing that is the probable cause of all the real violence out on the street. It's not 24-7 pretend murder on television they say, it's too many guns. Get rid of the guns and there will finally be peace on Earth. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Here's a case in point. You might think that spending hours every day playing violent video games like Grand Theft Auto where you steal cars, run over pedestrians, and shoot cops would encourage anti-social behavior. This just seems intuitive, but not so argues Fareed Zakaria of CNN, who says: Don't blame the video games:
Presumably, then, if violent video games somehow translated into more deadly gun-related behavior you would expect the United States – which has far and away the highest levels of gun-related murders per-capita – to be the biggest spender on such games. But this is not the case. In fact, according to the Post’s figures, U.S. spending per-capita is ahead of only China. The Netherlands and South Korea spend more than twice as much per-capita on video games, yet gun murder rates in these two countries are far, far lower than those in the United States. Japan, which has some of the most graphically violent games and animation in the world, has violent crime rates that are a fraction of those in the United States.
Well there you have it. According to the Washington Post's "figures" South Korea spends more money per-capita on video games and they have a lower gun-related murder rate. Therefore it can't possibly be the video games, can it? At first this seems logical but actually it's an asinine fallacy. It's nothing but a shabby trick, a case of comparing apples to oranges. When you say it's not the video games Fareed, I wonder if you've properly followed the scientific method. I wonder if you've documented the names and backgrounds of your test subjects. I wonder if you've controlled for the video games being played such that all test subjects play the same violent video games. Where is your control group? This article by Fareed Zakaria is nothing but another asinine attempt to paint guns as the root of all evil. I wonder why they don't want me to be able to protect myself from violence? It's not just the dollar value spent on video games that defines whether a culture is violent or not. The violent video game market is only one thin slice of America's murder pie.

Americans are exposed to violence from early childhood on. Almost from the time we are old enough to begin watching Saturday morning cartoons we're treated to a veritable montage of gore, bombs, guns, car chase scenes, fistfights, stabbings, swordfights, and often magical or super powers used to inflict unimaginable mayhem upon society in the pursuit of world domination, revenge, or just plain evil. Practically every childhood story has a villain.

Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the Roadrunner are—as I recall—nonstop smorgasbords of violence exemplified. These cartoon characters get blown to smithereens throughout the length and breadth of every episode. Now you may believe that these cartoons are harmless because the characters suffer no lasting harm, but ask yourself this question, has the study of the human mind advanced to the point where we understand why people become violent? How many studies have been done where a study group is raised from birth to adulthood without this constant exposure to destructive impulses?

I understand as well as you do that it's not just our violent culture that causes these outrages like Sandy Hook, as well as the sickening and unreported violence of hundreds of murders of every kind with all-manner of weaponry all over the country every single day. There are all kinds of factors that comprise the totality of America's violence problem. Poverty is one, but especially the kind of poverty found in the setting of a high density urban population. It's the big cities that have the murder problem, not rural areas, and rarely suburbs. Lots of people would like to blame gangs, but gangs are nothing but a manifestation of our tribal nature. We naturally form alliances with those around us and in a culture where violence is celebrated and ubiquitous, a "gang" is naturally going to try to compete.

Have you ever heard of Knockout king? Imagine you are walking down the street, or standing in a crowd, or shopping at the mall. A group of young men is walking towards you. Perhaps you're aware of them, perhaps you aren't. You should be, but maybe you're all into whatever you see on the other side of that window, or that conversation you're having on your cell phone. One of the gangbangers steps away from his crew, and with no warning at all launches a hay-maker at your face. If he knocks you out in one punch he's Knockout King. Either way they all tear into you at that point and beat you senseless, rob you, and often strip you naked, laughing away as they steal away with all that remains of your dignity. This is a nightmarish scene right out of A Clockwork Orange and it happens often. We don't know how often because the mainstream media isn't interested in talking about this. They're only interested in disarming the citizenry.

Why does the mainstream media want a disarmed citizenry? It could be some underground fifth column organized in the heyday of the USSR, epitomized by the following list of Communist Goals that was entered into the Congressional record in 1963. The problem with all such conspiracy theory conjecture is that even if it's true, the fact that you believe it is enough to earn you your honorary tinfoil hat and a sturdy jacket with extra long sleeves. I don't honestly know what to believe, but what I've never been more certain about is that the more insistently the liberal media clamors for me to disarm, the more intransigently I will cling to my guns. In a nation where I don't have the right to own a gun, I'd just be another bloody naked degraded victim of the Knockout King, looking around dazedly as a crowd of people hurried by, too afraid of getting hurt to ever get involved.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Inescapably caught in a labyrinth of thorns

As a young boy with a voracious appetite for exploring the world, I never tired of pushing through dense thickets, easing my way through nearly impassible walls of twisted dead foliage that were themselves layered in intricate viney mazes and elaborate thorny traps. The secret to passing through these vegetative labyrinths was fearless determination. Slowly and methodically I listened to the pain of intrusive thorns as though they were teaching me a language I didn't know but was determined to master. This way, that way. Use this untrapped left hand to free my caught right leg. Lift this branch with my right hand and duck my head to the left while pushing my left leg forward another step. It was like a tai-chi form practiced by an obsessive compulsive contortionist. There were times when unwisely I went too far. I got caught and could not escape. It was then that I knew panic and fear. It was then in mastering that fear that I not only grew stronger but also wiser, where I learned the lessons that the world has to teach, where I was taught what it means to be a man.

If you've ever been trapped with no one there to help you, then some unimaginable growing up is suddenly required. You have probably heard about the mountain climber who cut off his own arm with a Swiss Army knife. The following video is incredibly graphic. The tension and the gore builds slowly so you'll be able to turn it off in plenty of time if it becomes too much for you.


I'm unable to imagine being caught like that, facing what he faced. My tests of thorns were pebbles on his mountain. But who knows, perhaps after 127 hours I too would have finally done what he was able to do. What I do know is that several times I faced breaking points. There was no way out. No way forward. I was just plain stuck and after screaming for help and no one coming I finally did what I had to do.

All alone and trapped in thorns gives a person time to think about who he is, where he comes from, and where he'd like to go. Unfortunately, what I learned mostly was that there was no trap I couldn't get out of. It taught me that I was superhuman and that no matter how terribly bleak it looked there was always a way out. I say unfortunately, because I learned the wrong lessons. I learned to rely on myself, to eschew friends and to take chances solo. I liked trying new things, and yes this was good in a way, but I also falsely believed that nothing, no trial could ever hurt me, that I could tempt fate with impunity and because I'd never suffered any real consequences before, there would never be any real consequences. I've since learned to my sorrow how badly I misinterpreted so many of these lessons.

If you've never been trapped in a thicket of thorns then you can't understand me. It's a part of growing up as natural as fighting. It's our battle against nature and if it's done right, it's done alone. There are secrets in the woods, in the jungle, in the forest, in the wild. I sought out those secrets and tried to understand my world. Is it redundant to point out that this world I grew up in no longer exists? Kids spend their days playing video games and texting friends. While there's nothing wrong with that, I feel they're missing something. They grow up completely unconnected to this world we live in, to nature, to the untamed wild that waits to test us.

It was nearly seventeen years ago that I faced another test, another trap. Again, I had ventured foolishly into the thicket of thorns, perhaps believing in my own invincibility, my own superhuman ability to defeat any obstacle. Nothing had ever really hurt me before. There was no trap that I couldn't get out of. This time I was wrong! I'm only here today because of my family. It turns out that I'm not invincible. I'm not unbreakable. I'm only alive today because my family—my father—went out and found me and brought me home. There were other family members who helped. They spent time, money, effort, and heartache extricating me from the trap I had so foolishly and willingly climbed into. I write this confession today, not to induce forgiveness, but in the perhaps futile effort to understand myself.

My family will never understand why I would put myself into that position and unless you've done what I have, unless you too have longed to see things never before seen, stand in places where no man has stood before, I doubt you ever could understand me either. It's who I am and it's where I stand. Only a fool would climb into a thicket of thorns. Yes, I am that fool, and I'm the kind of man who only seems to learn by doing things the hard way.

I know from personal experience that drugs—marijuana, cocaine, meth, etc—are thorns which will eventually trap you. You can venture into that thicket but getting out again, that's the trick, isn't it? I don't understand why marijuana is being legalized in Colorado, California and Washington, but I know it's a terrible mistake. Why is it that everybody always has to learn things the hard way?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Who's the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who follows him?

Today I want to write something positive. I want to be optimistic and look for those bright linings that must surely be found in these dark clouds overhead. I'm almost philosophical today as I contemplate what it's all about. Why we are here. I think we're here to learn. We're here to try things, things that work, things that don't. We're here to make mistakes and learn from mistakes. We're here to be so proud and defiant that we always do the opposite of what we're told, and then live to raise children who do the exact same thing. It seems as though we were all warned about this once, a long time ago?

There aren't too many people who're interested in politics. You'd think that the study of why things are the way they are would be of some interest to the masses but instead people are endlessly fascinated by trivia. They dwell incessantly on matters of absolutely no consequence whatsoever. Sports, celebrities, entertainers of every description are matters to be pondered and discussed and debated. It has nearly become an abomination. Our obsession with the American glitterati has reached the point where they've become false-idols, petty painted-godlings to be worshipped and prayed to. This again somehow seems familiar to me, almost like it might have been a story I read about somewhere?

This idol worshipping business is all the more astounding when you consider that there's not much difference between that multi-millionaire super-star idol and that guy playing a beat-up old guitar at the park with a sign that says: "Tips appreciated." There might or might not be a difference in talent, but there sure is a difference in luck or fate, or whatever it is that lets one person become a celebrity and keeps the other wearing rags. I'm sure you've been to a nice restaurant before where live performers were playing music in the background? You probably sat there oblivious to the entertainment while you ate, laughed, smoked, drank and chatted about everything under the sun. You did all this while managing to completely ignore the entertainers who were playing their instruments or singing as well as any star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and who—through some fantastic stroke of luck—may themselves end up immortalized on that very same Walk of Fame.

Ok, I tried to be positive but I've just got to say it. People are evil, lazy, and stupid, in no particular order and we each possess all of these traits to a greater or lesser degree. Therefore rule by the people—or democracy—is ultimately stupid and is eventually going to end badly. In a democratic republic, the people select those who they believe will be good enough and intelligent enough to successfully lead the country and we the people put these—our betters—in charge. The problem again, is that people are stupid and so the ones we select will be either those who truly are better, or those who tell us the most convincing lies.

Because people are stupid they will always do the wrong thing. They will always allow themselves to be tricked. Because people are evil, those who're put in charge will always look after their own concerns first and foremost and only afterwards will they bother themselves with doing their sworn duty, unless it's just too much bother for their inborn laziness to even be bothered with. These problems illustrate why it happens that time after time governments inevitably fall, only to rise again like a Sisyphean phoenix emerging once again from the dusty ashes of the latest failed regime.

Governments can never last, because no matter how carefully crafted and fairly a government starts out, over time it will become more and more unfair. Those in power will naturally draw to themselves more power and wealth, while those not in power will watch helplessly as their rights disappear and their wealth is plundered. At some point there always comes a day when the downtrodden will take no more. They will rise up and there will be a revolution. Sometimes the government puts down this nascent insurrection, and when they do it is usually brutally put down with the ring-leaders being thrown to the lions—either literally or figuratively. Sometimes the revolution is successful and when that happens, the old rulers are usually thrown to the lions...

After a successful revolution the ring-leaders get together and after lengthy argument and much debate they agree on what form the new government will take. New rulers are elected or selected and then put into power. Unfortunately after a while, these new rulers are guaranteed to do just as the old ones did. They will naturally make decisions that favor their family and friends. They will draw to themselves more power as naturally as a lodestone draws iron filings. They will accumulate more and more wealth and dole out little drabs and driblets to those of us who fawn and beg the most pleasingly and obsequiously. The ruled become like dogs begging scraps under the dinner table. Like dogs, we beggars under the table may be compelled to perform demeaning tricks. As we perform for our masters, we may be ordered to sit up, to shake hands, to speak, to roll over, and of course to play dead.

Barack Hussein Obama is the archetype of this, the ineluctable final outcome of the age-old power struggle between the rulers and the ruled. Obama is the last-straw paradigm. He is America's jumping the shark moment. He represents the end of the current democratic republic. It's either going to be a totally new government or Obama will consolidate his power and ruthlessly put down any whispers of insurrection. I won't be the first to tell you that Obama plans to continue being President past 2016, but I will add my voice to the growing outcry. Stupid people were tricked by one hell of a liar, twice!

Obama could never have done what he did without the connivance of a coterie of Hollywood idols who achieved their power not so much by virtue of talent, but because of luck or nepotism. So consider the American power structure revealed now as this: a background performer in a restaurant, a ragged bum playing guitar at the park, a person that you'd normally ignore or avoid has a stroke of luck and becomes famous, so now when he tells you to vote for Obama, you all aquiver pull the lever. Later Obama will throw a few scraps under the table to this pet-celebrity who performed as instructed.
And so it goes. Time makes fools of us all. Our only comfort is that greater shall come after us time after time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In a game where no one loses, everyone loses

Yesterday my wife called me. She was going back and forth with her friends on Facebook. She was complaining about the liberal mainstream media and one of her Facebook "friends" coughed up this smelly nugget of wisdom: "There is no liberal media." My wife wanted to know how to get through to this sadly deluded friend of hers. I told her a few things to say, but I knew that it was futile, really. Opening this liberal's eyes will take a whole lot more than bouncing a few talking points off of the steel door of that closed-up concrete bunker of a mind. It would take a life-changing sort of Alice in Wonderland/Matrix dose of the Red-Pill

My wife wasn't always conservative. She's kind of like one of those ex-smokers who hate cigarettes more vehemently than anybody else on Earth, only instead of cursing the clouds of smoke in the air she rails at the fluffy-feel-good collectivist talking points stinking up every television channel, every radio station, every magazine and every newspaper in the country. She's like an ex-smoker in a world where everybody else thinks smoking is awesome, and moreover that people who don't are unbelievably stupid.

My wife is what I call a born-again conservative. Her eyes have finally been opened and today she gets it. She was never what you'd call a dyed-in-the-wool liberal like her mother is, but when I met her she still had that pseudo-liberal mindset that's impossible to avoid when you innocently grow up in this sick and immoral country and your state-dependent mother miserably fails to provide you with any kind of countervailing moral instruction. She certainly wasn't learning how to be diligent, hard-working, responsible, or Christian from her left-wing morally bankrupt parent.

The liberal mindset—if I could distill it down to its lowest common denominator—is this: It is the state's duty to make sure that nobody loses. In every competition, every person is supposed to win, every time. I know that this doesn't make any sense, how could it? But, in my opinion, that's what the liberal message is. Nobody should ever have to lose as long as we give the state the power to carry out this sacred duty.

Nobody should be poor. No business should fail. If the business you work for fails, the state should step in and prop it up, keep if from failing. If you lose your job, the state should step in and make the owner of the business re-hire you...with back pay of course. Or—if that proves impossible—then the state should step in and take over paying your wages itself, even though you are no longer working at all anymore. If you can't afford the basic necessities because you only work one part-time minimum wage job then the state should step in and give you rental assistance, food stamps, help paying your electric bill, your cable bill, and a free phone to boot.

If you're living at or below the poverty level then the state should do everything in its power to redistribute wealth from the rich who earned it, to you who didn't. That way nobody loses. The rich will still have enough money to pay for what they need, and you will be given everything that you need.
The government's definition of poverty is based on total income received. For example, the poverty level for 2012 was set at $23,050 (total yearly income) for a family of four. Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75.
Apparently "poverty" in the United States, means rich beyond comprehension elsewhere in the world. That's what the liberals call a win-win. Everybody wins. Nobody loses. What a wonderful world!
You came here because you wanted to know the answer to a question.

The Matrix. What is the Matrix?

Twelve years ago I met a man, a great man, who said that no one could be told the answer to that question. That they had to see it, to believe it. He told me that no one should look for the answer unless they have to because once you see it, everything changes. Your life and the world you live in will never be the same. It's as if you wake up one morning and the sky is falling.

The truth is out there, Neo. It's looking for you and it will find you, if you want it to.
We are living in the Matrix. Our eyes are blinded to reality and we only see what they've programmed for us. We only hear what they've decided we should. Who are they? They are of course that thing which my wife's liberal Facebook friend doesn't believe exists. It's not just the media that is liberal, though. Our entire public educational system, along with almost all of our colleges and universities, is also unabashedly liberal. It's a perfect liberal storm that comes in from three directions: public educational system, media, and Democrats, and from that point is then whipped into a whirlwind of horrible howling feedback by the democrat-union-media feedback-circuit. There is—as far as I'm aware—no widely accepted appellation for this amorphous malignant liberal cancer. Perhaps the best combination of words which attempts to give a name to this axis of evil comes from the late Andrew Breitbart who named it: The Democrat-Media Complex.

Unfortunately, if there's one lesson we can take from the now common place idiom of "a perfect storm" it's that there's no returning from one. This axis of evil, this cancer has metastasized and it's fatal. I'm sorry. You're sorry. Everyone is sorry. Things change. People die. Even countries. Nothing is permanent. Weep at our loss, then dry your eyes, and carry on. Dark times lie ahead. We've all lost our bearings. We're lost in this dark sea and just because we're still afloat that doesn't change our ineluctable fate one iota. Take a deep breath. Let it out. Enjoy today. It really is a wonderful world.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The solution is as simple as pulling teeth!

Don't you see? If we ban all guns, then and only then can we finally stop all these senseless shootings. Look at Sandy Hook. Look at Columbine. If these killers had not had access to guns then they would not have been able to kill as many people as they did. Perhaps Adam Lanza would have only been able to kill a few kids. Who knows, perhaps the body count would have been as few as five kids and maybe one or two teachers if all he'd had was a sword or a butcher knife. Don't you think our society should put limits on the body count our mass murderers are able to rack up?

Mass-murderers are going to do what they're going to do. We can't stop killers from killing. There's probably a mass-murder gene that scientists have yet to locate. We can't know who's going to blow a circuit or whatever it is that they do, and go postal on us. Hmmm I wonder why they call it going postal?

Yearly loss of life due to gun violence runs in the tens of thousands. And while these deaths are certainly tragic, focusing on merely guns ignores the real problem. Some people just like to kill other people. There it is. We can't change that sad fact. I mean, just turn on your television if you don't believe me. Every channel, hundreds and hundreds of channels hour after hour click click click bang bang bang. If you're watching television I bet somebody is killing somebody else. We're ceaselessly inundated with senseless murders both real and fictional. If it's not a gun it's a knife, or a sword, or a baseball bat. Nope, my television is all the proof I need to have to know that there's no point in trying to stop people from wanting to kill other people.

There's no point in figuring out why suddenly around 1962, everything started going downhill. Perhaps we'll never know why television started becoming filled with orgies of sex and orgies of bloody murder and ... well... you know reality television stuff. It's no use wondering why suddenly it was around this time that children started becoming more and more violent. Likewise, there's no point in senselessly pointing fingers at practices like no-fault divorce and the national child-support registry and trying to blame these misguided policies for the sudden spate of single-parent households. Similarly it's no use blaming unwed mothers for that mass-murder gene they didn't know they were passing along to their bastard children. If some people must kill other people the only solution is to put absolute maximum allowable limits on the number of innocent victims that each of these killers will be able to successfully put into the ground.

But you know what? with all this talk about banning guns, it's my own personal opinion that we as a society are beginning to lose sight of what I feel is a much more alarming statistic:
Dog bite losses exceed $1 billion per year. In the past several years, there have been 30 to 35 fatal dog attacks in the USA annually. Each year, more than 350,000 dog bite victims are seen in emergency rooms, and approximately 850,000 victims receive some form of medical attention. Based on data collected in the USA between 2001 and 2003, the CDC concluded that there were 4.5 million dog bite victims per year, but that figure appears to be rising.
Folks that number again is 4.5 million! If we had 4.5 million shootings per year can you imagine it? The mainstream media would go ballistic, they'd go bonkers! But apparently all this dog-bite tragedy is just flying right under their radar. Not to worry I have a solution. We can't stop these bad-dogs from biting. These dogs are born with a gene that makes them Go Cujo. There's no point in speculating on how these dogs are raised or treated by their owners. It's no use wondering why the same owners keep watching helplessly as their pit-bull yanks the three-foot long chain—which anchors the dog to the same spot where it has been chained for its entire life—right out of the ground! And then seriously injures or even kills the five-year-old girl who's walking by.

No, a solution to this epidemic requires a tough new law on the books. The solution is to de-fang every dog in the country. Don't you see? If dogs had no fangs, then being bitten wouldn't be so painful and injurious. Dogs have teeth so it's obvious that therefore they are going to bite. What we need is a national registry of dog-owners. We make this as easy as possible. When a dog is sold or transferred we make it a law that the information in the dog-owner database must be updated to reflect the new information. Again, make this super easy to do. The object is to create a paper-trail from puppy-mill to distributor to pet-store to owner. We want to encourage as much voluntary compliance as possible.

Now we get down to it. The registration period has passed. Now we have criminals without registered dogs running around. Probably kooky types that "lost" them on a safari or something. So remember those AKC Litter Application forms? Those record every puppy sale, going back twenty years. And those have to be surrendered to the AKC on demand. So, we get those logbooks, and cross reference the names and addresses with the new national registry. Since most Dog Show types own two or (many) more dogs, we can get an idea of who properly registered their dogs and who didn't. For example, if we have a guy who purchased 6 dogs over the course of 10 years, but only registered two of them, that raises a red flag.

I know what you're thinking. What about the puppies born outside of those puppy mills? Well you see, that's the secret isn't it? While the veterinarians are giving these dogs their first shots they'll also be cutting out those dangerous teeth, as well as those even more dangerous reproductive organs. No more dog-teeth, no more puppies, and finally no more panicked rushing to the emergency room with bleeding holes in hands and legs. Problem solved. We can't change dogs. We can't change people. All we can do is limit the amount of damage they're capable of inflicting.