Category Archives: Random Thoughts

In Those Days There Was Magic

An Editor’s Note About the Old Days:

There is a difference between magic and delusion. In the old days, we kids experienced magic, wonder. There was no TV, laptops, no IPhones, no video games. So, we had time to explore the world. Those lucky enough to have bikes rode them to where someone said there was a huge ant hill or some birds’ eggs in the grass. Those without bikes played tag or hide & seek, or jumped rope.

When I was about six or seven, my parents and I lived in a neighborhood filled with huge old houses. It was a changing place. Some houses were still occupied by the original families. Some were converted into apartments or rooming houses. Some were empty. The once opulent but still well off mingled every Sunday at the farmers’ market with the poor working families. You had to mingle if you wanted to hear, and even discuss, the news of the neighborhood.

One day, one of the kids breathlessly brought the news that the front door of one of the big houses up on the hill was wide open and inside, on one of the walls of the huge front room was a movie screen alive with a Laurel and Hardy movie. Without thinking twice, we all dashed up the hill and made ourselves at home, sitting on the clean polished wood floor watching the movie.  There was no furniture or other obstructions. But soon it was time to go home. The rule was immutable for all of us: home in time for dinner.

There was no schedule or rhyme or reason. We just knew that once in a while the front door of the big house was open, the floor was shinny and spotless, and the Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy movies were playing. Some of us told our parents about it. The response was always, “Oh, that old house is empty. Nobody lives there.”

Since nobody stayed past time for dinner, nobody ever knew when the movies stopped. We just knew they must have stopped at some time because the door was closed the next day.

No one questioned the strangeness of the situation. No one feared or investigated. For all everyone knew, it was magic, and that was that.

Little girls jumping rope

Oil foes do not like kids’ plastic toys

WatermelonGreen deals are popping up like dandelions.  Left-leaning folks are ready to downright ban oil.  No more fossil fuels!  No more fracking!  To be responsibly green, we will need to do a lot more than what is common sense like investing in clean, effective and useful transit systems.

Aside from the question whether we need to anticipate flying in solar-powered airplanes, we also need to reflect on how many things around the house we will need to replace when oil becomes prohibitively expensive or just plain unavailable.

Of course, our toddler’s toys, eating utensils, backyard kiddie pool, and playground slides will need to go away.  Disposable diapers will be a problem — outer shell is plastic.  Crayons — oil based.

Also to depart will be the cheap bag of fertilizer we use for our potted plants.  Inexpensive T-shirts will need to be replaced by cotton or maybe even Irish linen.  Regarding shoes, we will have to face a huge dilemma, since the alternative to synthetic might be leather from little innocent cows.

Vaseline, lipstick, nail polish — all petroleum based.

So, when a candidate for office says at a neighborhood town hall that she would suspend all fossil fuel drilling leases for offshore and public lands, start worrying about all those T-shits and sneakers.

Oh, but wait, the U.S. imports like 70% of all that stuff anyway, so we would not need domestic oil, right?  Other countries can increase their oil production to make up for the U.S. decrease, no?  Oh, that will fight global warming how, again?

 

Why Calvin Coolidge

Why Calvin Coolidge?

CoolidgeThese days we certainly hear a lot about Lincoln, Roosevelt, Obama, Trump.  How about Coolidge?

“Silent Cal,” so named because he spoke only when it was absolutely necessary, is admired by small-government advocates and ignored by central planners.  In his address delivered to the Holy Name Society, Washington DC, 1924, Coolidge expressed the ultimate liberty-leaning rule:

Liberty is not collective, it is personal. All liberty is individual liberty.

It is your serfdom or liberty.  It is your choice.  It is your vote.  Your vote puts candidates, good or bad, into office.  Your vote determines the laws under which you live.

Your vote also determines your take-home pay, how much of what you earn is available to purchase and invest by yourself and your family.  Here is another favorite Coolidge quote from his 1925 inaugural address,

The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager.


Sheep: The Animal That Fell From Grace

Sheep:  The Animal That Fell From Grace

Flock of sheep 3There is a reason why you may know a lot of people who keep guard dogs, but none who keep guard sheep.

Sheep Logic, an article by W. Ben Hunt published in Epsilon Theory, gives a fascinating account of sheep behavior. After you read the article, you will have a better understanding why there are no guard sheep, why there is a distinction between a flock and a pack, and why today people are encouraged to fall into flocks not packs.

Here is a summary of sheep protocol according to Dr. Hunt:

*Sheep are other-regarding. Their actions are prompted by what they see other sheep do.

*Sheep have zero capacity for altruism. They do not form bonds, they do not lead, nor do they follow. They just do not care!

*Sheep’s other-regarding and selfishness continue even when such traits prove unbeneficial to them. If no outside event prompts any sheep to discontinue a detrimental behavior, the entire flock continues the behavior.

*Sheep’s flocks are social structures that promote other-awareness, and preclude coordination or formation of objectives. Flocks, therefore, differ sharply from packs, since the hallmark of pack animals is a self awareness that encourages a social structure formed to carry out common objectives, such as hunting for food or raising the young.

Do people resemble sheep or wolves today?

According to Ben Hunt, people today are encouraged to behave like sheep – other-regarding, selfish, dogmatic, and “willing to pursue a myopic behavior even unto death.”

“Why are we being trained to think like sheep? Because sheep are wonderful prey animals. They pay the rent with their fleece, and when push comes to shove you can eat them, too.” “Just keep them from killing themselves in some really stupid accident and you can harvest them for years and years and years.”

“How are we trained to think like sheep? By the rewards we receive from our modern social institutions for other-regarding flock behaviors like jealousy (feeling sad when others are glad) and schadenfreude (feeling glad when others are sad), and by the penalties we receive for self-regarding pack behaviors like honor and shame.” “Shame requires self-evaluation and self-judgment against some standard of obligation to the pack, concepts which would make sheep laugh if they could.”

This Biblical animal certainly loses its cuddliness at the hands of Dr. Hunt, though it continues to illustrate human deportment well.

(Sheep Logic, authored by Dr. W. Ben Hunt, appeared on Epsilon Theory, on October 5, 2017)


Does Political Correctness Have Limits?

The Difference

There is a world of difference between civility and political correctness (PC).  Civility is thoughtful behavior towards everyone.  PC is prescribed, agenda-driven speech and action that applies to some but not to others.  Civility comes from the inside, while PC is prompted from the outside.

Increasingly, PC is taking the place of civility.  PC harshly censors our speech, actions, and even thoughts.  Dare to call for discipline in a classroom, and the label of “privileged” soon follows.  Dare to criticize the work of a self-identified-female employee, the label of “sexist” immediately arises.  Oh, and calling anyone female or male without the qualifying “self-identified” borders on the self destructive.

The Advocates

Advocates of PC say they want to level the playing field, promote equality of outcomes, compensate for privilege.  At first blush, such objectives might even sound laudable.  But the problem is political correctness does not recognize limits.

The Example

Kurt Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron (1961) paints a world towards which PC advocates might be takings us all, a world in which the new and improved American Constitution prescribes complete equality for all.

In Vonnegut’s dystopian world nobody can be smarter, more talented or prettier than the rest.  Laws force people to wear “handicaps,” such as masks for the beautiful, sound to disrupt thought for the intelligent, and bags filled with lead balls for the strong and/or agile.

Here is Vonnegut’s idea of a domestic dialogue in the age of complete fairness:

“You been so tired lately — kind of wore out,” said Hazel.  “If there were just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls.  Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George.  “I don’t call that a bargain.”…

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it — and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else…”

The Consequences

And here is a concern related in an article on U.S. News.com about the downward trends of math and English scores as measured by college-readiness tests:

“Much more concerning, however, were readiness levels in math and English, which continued a downward slide dating to 2014.  This year [2018], math scores dropped to a 20-year low.”

“The news reignited concerns over whether there is a mismatch between what students learn in school and what college entrance exams ask of them, whether tests are an accurate barometer of college readiness, and — from an equity standpoint — whether the tests present an advantage to those with more means.”

Rich BoyHopefully colleges will not further waste parents and/or taxpayers’ money carrying out studies on whether “those with more means” have advantages over those without, since we all know that to be the case already.  Such advantages will always exist … that is unless legislators decide to really level the playing field by creating the position of “Handicapper General” as those in Kurt Vonnegut’s story did.