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.”

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?

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.

Let’s Talk Health Care

Let’s talk about health care. First, some things I won’t do. First, I will not invoke the Constitution. Second, I won’t debate whether it’s a Right or not. These two items alone have caused more weeds in the discussion than results. I won’t do any of these things because regardless of where you fall using these methods, they don’t solve the problem. The problem is that health care is expensive and everyone wants to be able to afford it. So instead of fighting for making it a Right or defending whether or not it’s Constitutional, what we should be doing is discussing how to make health care affordable. So that’s what we’re going to do.

So let’s talk about health care. It’s a hot topic and rightly should be. Everyone wants to be free from illness and the stress that comes with it. According to this Gallup Poll, it’s the second biggest thing in terms of importance. Sure said poll is over a decade old but I’m going to make an educated guess it would be the same today. At any rate, it rightly should be at the top of everyone’s list on most important matters in life. So why isn’t it?

According to this report from Marketwatch, Americans are spending more on eating out, getting new cars and entertainment than health care. In fact, more than double. I’m sure these numbers fluctuate over time but let’s understand something. If Americans spent less time being entertained, more time cooking at home and maybe scaled down on the need for new cars, I’m betting that money alone would pay for a health care insurance plan.

I noted in a previous post (which I’d encourage reading again even though it was posted before the Affordable Care Act became law) I noted first, that government was responsible for the high costs of health care. Second, I noted that many people, even those considered “poor”, have cell phones and cable television. Even a basic cable plan and an iPhone with a data plan totals today about $150.00 or more. Do you need cable television? Nope (I don’t have it). Do you need an iPhone? Nope. It’s nice to have these things and you can have a smart phone. Just scale down the unnecessary big channel and data plans. I’m betting all that data is being blown on social media, YouTube, Netflix…in essence, entertainment.

Now what else are Americans spending money on? America gets teased because it’s a consumer nation. We want big toys. A friend of mine once remarked, “America. We want big cars, big houses. Big boats and big plates with lots of food. We want big televisions and computers. We want big everything. Except for our bodies.” But it’s precisely because of our consumer nation that we have big bodies. And what do big bodies get? That’s right, health problems. Being over weight brings health problems and more needs for doctor visits and medications and…

Here’s my point. Americans have the money. They’re just putting it into things that are not important and quite frankly, causing health problems. America, you could afford health insurance before the ACA, you were and continue to spend your money on unnecessary things.

I’m convinced we could reduce the cost of health care if we got government completely out of health care. Everything I noted above that Americans afford are for the most part, not regulated to death by the government (except cars). Certainly no where near how the health care industry is regulated.

Let’s concentrate a moment on cell phones to see how to solve this.

Even the cheapest of today’s smart phones have more computing power than all the computers that sent man to the moon in 1969. And yet, when I wanted one, my cell phone company pretty much gave it to me in exchange for a monthly service plan. I had a choice of services to add or remove from the plan. I had/have choices. I only pay for what I want. Why doesn’t the health care system work like cell phone companies?

What if you could walk into a doctor’s office or hospital and say, “I’d like a health care plan.” And then someone comes out with a catalog of things you could buy. And on a monthly basis, you would pay for them. It could work something like car insurance. You buy based on your risk assessment.

Of course, the question always arises. What if you plan poorly and you get hit with something you did not foresee? Well, maybe the hospitals could have an “Act of God” option. Pay an extra $10 a month for it.

I don’t have all the answers. And maybe my suggestion would suck. Could it be any worse than what we have now? Couldn’t we try it and if it doesn’t work, we just go back. Right?

Let’s massage this out. Let’s keep looking for more ideas and less “But the Guberment gotta do something.” Let’s be more creative. Continue the discussion in the comments section or on social media.

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

Donald Trump will abuse the office of the presidency. I am convinced of this. During his campaign, he routinely said he knew more about things others did not. He routinely said he knew more about things than anyone else. He routinely said that only he could fix things. In essence, the Donald Trump campaign was a bumper sticker: Let Go, Let Trump.

He was voted in because a large portion of voters were tired of being called racists, homophobic, bake that cake, etc. He was voted in because a wild card was better than a Crooked Hillary. He was voted on a hope that it would be better than Hillary. It is the GOP version of Nancy Pelosi’s “We gotta pass it to see what’s in it.”

Speaking of Crooked Hillary, he campaigned so hard on this that his campaign wanted an emoji added to it if it was used as a hashtag on Twitter. He said Crooked Hillary over and over and branded the Clinton Family as the worst in politics. In the second presidential debate, Trump promised to organize a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton’s email “situation”. After Clinton’s rebuttal, Trump threatened that if he were president, she’d be in jail.

I started to think that this wild card was even wilder than his supporters thought when the Sunday after he won the election, when he was interviewed by Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, he softened his stance and actually said he didn’t want to hurt the Clintons because they were “good people”. Huh?

Donald Trump has been caught in numerous lies and exaggerations and doesn’t even bother to respond when called out on them. He’s mastered the art of making a claim that benefits himself knowing that said claims are rarely investigated. Or, if so, corrections that come afterwards are rarely reviewed by the public. Proof positive is how memes move so fast around social media without any fact-checking. Trump understands this and works it.

Do we have any idea what we’re about to get on January 20, 2017? All we know for certain is Donald Trump will abuse the office of the presidency. I know this because of not only what he’s said himself (summarized above) but by the precedent that was set before him.

The office of the president has been abused for decades by both the major parties. And we the people, keep right on voting for them.

In my professional experience with Domestic Violence victims, one thing has always stood out as odd. Despite the physical and mental torment, they stay. They stay with their abuser sometimes until their own deaths at the abuser’s hands. They stay because in most cases, they have no where else to go. They are usually financially dependent on the abuser, they may be transportation dependent, dependent regarding food and shelter, dependent for caring for shared children, dependent, dependent, dependent. What the abuser has over the abused is force. The household or relationship is one of force over a dependent party. And the dependent party feels stuck.

Government operates on a larger but similar scale but is essentially in a domestic violence relationship with its people. There is a group of people in power over the majority of other people and if the other people don’t abide by the rules of the power-people, then other people with guns come to make “corrections”. The people who are ruled may petition the government for a change and, like a domestic violence abuser, the government may send flowers from time to time (small tax break, school grant) but the model of power and control remains in place. What has happened, is the American people have sunk into shrugged shoulders of acceptance thinking that if you can’t beat them, join them. Just make sure your abuser is nicer to you than others.

Government has become the provider of so many services and programs, that American elections have boiled down to which candidate can gimmie my stuff. Which candidate can force other people to gimmie, gimmie, gimmie (I love that Black Flag song, look it up). The American people have become dependent on a government that provides so much, they look the other way when bad things happen to good people as long as their share, any share, remains flowers.

Government is force. That’s it. When someone says government should do something, what they’re really saying is government should force someone to do something. And while it benefits the good of all when using force to stop infringements on your personal property or natural rights, it has been stretched to force people to bake cakes and regulate the size of your toilet.

I’ve noted here (and it’s worth reading/revisiting then returning to this essay) that the president is one person with a cabinet and numerous federal departments and fifty governors and congress and many more people that can keep him in check. Also noted is that the presidency has become much more powerful ever since the Vietnam era, over reaching so aggressively that when Barack Obama decided he was going to go it alone with his agenda, he came right out and said that if Congress wouldn’t act, he had a pen and a phone. He didn’t even try to hide the power he wielded.

This leads me back to Donald Trump and the big question that always bugged me about his desire to run for office. Why would Trump, a billionaire with worldwide properties and a glamorous Hollywood existence want a stressful, $400,000 a year job that’s run out of a two-hundred-year old house? Based on Trump’s blatant narcissism, the answer appears clear: It’s the power. It’s the ability now to force his will. Instead of having to make deals and compromises in the business world, he can use the force and power of the federal government to do what he wants. It’s not about making America great again. It’s about making the Donald more Donaldly.

Will Congress keep any outlandish executive orders in check? Will they be able to or willing to stop anything as ludicrous as, say, a wall between the United States and Mexico? I don’t know. But an interesting first test may have played itself out on the very first day the 115th Congress took office.

On January 3, 2017, the first thing the new Congress did was gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, essentially allowing Congress to now investigate itself as opposed to an independent third party. Conflict of interest much? But then later in the day, Congress reversed itself and decided not to do this. Why? Well, people called their representatives and complained. But Donald Trump also wielded his Twitter account, tweeting, “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog…”.

Did Congress reverse itself because of calls from the people? Or did this now majority Republican Congress do it to show a unity with its incoming Republican President? I don’t know. But what I do know is that parties usually stress unity. And after Trump won, it was quite a site to see the GOP on its struggle bus getting to accept it.

Liberals that enjoyed the eight years President Obama had forcing his agenda now have to come to grips with a new president with the same power that seems to oppose everything they worked for. The same government that forced people to get into a health care program or suffer a penalty will now be used at Trump’s pleasure. He, too, will have the pen and the phone. Watching liberals on social media and talk shows speak of resistance and limiting Trump has been sweet yet bitter desserts. It’s sweet because they’re doing the “I Told You So” without me having to and yet bitter because I’m not sure they’ve learned the lesson. So let me spell it out:

The solution to stopping future Trumps, is to stop government from being too powerful. Those with desires for power seek out positions of power. The solution is not to be working towards the next election to get your people in that will use the power to give you your programs back. The solution is to be looking for candidates that want to remove government powers. Anyone who talks like Trump, doesn’t qualify.

The solution is to keep your important things out of government hands. The solution is to not becoming dependent on government for solutions. The lesson that should be taken away is that if you give government your things, you only get what you want for a brief period of time and your wants are easily taken away with the next administration.

The solution is putting all of our important affairs in a free market.

Break the cycle. Stop being dependent. Stop being a victim. Get the federal government out of everything not authorized in the Constitution and we all win.

We have lots of articles here at the Freedom Cocktail blog showing how this can be achieved in many areas of life. But if you wish to ignore it all and start fresh, feel free to continue the conversation in the comments section at the top of this essay right up there. ⇑

Trust No One

The last time a kid came out of Macedonia and took over the world and changed governments was Alexander the Great. Today, it’s Fake News. Teenagers making it rich by making shit up. Isn’t that what kids do? Make believe? Yeah, and lots of people all over the world are falling for their stories. In fact, some are saying it’s what caused Donald Trump to win the election. I doubt it. I think comedian Jonathan Pie is probably more on the mark. But people are passing these stories around on the Facebooks and Googles, so much to the dislike of these companies that they are taking steps to block them outright.

Now, these companies have the right to block whoever, whatever they want. The First Amendment isn’t the issue here (let’s also understand these companies serve the entire globe and the First Amendment only applies in the United States). These companies are trying to serve their customers or, at least, a vocal enough section for the companies to take action. They’ve got Terms of Service agreements and if you don’t follow them, you can lose access to their service.

At any rate, blocking fake news is a bad idea and here is why:

1) The companies are going to be playing Whack-a-Mole forever with this. Garbage is fluent on the Internet. And when you block a site or user, they come back under different domains and names. Seems like a waste of resources to be constantly banning.

2) The block-Net could end up catching non-fake news sites thereby forcing the owners to plead their case to be unblocked. And what about fake news sites like The Onion that everyone loves? There’s tons of other fake news, satire sites. Mistakes can happen.

3) Blocking reduces reader’s choice. If you’re going to block fake news sites, why not block reports on spell casting, astrology, demonology, alchemy, spirit photography? I could post a picture of a flying saucer every day and say this was over my house and social media wouldn’t do anything about it. But if I create a website which looks like the New York Times and report that Donald Trump reports seeing a flying saucer while aboard his jet plane, well…

4) News that readers report as fake may just be news they don’t agree with. Where’s the fine line? Should we also block 9/11 Truther websites too? How about Who Killed JFK websites? Or websites dedicated to demonizing or pledging allegiance to Israel?

5) What actually counts as “fake news”? Erick Erickson penned a good piece showing that the mainstream media sometimes fails to tell the truth too. Sometimes it’s a mistake in the material the journalist is working with. Sometimes out right lies.

6) If Facebook and Google swear to block fakes, the users may fall into a sense of false protection and start figuring if they’re seeing it, the services must have determined it’s real and if the service is allowing it, it must be true. Again, it takes away reader’s choice and most of all, a reader’s use of judgement, for better or worse.

These are just six reasons off the top of my head for not blocking anything called fake news. But the critic of my reasoning might point to PizzaGate or the Sandy Hook conspiracy victim threats and note that false information can result in very dangerous actions. Yep, that is very true. People believe lots of stupid things and end up injuring or killing others. Parents who believe vaccines cause autism come to mind.

Why should it be up to Facebook and Google and those who follow their lead to ban things? Should, say, bookstores follow their lead? Booksellers, big and small, they carry all kinds of literature. They carry books on alien abductions and government conspiracies, astrology, spell books, self-help (most of which is nonsense, garbage psychology), Dianetics, and more. And yet despite the nonsense, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and others continue to sell them. In fact, some bookstores specifically exist for New Age material. They’re not responsible for the content, they have chosen to give their customer’s choices. In fact, Barnes and Noble celebrates every year this freedom with Banned Book week.

I have a better solution that social media companies could implement instead of blocking and banning. Here it is: An education on critical, skeptical thinking. These tools, if properly used, combat all forms of nonsense. Social media companies or otherwise could offer advice on how to treat everything their customers see. Here’s what I do with everything I see that these services could dedicate a page to:

1) Look for obvious falsehoods. When I read a headline that Barack Obama was going to refuse to leave the White House on January 20, 2017, I knew it was an instant fraud. Just applying what I know about him was enough to know that isn’t going to happen.

2) Corroborate the information. If Obama really wasn’t going to step down on January 20th, other sources would be reporting this. In fact, this would be the front page of the New York Times and every other news source in the entire world.

3) What do the experts say? Expert doesn’t mean authority. Leave authority for the Pope. No, I mean people who major in the sort of thing you’re looking into. If you, like me, are a cancer survivor, don’t get excited about the latest cure in the tabloids. Talk to your oncologist or two or three.

4) If you can, ask that person directly. I love Twitter for this and am usually pretty good about getting responses. If I hear someone said something, I go to Twitter (or occasionally email still) and ask that person if the quote is real.

5) If you believe something, ask WHY. This can’t be stressed enough. You must challenge your own beliefs much more than what you don’t believe. Always be asking yourself why you think something is true. Make a graph, if necessary. I’m betting Trump supporters more easily bought fake news about Clinton than Clinton supporters and vice versa. I’ve been spending some time lately with socialist articles and conversation because I feel if I can defend libertarianism over it, then I’m in the right camp. You strengthen (or change) your own stance by engaging with the other.

6) Do Gut-Reaction-Mathematics. Ask yourself what is the likelihood this would happen? Size up the claim to history and what we know. If you read that there’s a mother who keeps bringing her child to the hospital with fresh wounds because she’s suffering from attacks from a poltergeist, what do you do with that? Conclude there’s awful poltergeists? Or figure more rationally the mother suffers from Munchausen Syndrome?

These are just six things from the top of my head anyone can do when they read something or hear it reported on the nightly news. In the end, no matter who’s trying to save you from bad information, it’s up to you and you alone.

When my own children ask me questions about whether Santa Claus or mermaids or god exists, or if it’s true that we live on a planet in space, I always tell them that’s an interesting question. How about we examine the evidence? This has led to a lot of good conversations with my kids and book purchases for study. Because in the end, I won’t always be able to censor what they read or hear, now or in the future when they’re adults. They’re already bringing home misinformation from other kids at school. It’s better if I give them the tools to think for themselves than give them direct answers whenever I can. And it’s always very possible I’m wrong on something. So if I provide the tools, they can question me. We all get to learn something.

In closing, I can’t recommend highly enough some publications worth investing in regardless of how good you think you are at skepticism and logic. I subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic magazine. Both excellent publications and rather cheap for digital subscriptions. I also recommend using Snopes.com for everything. I mean every rumor or story or otherwise. And for United States politics, I recommend PolitiFact.com.

The Truth is Out There.

This Is How Government Works

It’s been over a year since candidates started running for the Office of United States President. And yesterday, the American public picked one. But the story I just told is so much bigger than the two sentences you just read. Because the takeaway this election showed everyone is that this is how government works. Which logically should lead everyone to ask, is this the best way to solve all the matters we’ve given over to political control? Do we really want matters such as health care, education, economics, etc decided like this?

What the American people went through with all the anxiety and fighting and loss of friendships and family and anger is how laws and government programs are made. What the American people go through to elect members of their government is just the beginning of more anxiety and fighting and loss of friendships and family and anger getting things done.

Senators and Congressmen, when drafting legislation, turn everything into political footballs. They battle and fight and slander each other. They do so because they have so much power over just about every aspect of our lives and the American people keep giving it to them by voting in the same buffoons from the two major parties. Here, from an older piece of mine, I’ll show you how government programs are made:


Before you can turn your idea into law, you have to gather a group of people who feel the same way about your plan and promote it. But since no one person is exactly alike as the other, you’re bound to make a few compromises to retain your support. Then you’re required to bring it to your Congressmen’s attention and if they wish to work with it, you’re going to end up with even more compromises and changes.

Once in government, your idea will go through various committees and debates. All participants in the plan will modify and change it to suite their needs. Your idea is slowly becoming someone else’s and will no longer represent your intentions.

When and if it gets past this point, you will not be the one to write the law, the politicians will. They will be the same politicians who made the many failed programs you object to now. Then once law, you will not be the one to enforce it, bureaucrats will. They will enforce only the parts they agree with and end up using it to appease their political cohorts.

Of course the new law will have its opponents, so it will end up before the courts which will have their way of interpreting it as well.

By the time your idea ends up running the gamete of government, it will not be what you intended it to be. It will now be another political football for the politicians to use against each other and to satisfy their political supporters. And you’ll look back on all that time you wasted asking government to solve your problem.


In other words, the American people went through over a year of election-hell so that important items like health care and education and economics could be solved in a Fight Club, in the most inefficient way.

I think there’s at least three reasons why America keeps voting like this:

1) Again, we were under the impression that this was the most important election of our lifetimes. It’s always sold this way. Each election I’ve been involved in has always been about the sky ready to fall if one or the other major party candidate is or isn’t chosen. So this shies away people feeling out third parties.

2) The American public doesn’t spend a lot of time on politics. Even during an election, it’s all surface research. In this election, they seemed to spend more time on Donald Trump’s Twitter account, pussy grabbing and on Hillary Clinton’s husband’s bad past, her email server and the fact she is a woman. What about policy? Most people do not involve themselves in political theory. It sure can be dry. But it’s an important dry.

3) The American public doesn’t really know how government works. They may think that if we only get the right people into government, those people can handle our health care, education, etc. And that is why they fight so hard for their “right” people. They don’t realize that what I wrote up top, is how it works regardless of who’s at the helm. The solution, is to not let government have the helm of important matters.

So what to do about it? A continued outreach on the part of a small government, libertarian leaning army is in order. Letting people know that what they went through with the 2016 election is what they’re going to keep going through if they leave those important matters in the hands of government.

If the top of the Libertarian Party ticket had won in 2016, if it brought in libertarian senators and congressmen as well, we wouldn’t have to go through this anymore. Who was president, wouldn’t matter much anymore. Who was your congressman or woman or senator, wouldn’t matter much anymore. Because you wouldn’t be constantly fighting to elect someone to do your bidding. You’d be doing your own bidding in the free market where libertarians want to turn over important matters like health care, education, etc. This is the message we should be sending out. And using this awful, angry election as an example of what government is would be the first time in a long time I’ve seen something come from a government program that works.