The Black Blood of Modernity

About ten years ago I was having a conversation with a friend about climate change. (I think we called it global warming at that time). I concluded that if warming was happening by natural causes, there was nothing we could do about it. So humans would have to adapt through artificial means. If warming was man-made, there’s also nothing we can do about it because the world runs on fossil fuels. And the world’s infrastructure is set up for them and them alone. So again, humans would have to adapt through artificial means. In other words, there is no plan of attack regardless of the cause so why worry about it. Why even investigate it. It’s coming, so just deal with it. And so I never bothered to figure it out.

But then the term “Peak Oil” was brought to my attention and I was forced to realize that even if man was causing global warming and had a magic solution to stop it, we still had a bigger problem coming.

People usually think of fossil fuels in terms of energy and emissions. Our fossil fuel infrastructure is more than transportation. It’s cooking, lighting, heating, cooling, communications. It’s also plastics. Without oil, there are no plastics. Or synthetic rubber. Or asphalt. Or medicine. Or some fabrics and foods. There’s no pesticides in some cases too. No solar, wind or tidal power will replace that.

Talking just in terms of energy/fuel, it takes decades, maybe fifty-plus years for energy infrastructures to become large enough to make the switch from one energy source to another. From railroad to diesel/gasoline vehicles to the future, change is slow. So even if we had the technology in renewables that gave us the same bang for our buck as fossil fuels do, we simply have no established grid or delivery system.

But energy/fuel aside, nothing can replace what oil gives us in the non-energy/fuel items listed above. So even if we started the major social and tech commitment to change from one energy source to another, we’d still need oil for everything else. Even if we had affordable electric cars, oil still makes up the seats, dashboards and panelling, tires, lubricants, and more. Even if we had solar powered homes, our televisions, computers, radios, foods, medicine, furniture…all oil dependant.

Oil drives just about everything we do. And by all accounts, the easy to get at reserves are either gone or just about gone ∗. Even if there was no climate change or global warmingness, the looming loss of easy oil is coming and the cost of everything is going to escalate as we approach it. Harder to get at oil means more costly means to get at it and the costs get passed down. And oil is a finite resource. Unlike wind and solar, when a well drys up, it’s gone. So some day, I have no idea when, but some day, the human race will have to learn to live without oil. And considering what we’ve just covered above, that is going to be real hard.

But until then, the world will continue to burn fossil fuels as if that time isn’t approaching. The globe will continue to suffer from the pollution that comes with it and things will get more costly. There’s nothing anyone is going to do to stop it. I’m sorry to tell you this. But no government policy, programming, marching, protesting, conferences, tweeting or otherwise is going to change the world’s need and use of oil (and other fossil fuels). And even if the United States government had the magic policy, that only goes for my country. It doesn’t apply to China or India, two of the world’s fastest developers and consumers of natural resources. One country’s policies do not apply to anyone else. This is a world issue, not a country issue. Pollution of fossil fuels will continue and costs of maintaining our civilization from the wonders of oil will rise.

The only change you can make is one for yourself.

This brings me full circle to the top of this essay: Nothing is going to change about our need for oil and other fossil fuels so it’s time to adapt. Here’s some recommendations regarding adaptation.

Unless I have to drive a car, I walk where I need to go. Or I bike. In good weather, longer trips are easier. I also started gardening about ten years ago. Learning how food grows and how to prepare it is a great skill. I also fish. Teach others to do so, it’s good for them. I also spend more time reading and writing than having electronics on (although music is usually playing in some corner somewhere). And instead of the obligatory hotel on vacations, my wife and I have used camp grounds on several occasions. Nothing like learning to put up a tent, make a fire, and all that comes with it. And for god’s sake, learn to use a firearm if you can. It’s a tool, a good tool that can be used for defense as well as hunting for food. I recommend doing as much local as possible. Not only are you supporting people in your own community, you’re learning to live with what is around you.

I’m not talking about living off the grid in a cave somewhere although you’re welcome to do that. I’m simply talking about adding any and all self-reliant tools to your life-skill tool belt. I’m talking about having skills for times when modernity is not available. Practice now what your descendants will need later.

We live in a “just in time” community. That means, the grocery store shelves are stocked just in time. The gas stations are replenished, just in time. In August 2003, we got something of a test run on what would happen if we lost power on a wide scale for a lengthy time. The electrical grid went down from New York to Michigan. It lasted several days. What if it lasted several weeks? The stores and gas stations would be empty. What would you do if you had no supplies or means to travel? Having some of the skills mentioned above would come in handy.

But what if it turns out the center of the Earth is a creamy, gooey gob of infinite oil and the planet wasn’t warming? So what, you’re not wasting your time by doing anything that makes you more self-reliant. You’d at least be ready come temporary energy outages. What else are you going to do, watch more reality tv? Reality is passing by while you watch that garbage. Go out and live your own reality.

∗ The study of oil reserves and when we will start drying up (sometimes called Peak Oil) has a nice summary here.

 

 

Islam: The Third and Troubling Child

It’s no secret, I think all religion, being a practice on faith rather than reason, is a poor life style. However, current events demonstrate there is only one deserving special attention if not out right combat for hearts and minds. That is Islam.

I’ve addressed my concerns herehere and here. And here. This short piece is a reminder in light of current events that it’s still a generational battle. The question is, why does this seem to only come from Islam and not its older siblings of Judeo-Christianity?

Let’s spell some things out.

Judaism, as told in the Tanakh, justified through mythological origins a piece of land known as Israel for the Hebrews. No more, no less. Despite the tales of conquest of the land by Moses, Joshua, etc, these are not historical. Therefore, unlike Islam, there never was a time of conquering armies for the Jewish people. At most, they’ve been the most oppressed. And all Israel wants today is Israel. Not the world.

Christianity did one better. The first Christians did their best to separate from society. Their secrecy is what got them into trouble with Rome. Romans 13 tells them to not interfere with existing government. And in the very first gospel the other three copied from, Mark 12:17 has Jesus saying, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” So Christianity started as non-combative, non-interfering in the lives of others, despite what happened centuries later. They didn’t even want land. Their souls and bodies were enough.

Islam, however, began as a political philosophy that Muhammad could not convince people to follow. And therefore, started forcing it at the point of the sword from Saudi Arabia all the way to Spain. Read the damn Qur’an already. It’s impossible to miss the orders to kill any non-Muslim, conquer the lands of others, etc. Until you understand what Islam is, you’re doomed to be its victim.

So while it is worthwhile to draw attention to the lack of logic in religion in general, Islam is the one that needs our most attention today.

ISIS isn’t a deviation. ISIS is it.

Read the damn Qur’an to understand what the civilized world is up against.

Smells Like Wean Spirit

Somewhere around the age of thirty-five, I realized I didn’t know what was good in current music. I was, and continue to play, all the stuff that defined my niche as an eighties’ kid. My preference was for what was then labeled, Alternative. But that definition didn’t say much at all. Because all it really meant was alternative to whatever was popular. It meant anything other than White Snake or Prince. Some of my bands got heavy rotation like REM or U2 but most were unknown if all you did was listen to the radio or watch MTV. My favorites like the Smiths, the Clash, the Cure, Bauhaus, other than maybe one hit or two that got some attention, their catalog was relatively unknown outside their fan base. I found about these bands and more from my peers. The other thing I did was take chances every Friday afternoon in record stores, buying based on sometimes cover art alone.

Fast forward to when I was thirty-five years old. In the year 2005, two things happened. First, I became eligible to control your life, if only you’d elect me. And second, the governor of my state (Michigan) was about two years into her “Cool Cities Initiative”. And when government has a program with a name like that, well, it’s like when your dad hands you a record and tells you this is really cool.

The Cool Cities Initiative was an attempt to keep young people from getting their college education in Michigan and then leaving the state to seek employment elsewhere. Money mainly went into sprucing up parts of Michigan, beautifying places, increasing in the arts. Basically, the government tried to make Michigan a place where people want to live.

Did it work? Eh, some people liked it. The people who’s community benefited from it. Let’s leave alone the fact that government made some choices to benefit some communities at the expense of others. They basically took some of my income tax and, instead of letting me keep it to invest in my own neighborhood, they took it to invest in someone else’s neighborhood. The fact is, “cool” isn’t something you make. It’s something that is created and then usually in hindsight, it’s either cool or not.

An old saying of mine goes that when Ronald McDonald has something in his commercials, it’s no longer cool. When McDonald rapped for the first time, I knew rap was over. Is it any coincidence that a year after McDonald rapped we got MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”? Rap, like Punk, was a movement that lasted until the early nineteen-nineties.

For me, I saw the end come with the popularity of Nirvana’s, “Nevermind” in 1991. Right there, I predicted two things: 1) Record labels would flood the market with anything and everything that sounded like Nirvana. 2) Those who weren’t familiar with the punk culture would start showing up to our shows and ruin it. Both things happened.

Due to record labels signing tons of Nirvana-like acts, we got grudge. And as for the “others” showing up at our shows, well, I knew the scene was over when I got clocked in the face and shoved nearly to the floor by someone way too excited to learn the Pogo at his first Dead Milkmen concert.

When corporations or government tell you something is cool, it isn’t. You can’t make cool. It just happens. It’s spontaneous. It’s a beautiful order out of chaos. Even if the order looks like a mosh pit of teenagers letting off steam.

I see a lot of writers fall into this trap. Same goes for movie makers. What’s selling hot today? How can I imitate it? And by the time they’re done, it’s passed them up and the money is on the next trend.

What happened in 1977 after Star Wars? We got flooded with crappy space epics. But we did get Battlestar Galactica too. What happened after the success of the Twilight books? We got flooded with vampires. And Walking Dead is spawning zombie stuff.

Ask a thousand authors how they got published and they’ll tell you a thousand different things. Ask the same of musicians or actors. Ask any artist or successful business person how they did it. You’ll get tons of different answers. But the two answers they’ll all agree on and share is that they never gave up and they didn’t follow any particular formula. There is no formula to be a great author, actor or business person. If there was, we’d all be doing it.

In a 2010 interview with Vinyl Mag, Keith “Monkey” Warren was asked how they managed to be the longest running punk band with original members. How did they do it? He answered, “Find guys you can live and work with, and be prepared for an argument or two.”

This is probably the most basic way of answering how to do anything properly. Find like minded people and do what you love. There are more options today to make and find new music than when I was roaming the aisles of the record stores in the eighties. Are record stores even a thing anymore? The Internet has opened up your ability to reach just about anyone in the world. I love Twitter for this very reason. Seems as if everyone has an account. I’ve managed to chat with a lot of smart people and reach out to many in the fields of my interest I respect and admire. In fact, a guy I know nothing about other than a chance follow on Twitter, wrote the blog piece that encouraged me to publish my first novel.

My point in all this babble is that order forms out of chaos. Cool can not be designed. How did this or that trend happen? Beats me, there’s no magic. No formula. How the hell did Fifty Shades of Gray happen? That started as Twilight fan-fiction. But it wasn’t until E.L. James made it her own with her own characters that she got anywhere.

No government program ever met expectations. No corporate commercial is truly honest. The only difference is that whereas you’re usually forced to be in government programs, you aren’t with corporate ones. The best things get done by people, either solo or in voluntary communion, doing things. And, most importantly, getting their creation out there and into the hands of voluntary consumers.

It’s this line of thinking I’m beginning to concentrate on. Not so much on electing the right person to get the right things done but how to get things done despite the wrong people in your life.

It’s clear the new Republican president and congress are not going to get us liberty seeking people what we want. That avenue is out despite some initial promises and hopes (isn’t that how the GOP works?). And the Libertarian Party has been stuck in one percent land forever. We had our chance in the 2016 election and instead of choosing really good candidates, we settled for mediocre. So we really have to start asking if it’s worth spending any more time electing the right people? Because let’s remember, even if we get it, it’s temporary. The next clown can come in and undo everything you got. So elections are not a permanent solution. I have to ask, is it time to accept the grid and go off of it?

By “off” I don’t mean minimalist living (although for some, that may be a good option). I don’t mean leaving civilization. I mean learning to live within it with all it’s constraints and at the same time, seeking out all the opportunities. I mean learning to wean away from systems that have failed us in favor of newer models that work better for us.

For instance, in keeping with all the art talk above, if you have a novel or album of music and the current publishing market isn’t taking your work, how do you get it out there despite the odds? In a more serious venture, if you can’t afford health care as it exists today, how do you find a quality doctor that will work with you?

Let’s explore this. Let’s work on ways that despite government intrusions, we can still squeeze out as much liberty as we can. Let’s work to get your work done despite some stumbling blocks in the market. Let’s look at ways to forge relationships with people of mutual interests to get things done that are important to you. Let’s look under rocks, in the bushes, out of the boxes for ways to succeed in life no matter what the odds in whatever field you’re playing on. This, essentially is, the free market in action. Our goal is to get as much of it despite forces opposed to it.

I think the best route to go from here on out is to take the words of an old punk rock Monkey, look for ways to get a few people you can live and work with together and make the most of your life despite the odds. And, as he said, “be prepared for an argument or two.”

Interview with Congressman Barry Loudermilk on WBHF – March 16, 2017

ICYMI: Here is my interview with Congressman Barry Loudermilk from Georgia’s 11th congressional district. We discussed President Trump’s revised travel ban and a Hawaiian judge blocking it. We discussed the proposed budget and numerous cuts to agencies. We also covered a bill being pushed through Congress to shorten the time it takes to fire a federal employee. We wrapped up the discussion talking about the hyper-partisan climate that currently exists in Washington, D.C.

 

The Great Drug War Wall

On January 25, 2017, President Trump issued the executive order that authorized the construction of the Great Wall of America. Expected to run about the length of one-thousand-three-hundred miles, costing anywhere from sixteen to twenty-six billion dollars to build, seven-hundred-fifty-million a year to maintain and taking four or twenty years to build, * it looks like he’s sure keeping his biggest promise: To keep out the worst of the Mexicans, those drug traffickers and gangs. He’s also pretty much included the people who come here to do the jobs Americans won’t do but, his biggest concern and broken record speech is mainly centered on drug traffickers and gangs.

We could examine the effectiveness of the Wall by comparing it to the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, etc. But the fact is, we only need look at the six-hundred-fifty feet of already existing wall and fencing to see it does not work. People wanting to cross borders will find a way. In fact, recently someone pointed me to the use of good old fashion trebuchets to send drug packages over existing fencing.

A Wall is thousands-year old technology going against the ever clever human being. It’s like never upgrading the mouse trap beyond a cup and string; yet mice have evolved into the space age. Although, you don’t even need to be that sophisticated. Just using thousand-year old tech can defeat a wall. Exhibit back to the use of trebuchets. Oh and a ladder.

There’s a better solution to keep out drug traffickers and the gangs that roll with them:

End the Drug War.

We learned from 1920 to 1933 what happens when you take a perfectly legal product and make it illegal. The War on Alcohol gave us Al Capone, gunfights in the streets (with assault weapons, oh my!), police and judge corruption if only to partake in a little brandy from time to time. We got premarture deaths and injuries from poisonous bathtub gin. It was such a failure that by 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st.

But unlike the prohibition of alcohol which was conducted through amending the Constitution, the War on Drugs has been all legislation. The first big one was the Harrison Narcotics Tax of 1914 which regulated opiates and coca. And the noose just got tighter ever since, including more substances and offering tougher penalities for not only trafficking but use.

So it’s been over one-hundred years for this drug war and we haven’t learned the lesson that we should have with just thirteen-years of alcohol prohibition.

Because alcohol is legal, we no longer see gangs causing violence in the streets for sales and territory. When was the last time you saw Labatts and Budweiser have a tommy gun shoot out in your neighborhood?

If we end the prohibition of drugs currently listed as illegal, we will take the profits out of the illegal drug trade. Drugs wouldn’t be cut with “filler”, making them more dangerous t user’s health like bathtub gin once did. All drugs could be treated as we treat alcohol today.

And that means no need for Trump’s Wall to keep out drug traffickers who no longer exist. I mean, really, when is the last time a group of smugglers were caught crossing into Arizona with a case of Corona and arrested? Maybe 1925 when it rolled out for the first time?

We have to ask ourselves, do we want to treat drugs as a health issue? Or criminal? The years of treating it criminally have failed, made enemies with neighbors, caused injuries and death, corrupted law enforcement and so on. Ending the War on Drugs will not only find us Americans no longer needing a Wall, but maybe on better terms with Mexico in the long run.

* Figures bounce dramatically depending on what source you review. One thing I’m certain of, however, is that with any government project, not only won’t it work. But it will cost millions/billions more than projected.

Take the Outsider Test

Through the Obama years, Democrats had no problem with his pen and phone approach. If he couldn’t get it his way with GOP support, he was determined to go it alone. And while he was doing this, there was zero opposition from members of his team. But now that Trump is in power and the GOP hold most of the cards in Congress, the Democrats are going nuts over Trump’s pen and phone approach. What gives?  He’s doing the same thing Obama was doing. It’s been real interesting seeing Democrats (and socialists alike) suddenly in favor of state’s rights and limited government.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republicans made Hillary Clinton’s private email server the issue to go after her on. Commercials and talks about how she put American security at risk dwarfed just about everything else bad about Clinton. And the Democrats, in fact Clinton’s biggest rival, Bernie Sanders, declared they were done hearing about her damn emails. But now Trump is in office. And Trump has a lot of smoke related to ties with Russia, both financially and politically. And the GOP has decided it doesn’t care to hear anymore about Trump’s damn ties while the Democrats are now up in arms about security. Again, what gives?

In both cases we have the same problems. In our first discussion, we have authoritarian power. In our second, we have American security. And what we find is that the party of the guilty looks the other way as long as they’re of the same party. Only the opposition complains. So it’s not about authoritarianism or security. It’s about who has the ball.

This starts a dark road into tribalism where facts and decency don’t matter. So before we get there (even if we probably already are), it’s time for everyone to take the Outsider Test.

John W. Loftus, once a practicing ordained minister and student of none other than William C. Craig, is now an atheist, challenging others once like him to examine the Christian faith. In March 2013, his book, “The Outsider Test For Faith” was published. The subtitle is, “How to Know Which Religion is True.” The premise of the book goes back to David Hume as Hume used the same kind of argument against Islam and Catholicism. But it’s Loftus who wraps up the test perfectly.

The test is simple: Critique your religion as if you were not part of it. Then see if it holds up. You should ponder on your beliefs and consider what someone outside your religion thinks of them.

The Outsider Test doesn’t have to be with just religion. I believe both major political parties in the United States need to take the Outsider Test.

What if during the presidential campaign, the roles of Trump were reversed with Clinton. What if it was Clinton who was encouraging more leaks from the GOP and encouraging Russia to hack Trump’s email? What if it was Clinton who fawned over Putin? What if Clinton refused to release her tax returns? What if Clinton’s choice of National Security Advisor quickly resigned over contacts with Russia during the campaign?

I can tell you exactly what would happen. The reverse of what is happening today. It would be the GOP going after her, calling for an investigation and the Democrats would be ignoring it. How do I know? Because the GOP went after Clinton on her emails, calling out FBI Director Comey for claiming she engaged in no wilful crime, for Clinton’s husband meeting on the tarmac with Attorney General, Loretta Lynch shortly before Comey said there was nothing to see here.

Both parties, all parties, all peoples of these parties are descending into tribalism. And might I add, when their own side engages in what they’d hate from the other side, there’s been a lot of special pleading going on. The best approach is to be as consistent as possible.

Ask yourself, would you be okay if the other side was doing such and such? If you answer “yes”, then sit back, relax, you’re being consistent. But if you say “no”, it’s time to take the Outsider Test.

A few years ago, here and here, I called on members of my own political leanings to point out some areas needing improvement. It is more important to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help others. I think this very simple test does the trick. The question is, are you good enough to accept the results?

Morning interview with US Congressman Barry Loudermilk

I got a chance to catch up with one of our local representatives today on Bartow’s Morning News. 11th Congressional district representative Barry Loudermilk joined us from D.C. to talk about several current items being discussed in our nation. We discussed President Trump’s order to make the transgender bathroom issue a states-rights issue and not a federal one. We also discussed the protection of the press under the first amendment, about the press choosing sides and dishonesty in general. Additionally, the topic of immigration law was discussed and that Congress has not passed any new laws, the Administration is only enforcing existing law and working on immigration reform.

Trump hopes for the Hollywood ending

trump-press-conferenceHollywood tells all kind of stories. One of the staples of the “Hollywood ending” is when the main character delivers a speech that changes the course of events of the tale. It’s the Aesop’s Fables morality moment where we all come to the same collective understanding that whatever had been happening up to that point was wrong. At the conclusion of the speech, nearly everyone has their road-to-Damascus conversion, admitting the error of their ways and vowing to make a change for the better.

Those moments make for some of the best stories, because we want to believe if the characters in the story can make a change for the best, we all can. Unfortunately, for many, art does not reflect reality.

trump-quote-on-mediaDuring his first press conference since the inauguration, Donald Trump verbally castigated the vast majority of the national press corps and the mainstream media for their creation of fake news. He called them out, right to their faces, vacillating between charismatic humor and stern scolding. He told them how disappointed he and fellow Americans are with their tone and willful obfuscation of the truth. He acknowledged that he will make mistakes and would expect the reporting to be bad; conversely, he said when he does something well, he would expect the media to report something good. Instead, as he noted, the press will take something good and make it sound bad and then take something bad and make it sound worse. He called that fake news.

Then, in a surprising moment of both sincerity and clarity, President Trump stated, “I want to see an honest press. I started off today by saying it’s so important to the public to get an honest press. The public doesn’t believe you people any more.” Had this been a Hollywood movie, the violins would have swelled and we would have been shown a montage of faces all coming to the realization they have been wrong. They would have turned to each other with reflective expressions, before standing and applauding the president for reminding them of who they are. What would follow, after a slow fade, would be a voice-over from one or more reporters, reading from their latest pieces, apologizing to their readers/listeners/viewers for abdicating their duties as dispassionate reporters of facts. They would beg for forgiveness, hoping to convey their sincere change of heart over how they had lost their way.

Sadly, this isn’t a Hollywood movie. The reporters, who would likely gush over a similar scene on the silver screen, were completely oblivious to the message. The hurt feelings and bruised egos were on display across the dial following the press conference. All they cared about was playing out the infantile schoolyard game of, “Oh, yeah, well I think you’re a big, stupid, poo-poo head!”

Am not. Are too!

Beyond the content discussed in President Trumps presser, what he told the media about their role and responsibility was a bulls-eye. The Founding Fathers understood the need to have a free and unfettered press to keep government honest. They toiled for months to craft the Constitution, built on the concept of three separate but co-equal branches of government. These three estates — Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches — were designed to have a specific set of checks and balances to ensure no branch could overrule the other.

But, in face of major concerns from several states about the need for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties, James Madison went to work on drafting the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, as they are now known, lists specific prohibitions on governmental power, with the first protecting, among others, the freedom of the press. Many misinterpret this to mean, the press must publish whatever someone wants heard. This is absurd. There is no “right” to be heard. What the amendment secures is the protection of the press to be free from harm or imprisonment for saying/printing material that might be unfavorable to the government. None of the amendments are there to give people privileges; they are there to declare unalienable rights, which cannot be infringed upon by any part of the government.

As it relates to the press, the framers of our Constitution recognized, even with checks and balances in place, politicians could collude together to avoid following those enumerated rules for how our government should function. By granting the press immunity from government prosecution, they created, in effect, a fourth estate, which exists outside of government. They reasoned, when politicians might be tempted to act outside of the bounds of the Constitution, the press would shed light on those actions and the American public would be informed. Knowing the press is free from government persecution, the members of each branch of government would feel the weight of the all-seeing-eye of providence pressing down on them, helping to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Unfortunately, we have been witness to the slow erosion of the line separating the press and government. It’s become more important to curry favor and keep getting the invites to the social events, rather than being objective with the facts. News is no longer reported. It’s crafted. It’s honed. Impressions can be made by leaving certain facts out while embellishing others. The purveyors of news have, for the most part, become mouthpieces for the sides they like. When members of the press choose the party they like over the party they do not, it is impossible to expect an objective reporting of facts. For all intents and purposes, the majority of the national press corps and the mainstream media has morphed into a propaganda wing for “their” side — the majority of which leans Left.

There is nothing wrong with writing opinion pieces, but that is not the role of the press. I do not classify myself as a “reporter” or a “journalist.” I am not just giving a chronology of events as they occurred. I do look at the facts, then I filter them through knowledge and experience. Once I have had a chance to digest the context, I provide my own thoughts and ideas, tempered with logic and reason, on the news of the day. Like a skilled debater, I am trying to convince my audience, through explanation and illustration, that my point-of-view is solid and above reproach.

This is the problem with the mainstream media. Too many have become covert op-ed writers, not interested in just laying out facts, but instead, creating a narrative, disguised as news, meant to sway the audience. The moment a journalist moves in that direction, they have willfully abdicated their role as reporters of the truth.

It’s not too late to hope for the Hollywood ending. But, as long as the press corps believes their role is to shape the news rather than report on it, they will continue to be manipulated into defending their egos when their machinations are revealed. The more the press loses their mind over the actions of Donald Trump, the less the public will believe anything they have to say.

President Trump challenged them to provide the truth to the American public. If it were a movie, that’s all it would take.

Will protest fatigue begin to show?

funny-rally-signs-21

It’s just now coming up on 13 days; not yet two full weeks since the inauguration. I believe there have been protests, rallies and protest-rallies each and every day, with no sign of slowing. There is a subset of our country that seems to have decided it’s better (easier?) to stop going to work, ignore responsibilities to house and home and become a career protester.

Hey, hey, ho, ho…so and so has got to go!

What do we want? <blank> When do we want it? Now.

I am writing this specifically for my friends on the Left. I’m worried about you. There is a problem when you continuously dilute your agenda by deciding everything must be protested. You could eventually succumb to the psychological condition known as compassion fatigue. As defined, compassion fatigue is a condition identified by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among individuals who deal with heightened emotions. From soldiers in combat, to first-responders, to doctors in emergency rooms and more, when exposed to intense situations over and over, eventually, as a way to cope, you will begin to stop caring. Similar to the boy-who-cried-wolf scenario, at some point, no one will care about what you have to say.

In addition to the gradual loss of apathy for the interest or cause, there are other problems that may manifest themselves. Some side effects of compassion fatigue include feelings of hopelessness, losing the ability to experience joy, a loss of a sense of humor, constant stress and anxiety, sleeplessness and a shift toward negativity.

unhappyprotesterSome say the voices of the regressive-Left are already experiencing these symptoms today. Many have already lost their sense of humor. Everything is mind-numbingly serious. There are those intent on looking for micro-aggressions everywhere, while demanding safe-spaces in which to hide. Some see misogyny, bigotry and xenophobia all around. Even last night on the campus of Berkeley, riots broke out because the tolerant voices of the Left would not tolerate to have Milo Yiannopoulos as a guest speaker. Why? Because he is not lock-step in line with the groupthink of the Left. The constant genuflections within the church of political correctness is leading toward a mass psychosis.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you felt joy? Hopefulness? When was the last time you felt positive about yourself? Your community? Your country? The knee-jerk reaction to decide anyone wearing the jersey of the “other” team must be opposed, shouted down, protested, fought and oppressed is a prescription for eventual self-destruction rather than victory.

Let’s pull back and I’ll try to explain this in a different way. We’ve all had relationships go bad. Whether dumped or divorced, we all know what it feels like to be emotionally hurt by someone we loved. However, over time, most will put that chapter behind us and move on to new adventures. That’s the healthy path. But, occasionally, the bitterness of the breakup will drive some to obsess over their ex, wondering nonstop who they are with or what they are doing? They complain incessantly about what they’ve learned, their words dripping with revulsion and anger. It becomes uncomfortable when they are out in groups. They cannot allow themselves to be happy because of their obsession over the one who hurt them and, by way of extension, like the Dementors of Harry Potter, can suck the joy out of everyone else in the room.

Let me ask you, in that situation, who is actually hurting? Who is really suffering? Is the ex somehow affected by the vitriol of their former love? Or is it the one who cannot figure out how to look for some semblance of acceptance and peace?

This is what’s happening to a segment of the population since the election of Donald Trump. Many are acting like the jilted lover and now that they have been left behind, they are focusing their hurt and anger on the one they believe scorned them. They are trolling nonstop, looking to criticize every word, phrase or action, regardless of facts, logic or reason. They prefer to make themselves feel better by hurting others, while spreading lies, misinformation and partisan rhetoric.

You cannot remove darkness with more darkness. You cannot remove anger by getting angrier. Said another way, by the great civil right’s leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It’s not easy to do, but, as with most things, it has to begin with you. No one else can do it for you.

This is not to say you must roll over and accept everything. On the contrary, the framers of our Constitution were keen to protect the right of citizens to gather and speak openly. However, if you have set yourself up that when the President says the sky is blue, you cross your arms, stamp your feet and shake your head, are you really accomplishing anything? To willfully disagree with everything means you are no longer protesting — you are throwing a tantrum. And, as most toddlers learn, throwing a tantrum uses a lot of energy and rarely achieves anything other than dreary fatigue. It is more productive and healthier to learn to pick your battles and pay heed to the old adage, you are likely to attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Executive Disorder

First things first, read the entire Executive Order. Then come back. I’ll wait.

Done? No you’re not. Read it first please.

* Flips through Cabela’s catalog, looks for fly-fishing classes *

* Gets diverted to the muskets. Always wanted a musket *

Done? You sure? Okay, here we go:

The Executive Order PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES justifies itself three times on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. And yet, the seven countries it puts a ninety-day stop on had nothing to do with that attack.

The seven countries affected by the Executive Order are Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. And yet, the nineteen hijackers on September 11, 2001 came from Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and primarily from Saudi Arabia. So I’m confused here. It’s like 2002 all over again. Members from al-Qaeda strike us from orders out of Afghanistan, we strike Afghanistan but then the Bush Administration goes after Iraq.

The only reason I can think of why the four countries with nationals who were part of the September 11, 2001 attacks were left off the list is because oil and business and more business. If I am correct, then this Executive Order is not about protecting America at all. It’s about…something else.

Before we speculate that, let’s look at the primary reason for the protests and uproar.

Paragraph three under Section 1 reads: In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation. (emphasis added).

This is referring to tenets of Islam some Muslims engage in. Here, the Order is clearly talking about Muslims, not Jains, Mormons, Buddhists, etc. (As my partner here, Alan J. Sanders, at Freedom Cocktail noted while reviewing a draft of this essay, the use of the word “should” does not mean “must” or “shall”. Being a legal document, without any more information, we can’t be entirely sure if the should is a shall). In any case, the listed “acts of bigotry” appear to be applying to Muslims, especially since no other religion practices honor killings. We now proceed on to Sec 5 (b) for clarification that this is, indeed, an executive order primarily lodged against Muslims.

Section 5 (b) reads: Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. (emphasis added) Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.

Islam is the majority in the countries identified. So when they say, religious minorities, they’re talking about Christian and otherwise. But the fact is, it is Muslims who primarily become victims from other Muslims. Finally, this may go against the Establishment Clause. Lawyers can work on this.

The third section that was bringing people to protest at airports was the following:

Section 3 (c) reads: (c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas). (emphasis added).

Immigrants (which include Green Card holders, legal permanent residents) are included in the ninety-day stay. This means legal residents who were out of the country when the Order went into effect couldn’t return to the United States for at least three months and then jump through whatever other hurdles were imposed. Just to get back home legally!

The preference for non-Muslims and docking legal residents (immigrants) are the major problem with this executive order. Besides my reading of the document, Donald Trump said the intent of this was to prioritize Christian refugees. Have a look. He does note that many people of all types have been harmed. But he puts more victimhood on Christians.

Is it a Muslim ban? Remarks by Rudy Giuliani seem to say so. In an interview on January 29, 2017, he noted that Trump approached him to put together a Muslim Ban and to do so legally. Those are Giuliani’s words. Sure, he did later say in the same interview that the ban wasn’t based on religion but “danger”. Okay, fair enough, but now we’re back to asking why Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and especially Saudi Arabia are not included?

Let’s also not forget that Trump ran his campaign on a platform for a year calling for a “complete ban” on Muslim entering the country. Is this just a watered down order?

This Executive Order is, indeed, saying at least, if you’re a Muslim from these particular seven countries, you’ll have to sit at the back of the bus.

But back to the four Muslim countries with nationals involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks not being included. Nor were the many other Muslim majority countries. So what gives?

Maybe the answer is in Trump’s tax returns? Maybe it’s oil? Maybe tourism? Maybe anything? I don’t know. Possible combination?

What about Pakistan? Members of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, have been known to be al-Qaeda sympathizers. That country has been a wobbly ally since the Soviet Union / Afghanistan war.

Maybe being a United States ally is a reason?

In any case, I can’t take this Executive Order seriously as a means of protection for Americans when zero acts of terrorism have come from the listed seven but not the four that actually spawned September 11, 2001 terrorists. And, since it’s primarily aimed at making it more difficult for Muslims that come from countries that have no strong business ties to Trump and/or the United States, it’s terribly insulting to this American to try to claim otherwise.

I suggest more reading on the subject. Here, the Atlantic declared it was a Muslim Ban. It’s a fine analysis.

  • I was considering commenting on Trump’s claim that Obama did a similar thing in 2011 but have chosen not to. First, we cannot change history. Secondly and most importantly, just because your predecessor does it doesn’t mean it’s right. And finally, if you want, here’s an article that says more than I could about it.