Random Thoughts

Does Political Correctness Have Limits, Or Not?

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.

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.

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…”

And here is a concern related in an article on U.S. 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.

Recommended:  Old TV Series The Prisoner

The Just Vote No Blog would like to recommend the 1967-1968 British television series The Prisoner. It is free on YouTube. Just Google “The Prisoner series YouTube” and watch.

The Prisoner meets No. 2
The Prisoner (at left) upon his arrival meets with The Village’s No. 2

Why is JVN recommending this series? Any website sporting the tag line “Suggestions for Liberty” would be interested in an unequivocal statement such as, I will not make any deals with you. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.The Prisoner Episode 1, “Arrival”



What is the Prisoner About?

The Prisoner is a rather bizarre tale of somebody, apparently a high-level spy, who resigns from his post on the first episode of the series, is immediately abducted by a mysterious entity, taken to a lovely community called “The Village,” and spends the next 17 episodes of the series attempting to outwit his captors first by trying to escape and later by manipulating the un-named jailers.

The Village offers all residents a tranquil care-free existence, with all needs provided for, as long as all rules are obeyed and escape is not attempted. Everyone residing in The Village wears a number pinned to their colorful clothing, except The Prisoner and The Butler (he serves, but does he?). We know that the top administrator of The Village is No. 2. Even by the end of the series, we do not really know who No. 1 is.  More from Episode 1:

Prisoner: Who are you?
No.2: The new Number Two.
Prisoner: Who is Number One?
No.2: You Are Number 6….

Who are the folks residing in The Village? Why are they there? Who are “the jailers?” Nothing is clear. However, as in real life, perhaps clarity is not as crucial as the process by which obscurity is maintained. Perhaps the who and the what is not as useful as noting contrasts, such as individualism vs. collectivism, or adaptive behavior vs. refusal to accept forced directives.

Be Selective If You Must

The human chessboardEpisode 9, “Checkmate,” is a must-see for its originality. Residents of The Village stand on a chess board on the beautiful village grounds and follow the directions of a “champion” calling moves on a megaphone. The Prisoner is persuaded to be the Queen’s Pawn. Interestingly, he pays no attention to the champion and continues chatting with the Queen behind him as the megaphone repeatedly calls “Pawn to Queen Four,” “Pawn to Queen Four!” Worse, the White Queen’s Rook makes an unauthorized move! Ah, being ignored must be so infuriating to tyrants and their minions.

No. 2 forces The Prisoner to undergo mental regression
In Episode 16, No. 2 places The Prisoner in a state of mental age regressing in an attempt to “Find a Link and Put it All Together.”

However, after Episode 9, the series could be said to either 1) start unraveling because Patrick McGoohan – series creator, principal character, writer, producer, and executive director – got tired of the series and wanted to move on (Ice Station Zebra, the 1968 film flop starring Rock Hudson, McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine, and Jim Brown was waiting), or 2) start showing how a collectivist autocratic nation state unravels. Since each episode illustrates escalating tactics needed by autocratic nation states to continue their mission and preserve their existence, one could visualize a breaking point when extreme actions start resulting in extreme opposition, and at that point things fall apart.

If you do have the stamina and open mindedness to last through Episode 17, “Fall Out” be prepared to be either surprised or baffled.

Beautiful Trees Vanishing from San Francisco

In 2016 San Francisco voters passed Proposition E, a ballot measure that transferred responsibility for caring for neighborhood trees from property owners to the City’s Department of Public Works.  Guess what happened then:  Trees started to vanish.  Certainly some trees were old and posed a hazard,  but that many!?  Maybe some aggressive pruning might have been sufficient?

Once beautiful little nooks in alleyways are now bare.  Trees were accused of too much shade during the day and too much spookiness at night.  Trees in street corners fell guilty of obstructing drivers’ visibility and were also condemned.

Just a random thought:  Why are landscapes in dystopian fiction so often uniform, lacking in natural or creative beauty?  To destabilize the mind and make individuals more receptive to authoritarian guidance?

Trees 2

Pictured:  Ficus trees lining a San Francisco neighborhood street.  Ficus have been especially targeted as old and hazardous.

S.F. Chronicle article discussing the situation:   Questions Arise About SF’s Tree Maintenance Program  – October 9, 2018.


U.S. “News” After the Trump-Putin Meeting

On July 16, 2018, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met.  Today is July 19, and nobody is talking about anything else besides Trump’s saying Russia said they did not interfere with U.S. elections.  How shallow can things get?  However, Atlantic Media’s Defense One website did break from the pack and actually reported something interesting about the Trump-Putin meeting.  Given the gazillions that the U.S. is spending in armaments — instead of infrastructure, for example — maybe more attention should be given to something of substance that occurred at the meeting.  To quote the article on Defense One:

On Monday, Putin said he wants to continue nuclear disarmament talks. “We believe it necessary to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation.”

No red hats for this Just Vote No Blog; just some random thoughts on how insipid U.S. politics and media venues have become.

In Flanders Field, Normandy, Tora Bora, Around the World

In a week America will have a long weekend. Memorial Day is May 28. In the old days, this holiday was called Decoration Day, a day of uncertain history but certainly honoring the fallen of the Civil War.  Families remembered the dead by gathering to tidy up and decorate their graves.  After World War I, people began to honor those who died in all American wars, and the name of the holiday gradually changed to Memorial Day. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday celebrated the last Monday in May.

Whether they perished defending states’ rights, or freedom, or oil, or the banking cartels is irrelevant. They perished, often in the prime of youth.  Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, surgeon for an Allied artillery unit during World War I, wrote the poem “In Flanders Field” after beholding a field of red poppies growing among the vast number of dead.  The poem gave voice to those who no longer could speak for themselves.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Perhaps the best way not to break faith with those who die in wars is to end the quarrel with the foe, choose the obvious common sense of negotiation and peace. Such steps can be brought about not only statesmen, but also by ordinary voters. As a voter, each one of us can demand via the ballot box that Congress return to observing its Constitutional prerogative to declare war or not after careful deliberation. We can elect candidates with a track record of preferring negotiation (some might call that deal making) rather than confrontation. We can choose Peace.

Flanders Field 2

Who is in Charge, You or the Folks in Legislatures?

The U.S. Declaration of Independence clearly says the people are in charge, and government derives its powers from the consent of the governed, that is, the people.  No consent, and government goes back to the drawing board in whatever plan it proposes.  This principle holds true at all levels of government — city, county, state, and federal.  How do we the people assert our powers?  By casting informed votes that reflect the following truths:

Remembering Gladys West – No Excuses, Just Hard Work

Exchange Woman's Work On GPSMilitary Times has some interesting stories on its website to commemorate Black History Month. The people featured worked in a segregated, possibly hostile, environment. Yet they succeeded in doing outstanding work. Gladys West was part of the team that developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s. MT quotes her as saying, “When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’ ”

Way to go. Those who prefer to find excuses for non-performance need not apply.

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, a recent 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)

History Belongs to Those Who Tell It

Men Waiting Outside Al Capone Soup KitchenWhat really caused the Recession of 1929?  Was it the result of wealth inequality, deregulated markets run amuck, or the consequence of an unstable international monetary system?  Why did the Recession of 1929 become the Great Depression and was it inevitable or unnecessary?

Were the Federal Reserve and Herbert Hoover administration guilty of negligent inaction, or did the Fed and Hoover White House respond with unprecedented economic interventions?  And did the Great Depression finally end due to FDR’s New Deal or World War II, or some other cause that has been largely ignored in the annals of economic history?

In the first of a two-part series, Chris Silber will discuss the backdrop leading to the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.  In part two, Chris will examine the fiscal, trade, regulatory, labor, and wage policies of the Hoover and FDR administrations, and the conditions that led to recovery.

This presentation is part of the education and discussion get-togethers of the Golden Gate Liberty Revolution Meetup (fka the Ron Paul Meetup).  The first part of this two-part Meetup will be on Monday, September 25, 2017, and the second part will be on Monday, October 23, 2017.  For details of the meeting, please visit the Golden Gate Liberty Revolution Meetup.  RSVPs are appreciated.

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.

John Adams – the Movie: What it takes to build a nation

John Adams

Our Founding Fathers created a new nation, unique among others. Our Founders understood that for their creation to endure, the citizenry needed to be equipped to carry on.  Including some history books in our reading list is good.  However, more fun is to join friends once a month or so to study and discuss some history, economics, the U.S. Constitution, and other topics of interest.  John Adams, a popular HBO series available on DVD, is an excellent way to learn what it took to build a nation, and what it takes to keep it.  The series, based on historian David McCullough’s book of the same name, is faithful to letters and other documents of the day.  (Friends of this website finished watching and discussing this movie recently, thanks to the efforts of members of Golden Gate Liberty Revolution.)