The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(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.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Black And White

We're supposed to have a dialogue about race. That's what they say anyway. What they really mean is that we should talk to each other about racism. I have talked about racism and prejudice a number of times here on Boomer Musings.

My friend at "The View From Outside My Tiny Window" has done a better job of describing why racism exists than I ever could in his post #194. I urge you to read it. He is a very smart man and quite the accomplished one.

Essentially, I believe that racism is an offshoot (or "unintended consequence") of a genetic predisposition to trust those who look most like us. That is, it began when mankind was first emerging. We had needs: food, shelter, procreation. In order to satisfy those needs we needed to survive in a sometimes hostile world full of dangerous animals and, worse, other humans. We could easily learn which animals might do us harm and which weren't likely to but other humans? Not so easily. So we developed a kind of judgment based on looks. After all, that is/was our primary sense. We could see the fangs and claws of predators easily enough and, using our other senses, hear them growl and hiss and the like. But humans are stealthy and can pretend to be friendly.

In our clans, mostly made up of kinsmen, people were familiar so it is logical to extrapolate that into be trusting of those that look most like us. Any characteristic that was different made our distant ancestors wary.

As an aside and example of what I mean, a friend of mine once told me she felt fear around blue-eyed people with fair skin. This friend is African-American. She felt more comfortable around me because I had brown eyes and dark hair.

As we developed tribes, which later grew into communities, we allied with people who also looked like us.  We still do this, I think, in a number of ways. Look around your towns and cities... you will find enclaves of people who look alike and speak alike. Italian neighborhoods, Chinese neighborhoods, Korean neighborhoods, and so on. It's not just because these folks were kept out of other neighborhoods, though that certainly happened, but also because they felt more comfortable being among their "own kind."  We are "herd animals" and that means we like being among others and the others should look familiar.

Do we still need this predisposition? I do not think so but since it has become "hard-wired" into our DNA it will be near impossible to eradicate... much as we might like to get rid of it.

Can we overcome it? Yes, I believe so, on an individual basis. That is, each of us can, if we choose, not give in to it; suppress it in our interactions with others. But it takes effort and, above all, recognition that we all have it. That is the part that is difficult... not do a kneejerk denial of our own prejudice.

I wish you luck in disciplining yourselves to control your alleged instincts. We can, each of us, make this a better world.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What About AI?

That seems to be an important question. As in, "If we create robots that think, will that be the beginning of the end for humanity?"

I am one who is in favor of creating such and I don't fear it. First, because it will happen well after I am dead and, second, because I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

Much of our thinking, especially on this subject, seems to come from books and movies. And these tend to play up the fear of annihilation. Think the "Terminator" series and any number of others over the years. Intelligent robots have supplanted space aliens as the destroyers of Earth (humanity).

I doubt it. First because an old joke is that artificial intelligence already exists... the vast majority of humans qualify. And, second, because I think AI will enhance our lives, even though I believe it will cost a huge number of jobs in the long run. Think about it: you would no longer have to explain that weird noise your car makes to a mechanic who won't know how to fix it anyway (but will claim to have and charge you greatly). The car will probably tell you what's wrong (in simple terms) and the (robot) mechanic will have a complete encyclopedia of your car stored in his memory bank, you won't have to explain anything; the robot will analyze the car and determine just what is wrong with it (assuming anything would be... cars are getting "smarter" already).

I think we spend an inordinate amount of time explain what we mean to others. AI could end that waste of time. Will we humans be jealous of the robots? Probably. Still, I think AI is inevitable.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What's In A Flag?

Big fuss over the Confederate flag after that mass killing in Charleston, South Carolina. In fact, people appear to be fixated on it.

I can understand that. It is waved by racists all over this country, that's clear, and as a symbol it is quite potent.

But I was given some advice a long time ago that went: Don't give someone power over you by reacting they way he or she wants. I think that also applies to symbols. It offends, I get that. And maybe if I was black, I would be very offended... perhaps to the point of action. But I hope I wouldn't act out of emotion. Because that is what symbols do to us... arouse emotions.

And sometimes that's not good.

Monday, June 22, 2015

We're All Going To Die!

Eventually... But in the news today is an article about how we are in a "mass extinction", the sixth in earth's history, based on a Stanford study.

Let me quote from the article:
"Using fossil records and extinction counts from a range of records, the researchers compared a highly conservative estimate of current extinctions with a background rate estimate twice as high as those widely used in previous analyses. This way, they brought the two estimates, current extinction rate and average background or going-on-all-the-time extinction rate, as close to each other as possible."

Well, that scares the heck out of me. Which is its purpose, I assume.

Friday, June 19, 2015

So What Has Gone Wrong?

With the young men who have decided to align with, and do the bidding of, ISIS, I mean. What makes them turn against the land they were, for the most part, born and raised in?

Because that is what they are doing, turning against it. I was a young man in the mid and late sixties and I thought that was a terrible time with many of my peers turning against the U.S., supporting North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. After digging into it and talking with the occasional draft-dodger I ran into, I decided it was self interest that motivated them. A self interest that included a desire not to be killed.

There was also a desire to fit in, to be part of the crowd... To oppose the Vietnam War was popular. One could get support and comfort from the general public by being opposed to that conflict. And we are herd animals who like to be accepted.

But ISIS supporters are different. They do not profess to be anti-war, they do not chant of peace. They desire slaughter, they want to be part of the fight against "the Great Satan." They align with people who behead those who reject their religion. An extreme lack of tolerance, to understate it.

How do we fight that?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Where Was I?

Oh yeah... patriotism. I was going to try to define it as I understand it.

The dictionary says:
"love that people feel for their country."

That's about as simple as can be. But we aren't born with it, not in this country, we come to feel it over time. Some of us apparently never do get that feeling.

Myself, I never understood why African-Americans volunteered to serve in WWI and WWII. But they did... in great numbers. Only to serve in mostly support duties and under white officers but many fought and died or were wounded during those wars.

Did they think that serving would prove they be treated equally? I think many knew it wouldn't matter in the long run but they volunteered anyway.

That, to me, is the true definition of patriotism. Put another way...
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Even if those "friends" aren't truly friends but a country. And you don't actually have to die for your country, just be willing to.

Monday, June 15, 2015

What is Wrong With Our Youth?

Over the next few days, I would like to address the growing problem of disaffected youth who are lining up to support ISIS.

Obviously, I do not understand it. And smarter minds than mine have been wrestling with it but they don't seem to have answers either.

I was raised in small towns but wasn't very patriotic until about halfway through my tour of duty in the U.S. Navy.

Being born in the US isn't an automatic ticket to patriotism. We are indoctrinated... through the Pledge of Allegiance, history lessons, and civics classes... but we are also told that we are free to decide for ourselves about our patriotism.

I am not even sure, though I consider myself to be patriotic, just what the word means to me.

But bear with me as I try.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Thoughts On ISIS And The EPA

I have been thinking about ISIS/ISIL lately. The standard line on their origin (from the administration) is that it is Bush's fault because he invaded Iraq, creating an unstable state and drawing al Qaeda into Iraq which then morphed into ISIS.

I have a slightly different theory. I blame Obama... because he had bin Ladin killed. Essentially, he cut off the "head of the snake" and weakened al Qaeda, making it less attractive to the Jihadists. In that vacuum of radical Islam, ISIS evolved.

And now we are faced with an even greater threat. Unintended consequences and all that.

Now let's look at the EPA's desire to further regulate the U.S. airline industry... to make them more efficient and reduce fuel consumption. Good idea? Sounds like it but since it only applies to those airlines based in the U.S. I wonder if it is a good idea. How many merchant ships are now flying the U.S. flag? They left because of taxation and regulations. Why do we think US air carriers won't also leave?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Random Thoughts

I continue to have trouble and, so, I am writing this "on the fly". The trouble may not be Blogger's fault but since they are providing no feedback, I cannot know.

Lots of fuss over the Patriot Act. To be more specific; over a section of the act which governs how the NSA collects what is referred to as "metadata." Let me assure you that this includes no content whatsoever, just the number calling, the number called, and the duration of the call. Essentially, the same data that the phone companies routinely provide you on your bill or when you ask for details.

My phone company, Vonage, has that data available to me on their website. I have used it a few times to find out what company has robo-called me in the middle of the night. It doesn't provide with the company's name (I find that by Google, usually) but it does give me the number which I then use to register a complaint with Do Not Call... If you have not registered your phone number with them, I recommend you do.

I am not sure what the Libertarians are concerned about but they feel it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Which it probably is. Basically, they collect this data and sift through it when they find that one (or both, I guess) of the numbers is tied to a threat to the U.S.

As I said, this data is already collected by the phone companies for what is called "internal use." They sift through the data to determine where they need more, or less, services in general. It is also kept for, as I implied, billing purposes. I am unsure how long it might be kept but the phone companies like to collect data but they do not like to throw it away.

Since I spent many years in the old Bell System, I can say I have found lots of data tied to phone numbers that told a lot about the subscribers. The telcos frown on listening to calls but they also know it is done by employees for entertainment.

That entertainment was the conversations, not the metadata. It is very difficult to listen in on conversations now and I do not think the NSA is listening in for entertainment or anything else.

Just thought you should know.

Monday, June 1, 2015


I'm curious, how much do you value education? That is, are you going into debt to pay for your child's college or are you putting aside money in a 529 plan? Either suggests you value that college degree.

I never have valued one so highly. Perhaps that's just a "sour grapes" attitude. My parents could not have afforded to send me to college nor did they try. I took a few months at a community college in Brevard County, FL (think Cocoa Beach) and, after I got out of the Navy, I took a year at a San Diego community college. I mostly majored in "G.I. Bill"... what many vets did at the time was collect benefits to supplement income... I had no real intent to matriculate to a 4-year school.

While in the Navy I passed up a chance to get a college education paid for by the Navy in exchange for at least 4 years of service after graduation. One offer was to fly, the other would have been as a regular officer.

But I wasn't interested. I had no ambition, you could say. Now, of course, I regret not taking one of the offerings but who knew at the time?

The reason I ask is the flak one of the potential GOP candidates is getting over his having dropped out some 32 or 33 credits short of a degree. Do we need our presidents to have college degrees? Do we think college makes you smart?