Random ramblings of a mind damaged by years of disuse and abuse. Also a place to go to be bored to tears.
The Random Comic Strip
Words to live by...
"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."
(The right to looseness has been officially given)
"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."
Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.
Sometimes I wonder... Things don't always work out so well and I suspect the essential element is myself. More often than not, I am the main focus of whatever goes wrong.
It's not that I am a screw-up, though I am that from time to time, but that I am involved in some way. Since I have many insecurities, this leads me to focus on my own involvement. Which, of course, just reinforces the afore-mentioned insecurities.
I was not always this way. At one time I thought my greatest shortcoming was in not following through. I tended not to complete things I started. I would get bored... or lazy (it's hard to tell those apart)... and just quit; leaving whatever project I was undertaking to sit until I might get back to it. But that isn't what is happening lately. Lately, things just seem to go awry. Back on the 20th, for example, I missed the correct exit as I was taking a friend to the airport. I didn't exactly miss it, I thought it was the wrong one and I was in error. This meant about a 10 mile circuitous route to get back on track. And then, after leaving him off, I missed my turnoff to get back on the tollway (which leads to the freeway), sending me wandering along some surface streets in what turned out to be a fruitless search for a way back on track. Since I was the driver, I must take the blame.
I find that I am easily rattled now and cannot shake myself out of it as easily as I once did and that bothers me. I cannot seem to settle myself down as I once did. I used to just order myself to calm down, often by merely taking a few deep breaths and then letting them out slowly. That relaxed me and calmed me and let me re-focus. It doesn't seem to work anymore... which adds to my stress and just makes things worse.
I am open to suggestions on how to relax and keep my head when all about me are losing theirs, so to speak.
I'm not out of town, I just have the blues because someone else is. A friend went to Chicago last week and he is the guy who runs our golf group on Wednesdays (and, to a great extent, on Fridays... which is supposed to be run by Pete). I not only gave him a ride to the airport (and will be picking him up on Tuesday), I volunteered to cover for him this past Wednesday (and help on Friday while Pete ran it... It is, officially, Pete's group on Friday). He accepted because, I think, no one else volunteered to fill in.
It was a disaster, of course, even though Joe (that's the friend) had computerized the system. I wasn't familiar enough with the system to do as good a job as I wished. I did the best I could but managed to cheat myself out of a second place award ($5) and never did get an accurate (or any) score for one player. Still, as I was leaving, I was told, "You did a good job. There's no way I want to do it!" by one of the regular players.
I know I need to get a correct score for the player I missed (and compensate him, if necessary) and emailed Joe that sentiment. Even though Joe strongly suggested I not do that, I probably will anyway. Otherwise, it will bother me for some time. That's the kind of schlub I am, I suppose.
My sister-in-law had to go to the hospital last week. It wasn't supposed to be serious, just installing a stent in her femoral artery. There was some blockage which led to a lot of pain and poor diagnoses on the part of her doctors. When they took her in for the surgery, the doctor realized the blockage was severe and extensive so he decided that he needed to do a bypass.
This meant a longer stay in the hospital and higher costs. And it also means she will need to undergo some period of rehab. Her insurance really isn't adequate for the job and has a big deductible. Had this happened next year, her insurance would have covered much more but life is full of unexpected problems...
Anyway, between that and my having to fill in for the guy who runs our golf group, I am running around like that proverbial headless chicken.
It looks like those "leaders" calling for, or just condoning (touting "Freedom of Speech" and all), the killing of police officers got their wish the other day. Of course, they will all deny that was their intent and are now calling for non-violence and even respect for the police but it's a bit too little and too late now, isn't it?
I am not one who is overly symapathetic about officers killed in the line of duty (I think a policeman's life is no more important than the average citizen's) but these two officers were executed, not given the slightest chance to defend themselves, and that angers me. The shooter, we are told, cited the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York by the police as why he decided to kill some cops. Michael Brown, apparently, brought it on himself but there is much sympathy for Garner... he was, after all, only selling "Loosies" (single cigarettes).. I blame the state of New York and the city of New York for his death. Not because they support the police but because they taxed cigarettes so much a black market was created for those "Loosies." And they passed laws about who could sell cigarettes. Garner was just taking advantage of the market that the authorities created. I don't smoke, I stopped that some 44 years ago but having been a smoker I understand the addiction. Apparently, neither the state of New York nor the city of New York have a clue.
There are too many outrages to talk about so let's just take a couple to discuss...
First is the normalization of relations with Cuba. This is something that would have been political suicide to support only a few years ago. I would have supported dropping the embargo in 1963 but, once it had been in place for 5 years, there was no reason to lift it, I think. And that is probably the thinking of most Cubans today though there are still many who support it as a kind of punishment for the Castro regime. Castro used the embargo as an excuse for the nation's poverty when it was really the fault of Cuba's own government.
One side effect of the embargo was to create a powerful sugar industry in the U.S., much of it in Florida and which helped Florida economically. It also helped Lousiana and Hawaii, both of whom had sugar plantations.
The idea behind embargoes, like boycotts, is to hurt a nation's economy and foster resentment of their governments by their people. I do not think them effective because they are easily painted as attacks by outside meddlers... which is exactly what the Castros did with ours. At this point, lifting the embargo will only help Raul Castro maintain his regime and ease the burden on Venezuela (who was helping support Cuba) as oil prices' downward tumble were hurting that economy.
The embargo, at this point, was no longer effective... if it ever was.
The other main outrage has to do with rioting, protests over grand jury decisons, and freedom of speech for license plates in Texas. The protests in Ferguson quickly turned into riots and looting. I do not understand the looting; it only helps make a bad situation worse. It hurts the local economy of the area that was already poor. It has happened numerous times in numerous cities over the years. And it causes even more oppression rather than less. Maybe that is its real purpose: to increase the very conditions being protested in the hopes that it will lead to an uprising. This has happened many times in the past, even our own revolution was a result of protests that created more repression by the Crown in response.
Finally, the kerfuffle in Texas over what can or cannot be on a vanity license plate is silly. I think Texas has every right to restrict what can be on such license plates. After all, there is no right to have an automobile, just as there is no right to have a driver's license.
Last Wednesday, I posted a piece about an encounter I had with the Long Beach police. Today, I want to relate two encounters with the Long Beach police that were a bit different. I didn't have the encounters, I just witnessed them.
The first was just outside a restaurant in Long beach. I had been sitting in a booth with my then girlfriend who worked on the "Pike" in downtown Long Beach. There were four of us in the booth, just drinking coffee and chatting, when a couple of cops came in and walked up to a booth with a couple of guys in it. They asked one of them to come outside and talk with them. He did. As they approached the police car, they turned and seemed to confront the man they had invited to come outside. As I watched, they had the guy face the rear door of the car and "assume the position." After he leaned toward the car, placed his hands on the roof, and spread his feet apart they began asking him questions. I couldn't hear clearly through the restaurant window but they did not seem to be friendly questions. At one point, the guy turned his head toward the cops and one of them turned it back forcefully and pushed it into the window of the car. He did this hard enough that I saw a smear of blood appear on the window and heard the guy cry out. After that, they let him go and drove off. He came back in and sat in the booth he had left and blotted his face with a napkin. I learned a little later that he had recently been paroled after a burlary stint.
The second encounter involved a young man his roommates had asked us to check on. I was on Shore Patrol at the time, partnered with a guy who introduced himself as "Pineapple" (a beefy Hawaiian whose real name I don't recall). He was a good guy to have as a partner, tough and loyal. The guy that the roommates (a guy and his girlfriend) told us about was supposedly a deserter from the Army. We found him in a greasy spoon a few blocks away, went in, and sat down across from him at a table. Pineapple asked him for some ID and about his status. He said he was visiting the US on a visa from Germany and produced a German ID (driver's license, I think). We chatted for a little while (Pineapple did, I stayed silent). His story sounded fishy to me. And to Pineapple. But we had no real power to do anything so we asked him politely to come with us to the SP station so we could sort things out. To my surprise, he agreed.
As we were walking down the street toward the station, we ran across a Long Beach cop. He asked what was up and Pineapple told him the story... quietly. The cop offered his services and Pineapple said somthing like "He's all yours." The cop asked him a couple of questions I do not recall, they seemed innocuous. Then he asked for the guy's ID and, when he pulled out his wallet, the cop just grabbed it and started looking through it. He found a folded up letter which he read for a bit and then askede something like "How long have you been gone from your base?" The guy was flustered but admitted to being AWOL so we called for the wagon to pick him up. The Marine who worked with the Shore Patrol was not happy with our friend and gave him a lot of grief about bailing out on his unit.
The guy was polite and cooperative. Had he not been, we might not have suspected him of deserting.
Last week, I received an intriguing essay about stateless community. It's an interesting commentary... which I thought my readers might enjoy. I do not think a stateless society (one in which there is no government, if I understood it correctly) can work in the complex societies that have evolved... possibly because of the way they have evolved. The norm for governmental control, for the most part, was autocratic rule. That is, monarchies. Whether we called the ruller "king/queen", "tsar/tsarina", or "emporer/empress" is unimportant... we accepted and tolerated such rule, convinced that rule by the people (the "rabble", if you will) would result in chaos. The form is established early in our lives, we call it "family structure" and I believe it is natural to humans. I posted a comment there which reads:
Personally, I think the concept works well in small communities. In those communities, cooperation becomes essential to survival and prosperity. Self-rule is simple and easily mastered by all constituents (or those who have trouble doing so emigrate to an ordered society elsewhere). However, complex societies appear to need direction in the form of rules. I think we tried, under the Articles of Confederation, to follow the model of a stateless society and it failed. One of the major roadblocks is the desire of some to establish a hierarchy (usually one in which they occupy lofty positions). Bastiat's world was one in which the "norm" was rule by "divine right" and bloodline. Free-thinkers chasten under such states. Early democracies were possible in communities that were simple yet they still had limited freedom and non-universal participation, many still were ruled by those who had money and power; some easily embraced slavery as a part of these societies... suggesting that caste systems were encouraged. I think we are left to find a compromise between autocratic (the elite) and democratic (the members of the society) rule. I think there will always be a struggle between the elites (or those who believe themselves to be) and the rest of us. Like Gordon, I cannot lay out the problem (or possible solutions) in a single (or multiple) comment(s). I can only ask others to consider the possible unintended consequences. And, for that matter, consider the lessons of Ferguson, MO.
As you developed from infancy, the family was your window to society. There was a hierachy in which you played a small role without much impact. As you grew, you rebelled against this hierarchy (think teen years), I think, in order to prepare yourself to enter the greater society. But you have been indoctrinated from birth to accept hierarchial structure and would find anything different to be alien and, possibly, untenable. We search for structure in our lives (at least, I always did) and, so, often compromise our individual freedom for it.
The Founding Fathers tried to find a compromise between absolute democracy and autocratic rule. That this concept has been compromised and manipulated by those who would (and do) rule does not diminish the concept but shows that any system can be corrupted.
As I write this "WeatherBug" is reporting it is 46 degrees outside here in Paradise.
I came across a bit of wisdom yesterday... in the form of a column by John Stossel. He is one of the "deniers" of Climate Change. He makes a good case, though, and one which parallels my own (Which is: "Shouldn't we just try to adapt?") He offers that Global Warming (the old term for what is now called "Climate Change") is, on the whole, predominently beneficial. He cites a book by Alex Epstein, "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels", which argues that we benefit from from this climate change; that it is not the disaster some claim.
I think there are flaws in his reasoning but I agree with him more than disagree. His primary argument seems to be based on the lower number of weather-related deaths:
In 2013, "Climate-related deaths were at a record low — in supposedly the worst climate in history — under 30,000," says Epstein. In 1931, bad weather killed 3 million people.
Sometimes we confuse correlation with causation. There are other factors which may be more important to those lower death rates. Consider the advances in techology which allow us to predict more accurately impending storms, for example, and improved building codes which make for better protection against severe weather. That being said, there are advantages to overall warming of the planet... such as enlarging arable land. We once built communities on the slopes of volcanoes because the land there was conducive to farming. We no longer think the benefits outweigh the risk. Our perspective has changed. But he is correct when he points out fossil fuels have helped us survive harsh winters. Personally, I think we are wasting a lot of time and money trying to slow or "fix" climate change. I believe our efforts should be directed toward adapting to this change. One of the contradictions of those advocating climate change as disaster is that they usually also seem to hate the uber-rich, the "1%", yet one of the things they complain about is the rising seas. Who will be primarily affected by those rising seas? I don't know of a lot of poor people living along the coasts. And the rich can afford to move. They will adapt. Sure, low-lying areas will see some non-seasonal flooding with rising sea levels and some coastal cities will be impacted. But, on the whole, these will not impact the rest of us and it won't happen overnight. Port cities will change; new ones will replace old ones and commerce will continue. We are an adaptive species and we should not be afraid of change.
...sometimes. Well, all too often. And then I speak. Hard to do when one's foot is planted in one's mouth but I manage. And, all too often, when I write I also have a metaphorical foot in my metaphorical mouth.
But this is not about that, it's about an encounter with the police in a place called Long Beach in California shortly after I got out of the Navy. My motorcycle had blown a rod down near Newport beach not long before and I traded it in (after I got it repaired) for a Dodge van, circa 1965, from a dealership just across the road from where I had been working. It was a nice van but it had no radio and no heater.
The next evening, I had a visit from a friend and we went to visit some other friends who gave us wine and marijuana. Then we drove back to my place. Along the way, about a block from my place, we were pulled over by a pair of cops in a police car. Long Beach cops were not known for their courtesy at the time. The cop who came to my window seemed polite, though, as he suggested I get out of my van so he could show me why he pulled me over. It turned out that my license plate light was not working. I thanked him and told him I would get it fixed the next day but that I had just purchased the van and didn't know it was not working.
He had asked me for my license and the registration for the vehicle when he came up to my window and I had shown him my license and pointed to the right hand side of the windshield where the temporary registration had been taped. I guess he forgot that I had also told him at that time that I had just purchased the van (to explain why the registration was on the windshield) because he seemed inclined not to believe me.
As we stood at the rear of the van, he asked me when I had bought it and then asked me if I had been drinking.
I had a glass of wine at a friend's, I said.
Anything else? he asked
Not that I recall, said I.(or was dumb enough to admit)
The conversation went on for a bit and then he asked me what I had in my pockets. Thinking he was talking about my jacket pockets, I told him I had a pair of gloves. He asked me to hold my arms out to my side and then asked if he could check. I allowed that. He then asked where I lived and I reminded him that I had told him earlier that I lived on the next block. He checked my pockets and pulled my gloves from them. He then asked me what I had in the car. I told him there was nothing. He then asked what was in the glove compartment or under the seats. Again, I said "Nothing."
Apparently, he was unsatisfied with that answer because he asked it again and again in the next few minutes. I think he wanted me to invite him to search the van but I wasn't about to.
Meanwhile, his partner had induced my friend to get out of the van (which he did not need to do) and had also asked him for ID. Eventually, they let us go because our "stories" were the same and, after all, I did live just a block away (as my license said).
An incident without much meaning, to be sure. But I wondered... what if I had been black? Or Mexican? Or what if I had been less than polite and cooperative? But I hadn't been any of those things and I had thought carefully before I spoke each time.
I want to talk about credit card debt. Why? Well, I recently received a "Preferred Invitation" from Discover. Having had a Discover card since 1999, it has become my preferred credit card. It is accepted just about everywhere (except many golf courses around here), their security team is pretty much "Johnny on the spot", and there's that 1% rebate.
But the "Preferred Invitation" turned out to be a personal loan offer. I do not have a need for a personal loan. In the blurb, there was much talk about "paying off debt." That is something I do not have either but it got me to thinking... apparently, I am odd in that I have not racked up a lot of credit card debt. I never have. I had no credit card at all until around 1978 when it became difficult to rent a car without one. On a visit to my parent's house in 1978, I found I could not simply leave my return trip ticket as collateral and had to call my mother to use her credit card for security. Upon my return home, I took advantage of one of those American Express offers to apply for their card. Why Amex? Because, at the time, you were expected to pay the entire debt accrued for that month. This, I thought, would force me to be judicious in my use of the card and induce me to pay off any charges each month. And it did.
But this "Special Invitation" got me to wondering about others who, like my mother and sister at one time, paid only a portion of the accrued amount... sometimes only the minimum required... each month. I had an advantage: I started out paying off credit card charges each month, establishing that habit early. Most of my fellow Americans, it seems, did not and this has led to a lot of personal debt for the average citizen. I see a number of ads for equity loans and refinancing of mortgages (and even these reverse mortgages) which talk about paying personal debt down as a reason for such things.
Is there really a need for these loans? Do you find that you carry a balance on one or more credit cards? Have you considered paying them off but don't know how? I would call that a "debt cycle" and it is something my mother got into. She once told me she didn't worry about her balance because every time she apprached her credit limit, the credit card people raised it. I think she was being facetious because I took over my parents' finances around 1998 and never saw any balances that were too large to handle.
I urge people to pay the credit card in full each month, even if that means tightening your belt for a few months or more. You will be happier in the long run. And, when you retire, you will be extremely happy you did.
But maybe it isn't. At first glance, body cameras for the police makes perfect sense... then you think a little more and begin to wonder if the idea could be flawed. I came across a headline about the White House backing up the idea with some $75 million to purchase these cameras for some 50,000 officers around the country. I did the math and came up with $1500 per unit. That's a bit expensive. Of course, they would have to withstand a physical beating so maybe that isn't all that bad a price... and then there's the overhead involved in the administrative costs of running the program. Before you start to think no one else is concerned about the idea, read this excerpt from the story: One major hitch is that cameras are only as honest as their wearers. "Body cameras are more appropriate expenditures than tanks and sniper rifles, but they will only be helpful if the police don’t turn them off, don’t delete their records, don’t play to the cameras or use them selectively," Neil M. Richards, privacy expert and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis told the school’s news website.
And that is only one "major hitch." I see someone from the ACLU (already concerned about privacy issues) to focus on the possible 5th Amendment issue of self-incrimination. Would the police have to start issuing the Miranda rule to everyone they talk to? Update (12-6-14): It turns out that the $75 million only covers 50% of the cost of the body cameras... which means they are $3000 per unit.
I hear a lot of calls for it. But I wonder about it. What is justice? I think it is different things to different people but, in general, when someone is demanding "justice" they really mean they want revenge.
Justice in the old west was often a lynching. A mob would form, the criminal grabbed, and then dragged off to the nearest tree to be placed on a horse (or the back of a bukboard) with a noose of some sort around his neck. In the end, the criminal was hanged by the neck and died. "Justice" was done. No trial, no appeals, no legal niceties, just swift and sure revenge. It wasn't pretty and is no longer the punishment of preference. We like trials and the judicial process and what once meant a death sentence (murder, rape, cattle rustling, and horse stealing) no longer ends in any kind of a death sentence.
I hear about demands for justice in the case of Michael Brown and I wonder what those are really calls for. I understand the anguish over the death of an unarmed young man but I do not see what the demands really mean. I think they are the results of frustration because the police officer was not indicted by the grand jury in that case. But isn't that justice? Sometimes, killers go free. Sometimes, criminals do not suffer any punishment for their crimes. Sometimes, because of mistakes by the police or prosecutors, criminals go free.
In the case in question, the police officer has resigned. His career was over anyway and it is unlikely he would be hired by any other police department anywhere in the country. His life has been destroyed. Isn't that justice? Yes, he's still alive and Michael Brown is dead but the cop cannot work in his chosen field and may have to move to another state and hope he fades into obscurity to ever get a job anywhere. In addition, his family will suffer and they were surely innocent.
And, what if he had been indicted and then acquitted (as Trayvon Martin's killer was), would those calling for justice have given up and accepted that result? I suspect not.
So what is justice anyway? What do you call justice? Justice may be privided but we might not recognize or accept it. Justice will never bring the dead person back to life and will not likely heal the scars the victim suffers and we may never understand it.
I tend to go off a little quickly. A week ago, I went into a tirade about my favorite crossword puzzle app. That's what I wish to apologize for. Most, maybe all, of the things that vexed me about the radical update appear to have been corrected. And, like Steven mentioned, I shouldn't get upset about a free app. The developer responded promptly to the numerous complaints and fixed the problems he created in the update.
I am becoming used to the new look. I found the option (buried pretty deep but there) to use the native keyboard but have begun to appreciate the app's keyboard... it is an improvement over the old one. And I found an option which assures I won't move to the next word after I enter an incorrect letter at the end of a word (or in the middle without noticing). I don't do that often but I have done it a few times and it irritates me. I hate making mistakes. I make them often enough but that doesn't mean I can tolerate them. It's the perfectionist in me.
In any event, the app is working well and properly and it's still free. So, if you have an Android tablet (or phone) I recommend it.