The Odd Things I Remember from the 70s

Preschool and elementary years in a suburban apartment. I only realize now how young my parents were. They were still on their first leg of life’s journey. My younger sister was still an infant and had many health problems, several surgeries before the age of five. It seemed a fine enough home to me, what did I know any better? I thought everyone lived in an apartment and had grandparents with a farm out in the country.

Our apartment was an end unit, my bedroom window looking out upon a common green where I first learned to play football. Back in those days my dad was still pretty athletic. He had that Johnny Unitas flat-top. He was a fan of the AFL, before the leagues merged in 1970, his favorite team the Oakland Raiders.

In just a little over a mile to the north there was the constant sound of construction as the 270 outerbelt was still being built around Columbus, Ohio.  My parents were country folk from neighboring Pickaway County. My mother was afraid to drive in Columbus; she thought there was too much traffic and everyone drove too fast. My dad had a red Corvair convertible that he was so proud of. It’s design was the curiosity of our block, especially after Ralph Nader succeeded in branding the car “unsafe at any speed”.

I walked to my elementary school, a little less than a mile away. After being escorted for the first couple of weeks I was permitted to make the walk to and from on my own, something almost unconscionable today.  Most all of us had stay at home moms, except for one boy in my class, Danny. Danny was a bit of an oddity, the only child picked up by a van from KinderCare at the conclusion of each school day. Danny’s mother had to work because she was raising Danny on her own while his dad was fighting in Vietnam. Danny was so proud to tell that his dad was a soldier.  I did not discover until years later that during the time we were schoolmates Danny’s father had already died in combat sometime in 1969.

My dad’s older brother was also serving in Vietnam at the time, with the Air Force, flying low level counter-insurgency missions in an AD-10 over the jungles. The AD-10 was among the few non-jet planes used in that conflict, known as the flying dump truck for the heavy load of ordnance it could carry. I remember sitting in our basement at my dad’s workbench, watching him paint and build models of the AD-10 and other warbirds.

That year at Christmas I got my first radio, a small Motorola transistor powered by a 9V battery. This began many years of my childhood to be spent in my room listening to the radio and reading books. There were always piles of books in our house.  My dad was an avid reader of paperbacks, my mother of magazines, and my grandparents were always buying me books. There were numerous collections; Scholastic Book Series “______ do the strangest things” and child’s biographies of Washington, Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Lincoln.  Also JFK and MLK, both fairly fresh in their graves at the time. I remember my first copy of Jack London’s Call of the Wild, Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and a collection of short stories Tales of Time and Space. The latter of these was of special interest as our home were avid followers of the nation’s space program.

I remember at the time of the Apollo 11 mission my grandparents were away on a trip to Europe. My dad had his vacation during that time and we spent the duration at my grandparents’ farm. The lawn tractor nor the farm tractor, a rusty old International Harvester model, were considered safe for me. Instead I learned to care for the chickens, sheep, collect the eggs and help in the garden. The garden was a gigantic plot to my young eyes, surrounded by berry brambles, a variety of Irises in pink, purple and white. And in the very middle of this garden there was a slim galvanized pipe that towered to a height of fifteen feet above where there was mounted a Martin house. The Martins made full use of this. During the day they were always heard fussing and rustling about the house. In the evenings we would marvel at their sleek vee wings spread as they swooped down and soared away from the buffet of mosquitos.

On the night of the moon landing I tried to stay awake but fell asleep on my grandparents’ living room floor in front of their gigantic RCA console TV. Back in those days they were built right there in Circleville. I remember my parents waking me to witness the historic event. There had been so much build up to it all, I remember at the time finding it somewhat anti-climactic. At that age I hardly know now what I had expected, I just remember some sense of disappointment. My parents were born in the depression. They attended high school in the 50s and witnessed the space race as young adults. It meant something more for them.

I realize now that in spite of the title I have shared an awful lot that was actually the end of the 60s, chronologically. Some decades bleed into others as an era. I think this was true for 1968-1974, the Nixon years. So I guess my recollections are bifurcated into two 1970s: the 70s that bled from the end of the 60s and then everything that came after. The after coincided with puberty and the teen years so maybe that is the difference. Memories of childhood and memories of growing up; two different things, aren’t they?

Coming back to that radio… That summer of 1970, between 2nd and 3rd grade, I remember spending a lot of time listening to it. WCOL AM, 1230. That was the pop/top 40 station of the time. This was my introduction to music. FM radio was still relegated to “doctor’s office music” at the time. From 1970 to 1974 this was the voice we youngsters of the time shared. I began that summer with a steady diet of CCR, The Beatles, Mountain, Mott the Hoople, Three Dog Night, Aretha Franklin’s Rose in Spanish Harlem. They played that one a lot. Mac Davis and Ray Stevens were early “crossovers” who got a lot of air.

In the fall of 71 we moved to a rental house in the country. I remember that the rent on the place was $125 per month. It wasn’t my business and I had no reason to care, I just remember it because I was often entrusted with delivering the rent check to the landlady, just a couple of houses up the road. I wasn’t aware at the time, but my parents were beset with a lot of medical bills for my sister. Dad had to sell his prized Corvair and we made our travels in a used, blue Chevy Bellaire sedan for a few years thereafter.

It was then, largely thanks to my grandfather, that I developed my interest in NFL football. To this day it is really the only sport I have any interest in. The Baltimore Colts were the reigning league champions at the time. My grandfather was a huge fan of the Miami Dolphins because of his attachment to Don Shula, who he had watched play as a defensive back with the Cleveland Browns back in the 1950s. I got my very first package of Topps Football trading cards that fall, some of which I still have today. I remember they came in a three compartment, clear blister pack with a cardboard tab at the top to hang from the display. From that first pack I obtained such NFL notables of the time in the form of Johnny Unitas, George Blanda, Joe Namath, Don Maynard, Dick Butkus. Also some forgettable players like Larry Krause, Cyril Pinder and Bake Turner. One of the things I remember most about these packs was the smell of the hard-as-rock stick of bubble gum that was sealed with the cards in every package. Once in a while I may dig out some of the old cards and still catch the slightest hint of that scent lingering. I went on to collect hundreds of more cards in subsequent years, but none of them ever seemed to measure up to the 1971 set. With each year the cards became more and more of a disappointment.

The music changed. 1971 brought the Beatles’ solo efforts, George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, John Lennon’s Instant Karma and Ringo’s It don’t come easy.  Time passed and the venerable WCOL favored us with the likes of Joan Baez, Carole King, Melanie, Todd Rundgren and Harry Nilsson. Three Dog Night’s Jeremiah was a bullfrog and Paul McCartney’s (he hadn’t sprouted “Wings” yet) Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey were regular staples for months. Good Christ! I just realized that Paul McCartney turns 75 tomorrow! Happy Birthday, Sir Paul!

Another little thing that was anticipated from the radio every day was Dick Orkin’s syndicated spoof, Chickenman, a two and a half minute vignette featured during morning drive and again around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. This bit of silliness originated in Chicago several years previously. We were always a little behind the times in those days. Carly Simon, James Taylor, Al Green, Gladys Knight and the Pips were played a lot. And Elton John. He was just beginning to take off in the states at that time.

Halfway through junior high we moved to a proper farm, a lovely plot of ground along Darby Creek. Unlike my grandparents, who at the time still had their farm, we did nothing with livestock. We were just dirt farmers. With this change there came a change in the radio too. I now had a plug in model with AM and FM. I outgrew WCOL and migrated to WNCI FM, 97.9 on the dial. WNCI had a pop format, but they also featured Casey Kasem’s weekly Billboard Top 40 countdown. It was here that I began to learn of Fleetwood Mac, Seals and Croft, ZZ Top, Queen, Supertramp, The Who, whetting my appetite for more. These were also the days of the Sunday night silliness we all knew as the Dr. Demento Show.

I was not into watching a great deal of television in those days. It would be nearly another 20 years before anything even resembling cable would come to our part of the world. Somehow our household had remained a mostly “radio” home. The set in our living room was set alternately between 610 AM, WTVN or WMNI AM, a country station. In those years I would cringe whenever my mom put on the country station. Oddly I now have a liking for some of the old country classics. There were a few TV programs that we enjoyed. My parents enjoyed MASH, though I was not permitted to watch it until the 8th grade. It was deemed unsuitable for me before then.

My most lasting memories of television in those years was watching the NFL on CBS or NBC until it grew dark. Then on Sunday evenings there was The Rockford Files with Jim Garner. I thought he was cool, I loved his car. I can’t remember now if it was a Camaro or a Firebird. And then there was the NBC Sunday Night Mystery Theater, which featured alternately McMillan and Wife or McCloud or Columbo. There were a few others in that repertoire as well. Jim Hutton’s Ellery Queen and George Peppard’s Banacek. On occasion now I may catch one of these old gems on one of the “retro” networks. I am dismayed to see how camp these were, but it was gripping viewing at the time. I can still sit through some of them, if only to remember lying on the floor in front of the fireplace and watching on our little 32″ screen.

In the summer of 75 came new discoveries.  Nixon was gone, we were stumbling through the Gerry Ford years.  Our house did not have central air. On warm nights the only relief to be found came from having your windows open and a gigantic, industrial strength attic fan in the upstairs hallway. This behemoth was right outside of my bedroom. Though it did draft a mighty breeze through the windows it was loud as a truck! In fact it was so loud that it carried down that hall to the landing at the top of the stairs and filled the wide open space of the A-framed ceiling. This would cause my parents to crank up the volume on the TV when Johnny Carson was on.  There was many a night when I drifted off to sleep hearing the laughter of that Burbank studio audience and the guffaws of Ed McMahon.

One night in the middle of that summer it was a steambath outside. The fan and the television were roaring, but it was too hot to close the door. Since all other sounds were drowned out I could turn up my radio to block the din. I was scrolling through the FM dial and chanced upon Close to the Edge, by the band Yes. I had never heard it before and sat up in my bed transfixed by Steve Howe’s lilting caress upon the neck of “that” guitar. What I was hearing was only an excerpt, though. It was the intro theme music for a radio program on WCOL FM, which until that time I had never known existed. The show was called Midnight and other Beasts, hosted by a DJ named Terry something-or-other. Come on! I’m doing great to remember this much!

Midnight and other Beasts featured deep album cuts. Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer ( later of fame for his Miami Vice theme music in the 80s), Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, King Crimson, Zeppelin, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Fleetwood Mac before they went pop. Before this time I had occasionally heard a little David Bowie from the top 40 countdown, but otherwise he received little airplay where we were. I got a heavy dose from this program. There were more Stones than I had ever heard, The Who, more Yes and Genesis. I became a regular listener of the program, each time coming away wondering “How come we haven’t heard this?”

In the pop music scene we were entering the dreaded age of disco. There were all of these other exciting things happening in the music world and we were missing out! I didn’t know what it was called at the time, but I was developing a taste for “prog rock”.

The 70s droned on. We suffered through disco, the Jimmy Carter years. There were some highlights. Those early years of SNL were precious. I also discovered cigarettes. And weed. Lots and lots of weed. Dr. Demento had introduced me to more of Monty Python. In those years, if you were lucky, you might catch an episode after 10:00 on PBS on a Saturday night.  We were treated to the early years of Steve Martin.

About 1978 I got my first cassette tape player. I loaded up on everything I was missing from the radio through the Columbia House music club. Steely Dan, ZZ Top, Rush, Supertramp, Queen, Yes, Genesis. There was a fairly decent catalogue to choose from and between this and the vinyl I had been able to purchase I built a respectable collection. It was then that I realized that my tastes fell mostly outside of the mainstream. I was ripe for the alternative movement in the decade to come. It wasn’t until then that I finally got current. I later had the opportunity to travel and live in other places that broadened my universe in many ways. When alternative morphed into grunge I was still on the train. They lost me somewhere after that. Since then I still hold to my musical roots and to the 80 alternative, but for the past decade I’ve been exploring the indieverse. There are still a lot of good things happening out there, if you know where to look. And there are a lot more places to look today than there were in 1970s midwest America.

It is often said that America lost it’s innocence after the JFK assassination. As an event that may have been the start of it, but from my life experience I’ll say that we had not fully shed this until the 70s had passed. It was the last days of the analog age, where we were still mechanical rather than digital. Much of this modern technology has its uses, this forum here as a fine example, but I thought we did alright with what we had in the 70s.  Now that I am mostly retreated from the outside world I find myself doing many of the same things I did then.  I still till the ground, plant the seeds and tend the garden. Things like this and the trees, the birds, the earth, they are constants. Yes they change, but in their own time and not as a result of anything we do. We are still only renting this space.

Johnny Carson is dead, you can’t even buy cassettes any more and the world is still a scary place. We just have different kinds of scary now. When I lay down at night and close my eyes I can still hear Close to the Edge playing feebly through the air as I drift to sleep. As I enter the land of Midnight and other Beasts….

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The Wise King Solomon: A response to thoughts on Universal Basic Income

It is written that the good King Solomon once stated ” There is nothing new under the sun.”  Without diving into the context of this within scripture I have always found this to be a timeless statement of a universal truth.  To place it within the context of the oft cited “Fecal handbook of the world’s religions” it is the Hindu truism contained therein: this shit has happened before.

The Paradoxical Millennial has again favored us with some thought provoking material. In his post today, Money for nothing….

https://aparadoxicalmillennial.com/2017/06/13/money-for-nothing-a-few-thoughts-on-universal-basic-income/feed/

He has opened discussion on the concept of Universal Basic Income.  It is not an entirely new idea, as surely there are few that are, but it is an idea which has been steadily creeping into numerous forums.

In his opening TPM correctly cites the fact that UBI is a concept raised before now, indeed by some of the more notable minds from the field of economics. As a general concept the UBI is not entirely without merit. It is only when the questions surrounding how we are to arrive at the methods of implementation that we find ourselves at some difficulty. It is an astute observation to state that there is something there for everyone. It appeals to the equality and social justice crowd as it has a certain visceral connection with the emotional argument.  And there is also the appeal for those of a libertarian persuasion in its purely economic rationale.

I do not believe that the UBI in and of itself can bridge the divide in economic theory between right and left spectrums, but in opening the debate it exposes much of the falsehoods  which have taken root in both sides. It is when we are to place the argument upon the template of market versus big government that we begin to remove the first layers from that onion. In doing so it may well also bring tears to one’s eyes!

The left, if not in fact openly hostile to capitalism, is at the very least highly suspicious of the model and it’s titans. They admonish us with regularity that big business, corporations, the rich are not to be trusted. It is only by placing our trust in their advocacy on our behalf against these greedy forces that we may be saved from these malevolent powers. Conversely the right will always tell us that the left is not to be trusted and come to the defense of the corporate world by espousing the gospel of free trade. Let the market decide. Allowing the market to decide would surely be the right medicine, but if only this were true in practice. In all honesty we have not enjoyed a true and unfettered practice of “free trade” since some time back in the 19th century, and even then it had already begun to be tainted.

Despite what either side may say for the consumption of their respective constituencies, neither are honest in what they purportedly practice. What is simultaneously sold from each is in fact entirely contradicted by their actions. Instead of a watchdog guarding the consumer or a free pass issued to corporations there is in reality a conspiratorial policy of “We will allow you to do as you like as long as we are cut in for our share of the action, pay no attention to what we say publicly.” This is more often referred to as “crony capitalism”. It is anything but free trade.

In a system of a true free trade, pure commerce as exercised between peoples absent any other external authority placed upon it, one would find the very purest form of Social Darwinism. For those who truly embrace the practice of free trade such conditions would be the ideal. For those who only mouth the words while practicing their own self-serving version of it there can be no inclination to accept it’s true form. Their false version of free trade tips the scales to insure that they are assured a positive outcome for themselves irrespective of the vagaries of economic tides. It’s rather ironic when one gives this just a little further thought. The so-called free traders claim that they support free trade because it allows the entrepreneur to pursue their aims upon a level playing field. It is in a very real sense, were it truly as they have stated it, a form of gambling. The entrepreneur takes their disposable income and/or that of investors (also gamblers) and forms capital. This capital is then placed into the market under some enterprise which they have reason to believe has favorable odds of a positive return. There are no guarantees ; it is all subject to chance. When there is a hedge in place behind every wager it is no longer gambling. It’s a form of cheating. When government authority can collude with corporate enterprise to their benefit it is no longer free trade. It also is a form of cheating.

There are some from within this camp who further qualify their position by stating “I don’t believe in just free trade. I believe in fair trade.” This is as close as the right will ever come in finding common ground with the left and their quest for equality and social justice. They both claim to be seeking what is “fair”, albeit for different audiences. And therein lies the peril of accepting the social justice argument on behalf of UBI. Fair is an abstract, not an absolute. It is not so clear cut as, say perhaps, darkness and light or hot and cold. It is not an objective term.  If one approaches the question of a UBI under these parameters there is a problem at the very outset: who is to decide what is fair? Equality and social justice are subjective human constructs. They are myths.

We have a symbol for justice, the blindfolded lady holding up the scales. This is to signify that justice is blind, that it plays no favorites and only makes judgement based in truth. It is a good way of illustrating what justice ought to be in it’s ideal, but it is still only a symbol providing a human form to what is in the end only a futile human aspiration. We do not render justice. We may try to, but justice as determined and administered by man is not blind. It is imperfect because it derives from the imperfection of man.  I do not mean to say that we should not strive to achieve justice. We simply must humble ourselves to accept that we are not so infallible as to truly reach the goal. When we strive for perfection we may at best reach excellence, but nothing more. Nature, or as some care to characterize it “God”, is the only blind arbiter. Nature makes no judgements and can favor no side. Nature simply acts/reacts to maintain balance. These are the true “scales” of justice. This is perhaps fitting. We refer to nature as “mother”; we refer to justice as a blind lady holding a set of scales.

Nature is not conscious. Nature randomly “selects” members of any species which carry those traits that are optimal in assuring a species’ survival within any environment as may exist at the time. As conditions may change a trait or set of traits will be in the ascendant or decline to adapt to those changes. Where this translates in humanity, in Social Darwinism, is that there will always be winners and losers in the lottery of human life. We may fool ourselves into believing that we are somehow clever enough to steer or alter this course, but the truth of the matter is that it has precious little to do with what we do or don’t do.

This may come across as being hard-hearted, but it’s just good science. I can provide a stellar example for all of you. We pat ourselves on the back for having learned so much about our bodies, how they work. As a species we have made revolutionary advances in or understanding and even manipulation of genetics. We have made enormous strides in medicine, curing diseases and preserving the lives of great numbers of human beings who absent these advances may not have survived. They would otherwise have been “culled from the herd”, their contribution to the human gene pool forever erased.  These were traits which Nature had determined, for whatever purpose, were undesirable. They were not to the long term benefit of the survival of our species. While we may delude ourselves into believing that we have somehow outsmarted Mother Nature with these advances, she will in fact still have her way. Not following me? Well it works like this. When we intervened in this process, contrary to nature’s selection, we have in effect watered down our own gene pool by permitting those inferior traits to remain and grow within the pool.  We have expanded our vulnerability to what nature had determined was a weakness, an undesirable trait. We may not see the effects in our lifetimes, but rest assured in her own way Mother Nature will have the last laugh.

We may try to impose our own order on our society and in many respects we may well succeed in doing so. There are, however, limitations to this. There are too many factors that are too random, simply beyond our capacity to control. Aside from the purely genetic science human beings are possessed of other traits. Social traits. These are determined by a personality type, upbringing, cultural heritage and the overall environment. These are those things which help to define our human rather than our animal nature. Included among these many traits are those who are possessed of a drive and those who are not. Those who will succeed and those who will fail. Those who will learn from their mistakes and those who will not. There will always be givers and there will always be takers. All of the clever and enlightened social engineering for all time will never alter these basic facts of the human condition.

I fear that I do not see a way that the UBI can or will be administered without trying to ignore these facts. The stated ideal is that this income be set at a universal mark and applied equally to all, regardless of talent or skill, vigor or lethargy. I clearly understand all of the mathematical calculations making the case for this versus whatever we may be doing now. They are indeed valid points and in the purely numerical sense these provide a sound footing in support of the concept, but for one minor shortcoming. They do not take into account the quantity of human nature.

This may be somewhat clumsy by way of an illustration, but please bear with me as it is the first practical example which comes to mind. Let us say that there is a restaurant chain that employs mostly younger, unskilled workers. All new employees start at the federally mandated minimum wage, with merit increases of $.30 per hour with every 6 months of service with acceptable performance. Troy, who works full time as a cook on the night closing crew, has been with the establishment for 30 months. He has earned a positive performance review with each six month interval and has had perfect attendance, thus entitling him to five merit increases in his hourly rate. When he began working the minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour.  With his merit increases he is now earning $8.75 per hour. In 60 days a new minimum wage will take effect, raised to $10.00 per hour. So Troy also gets a raise to the new minimum, but subsequent new hires coming on board after the increase, with no experience and no record of performance, will earn the same as he.

Now maybe for Troy it’s not about the money. Maybe he’s just dedicated to his craft. Or maybe not. Maybe Troy sees some injustice in this and says to his boss, ” Hey Boss! If I have earned $1.50 in merit increases for my services then shouldn’t I be getting $11.50 per hour? Its not fair that I earned the increases with my hard work and these other yahoos just starting make the same as me.” Now by law the employer is not obliged to accommodate Troy’s request, but the young man does have a valid point nonetheless. Oh what to do now? Hmm….

My point in this illustration is that human nature being what it is and everyone trying to determine what is “fair” this would be only the first of many challenges in finding the UBI rate that is “fair”. An example of this unconditional grant was given stating that the unemployed elderly male would be provided exactly the same grant as the young female lawyer.  Who would it be to decide what that “fair and equal” grant was to be?  I understand that the concern might easily be countered with “everyone gets the same” when the young lawyer will cry foul. “Hey! That’s not fair, he gets the same as me! I worked hard, sacrificed a lot of my youth to obtain this law degree. And I have law school to pay for! Shouldn’t I get more?” That is just one example of what I am sure would be many. I can understand the rational argument that ” It’s just a basic minimum, Miss. Everyone gets it, even you, see? It’s not even means tested.” Where one is likely to encounter problems in addressing these concerns as they arise comes from the rather improbable assumption that everyone is able to think rationally where it comes to money. I dare say that there are too many among us whose every reaction is rooted in the emotional response, even the ability of rational thought being entirely absent.

There are legitimate answers to this type of objection being raised, but there will be the ongoing battle of having to keep people convinced of these explanations. And then of course there are all of the other questions that are raised.  How is this to be funded? If, for example, the funding would come (in the interest of fairness) from a universal tax to be paid by all into the UBI treasury how is it that it does not become a redistribution of wealth? If it were mandated that all pay the same amount and then even those who didn’t really “need” the grant would receive exactly the same then there will be this objection: What Joe Schmoe the plumber paid in was a significantly higher percentage of his income than the billionaire out in the Hamptons, yet the billionaire gets exactly the same grant? No matter what we may do there will always be those people who will be convinced that even though the rich paying more will do nothing to benefit them directly it is still necessary in the interest of “fairness”. So then in response to this objection the tax rate to fund the program would be set where all citizens pay the same as a percent of their income. In that case it ends up with essentially what we have now: the rich pay more dollar wise as a percent of their income, but the poor, though paying the very same rate, realize the greater benefit from the program. That is a de facto redistribution of wealth no matter what one may call it.

If UBI is an entitlement that is to be administered through the government we can be assured that it will be so far bastardized from what was originally drawn up as to be unrecognizable. It will be played as a bargaining chip for yet more government authority under the guise of “fairness”. Make book on it. The ideal might very well be for the UBI to supplant so many other redundant government programs and on it’s face that is a fine idea. The difficulty there is that one must place their trust in government to act in the better interests of the people than those of their own socio-political class. I believe you might say “Not bloody likely!”

UBI is, however, something which may have a chance at working, once the details are all sorted out. There is one crucial element that would need to be realized first: education. We would all need to radically alter our thinking about many things that have come to be accepted as the norm. There are surely more than I may list here, but as critical matters I believe there are three. These are, assigned no specific order of importance:

  1. The funding of education, in particular higher education
  2. Taxation
  3. Private property

On the first of these I would cite the earlier example of the young female attorney, or any of the “professional” disciplines. Law school, Med school, any post grad school is an expensive proposition. We should ask ourselves why. If we mean to achieve a basic threshold of sustenance to all citizens, regardless their station in life, their training, skills, etc. we should all be clear on our understanding of why, to what ultimate social benefit. There is the fairness/justice case which seems to steer us onto the thin ice. Then there is the “more cost efficient” case, which moves us back closer to terra firma. If monetary concerns are the measure of advantage/disadvantage in determining fairness and equality in an outcome, might we not also (or instead) apply this thinking in determining the fairness/equality of opportunity? Afford all citizens an equal opportunity in education irrespective of an ability to pay. The playing field is equalled, the only remaining determinant is what one does with that opportunity. The young attorney in this instance would not have an argument that she was entitled to the greater grant for her education debt. Conversely the tool and die maker would not have the argument that he is stuck in a tradesman’s career because he did not have the money to obtain a more esteemed degree.  We need to learn to be more careful when discussing opportunity that we do not equate it with results.

On the next matter of taxation never has there been any matter of public policy more worthy of a complete demolish and rebuild.  The world over taxation is misapplied and misused. The misapplication comes in the practice of taxing property and productivity. The misuse is in the exercise of taxation to alter or influence behaviors and to wield the power to tax as a punitive tool. In either instance these are, whatever their intent in theory, in their practice a tax upon productivity. Productivity builds wealth. It builds the wealth of individuals and nations alike. To put it in nautical terms productivity is the engine; wealth is the ship.  Why in heavens would you try to power the engine of a ship while dragging anchor? It just isn’t logical, is it? Yet this is what we do when taxing income, real property and family estates. It is government wielding a confiscatory club over its people. It removes capital from the market where it is more likely to do the most good. In the private sector it is necessary to produce results or close shop. The enterprise that continually loses money is doomed. Yet in government, where failure can be reliably expected the failure is rewarded with? Just throw more money at it. Tax it, print it, doesn’t matter. The well of the public treasury never runs dry.

Suggestions that we tweak the code, go to a flat tax, add a VAT, these are all just subterfuge. They are regurgitations of the last bowl of vomit they served us. All of the existing tax codes need to be rendered null and void. In the case of the US the only sensible approach is for the individual states to establish a sales tax at a rate they deem proper. This is not a tax on productivity; rather a tax on consumption. Take away congress’ ability to borrow and SHUT DOWN the Federal Reserve. For those duties specifically enumerated for the federal government in the constitution they will make due with revenues collected and not spending budgets formulated out of some fantasy realm. Individual states collect their revenues and the Federal government is granted a percentage of each state’s collection. No more; no less.

There is a further beauty in this plan in that it would stimulate economic growth at a rate unseen in over a century. This tax structure forces the states to compete with one another for commerce. If for example the State of New York wanted to continue to fund their own brand of fool’s paradise at the taxpayer’s expense they might determine that they would require a state sales tax of, let us say, 16%. If their population would sustain this level of taxation, were pleased with what they received for price of admission then everyone is happy, right? And this would contribute more dollars as their share to the federal treasury. While next door in Pennsylvania the Statehouse says ” we dont need 16%! We can do our job at a tax rate of 9%” People and businesses will figure out rather quickly that it is to their advantage to set up shop in Pennsylvania, rather than New York. The tax rate remains the same, but their revenues climb because of the increased economic activity.  Vermont sees this and decides that maybe they could reduce their rate too. Eventually New York has to either wise up and change their ways or watch their tax base continue to wither and their services go unfunded. The Federal Government is not going to bail them out in this case because? Well the Federal Government is now dependent on the states, not the other way around.

On the third and final of these points, private property, we again need to look and listen more closely at what is said versus what is done. By taxation, regulation, probate courts and the abuses of eminent domain private property rights have been steadily eroded. With a growing percentage of the population being “unlanded” it has become quite easy for governments at every level to trample upon private property rights with impunity and go largely unnoticed. Where the cries of protest have been raised governments have managed to squelch their volume through the combined forces of intimidation and appealing to the politics of envy before those who hold no vested interest in these fights.

If private property rights were respected and property owners left unmolested by government agencies many of the concerns that a UBI is touted to solve simply would not exist.  Real property left to be developed or preserved and appreciate as a free market would allow would help to insure the elderly remaining secure in their homes and that wealth could accumulate to the benefit of subsequent generations. The grotesque and obscene estate tax laws in the US have nearly extinguished the family farm. The best way to care for your people is not to care for them. It is to empower them to care for themselves.

These are three huge questions that will arise and will have to be properly addressed if a UBI ever has a prayer of happening here. Elsewhere in the world is anyone’s guess, I suppose. I can only speak for here.

Finally there are two other observations about the benefits to be gained from the establishment of a Universal Basic Income that I wish to close with.  To state that a UBI would aid in an increase of market efficiency and reduce the size of the state hovers on the periphery of a truth. Reducing the size of the state in itself  would carry us all light years in the direction of increasing market efficiencies. There were the further observations as to the social and cultural benefits to be realized by a UBI and it’s potential need as a response to the growing trend of automation.  I do see UBI as a potential positive in fostering artistic and cultural growth as well as a hedge against economic displacement resulting from technology. In mentioning these two things together I am, however, reminded how one in fact aided in the creation of another without the addition of basic income endowment.

A little over 11,000 years ago humans embarked upon one of the most life altering technologies in our history as a species. We had functioned primarily as hunter/gatherers roaming across the vast open tracts of lands on the planet up until this time. And then agriculture was developed, a true game changer. The development of the technology of agriculture allowed for the development of the static settlement; forerunners to cities, city-states and a growing human civilization. When fewer hands were required just to keep the people fed this freed up the development of other skills and talents: art, writing, food preservation, irrigation, further experimentation and tool building, just to name a few. And each of these lead to improvements in the standards of human existence and the creation of still more new arts and sciences. All of these were the positive benefits derived from an advance in technology.  Yes, it put a lot of hunters out of work for a while, but they did find other things to do with their time. And at this point in our history we were still some ways from the development of currency. I’ll grant you it hasn’t all been peachy since, we’ve had our share of troubles, but in the overall as a species we have fared at least reasonably well since.

Universal Basic Income is an intriguing idea, one which certainly is worth further exploration, but I would offer a final caveat.  It seems that we are always trying to solve our problems by doing something different. Perhaps we should realize that a good portion of our problems are of our own making and anything else are simply things that are beyond our ability to control. We are able, however, to control what we do. Perhaps our answers lie in doing less.

 

Earth spirals out of it’s orbit towards the sun! In a related story Tories lose majority…

In a nuclear blast those at the epicenter are blessed with an instantaneous vaporization; indeed a case of “They never knew what hit ’em!” The real and lasting danger is of course the fallout. If we are to begin with this as the analogy in discussing the state of British politics the blast was Brexit. Yesterday was the fallout.

Within the realm of political strategy Prime Minister May’s stated rationale for calling the early election may have made some sense, yet one had to have a sense of unease that perhaps this was an error of judgement. Political strategies are quite often cultivated within the petri dish known as conventional wisdom. What is just as often wanting from this formula is that, though long on convention, the more critical element of wisdom seems notably absent.

Today the headlines shriek of panic: Britain on edge! UK plunged into uncertainty! Hung Parliament! Well, those are headlines. It’s probably not really as bad as all that now, is it? These taglines are created by journalists, who in my experience seem to rank like politicians and lawyers somewhere between the earthworm and the slug on the evolutionary scale.  Britain has survived the Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Regicide, the Protectorate and yes even decades of Labour rule since 1945. This too shall pass.

There is the irresistible temptation on the left, indeed already manifest, to crow about the resurgence of Labour and the country coming to its senses to reject both the Conservatives and the results of the Brexit vote. I strongly suspect that this is nothing more than partisan hyperbole, the rejection of either or both coming from no more than those whose sentiments were already in Labour’s camp from the last round. I believe the more likely causes for yesterday’s results are similar to the Presidential election results of 2008 and 2012.

In 2008 there was a set of conditions which set the political stage, the most acute of those being the financial crisis. There was an effort to portray this as being the most crucial of causes. It was the rejection of the failure of capitalism. Remember the headline “We’re all socialists now”? This was a convenient oversimplification of the result with more of the causes deriving from prior events.

In 2000 a Republican administration was elected by the most narrow of margins, on the heels of what had arguably been eight years of Democrat rule under the affable and personally popular Bill Clinton. Regardless how this came about George W. Bush was going to be an unpopular figure in a decidedly biased media, all the more so entering the office under a cloud of controversy as he did. Bush won on the merits of two key factors. First was the utter ineptitude of the Democrat candidate, Al Gore. Were it not for his benefitting from being part of an administration which had presided over relatively bullish times in the economy the race would not even have been close. The second factor was an electorate which had frankly grown fatigued with the state of perpetual scandal that had marked the Clinton years.

Bush had promised much to his constituency, a conservative base, which he failed to deliver.  Bush had billed himself as a conservative but in governing proved to be anything but. As a product of Republican establishment he served with fealty only to the same. Goldman Sachs, in the person of Hank Paulson, still ruled the treasury. Though responsive to the 9/11 terror attacks Bush conducted the same incoherent and misdirected policy in the middle east that has been the hallmark of Republican and Democrat administrations alike for decades. At varying intervals during his eight years Bush enjoyed congressional majorities yet failed to adequately capitalize upon these to enact any truly meaningful agenda. Instead he and the congress provided yet another entitlement program, prescription care for seniors, an over reaching Department of Education in the form of the “No Child left behind Act”, and the abominations of the Patriot Act and the TSA. The latter of these two, like genital herpes, gifts that just keep giving.

Now it would have been one thing to have failed in accomplishing all of the stated agenda. Agendas are plans which most often will fall somewhere short of a full fruition, but this failure was compounded by an active participation and cooperation with an establishment whose least concern is for the benefit of anyone other than themselves. Like a cat scratching the litter over their freshly deposited feces Bush parted the stage with yet another abomination: TARP, or the bank bailout.

If one takes all of these and then adds financial and economic crises with another milksop establishment candidate in the form of John McCain all of the required ingredients are present for many voters to simply stay home. And that is exactly what they did.  In the millions. Fast forward to 2012. Republicans enjoyed remarkable success in the 2010 mid-terms, voted another Washington establishment figure to lead the House, John Boehner, and failed to exercise checks that were within their constitutional power against the Obama agenda. For their poor choice of candidates fielded in several Senate races they fell short of solidifying that check. And in 2012 the progressive establishment wing of the party again failed to deliver a candidate who could carry the day. Mitt Romney is a nice guy. Too nice. He might have been acceptable at another time, but he was not the right choice for that election.

So again in 2012 there were millions of voters who simply decided that with no better choices presented to them it was better to just sit another one out.  In both instances Obama did not win because of a sea change in the sentiments of the voters, in fact quite the contrary. He won because the opposition did not turn out in enough numbers, realizing that the alternative presented was just really more of the same. Different pocket, but the same pair of trousers.

In yesterday’s UK election the want of any party having attained a clear majority would seem to support the conclusion that the same has occurred. Both of the major parties only offered more of the same, failing to recognize that the Brexit vote was more than anything a rejection of the status quo. Add to this Prime Minister May’s less than inspiring response to a number of high profile terror attacks during the campaign is it any wonder that a good number of Britons decided to take a pass? I’ve not seen them yet, but I would hardly be surprised if the turn out numbers were to prove less than that of the Brexit vote.

In any event under the British Parliamentary system this sort of result yields a coalition government, which is hardly the worst that could have happened. Where many pundits may see an ambiguity in the result I disagree. I believe it states rather clearly that the British people are not pleased with the menu, a now recurring theme in western elections. Until the menu is remade I suspect that sales will remain flat in these establishments.

 

 

The Madame has spoken; or, More underwhelming response to the Islamic Menace

Last night after first hearing of the attack in London I had to record something. I had been working outdoors for most of the day and had just settled in with some tea and switched on the television in the vain hope that there might actually be something worth watching. The moment the screen came to life I saw flashing lights, heard English voices and read the banner posted at the bottom of the screen: three terror incidents in London. The very first thought that sprung into my head was ” Son-of-a-bitch! Those fuckers are at it again!” As I felt my blood pressure and body temperature rise I changed channels to BBC World to learn more.

As with most of these incidents the first hours are spent by reporters and commentators tripping over themselves to find how many ways they can say the same thing for 120 minutes or more without saying it the same way twice. As usual they failed in the attempt. Dismally. In the course of this I did happen to hear the release of the Prime Minister’s prompt response and that just sent me over the edge. She obviously saw the need to issue some statement to address the event and quickly. Yet even in the haste to do so she saw fit to temper her response by qualifying it as a potential terrorist incident. God forbid that we should somehow offend any of our muslim neighbors. From this I managed to choke out a brief post in response. At the time I was already thinking that I would be writing a “part II” of my posting from two weeks prior, After Manchester:Have you had enough now?

 

To avoid falling into the same trap as the journalists on scene last night I will not attempt to find new ways to say what has already been said. When one is angry, and indeed I was last night, it is always better to sleep on it and then sort out what you want to say. Words uttered in anger, like decisions made in haste, are usually regrettable. After having taken sufficient rest and waking at my normal hour, 4:30, I spent some time in the cool silence of that precious pre-dawn hour, sipping coffee and listening to the birds. Self administered therapy. Only after this did I check the television to find what new revelations we might have. I did not have long to wait before the cameras panned to 10 Downing and the crawl at the bottom of the screen announced ” awaiting Prime Minister May’s statement at 10:30″. I sat attentively through this brief address and will work from there.

 

To begin I’d like to make one overall observation.  I stated above that words uttered in anger often prove regrettable. When one is in a position of leadership it is often necessary to speak in response to a crisis. When leaders are human they will no doubt feel anger, or fear, anxiety, whichever emotion is typically evoked by the form of the crisis. While it is important that their address does not speak solely from that emotion it is still warranted to allow at least some of it bleed into the tone of the address. In what was unmistakably an Islamic terror attack it would have been fine to simply call it what it was, not qualify it as being a potential terror incident.  After a night to formulate a more thorough response the Prime Minister issued a statement this morning that says all the right things, but I can tell you this is not what the jihadists are hearing. All they are hearing is weakness.

 

The jihadists spent last night watching and listening to the aftermath and are reveling in yet another successful blow struck against the infidel. The have managed to kill and maim some dozens of westerners in a public place with a very high profile. Their actions have attracted scores of television cameras from networks across the globe to broadcast the turmoil left in their wake, showing the shocked and confused expressions on our faces and the images of their blessed martyrs dead on the pavement. And the icing on this cake was to hear the leader of the nation acknowledging the attack while still cautious to state only that it was a potential terror incident. To the jihadi’s way of thinking this translates something like Gary Cooper as the Sheriff in a classic western arriving at the scene of a shootout after it has happened. Even without having witnessed it happening it is painfully obvious what has occurred. Then the Sheriff doesn’t draw, just places his hand at his holster and says to the gunmen ” It’s possible that you fellas may be responsible for these killings, but I’m not certain of it, so even though I possess the means to shoot you all full of holes I’m going to give you a warning first. Then I’ll go back to the jail, sleep on it, and when I come back here in the morning I will give you one very stern talking to!” These jackals are laughing at us.

 

The Prime Minister stated that Britain is experiencing a new trend of brutal terror.  I beg your pardon, Madame Prime Minister, can you explain to all of us what is new about it? Are these attacks in some way more brutal than previous attacks? We’d just like to be very clear on exactly what you are saying.

 

The Prime Minister said the suspects wore fake suicide vests to spread panic and fear. So you’re telling us that you understand what this enemy means to do, you are apparently clear on this, yet you still seem reluctant to simply and without any hesitation call it what it is.  Madame Prime Minister I would submit that if you are sending mixed signals to your own public perhaps you should be giving a bit more thought to how you are being perceived by the enemy.

 

She also said ” We can not and must not pretend that things can continue as they are.” Well I must say I agree. This statement demonstrates nothing more than a profound grasp of the obvious. Please correct me if I should have this wrong, but didn’t you say essentially the same thing two weeks ago after the Manchester bombing? The threat level was elevated to critical following that incident, which in view of this latest attack coming so close on the heels of the last gives one cause to wonder. Exactly what additional measures are triggered when that threat level is designated critical? Apparently these were sorely inadequate.

 

Madame Prime Minister when you tell us that things need to change and “in four important ways” you are inspiring…. well, wait. Perhaps that’s a poor choice of words. You are laying out the basic framework for your plan of action.  So for a new trend in brutal terror we will respond with? It’s a bit unclear. It would seem that there is really nothing new in your plan. I’m not fool enough to expect that you would provide operational specifics. Nor would I want you to.  But to speak frankly what you have said this morning smacks of nothing more than a subtle repackaging of the last plan.

 

I understand that the security and intelligence community do not have the luxury of trumpeting their successes. Orwell, as he did on so many other matters, summed this up quite succinctly: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”. This morning the Prime Minister informed us that these services have succeeded in thwarting 5 organized attacks this year. Thank you to the men and women of these services for the ugly and thankless tasks that you perform on our behalf. The Prime Minister also stated ” Our country has made significant progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public.” Really? Can you look into the eyes of the parents of those girls slain in Manchester and say this without blinking? I’d love to see you try.

 

There was another disturbing reference in the Prime Minister’s address. In speaking to combatting terrorism at home she used the term ” …having, frankly, embarrassing conversations”. Embarrassing for who exactly? The implication here is equal to the use of the term “potential” terror incident. It suggests that we should feel embarrassment when we do what the government clearly has not, which is to confront the threat head on. If you are a muslim living in a western nation you are the ones who should be feeling embarrassment (and shame) when the subject is raised.  We have nothing to be embarrassed for. They are attacking us, not the other way around. I have to give the old gal her chops, she is trying to move things in the right direction, at least by what she says. Yet still it is remarks such as these that show she is still unwilling to entirely abandon the politically correct script.

 

So let me see if I have this correct, then. We have stiffer penalties for terror offenses. Okay, that’s good. Its still only a reaction, but it cant hurt. Might I suggest public execution? Just a thought….

 

Then we have less tolerance of extremism. Wasn’t that a part of the last plan? And here is something else to weigh when we consider this. How can you say that significant progress has been made in disrupting plots and protecting the public while at the same time seem to suggest that we’ve been too tolerant of extremism. These two ideas do not seem compatible. I don’t believe that it is we, the people, who have been too tolerant of extremism. I believe it is you, the government, who have been too tolerant of extremism. The first duty of any republic should be to provide for the defense and security of its’s people. Instead you have busied yourselves with transgender rights, speech codes and climate accords. I am fairly certain that none of these were included in the contract.

 

Now this next one I think may be the most disturbing: holding the internet companies to account.  This can be a slippery slope.  It would be one thing if the government were to act in a manner which would compel these providers to be self policing with content and to provide open access to security agencies to those accounts with the type of content that we are concerned with.  That plan has some inherent trap doors in it, but with a very clear set of guidelines and stringent monitoring it could be a valuable tool . Now as I understand it British intelligence services already operate in ways that have less restriction than their American counterparts, but this vague and generalized bullet point from a ten minute address has a ring of unsettling familiarity. It brings to mind two creations resulting from the 9/11 attacks, each of which were intended to demonstrate publicly that the government was taking proactive steps, but which are both insidious and intrusive measures that do more to inconvenience a free people. These are the patriot act and the TSA. Both of these are wide nets. They may lend the appearance of security, but that is all they are. Window dressing. It’s the use of a shotgun where the sniper rifle is warranted instead. To paraphrase the President: surveil the shit out of ’em! Just leave the rest of us alone.

 

The final point of this plan is a shifting, amorphous ectoplasm of winning hearts and minds, defeating ideology and reinforcing British values. A bit squishy, that one, but I’ll try to pin it down. The best place to begin reinforcing British values is in immigration and refugee policy. Don’t shut the door gently on people from the Islamic world. Slam it in their faces. Second, still related to immigration policy, don’t make the mistake that the French have made and continue to make. Instead of no tolerance for extremism what about no tolerance for non-assimilation? You either want to be a part of this society or you don’t. This is our home, you come here as a guest. If you will not respect and observe our customs then right over there is the door. Don’t let it hit you in the ass on your way out. And to all of those who will stand on the sidelines and shout “Racist!” here is a suggestion for you. If you don’t have any more respect for your fellow citizens than this perhaps you should consider catching the next plane, train or ship heading out. I’m confident you will find your tolerant, enlightened and welcoming utopia on some other shores. Of course if that were true we are left to wonder this: Why does everyone want to come to our country?

 

So! Now that the jihadis have been placed on notice that there is going to be a new set of rules this must be the beginning of the end for them, right? I’m feeling more confident now. Aren’t you?

 

 

 

Now its London. I’ll ask again: NOW have you had enough?

It seems as though it was only a few days ago that I was writing in response to the Manchester bomber.  We now witness another clearly coordinated attack on innocents in London. The Metro Police have reacted quickly as we all would expect. This evening, besides the event itself, there are two things that should be concerning to Britons and all of us in the west.

First it is the fact that we are still RE-acting. Police are reacting. This is still being treated as a law enforcement matter. Do not get me wrong. I am glad that Metro is there. These are the things that the police should be for, not issuing traffic tickets. As I asked following the Manchester attack I must ask again: When will it be enough? How many more attacks do our citizens endure before we start treating this as what it is? These people ARE AT WAR WITH US. When do we go on offense? This will not end until we do.

The other concern this evening is that I hear the Prime Minister issued a prompt statement wherein she stated that they are “treating this as a POTENTIAL terrorist attack”. NO! Ya think?!

Potential? Madame Prime Minister just who is it that you are concerned about? Are you concerned about your own people, or are you more concerned that you might piss off a few muslims? Potential my ass!

More on this tomorrow morning.

Accorde Paris Adieu…

Hunter S. Thompson’s famed alter ego, the great Gonzo, once spoke wistfully of his equally renowned attorney, Laszlo: ” Laszlo? He is gone. He will be missed. Not by me, but….” I must admit to sharing much of the same sentiment in the wake of the President’s announcement this week that the US would be exiting the Paris Climate Accord. The wailing and gnashing of teeth which has followed this announcement is as spectacular in scale as it is hyperbolic in tone. Why if NASA had announced the discovery of a giant asteroid in an unalterable collision course with the planet that would still have to compete for a place on the front page. For the many who seem to be at worst horrified, or at the least deeply saddened, I do not count myself in their numbers. It will be missed, but not by me.

In spite of the voluminous reports to the contrary I suspect that in the country as a whole there are more in my column with this topic. Some of these are people who are able to approach the question rationally and thus conclude that the argument for climate change as presented simply does not measure up to sound science. There are others who without making a thorough examination of data merely discount the whole idea for no other reason than an inherently skeptical nature. And, lest we forget, there are undoubtedly those who just don’t give a shit. On an emotional level I would have to identify as being in that third category. On an intellectual level I find myself in equal measure of the first two.

In weighing any issue it is first important to call something what it is, otherwise there is no prayer of having all reading off the same script. If the definitions are not agreed upon all the debate in the world is utterly futile and this is where our problems begin.  Twenty years ago the term was “global warming”.  Implied in this by those carrying the banner was that the term referred to global warming as the product of human activity.  As years passed and data was compiled which would clearly contradict the warming trend the label was altered to “climate change”. As before the implication remained that this was a result of human activity. So in either case one is presented with terms that say one thing, but are intended to imply something beyond what is on it’s face. Regardless the words used to define the issue let us just say for argument’s sake that the concern underlying what is expressed is the human impact upon long term climatology. This is in fact what is being asserted by the leaders of this “movement”. Just consider, as another example, the “health care” debate. In that instance the real subject is not health care, rather health insurance.

The Paris Climate Accord defines the problem using the term climate change, so as a matter of simplification we shall stick with this term for discussion. Ostensibly this accord proposes a set of actions and policies to be implemented by the signatories for the purpose of curbing those human activities which have been deemed detrimental to the long range trends of the mean global temperature. For the purpose of quantification the benchmark has been set to contain the rise of that mean temperature to no more than 2 degrees fahrenheit by the end of this century. This is a convenient set of parameters as statistically speaking the vast majority of those alive today will not be around at the end of the term to see whether or not, A) that the goal has been met, or B) that the proposed climate models were in any way correct. More importantly those responsible for establishing the plan will not be around to defend the results whether they be good, bad or indifferent.

Another important factor in weighing a question is to gather data from multiple sources. Our liberal friends are constantly reminding us that diversity it critical. Following their logic one might be safe in assuming that this same principle will apply in data collection. Aside from this it is a practice that is essential to proper scientific method. While science is to be blind, impartial to any considerations other than raw data, reality does require one additional element. One has to consider the source.  This is especially true in this case as it seems that many carrying the banners and sounding the horns are not scientists, rather they are politicians, celebrities and other curious varieties of public figures. To be fair I realize that these are only the mouthpieces, not those actually conducting the science, but these people do like to cite “the science” and the “consensus of scientists”.  So then we must ask ourselves who are these scientists?

The scientists most often cited as the source affirming the climate-change-by-man credo are climatologists.  On it’s face the label seems clear enough, doesn’t it? A climatologist is someone who studies climate.  Well, that much is true. If one cares to, and indeed I am one who does, burrow down deeper into what a climatologist is this is best explained in this way. A climatologist is a meteorologist with either two or four additional years of post graduate work in their field. Or not. A meteorologist who has been visible on a major network, whatever other credentials they may possess, is regarded among those to adhere to the premise of climate change (the movement, not the phenomenon) as a credible source to affirm their belief. Into this mix one can also count the avuncular and beloved “Bill Nye the Science Guy”.  William is photogenic, more or less, possesses an engaging personality on camera, and I will admit does seem to be rather knowledgeable in science in a general sense.  This does not, however, automatically make him an accredited authority in the study of climate. There are numerous scientists who reside within the academic community who are recognized as authorities in this field. Many hold titles in prestigious institutions where they are ostensibly professors. The TA’s of course perform this less dignified task; their primary role is to conduct research. Theirs is the realm of theory. Now theory in and of itself is not a bad thing, per se, I don’t wish to imply that it is. Theories are formed based on a set of observations and are designed to be then tested in practice.

There are a couple of problems I see with these sources. The research scientist with tenure at a major university, aside from the pure science, performs another important function. Universities don’t bring these people on board their faculty so they can fuel the research out of their own coffers.  These scientists are brought on board so that their credentials lend feasibility to the endowment of grants, many of which come from government. If you think that there are no politics involved when obtaining one of these grants then you are sorely mistaken my friend. This is where politics only begins to be injected into this equation. It sets the stage for circumstances often found, for right or wrong, in many crime investigations. A detective or set of detectives may have for whatever reason formed a working theory of what may have occurred.  When this happens there is the tendency not to follow facts where they may lead, instead seeking evidence or facts that will fit the theory at the exclusion of anything which may contradict that theory. Although this may not be proper procedure a detective’s experience and prior knowledge of the parties involved may well provide a sufficient intuition for pursuing a theory which does ultimately lead to justice being rendered. In these cases this behavior may be forgiven. Not so with science. Science is not about intuition or consensus. There is no reason not to think that this has occurred in this particular science. In fact there is some rather high profile evidence of the deliberate falsification of data to fit the theory from no less than a former Fellow of East Anglia University who had been on the inside of an “official study” of climate change.

The other problem that I have with these sources comes from where common sense beckons. If a goodly number of climatologists are an advanced form of meteorologist then logic would dictate that one look at prior performance.  Meteorologists that we see on television are always needing to qualify those occasions when they’ve gotten it wrong by explaining that it is not an exact science. I’ve always been mildly humored by the forecast of a 20% or 40%, or any % chance of rain. Or snow. To my way of thinking it’s 50%: it is going to rain, or it isn’t.  But I understand that it is not as simple as that. A percentage of a chance of one weather phenomenon or another is built upon models, based on probabilities. They are at best an informed guess. This is not meant as a criticism with which to tar the entire profession. It is just a simple fact. They can forecast probabilities, but at the end of the day they can only work with what nature gives us. My point here is just to cast a justified level of skepticism to the accuracy of weather or climate forecasting.  We are talking about a science that has in most cases only a little better than 50% accuracy rate in forecasting what the weather will bring for the next 5 days. Never mind 5 years, or as is the case with the climate change commandos 50 or 100 years.  Questioning the validity of this science as it is repeatedly shoved down our throats is not “climate change denial”. It is an entirely reasonable question to ask if we want to stake so much upon policies which are rooted in nothing more than models that may have no better than a 50% chance of being correct. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with 3 of the 6 chambers filled. Who would do that?

It is utterly ridiculous and dishonest to brand someone as a climate change “denier” because they don’t automatically subscribe to your pet theory. I don’t deny climate change, I simply dispute your version of it. There is climate change. There always has been and there always will be. The last truly momentous climate change occurred with the end of the last Ice Age, which I would point out there is ample science to prove that this occurred over tens of thousands of years. Climate will change and there is not one damned thing we can do about it.  The entire premise is deeply flawed. Climate is changing because of human activity; ergo, reducing or eliminating the activity will change the climate in the other direction or halt the climate’s move in it’s current direction. If there is any denial happening it is a denial of reality on the part of the climate change argument.

Denial is a hallmark of liberal or progressive thought.  Socialism doesn’t work because it denies human nature.  Inserting political correctness into the daily interactions between the sexes does not work because it denies human nature.  Prohibitions do not work because they deny human nature. Progressives deny God, or as I like to think of it Nature, because it presumes an authority greater than their own. They don’t want to eliminate God; they want to be God. Their tireless efforts to convince all of humanity that we are on the course of climate catastrophe if we do not follow their way is one of the greatest proofs that they want to be God. It’s not enough for them to deny human nature. Now they just want to deny Nature period. We can have endless debate about God, the nature of God or the wrath of God. Our history shows that we will never agree, but as to the wrath of nature? There is no denying that. You don’t have to like it, I’m sure that most of us don’t, but that does not change the facts. Nature will do as it sees fit whether we are here or not.

So farewell Paris Climate Accords! You will be missed, but not by me.

In sympathy of pre-election blues

My young friend at A Paradoxical Millennial has graced us once again with his analysis of British electoral politics. Yesterday he posted Pre-Election blues; or, something of a rant 

http://aparadoxicalmillennial.com/2017/06/01/pre-election-blues-or-something-of-a-rant/

After having read his thoughts I did post a comment with a promise of some further elaboration, which follows here.

APM has expressed a lament which has become increasingly common in the western democracies of late, that being the poor choices which major political parties have foisted upon us all at the ballot box. This is by no means a new phenomenon, though it has certainly been voiced by more and more of the electorate as we traipse gingerly into the 21st century. APM, a self identified millennial, is a member in good standing of that club who are a rather large factor in a rising chorus of disenchantment with the state of our political processes.  It is a product of the expanding and rapidly accelerating information age in which they have clawed their way to adulthood.

Throughout much of our modern history information has been controlled, filtered through select mediums to present a particular tone to the public narrative. Fifty years ago the average voter was informed by what version of events were reported through the existing media infrastructure: the major broadcast networks, news publications such as The Times, The Washington Post, etc. Reporters and editors selected what was to be reported and how, and perhaps more importantly what was not to be reported. Outside of their sphere, in the reality where the proverbial rubber meets the road, the latter of these are what are correctly identified as “lies of omission”. The late Marshall McLuhan exposed this rather widely. Many among us are familiar with McLuhan’s famous quote “The medium is the message”. Others may not be aware of another of McLuhan’s gems, “A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”

For decades a narrative was formed by this elite class of our media. This narrative, by virtue of nothing more than it’s source, was regarded in most circles of society as the gospel truth. As an institution they were empowered to see to it that the public would all read from the same script. This “fifth estate” was part of a three legged stool of media, academia and government. As with any three legged stool each of the legs were essential to keeping it upright. Take away any of the three and the stool will teeter over onto the floor. The information age has steadily eroded this formula. The millennials have grown up in and are now an integral part of a population that finds itself beset with as many sources of information as the ether can hold. There are still filters, but these are no longer all connected to the same guiding hands.

From my own historical perspective this is both good and bad.  It is good in the sense that it creates a set of conditions which allow for a legitimate and potent challenge to the universal narrative. It is at the same time bad in that it invites that circumstance which McLuhan warned of: point of view substituted for insight and understanding..  With so many sources, each which may carry the taint of a bias, it becomes more of a challenge to the consumer of information to separate the facts from fiction. What should be remembered in order to hold this in it’s proper perspective is that McLuhan warned of this danger before, not after the advent of the information age. Although it may not have been his intent he had rightly identified that the media, as defined in his age, was guilty of making their point of view a point of fact. Even as we have transcended the prior order of our media sources the traditional media establishment still engages in the same old set of rules. They refuse to accept that the once exclusive control that they exercised over “messaging” is being steadily wrested from their grasp. One can often hear them publicly expressing their resentment at this in overt terms and even more often observed in their increasing departure from even the pretense of objectivity. Out of this is born a new mantra: fake news!

The major networks and the major political parties of both the UK and the US rely upon the upper tiers of academia to serve as the farm club system to keep their rosters filled. Whether it is BBC or ITV, NBC, CBS or CNN, Labour or Tory, Republican or Democrat, they all bathe in and emerge from the same filth. These form a sub-society, segregated from society at large, who all drink the same purple kool-aid from the same font. Their cult has created an orthodoxy to which all members must pledge their unadulterated allegiance above all else. Anything less makes them instantaneous candidates for expulsion from the club. There is to be but one truth: their truth, and no other may challenge it. Academia, the media and government are merely the institutions. The establishment are those inhabiting these institutions and it is growing increasingly evident to the public that they do not mean to relinquish their hold upon these any time soon.

APM observes that the Labour Party continues to spout the same nonsensical gibberish that led to the winter of discontent which punctuated their dismal rule in the seventies. They’ve nothing new to offer. The same can be stated for the Democrats here in the US. Their rhetoric has been virtually unchanged for the past fifty years. Both continue to mouth the same tired platitudes while inching ever closer to the end of their limb. They are not climbing higher up the tree; merely reaching for the next skinny branch that isn’t there before they ultimately plummet. Everyone on the ground can see this and some have even tried to warn of their peril. It is not that they can’t hear the warnings, they simply refuse to heed them. And indeed, why should they? They’ve no reason to think that they should try anything different. They seem to have their constituencies locked up and as long as these continue to greedily parade to the trough to accept what they are being fed there really is no incentive for change, is there? That’s a more polite way of saying , ” Idiots! You all get what you deserve!”

On the other side of this coin one finds the Tories and the Republicans, who also seem to refuse to believe what they are being told and what their eyes should plainly see. Like the liberals they continue to cater to the disparate groups which comprise a coalition of their base constituency. Though not uttered in so many words their actions have consistently demonstrated that they also worship at the altar of “big government”, the only distinction being that their version of big government is better. In the financial crisis of 2008 the phrase “too big to fail” was coined. I think this missed the mark, it is rather “too big to succeed”. There is a common theme present in the platform of either: Vote for us because we’re better than the other guys.  In fact it’s not even a “vote for us”. Both sides make the appeal that one must vote against the alternative.

We have not been presented with the choice of casting an affirmative ballot for quite some time. Our choices have been restricted to only exercising a vote against one side or the other.  Whether we are talking about Brexit or the election of Trump, for as much of an upset of the status quo as either may be, I do not believe that these represent an affirmative vote at all. For all of the talk attributing these to populism, nativism, bigotry or any other condemnation from the establishment these electoral shifts represent none of these. In both instances these translate as still being a vote against the alternatives. It is a declaration of “A pox on both your houses!”

It remains to be seen if Trump will truly be the change agent that he has promised. In Theresa May I fear that my English cousins are not being offered a change agent. Instead it is a choice to elect more of the same, just so long as it isn’t Labour! In both cases I suspect that their elections will result not in something significantly better, rather they are options that will be “less bad”. It’s a bit like being wheeled into surgery and being told just before the anaesthetic ” We’re going to be removing your left leg today “, and upon waking discovering that they had only removed your left foot. You still won’t be happy with the results, but at least it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

As an electorate we should perhaps try to think of ourselves as the long-suffering wife discouraged by the poor treatment from her spouse.  Some years ago there was a young mother in our neighborhood who would come to meet for evening walks. She and her husband had two children under the age of five at the time and both were engaged in the early stages of their medical careers.  This young woman frequently vented her frustration with her husband’s behavior. Her chief complaint was that while she continued to break her back at work while still taking the lion’s share of parenting duties she would find that on his days off he would spend the majority of his time playing video games. I typically chose not to get involved in any way with this sort of marital dispute, having enough of my own to contend with. After hearing her whine about this state of affairs for the umpteenth time I cast caution to the winds and rushed in where angels fear to tread. I asked her, ” So how long has this been going on?”. Her reply was that it had been going on since the birth of their first child. I then asked her “Well when did you decide to say something about it?” Her next response was equally disheartening, admitting that she had not said anything yet because she was afraid to. I understood this, it’s a familiar dynamic in young marriages, but I did not succumb to sympathy. I then very simply stated to her, ” If you have accepted it and continue to accept it then you’ve no right to expect anything different. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to use the carrot or the stick, but if all you do is continue to whine to the rest of us the story never changes.” She never spoke of the problem again, at least not in my presence. I don’t know if they resolved this conflict and as I had no stake in the outcome it doesn’t matter one way or the other. For the amount of time I have left on this earth I think that most of the damage has been done where government is concerned. If they began to apply the proper remedies today I would still very likely be cold in the ground before there would be substantial improvement. So in this likewise I may have little stake in it. My advice to millennials is, however, the very same as I had offered to our old neighbor.  If you keep accepting what you’ve been fed you will doubtless continue to get more of the same.

This, of course, leaves the question: How many more Brexits and Trumps will it take before they start getting it right? That will be up to you.