Here Thar Be Monsters!

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30.3.17

The War On Words

Perhaps you've never really thought about this, but why is language so important?

There's a lot of noise lately about gender pronouns.  The Swedes added a new gender-less third-person singular pronoun a while back.  The German language has had three genders for centuries.  So has Russian.  Indonesian has a gender-less third-person singular that likely stems from Sanskrit roots.  So what's the big deal?

English has four third-person singular pronouns, two of which are gender-neutral: he, she, it and one.  He, she and one are primarily used for humans, while it can be used for just about anything.  Consider the couple who has just found out they are pregnant.  Folks commonly ask (these days), "Do you know what IT is yet?"

Gender is an exclusively linguistic construct.  Except for a tiny fraction of one percent of the global population, humans come in two sexes: male and female.  We are all genetically XX or XY, with a smattering of folks having XXY or XYY, and the latter two usually suffer medical issues all their lives.  Therefore, "he" and "she" accurately designate the sex of 99.99% of the world's population, and a million dollars' worth of surgery cannot change one's sex.

The stupid part of the whole pronoun argument is not that English (and many other languages) already have gender-neutral pronouns, it's that most humans do not address people in the third-person.  In English, we always address someone as "you", which is appropriate for both formal and informal, as well as male or female.  All of the plural pronouns are gender-neutral, so the point is moot in those cases.  Of course, "I" is the pronoun of self and is appropriate for any gender, sex, race, orientation, or whatever.

Apparently, in all the socio-political bullshit being spread over the pronoun argument, folks have forgotten about "one", which is a very old and gender-neutral pronoun in the English language that is often used in formal conditionals, but could easily be adopted for common language.  It doesn't have the baggage of "it" and even carries a certain formal connotation, thus offering a fine alternative to "he" or "she".  The Irish commonly use "your one" to refer to a singular third person.

So, what is this pronoun dust-up really all about?  Answer: cutting the culture off from its roots.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell made a point of noting the State's efforts to reduce the NewSpeak dictionary down to the most basic vocabulary.  The theory was that if people don't have a word for something, they can't think about it, nor can they convey it to others via speech or text.

This, in a nutshell, is what the pronoun war is all about.  It is one of several efforts to eradicate vocabulary from the language.  As the vocabulary contracts, it becomes harder and harder to access literature.  Within a generation or two, one is unable to make sense of books that are even a century old.  As the effort progresses, they are unable to understand books written even decades ago.

Take a look at this passage from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:
      Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5 Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne...
I doubt many native speakers of English could read most of this, much less speak it accurately, and the language is just 600 years old.  The inability of modern English speakers to read the text is not part of a concerted effort by the Powers That Be to cut off our culture, it is just the natural evolution of language.

Now try Beowulf or Shakespeare in the original language.

Today, folks can barely understand the language of the US Constitution, which is only 200 and some years old, because the sentence structure is beyond the capabilities of most "schooled" readers (I purposely chose "schooled" over "educated").

Under a full onslaught of "language police", how long would it be before we could no longer read last year's New York Times?  How long before the vast majority of people could no longer access information reserved only for the highest levels of society?  Isn't that already happening?

Listen to "Man On The Street" interviews on any given outlet.  Decide for yourself if the vast majority of folks even know about Chaucer, much less have read or even less understood Chaucer, especially in the original texts.  These folks couldn't even compose a thought that included an idea from Canterbury Tales.

Orwell was right.

The effort to change and edit language is not about people's feelings.  Who really cares what a tranny in Berkeley wants to be called?  The point is to cut off access to the masses of vocabulary, grammar and ideas by making history and literature unintelligible to the hordes.

If you don't know something exists, you will likely never look for it.  And if you stumble upon it by accident, you would never be able to comprehend it.  You wouldn't have the tools to even begin to decipher the thoughts contained in the text.

The Catholic Church did this for millennia by printing the Bible in Latin and saying the mass in Latin.  Unless you were highly educated, you had no idea what was contained in those words.  Even more to the point, the church hierarchy could tell you it meant anything they wanted, and you would have no way of challenging them.

The "language police" are not about sparing the feelings of a few, they are about cutting off the many from the vast reservoirs of human experience.  Without literature, the past only exists for a lifetime, and then it dies.  Without language, the past will cease to exist and the State will be everything that is.

If you want to save your culture, and by extension humanity, the only things you need to teach your children and grandchildren are the Trivium and a love of literature.

They are the best and only true weapons we have against Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism.

29.3.17

Boom To Bust - A Revolution

The character Harvey Dent in the Dark Knight noted, "You either die a hero, or live long enough to become the villain."

That line succinctly sums up American culture right now.  The 60s liberals have lived long enough to become the villains.

Like everything else in the Boomers' lives, they thought they were going to change the world forever.  Like everything in life, nothing lasts forever.

All the rock and folk stars are retired or dead.  The music has lost all meaning to anyone but the geezers who were alive then.  Woodstock is all but forgotten.  The Summer of Love is a myth.  And all the peaceniks then are war hawks now.

Hell, the only major political figure still alive from back then is the evil bastard Henry Kissinger, who is the villain that lived long enough to see himself become the hero.

The world has come full circle and the Boomers of the 60s are now the establishment, and the new generation of counter-culture are the conservatives that the Boomers fought so hard to get rid of.  Even Johnny Rotten (of Sex Pistols fame) recently came out in favor of Brexit and Trump.  A lot of folks got double-take whiplash when they saw that story.

Everything old is new again.  Funny how things work out that way.

The Weather Underground long ago surfaced and Bill Ayers is ghost-writing autobiographies these days.  Fidel Castro is dead and no one remembers Mao's Little Red Book, even in China.  Free love gave way to long-lasting STDs after spawning the Disco Era - which mercifully died a long time ago.

About the only lasting change the Boomers have achieved is the on-going decriminalization of marijuana, which has yet to spread outside a few States and the Netherlands.  It only took 50 years to get that far.

Yes, Boomer life has been reduced to old folks' homes and shuffleboard contests on cruise ships - basically the life they rejected en masse all those years ago.

The Beatles have become elevator music - a quaint throw-back to an earlier age - much like Frank Sinatra and Big Band had become in the 70s.

Woodstock was overrun with Band-Aid, Farm-Aid, Live-Aid, Lollapalooza and all the other mass events that tried to recreate a fluke of time and place.

Bob Dylan retired to his ranch, so rich he can't write decent songs any more.  It required a certain amount of personal suffering to achieve the status he once had, and he hasn't suffered in a long time.

I rememver when Boomers thought they were important and had something to offer society.  The problem is, they tried to ram it down everyone's throat, and folks don't like that.  They also hadn't planned on the same thing happening to them.  It never occurred to them that anyone would revolt against the revolution.  In rejecting everything that came before them, they also threw out the history books that tell the tale of many similar events happening throughout history.

If we can learn anything from the Boomers, it's not enough to be young, dumb and full of cum - and have demographics on your side.  They committed the First Rule of History - what comes around goes around.  It's all circles.

Many US presidents have tried to lay claim to John F. Kennedy's legacy, but hoodathunk Donald J. Trump would actually claim it.  Like it or not, he is presiding over the counter-counter-revolution.  All the angst and violence spawned by his election are the last gasp of a dying phenomenon called the Baby Boom.  Like the 60s, the Teens will likely create on industry that will last a decade or more, even if Trump (like Kennedy) doesn't make it through his first term.

The irony seems lost on the American culture.  The same hatred and revulsion the War Generation felt towards the Boomers' radicalization is what the Boomers feel now towards the changing times.

Oh, that's right...The Times they Are A'Changin' was a Bob Dylan anthem for the Boomers, who must now listen to it again and realize that they are on the other side.  Remember?
Come gather around people
Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing

It's tough to realize that you've deluded yourself your whole life.  The Boomers actually thought they were changing things, except they forgot to keep fighting.  Instead, they joined the rat race and tried to make a little money.    They thought they could sit back on their laurels and everyone would recall the Boomers with fondness and leave their legacy intact like a socio-political shrine.  Guess what?

Reality.

California Dreamin' has become California Screamin', and the voices are weak and shrill now.  The train jumped the track about 30 years ago with the first Iraq invasion - supported and backed by the same folks who brought us the "anti-war" movement - a movement that only lasted until the Boomers were heading up the Military-Industrial Complex that they so reviled all thos years ago.

Now the Boomers aren't protesting war, they are prosecuting it.  They aren't trying to bring down the Establishment, they ARE the Establishment.  They are no longer the revolutionaries, they are the entrenched interests trying to protect their nest eggs.

The irony of history is a delicious dish.  It is fun to watch those who fought the Cycles of Time be finally crushed by them. If there is a lesson here for all generations, it is that all change will change again.  Only things that are dead cease to change.  No matter how radical you think you are, you will eventually be the Establishment.

Que sera.

28.3.17

Whose Heaven, Whose Hell?

Ogoh-Ogoh
Well, we're back from Bali with a trunk-load of pork, a bottle of 3-year-old Cuban rum and a handful of Cubano cigars.  Time to catch up on this here blog.

It's Hindu New Year, the thrid of five New Year celebrations in Indonesia, and Bali is shutting down tomorrow for the Day of Silence.  All electricity is shut off, no one leaves the house, there are ogoh-ogoh everywhere and fruit offerings in front of houses to placate the jin.  The airport stops operating this evening and basically the entire island slips back a few centuries for 24 hours.  Roads were being shut down for cleansing/blessing ceremonies as we left the hotel en route to the airport.  Even the TeeVee networks interrupted their schedules to broadcast Hindu prayers at noon.

If I take anything away from this trip to Bali and the Disney-fication of Southeast Asia, it is the stark lines of demarcation of religion in Indonesia.  It is a rather interesting case, perhaps somewhat analogous to the Bible Belt in the US, where joyless Baptists hold sway over social and political life.

The oldest known treaty between a European power and people in the archipelago is signified by a carved stone now residing in a museum in the Old Town of Jakarta.  On it, the king of Sunda granted Portugal free harbor at Tanjung Pluit in exchange for protection against the Muslim hordes attacking from central Java.  Thus, the name Jakarta - or Jaya Karta - which means "Free City".

Of course, now about 80% of the population in Indonesia profess to be Muslim, including the Sunda, but there are pockets on various islands where other religions hold sway.  There is also the Indonesian Constitution, which grants full legal status to five religions - Islam, Hindu, Catholic, Christian, and Buddhism.

Despite the pretense to religious tolerance and moderation, there is even at this moment violent protests about an hour outside of Jakarta in a tow called Bekasi, where Muslims are being tear gassed as they protest the building of a new Catholic church.

In fact, the country is starkly divided by religion.  The northern Sumateran region of Aceh is under strict Muslim law (Shari'a) and people are beaten severely when unmarried men and women get too close to each other.

Bali is the last remaining predominantly Hindu region, which used to cover Java and southern Sumatera, as well.    Muslim animosity towards Hinduism is a very ancient problem, with millions of Hindu being murdered over the centuries for their beliefs, and ultimately leading to the separation of India and Pakistan, and the on-going tensions in the Punjab and Kush regions.

East Timor is predominantly Catholic, which led to its secession from Indonesia and the violent attempt to crush the half-island.  Well over 200,000 people were slaughtered by Muslim forces under Soeharto in the 1970s.

Northern Sulawesi is also predominantly Catholic, as is Papua and nearby neighbor the Philippines.  Papua has famously had secessionist movements flare up over the years, as they fight perceived oppression and impoverishment by a Muslim-dominated central government.

Here in Jakarta, an historic event took place several years ago when an ethnic Chinese Christian commonly called "Ahok" became governor of the DKI Jakarta province.  Not only is it historic because of his ethnicity - ethnic Chinese are generally reviled in Indonesia - but also because he is Christian.  It is a well-known fact that non-Muslims will not rise to political power, nor even leadership positions in the various state-owned companies (persero).  Ahok has been under near-constant attack for the past few months, trying to unseat him in the upcoming election.

Not only has the attack on Ahok been entirely fabricated, the attempt to unseat him is almost entirely based on religious bias and fabricated evidence, and certainly not on the efficacy of his administration, which has overseen a vast reduction in corruption and a general clean-up of the city.

Although quieter, there are long-standing resentments that have simmered across the country.  There are dozens of indigenous religions that predate any of the five recognized and "protected" imports.  These religions have no protection, no status and no support from any faction.  When found, these ancient religions are persecuted with impunity, since they have no legal recognition nor protection.  They occasionally attempt to get status, but at the best and most benign level, are simply ignored.

Finally, there are the various factions of Islam in Indonesia that are constantly bickering and occasionally violent.  Indonesia is predominantly Shafi'i Sunni, Most of the Shia live in and around Jakarta, and there are some small pockets of Ahmadi Muslims in Java and other islands.

The Ahmadi are the most persecuted, with incidences of persecution that go as far as murder, while being displaced is not unusual, either.

The fact of the matter is that most Indonesians are peaceful, tolerant people who could care less what anyone else does, as long as they don't impinge on the languid life in the tropics.  Unfortunately, as in many countries (including the US), it is the noisy intolerant folks that take over the podium.  The most annoying incident of this intolerance is the month of Ramadhan, when everyone is expected to respect Muslim religious observances.

This forced respect is limited only to the Muslims.  Neither the Christians nor Catholics force anyone to defer to their Lenten practices.  The Hindu of Bali require everyone to adhere to the Day of Silence, but it is blissfully limited to a single day of the year and incidents of violence against non-participants are rare.  In fact, a certain latitude is granted to hotels and other places where tourists stay.

The point of all this is that the mix of religion with politics, even in a nominally secular country, is particularly volatile.  At some point or another, all religions have been guilty of violent purges of competing views and ideas.  The very nature of religion is to spread itself in order to justify its intolerance.  After all, if a religion were to be the last one standing, it would perforce claim that its methods were correct by virtue of the outcome.

Religion is infectious.  It has pathological effects on reason and tolerance.  It is the concept of religion itself, more than any particular incarnation of it that causes so much damage.  What's worse is that all religion claims to have the only means to achieve eternal afterlife - a claim which can never be proven or disproven, and therefore can never be guaranteed by or to anyone.

The right of folks to believe anything they want is absolute, provided they extend the same courtesy to everyone else.  Muslims are only the latest in a long line of folks to steal the podium.  It is time for more rational minds to take the lead amongst the faithful.  Everyone should be free to believe (or not believe) whatever they wish.  If a religion wants converts, it should be able to find them by providing an example of its beliefs, not by forcing others to profess membership.

A religion, or any other system of belief, does not win when folks are forced to follow.  People will say almost anything to avoid violence, and thus professing belief out of fear is not belief at all.

25.3.17

Paradise Tossed

Yayaya, I know I'm about 14 hours getting today's post up, but I have a doctor's excuse.

My wife and I are in Bali for four days of peace and relaxation, which means neither.  At this very moment, we are trying to contact my daughter who occasionally works in an area of Jakarta that is in chaos at the moment from a terrorist attack earlier today.

Furthermore, today we had a 5.7 earthquake in Bali, though you could flog me with a sharp stick and I swear we felt nothing.  I didn't even know until just now when I checked the Quake-O-Meter on my desktop.

Furthermore, Tuesday is Nyepi, which is a high holy day among Hindu where no one can work, cook, use tools or appliances, lights, etc.  That means we are flying out Monday night before the island shuts down for 24 hours.

The concern is that Muslims and Hindu has been fighting for centuries because Muslim don't like anyone who worships multiple gods, much less their god.  We are planning a night of fun and frolic in Legian, which is the Occident's version of New Orleans' French Quarter.  It's the site of the 2002 Bali bombings.  Most people think it was an attack on tourists and foreigners.  Not so.  It was an attack on the fact that the Hindu section of Indonesia gets more attention and money than the Muslim section.

At any rate, we are staying at the Novotel Resort in Nusa Dua and having a fantastic time.  This morning, we went to the included breakfast buffet, where I gorged myself on PORK!  That's right, I ate pork sausage, bacon, rashers, pork roast, and all the friggin' pork I could find.

Tonight, we went to the local supermarket and bought four kilos of pork.  We bought pork sausages, pork bacon, pork rashers, smoked ham, more ham, and a bit of ham just for good measure.

Unless you live in a predominantly Muslim country, you might not understand this obsession with PORK.

In Jakarta, it is very hard to find pork, and when you can, it is very expensive and the selection is miserable.  There are three locations in Indonesia which are pork-friendly: Manado (Sulawesi), Medan (Sumatera) and Bali, because the majority of the residents are either Christian or Hindu.

Tonight's excursion into Denpasar confirmed three of my defining characteristics: I hate religion, I hate crowds and I hate shopping.

Yes, I'm a hater and I am damn friggin' proud of it (he says juiced to the gills on London Dry Gin, which can be purchased at the local grocery store at reasonable prices in Hinduland).

I hate religion because it sets large groups of people on a collision course with each other.  The Hindu believe that Vishnu destroys the Universe on occasion to start over.  The Muslims believe that they will conquer the Earth and bring on the 12th Imam.  The Christians believe that the Anti-Christ will destroy the Earth before Christ comes again (and they are trying to help).  The Jews believe they must subjugate the Earth and destroy all non-believers before their Messiah comes.

Doesn't anyone believe in a Paradise of our own making?  Oh yeah, the Buddhists.

Basically, three-quarters of the people on Earth are trying to destroy it in order to prove their religion is true.  Friggin' idiots.

Then there's crowds.  I hate crowds.  I hate that I can't trust anyone.  I hate that I am forced to assume that everyone who bumps into me just stole something from me.  I hate that people have all the manners and social graces of a pen full of swine.  I hate that if someone panics in a crowd, the entire bunch of them will mow down anything in front of them to get away from...whatever spooked them - flashing lights, muffler backfire, pure imagination.

And then there's shopping.  I friggin' despise shopping.  I hate jostling with other humans to get a handful of PORK.  I hate comparing prices.  I hate looking at expiration dates.  I hate the whole friggin' experience.

I believe that for the right price, anyone will deliver anything to wherever I am sitting at the moment - for the right price.  In Indonesia, the right price is just about right.  Why should I get mauled and suffer horrible bouts of paranoia and have to touch other people I don't know and don't want to know, when for a few extra bux, I can ask someone else to do it who actually likes that kind of shit.

Basically, I am a misanthrope living in one of the most densely populated cities on Earth who hates crowds, other people's beliefs and opinions, and having to worry about someone else's sensibilities.

You know what?  You don't like PORK, don't buy it and don't eat it.  Screw you for trying to keep me from eating it.  You don't like alcohol?  Screw you.  I do.  I'm going to have a drink and I will breathe on you if you don't like it.  You don't like privilege?  Go shove it in your sphincter.  I work my ass off for a few extra bux to take my wife on holiday in a tropical paradise that is two hours of flying time from my house.  I really don't care what color you think I am or whether you think I have some privileges that others don't.

I work for them.

Oh yeah, apparently today was Earth Day.  You know what?  Screw Earth Day.  Screw the people who dimmed my lights for an hour in pretense of saving the Earth.  Screw anyone who has a heart beat who thinks they can do anything but kill themselves to save the Earth.

If you are breathing, you are killing something to live.  If you are a vegan and think you are doing something special to save live...screw you.  You kill plants, I kill animals.  Same friggin' difference.  If you are a vegetarian, double screw you, because you are killing some animals thinking you are doing something good for the world.

In the end, I am a misanthrope because I am fed up to my gills with hypocrisy.  No one can live a perfect life or save anything but themselves or believe in anything that doesn't destroy something else.

And that's what I've learned from staying in a tropical paradise for four days.

Oh, by the way, there's an incredible electrical storm tonight - no rain, just lightning.  I'm enjoying it from my privileged porch in my privileged suite in my privileged resort that I worked 18 months to be able to enjoy.  I don't give a flying f%%k what color you think I am (bright pink after a day on my privileged private beach), I earned this vacation and no amount of liberal whining is going to diminish my enjoyment.

By the way, four days in Bali is only costing me $300, if my wife will stop spending money on PORK.

When I lived in Texas, I was hours away from Big Bend.  When I lived in Dublin, I was hours away from Sugar Loaf Mountain.  When I lived in Barcelona, I was hours away from San Tropez.  When I lived in Munich, I was hours away from the Schwartzwald.  Now I live in Jakarta and I'm just hours away from Bali.

The point is, we are all just hours away from Paradise.  All we need to do is realize it when we are there.

23.3.17

Home On The Range

If you've never had the job of taking care of a herd of cows, then you probably are unaware of the work involved to run a large group of animals that you intend to sell or kill at some point,

I spent some part of my youth as an actual cowboy.  We had about 400 head of cattle, more or less depending on the time of year.  Even during the school year, there was work to do before and after school, moving the herd from field to field to prevent over-grazing, rounding them up for shots and parasite dusting, throwing hay and feed in the winter months, and hauling cows to the auction on Saturday mornings in Schulenberg or Gonzales.

Folks don't realize how much work is involved here.  Four hundred animals is a lot of time and effort, and most of it is rote chores that even the animals get used to.  They know when it's time to go to another field, or get their shots, or line up for slaughter, and they willingly assemble for the events.

This morning, I saw two articles that made me think back on the cowboy days.  The first said that 25% of fopolledlks  thought robots would make better politicians, the other article said the average American dies $62,000 in debt.  I don't know about you, but I didn't even have to go further than the headlines to start seeing the correlations to running cattle.

The first thing is that we no longer have surveys, we have polls.  Have you noticed that?  It may seem like a subtle difference, but bear with me.  A survey - to me anyway - implies asking people what their opinion is.  Lord knows all free people have opinions.  A poll, however, is (in cowboy talk) what you do when you cut the horns off of cows so they can't hurt you.  Getting head-butted by a cow is painful enough, but when it includes hard spiky things that puncture your flesh and rip up organs, well that's quite a different story.

Basically, polling is disarming a cow.  There are any number of ways to do it - fire, saw, chemicals, breeding - but the end result is a much less dangerous cow.

The next thing I though about was how great it would have been to have robots do all the dirty work.  They don't get tired, feel overworked, need meals, and they always do the job right because their decision-making processes are precisely controlled.  All that would be needed is to train the cows to follow robots instead of cowboys - and a couple of good dogs - and life would be so much more relaxing on the farm - at least for the herd owners.

The next thing I though about is the fact that each cow represents a pretty hefty investment.  Even breeding them, which you'd think gives you free cows, requires selecting which cows and bulls to breed to give you the best results, and that requires separating the herd into breeding pens.  Plenty of work to do.

Then there's the hay, which you have to grow, bail and collect in a barn, or buy and store in a barn.  And you'll want to supplement the grass and hay with molasses-covered cottonseed hull, or Purina pellets for extra nutrition and to fatten up the cows before auction to make sure you get the most money out of them.

In any event, those cows owe you quite a bit of money by the the time you sell them, so you wait for the best market prices and try to keep the cows as fat as possible so they paid off in the end.

Yep, reading those two articles reminded me a lot of being a cowboy.  They also reminded me a lot of modern humans.  From a certain point of view, we are all cattle.  We need to be polled to make us less dangerous.  We need to be rounded up from time to time to get our shots and be deloused.  We need to be moved from field to field to make sure we don't overgraze.  We need to be kept nice and fat so we fetch a good price at auction.

If you can train folks to follow robots, it sure frees up the Masters quite a bit.  They don't have to worry about the cowboys going rogue or taking the wrong day off.  In fact, you can automate the entire process of herding the masses so you can sit back on the porch and drink mint juleps and talk about the weather.

And if Americans are dying thousands of dollars in debt, then WHOOPIE!  That means you've completely harvested all the value out of them.  Nothing to pass on to the next generation to give them a head-start.  That little bit of debt doesn't matter, since you created the money out of nothing and you get to reclaim anything of value from their estate through taxes and foreclosures.

Yessiree, we are all cows, folks.  We are herded and maintained just like cows.  We are disarmed and castrated, just like cows.  We are fed and jabbed just like cows.  We are bought and sold, just like cows.  And just like cows, our entire lives are nothing more than profit centers for the Ranch Owners.

Hell, we even get branded with IDs and numbers, just like cows.

This System is ubiquitous.  It is everywhere. You cannot be a little bit part of the herd without being all in.

So tell me now there's nothing wrong with the System.  Tell me now that there are people and ways to fix the System.  Tell me there's no conspiracies or elites.  Sorry, but if you've ever taken care of a herd of cattle, then you know exactly what our world is like: 200-some-odd ranches with 7 billion cows and certain rich ranchers trying to buy up the rest of the competition.

It's a fact of life and you either accept it or try to change it.  There really is no middle ground.

22.3.17

The Pragmatic Art

O what tangled web we weave...

I will eagerly grant that two months does not an administration make, but I must say that my initial reservations concerning Donald Trump seem to be manifesting.

I certainly have no love lost for the Clinton Crime Family, and I was elated that Hillary lost - though it seems she refuses to be forgotten.  Her presidency would have been an unmitigated disaster.  Should the Liberal Elite manage to install her as mayor of New York City, we can at least rest assured that the labor union mafias of Thog's Neck will keep her contained.

As I noted throughout the election cycle, here on my rant page, I had genuine misgivings about Trump, as well.  I could not envision a man who is a walking, talking brand being anything more than a well-meaning pragmatist whose primary motivation would be protection of (his) business interests.

As we've noted often enough here, the marriage of corporate and government interests is the very definition of fascism, and one is not comforted by the 10-foot tall fasces that frame the podium in the US House of Representatives.  We have also noted that the only substantial difference between Socialism and Fascism is whether government owns the business, or business owns the government.

In his first two months, we must grant that he has spent an inordinate amount of time heading off a vicious attack from nearly every corner of the Deep State.  In case you are not up on your political jargon, the Deep State is a term coined in the 1940s to describe those who are life-long bureaucrats whose jobs span multiple administrations - particularly the intelligence systems and the law enforcement operations.  In the US, that includes the NSA, CIA, FBI, DOJ, and related departments.

To a certain extent, the President exercises some control over these agencies.  He appoints the heads, who in turn appoint their staff, who in turn hire fresh meat for the mill.  Since at least the latter half of the Reagan Administration, the same faction (i.e. NeoCons or Bush Crime Family) have controlled most of the long-term functions of the Deep State.

Clinton is most definitely a member of the ruling NeoCon faction, as is Obama.  Trump most certainly is not.  Trump represents another faction that has been out of favor for the past 30 years, namely the Nationalists.  Make no mistake, the Globalists and Nationalists have the same goal - world domination - but who gets to run it is the primary bone of contention.

Make no mistake: Trump has plenty of support, not from the grassroots, but from the Nationalist elites.  His primary opposition are the ranks upon ranks of lifers who have been hired over the past 30 years, and who remain loyal to the Globalist wing.

To be clear, we here on the Far Side have never expected great things from Trump, only different things.  Our greatest hope is that the shocking rise to power of Trump will envigorate and activate the good men and women at the level of real life, and get them to realize just how much power they really have.  Sadly, I'm afraid the coming major disappointment over Trump will suck the wind out of their sails.  We shall see.

What we know about Trump, and increasingly see, is that he is a pragmatist.  Most successful Presidential candidates write books (or have them written) covering their political philosophies.  Trump wrote The Art of the Deal.  If you've read it, then you know that he falls squarely on the side of fascism.  He believes that government exists to protect business interests (not people's rights, as the Enlightenment posits).

Trump is also an artful negotiator - we must admit that regardless of personal feelings about him.  As such, he is well-versed in the concept of the means justifying the ends.  Any good negotiators knows that you sit down to the table with a set of goals and try to get the other side to give away the means to achieve them, or at least do so at the least possible cost.  There are no absolutes in a negotiation, only goals and means.

Trump's modus operandi is quite simple: weigh the relative value of everything, and figure out what you are willing to concede in order to get what you want.  Like the hiker several years ago who cut off his arm in order to survive, seemingly vital things are sacrificed for the greater good.  Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame might define pragmatism as, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."  Trump might add a rather narrow definition of who he thinks "the many" are.

In two months, Trump has already shown his pragmatism.  He answers every attack with an equal but opposite force, holding back his "nukes" until the other side escalates or caves.  He knows the Border Wall is his biggest ace politically (grassroot support), so he pushes that at the expense of Russian relations and peace efforts.  Accuse him of collaborating with the Russians, he doubles down by sending troops to Poland and chilling the happy talk.  He needs to placate the Military-Industrial forces, so he vastly increases the budget, while cutting back on arts and humanities.

Trump is an artful dodger.  He knows when and where to push, and he knows when and where to parry - even retreat.  He has clearly internalized The Art of War and The Prince.  He knows how to deflect an opponent's thrust and use it against them.  He is, in short, a white collar warrior.  We can respect that without necessarily agreeing with his goals.

Two months out of four, possibly eight years is hardly enough to judge his legacy, though it is certainly enough to become concerned about the relative weight he places on certain ideals.  In any event, he will not resign and he will not surrender, that much we can count on.  Being pragmatic, though, makes him a bit chaotic and unpredictable, especially since we don't know his precise agenda.  That much we will have to wait for time to reveal.

It is notable that his characteristic Twits and seemingly unregulated mouth (though we believe he is quite calculated in that regard).  He has also toned down considerably the rhetoric on tax cuts, Russian relations and has virtually gone silent on veterans' affairs, which he used to great advantage during the campaign.  We must also interpret his cost-cutting with regards to personnel is motivated by clearing house of Globalists, rather than pure budgetary reasons.

We can safely assume that Trump's actions have multiple layers to them.  Even after only two months, we can begin to connect a few dots to see where exactly his goals, principles and - yes - weaknesses are.  One major weakness is his burning need for applause, and we can assume that much of his agenda will amount to little more than clap traps.

It is always a good idea to maintain a healthy sense of skepticism towards government, but the wise reader will also cast a wary eye on Trump. It is tempting to pop the champagne and celebrate victory, but as Yogi Berra reminded us so eloquently, "It ain't over till it's over."

21.3.17

Der Struwwelpeter Ins Zimmer

According to Giggle, total global military spending in 2016 was US$1.7 trillion, and that's just the above-board, budgeted, audited amount.  Who really knows how much we humans spend on killing each other?  That's roughly US$243 for every man, woman and child on the planet.

That'll buy a lot of death, that will.

Add to that the costs of burials, medical care, relocation, rebuilding, and lost productivity and pretty soon, you're talking real money here.

Suppose we took that money and gave it back to the folks it was stolen from.  I know, I know, governments never give it back.  More realistically, suppose we took all that stolen loot and...say, irrigated otherwise unproductive land for farming?  Built houses and produced clothing at subsidized prices?  Provided global health insurance?  Mounted an international effort to colonize other planets?

Keep in mind that a fair chunk of the, let's say, US$2 trillion spent on destruction never gets used.  It just sits in a barn as a deterrent to other folks from using their war money.  For the sake of argument, let's assume constant dollars since 1960...that's about US$112 TRILLION that could have been put to much better use.  The real number is anyone's guess, but I'm willing to believe this is a fair estimation in 2017 dollars, and we are not even counting the cultural losses of historical items and landmarks to future generations.

Multiply that money by all of recorded history and we are probably looking at being decades, if not centuries ahead of where we are now.  The actual damage to humanity is incalculable.  Hell, just the destruction of the Library at Alexandria due to war set our species back at least a hundred years.

Let's narrow the focus a bit.  Let's take the US$112 trillion since the Dawn of the Space Age.  We know the Apollo Moon Program cost about US$20 billion at that time.  Whether the world got what it paid for is another discussion.  Let's just take it at face value for the time being.

That US$112 trillion would have bought the Apollo program a little over 50x.  That's a hell of a lot of space exploration.  We;d be vacationing on the Moon and Mars about now.  Braver souls would be spelunking on Ganymede, or hiking the ruins on Iapetus.  With that kind of money, we might even be preparing the first interstellar trip to Proxima Centauri.

We would likely be harvesting food in the Gobi and Sahara deserts.  Most people who wanted one could have a nice little house with a picket fence and a postage stamp-sized lawn.  The only naked people would be those who like it.  Most diseases would just be scary bedtime stories for children to warn them of the evils of military spending.  The 110th birthday party would actually be a full section of the Hallmark greeting-card rack.  Amputees would be regrowing limbs.  Dogs and cats living together, for gods' sakes.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of seven billion people on this Earth, with maybe two or three million actively involved in destroying humanity.  Without doing any actual calculations, that's around 300-to-1 odds in a fist fight to stop those evil bastards.  So why do we put up with this crap?

As Franklin Roosevelt reminded us in his first (of four) inaugural addresses, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  That is exactly what the evil bastards keep selling us...FEAR.  As long as we are all quaking in our boots at imaginary Struwwelpeter, we will never stop this insipid madness and get on with real human achievement.

One reason I am so disgusted with so-called Social Justice Warriors is that they waste so much of our collective resources on tiny self-defined minorities and half-witted balderdash like pronouns, when there are so many bigger fish to fry.

We have the power not only to control the Masters of War, but to refocus our efforts on meaningful and beneficial issues.  It's high time we take back what is ours from those who kill for greed and control with fear.  It's time to re-task our species' efforts and dedicate our resources toward advancing humanity, rather than continually resetting it to factory defaults.

Just a little daily effort - two or three minutes - to harass the Powers That Be and let them know WE are in charge would have astounding benefits in a generation.

Which would you rather do?  Pick up body parts and scrounge for family heirlooms in rubble heaps?
 Or pack the family bags for that week-long excursion to the ruins on Mars?

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.


20.3.17

Imprisoned By Freedom

You want to know why I hate "Identity Politics"?

Well of course you do, that's why you keep coming back here to listen to my incoherent rants and raves.  God bless your eternal hope and persistence.

Anyway, this form of hysterical mass insanity called "Identity Politics," that's where we were...

The stated goal of Identity Politics (IP, so I don't have to keep writing it) is to beat everyone with sticks and force them into group-think circles where everyone constantly reinforces the same stupid ideas to the point of reductio ad absurdum.  It also seeks to increase tolerance by forcing everyone to be the same, so there are no differences to argue about, as long as you only believe what some brain-dead basement dwelling, YouToob filthing numbnut wants you to believe - assuming you can make any sense out of the incoherent, illogical ramblings.  Also, the IPers want to classify everyone as a victim so that they can be defended against...oh, I don't know, how about Evil While Males (gotta have an enemy).

In a nutshell (a highly appropriate expression in this case), IPers want to be everyone's overprotective stage mother.  They want to create a victim out of you, wheel you out on stage for the applause, then toss you off a cliff.  The whole theater is so absurd as to make Ionesco roll over in his mausoleum.

The IPers hate adulthood, hate anyone who takes personal responsibility, and especially hates anyone who forms an independent thought without checking the Political Correctness Dictionary first.  In other words, part of the mass insanity is Hallucinating Feminists 3.0, who vehemently deny their own X-X genes exist and detest anyone who looks and behaves like a woman so that they can be overprotective mother to the world.  Such delicious juxtaposing irony.

Another fine bit of lunacy is the grotesquely fat and ugly males (I avoid the term "men" in this case) who sit in their overprotective mother's basement and troll online commenters in the hopes of drawing the attention of a dominating Hallucinating Feminist 3.0, for a little self-abusing video hot chat.  These idiots are victims of their own idiocy whose undeveloped psyches crave mental punishment by similarly deprived virtual dominatrices in order to derive some small portion of approval from someone, no matter how horrific and shrill they look and sound.

The foul-smelling, unsocialized boobs what to place everyone in ever-shinking circles of defined behavior or decoration, until ultimately we are left with seven billion kindergartners who are powerless to help themselves, much less anyone else.

Once upon a time, we had legal systems that applied equally to all humans, regardless of any other factor: rape, assault, theft, murder, etc. were equal crimes against everyone.  We once also believed that everyone was free to go about their business - assuming they didn't injure anyone else by it - and if you didn't agree, you could mount a reasonable argument, change the channel, walk away, or not attend.

Now we have increasingly narrower laws that single out people for "special" protection.  Never mind the chilling resemblance to Nazi "special treatment," this is inherently racist, sexist and segregationist - AND THE IPers ARE PROMOTING IT!  Yes, you read the right.  The very people claiming to be all=tolerant and all-inclusive are the very ones creating smaller and smaller boundaries for everyone...and using the legal systems to do it.

This, ladies and gentlemen, I present as proof-positive that the IPers are freaking insane.

We are, as a society, faced with a large group of overprotected mental midgets whose experience with the real world is limited to waddling down to the nearest university - not for education, but to receive scripts so they chant in unison, bang pots in unison and scream obscenities in unison.  This is the very definition of infantile behavior, which seeks to emulate others so as not to appear individual or step outside the playground rules.

This kind of behavior is what pre-highschoolers did before they had the tools to express themselves in complete sentences or appreciate uniqueness.  We should recall the burning need to "belong" to a group and the social imperative to ridicule other groups to make us feel more important.  We also should recall that upon maturity, these activities seem so unimportant and even silly.  As adults, we learn to leave people the hell alone and form bonds with a variety of people in order to expand our range of knowledge and influence.

We must also admit that we created these idiots.  We allowed entitlement and self-esteem to become rampant rallying cries.  We kept our children in protective boxes - now called "safe zones" - to protect these children from media-induced fears of "crime", "drugs" and "danger"/  I put all those in quotes, because for most of us, those feared things never existed.  They were manufactured phantoms that we should have been mature enough to dismiss.

To be fair, the techniques and theories of people like Edward Bernays are highly effective and work amazingly well on the unsuspecting mind.  Our guilt lies in the fact that we, as mature and hopefully educated adults, left our minds unguarded.  We allowed the media to seep into our deepest nightmares and scare us into submission, fightening us into inaction and silence.

Yes, a great amount of fault lies with the media masters, but we must accept that we were primed to receive the messages uncritically.  Walter Cronkite could never speak a false word, and no one bothered to check his facts.

It is the utmost irony that at the very moment we have a powerful tool like the internet at our fingertips, we have become the most passive and accepting of mental manipulation.  Granted, many of us are awake to the siren song of the media, but millions more are not, and the IPers are the most vulnerable.  They have no tools for critical thinking, having spent their lives being inundated with condoms on bananas, Global Warming and other horrific lies.

These grown children have been taught to regurgitate information, not analyze it.  They have been taught that every utterance of "authority" is the Absolute Truth.  They have been taught that cognitive dissonance is a normal way of being.  They have, in fact, been isolated by their own minds.  In other words, they are like a child with a chain saw.  They have an incredible powerful, dangerous and destructive tool and no one has shown them how to use it properly.

So here we are, with thousands of noisy, undisciplined children for whom the media is like a Big Mac - looks good in the picture, satisfies an urge and has no redeeming value whatsoever.

Can they be saved?  Judging by China's Lost Generation, a similar politically-motivated social phenomenon, the answer is a discouraging NO.  Sure, some will rescue themselves by possessing superior metal faculties, or even by accident, but for the most part, these children in adult bodies will burden society for several generations to come (assuming the problem is corrected soon).  The IPer's feelings of superiority, entitlement and self-absorption are set in place and only extraordinary effort on the part of the individual will cure it.  It is nearly impossible to get someone to realize an error when they have been indoctrinated to deny their own senses and self-preservation.

The one satisfaction is that if these sad, lonely people ever manage to breed, their children will perforce reject their sensibilities, as all children naturally do.  The children will seek alternatives to the constant harping and haranguing of their parents and, with a bit of luck, find a much more sensible Universe waiting for them.

17.3.17

The World Late And Soon

The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;— 
Little we see in Nature that is ours; 
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! 
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; 
The winds that will be howling at all hours, 
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; 
For this, for everything, we are out of tune; 
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be 
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, 
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; 
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; 
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

When William Wordsworth penned this lament of the Industrial Revolution in 1807, he could not imagine just how materialistic and divorced from Nature we humans have become.  It never ceases to amaze me how little we modern humans know of the Natural cycles and processes that feed, cloth and sustain us.

I recall an incident in 1996, when Comet Hyakutake rolled through the Solar System putting on a rather amazing display during closest approach to Earth.  One evening, I was laying out on the lawn with my binoculars and camera capturing images and observing the comet.  It was early evening and a group of neighborhood kids had gathered around trying to figure out what I was doing.

"What are you looking at," one asked.  As I glanced around at them, I was truck that not one was looking up to see what was clearly hanging over their heads.

"Comet Hyakutake," I replied, pointing up at the glowing object stretching nearly 1 degree across the sky.

"What a comet?" one asked.  Only two or three of the dozen or so kids actually followed my pointing finger upwards.  I was floored, or at least grassed.

These were all school-age kids who apparently had not heard anything in school about one of the most dazzling cometary displays that I could remember, much less they.  When I was in school, at least the science teacher would have made a whole series of lectures on the subject and assigned us to go out and observe the phenomenon and make a report.

These kids had no idea the comet was putting on such a display, nor even what a comet was.  And so was born Uncle B's impromptu astronomy class.

For a week, we met on the lawn at sundown to note how the comet had changed, moved and behaved.  We looked through the large field binoculars I owned and kept an observation log with drawings and notes about our observations.

They were awed, as was I.  Me, not so much by the comet, which was truly awesome, but by the ignorance of these children who ranged from kindergarten to fifth or sixth grade.

Perhaps, I reasoned, growing up on a farm with infinite dark skies, no TeeVee or games or devices and a rather nice telescope I had gotten on Christmas,  Maybe I was an aberration, an exception.  But my peers were equally informed, even if they didn't have an interest to sit out on cold winter nights and stare at the Universe.

Many of the children seemed completely unaware that there was a sky, much less that it was full of things to look at and that moved around on schedules that were years, decades or even centuries long.  Not only did many of them not follow my pointing finger, I had to prompt them to look up.  The comet was quite obvious, even in overlit city skies at sunset.  It was one of the most arresting sights in the night sky I have ever seen, not to mention in that March of 1996.

Later that year, I noticed two families on the street had shiny new telescopes and could occasionally be seen out in the yard watching the Moon or planets.  I felt gratified that I had opened some horizons for at least a few people, and several of the kids would occasionally wander by to ask if anything fun was going on "up there".  Since they asked, I assumed they weren't doing any independent research, but at least they were now aware of something called "the sky".

I could go on with dozens of similar examples: how I taught my wife gardening and to plant seeds during the New Moon and harvest during the Full Moon.  She's become an obsessed fanatic about gardening now, loving the daily changes in plants and the satisfaction of eating things she nurtured from seed.

Of my own children, one is an animal lover and operates a pet grooming and training service.  He got that from the dozens of exotic pets we kept when he was growing up, such as snakes, gerbils, rats (snake food), turtles, a Great Dane and a Basset Hound, and others I've since forgotten without looking through the photo album.

The other loves mountain, jungle and ocean environments.  She leans more to the artist side, like Dad, but has gone on dives, jungle excursions and mountain hikes, and prefers the more natural settings of Austin or Denver, to the industrial life of Houston.  Perhaps she was influenced by our annual treks to New Mexico to explore canyons, mountains and rivers.

They both know about the mass extinction known in geology as the K-T Boundary.  We would stop along the highway road cuts in West Texas to notice that in one layer, there were millions of sea shell, plant and fish fossils, then a thin white line, then above it...nothing.

The point of all this is that anymore the schools are worthless and the gee-gaw tech distractions are multiplying like rabbits, but with very little effort and a lot of fun, the Universe will teach anyone willing to listen.  We stumble over it, walk past it and live under it every moment of every day if we stop just for a second to notice.

The world is too much with us, late and soon!  Why not set aside some time in Life to unplug, sit back and just observe the glorious pageant going on all around us for free!  We bought our ticket at birth and it's good for a lifetime.  There is nothing a movie or gaming studio can produce that is even a fraction as amazing and entrancing as a simple bug crawling across the floor, like that cockroach in the corner I need to go stomp on.


15.3.17

ADHD - Alleged Digital Hyperreality Disorder

Age has its advantages.  Since I rounded 50, I've noticed I am much more patient now.  Whenever I am surrounded by idiots in traffic, my first impulse is not to jump out of the car and start shooting.  Now, I'm perfectly content to use a knife.

It's a good thing too, since any more it seems idiocy is proliferating.  People are literally becoming incapable of making simple decisions without a device to tell them what to do.  Even the smart ones still rely on authority figures to think for them, though the authority figures rely on devices for guidance, as well.

The world is being conquered by gee-gaws and apps and not only are we voluntarily submitting, we are obligingly running out and paying for the latest sparkly things in a box and downloading the newest version of the old Magic 8-Ball to make decisions for us.

It's rather frightening.  On the occasions when I lower my shields enough to wander into a location with more than 4 people in a herd, I am astounded by the complete lack of interaction with one's surroundings exhibited by most folk.  Of course, there have always been places like New York City, where people assiduously avoided human interaction, but this is different.  At least the Yankees would occasionally look up to see where they were going.  Now folks are so absorbed by their digital masters, they can't tear their eyes away from the pretty pictures and sparkly lights.

It's a form of hypnotism.  Any hypnotist will tell you that the target must be willing to be controlled, and that is certainly what we see today.  People would rather have virtual discussions (granting a certain level of non-existent intellectualism) with people they have never met living thousands of miles away, than to simply look up from the screen and say hello to a living, breathing human being standing directly in front of them.

It's extremely rare now for anyone under 30 to be able to hold a conversation.  At best, on the incredibly auspicious occasions one can elicit a spoken word, these zombies talk in 145-word bytes.  And that's only if they can be distracted long enough to form a complete sentence.  If such a miracle happens, you can watch the zombie's eyes being continuously pulled down to their god-in-hand, hardly able to rip their minds away from the magic incantations scrolling across the screen.

When I was in the pink of youth, the whole purpose of a work week was to have enough dough in my pocket to gather with friends, take in cultural events, raise (more than) a few glasses, and TALK.  If we went to a movie, we actually watched it (having paid for the privilege) and then - gasp, horror - would sit around and discuss it.

Don't know if you've been to a movie lately, but even dating couples sit through the flick with only the barest of attention given to the Big Screen and their partner, but as they leave the cinema, they are once again buried in their blinky lights.  They don't even have a hand free to hold their paramour.

I know, I know...even Aristotle complained about the Youth of Athens 3,000 years ago, but I think he would be horrified at the complete disconnect between living a real life and some virtual estimation of it.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if it all switched off tomorrow.  Can you imagine the sheer panic?  Literally no one would have a clue how to navigate without GPS, or find a meal without Zomato, or hold a conversation without "social" media, or form an opinion without first checking the Political Correctness gods?

Would they know how to express an emotion without "emojis"?  Hell, would they even know what a genuine, human emotion was?  How would folks react if they didn't have their little boxes to insulate them from real human interaction?  Would they know the basic pleasantries of civilized interaction?

What's worse than all this is the fact that humans are being trained literally from birth to depend on gadgets.  Toy cell phones appear in cribs now, with real, functioning devices placed in children's hands by no later than 3 or 4 years old.

When I was a child, I sat around listening to adult conversations, learning about the larger world that I had only just become aware of...Now, children sit in corners playing digital games, oblivious to the world until the wifi signal is disrupted.

This "life" was once the stuff of sci-fi horror movies, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Yet, here we are watching come to life - such as it is - moment by moment.  Our families and friends are slowly taken over by flashy things, becoming robotic shells of emotionless zombies with cartoonish swirls in their eyes.  When one looks into their eyes, there's no "there" there.

For millennia, humans have wasted kajillions of dollars and lives in wars trying to take over other countries.  No longer needed.  Now just hypnotize the natives with blinky things and walk right in.  No one will ever know the difference.

It is a sad commentary that...oops, sorry, text message...

14.3.17

Cat And Mouse

I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century!

For Valentine's Day, my wife forced me to accept what is euphemistically called a "smart" phone.  I prefer to think of them as dumb devices, because they encourage the user to stop using one's natural mental facilities - like memory - and put everything into a collection device that then sends it off to agencies which use it to harvest one's wealth and data.

I exaggerate a little, because a few years ago, I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 for business purposes.  I needed to be able to read and edit documents, look at CAD drawings and communicate with things like WhatsApp groups quickly and efficiently, without havingto lug around a laptop.  Works perfectly for what I need, though I insisted on using a dumb, stupid cell phone for calls - just a small uncomplicated device in which to speak and hear others at a distance.

I refused to become one of these "smart" phone junkie zombies who seem to always be in front of me everywhere I go, wandering aimlessly, paying zero attention to the real world, and hindering my purposeful and deliberate navigation of reality.

I should also note that I operate my Samsung tablet in full paranoia mode.  I keep all the apps in full approval mode and I check every single "permission" that I allow them to have.  I don't allow automatic updates and I place as little identifying information into the "cloud" as I can absolutely control.  I perform all my backups with a direct cable link to my laptop and I don't give Google anything I don't absolutely must to get the function I need.

And I only have one game - Solitaire Suite - which I haven't opened in two years.

At my wife's insistence, I graciously accepted the gift for how it was intended, though inside I was repulsed by it.  It has two SIM cards, one for the 4G data link, and the other my trusty old voice phone number.

It was at this point that I decided to go a different route.  I downloaded and installed the critical apps that I use daily - WhatsApp, Waze, Uber - but I created all new accounts, rather than link them to my other device.  I must say, I had forgotten what a pain in the ass it is to set up new accounts.  I've spent the past month retraining my device to do what I want.

The big difference is that I decided to go full default on this one.  I allowed the apps full permissions, auto updates and whatever else they needed to give me "full service", without my paranoid limits on their powers.  What a mistake that was.

My "smart" phone, only one month old, now regales me with constant advertising (known in marketing circles as "notifications") around the clock.  I spend nearly 10 minutes every morning clearing all the crap off my phone that I pay zero attention to.  The worst are the Yahoo Mail app and YouTube.

Yahoo send me constant updates on news stories that I could care less about, especially since I avoid the Yahoo News wire assiduously.  It also tells me every time I get yet another unsolicited advert (note: my Yahoo account is over 20 years old and I use it primarily now for registrations so all the crap goes to one address and I can bulk delete them).

YouTube, on the other hand, insists on "recommending" videos for me that I don't want to see.  Even if it sounds interesting, I avoid it religiously simply because YouTube recommended it.  I want to screw with their profile of me by not following any regular pattern of viewing or content.

One concession to my paranoia is that I made a custom pouch for my "smart" phone that is lined with mylar to minimize my electronic footprint.  This does make it rather difficult to call me, though folks can still WhatsApp my tablet to let me know they want to call.  It also means that when I use Uber, the phone needs a minute to talk with the network to figure out where the hell I am.  Small bother for peace of mind.

A lot of folks might think I do this to avoid government snooping, but really that is the least of my worries.  I hardly do anything worthy of spook attention, though I fancy my paranoia makes it at least a small challenge to invade my privacy.

No, I am paranoid because I believe that I own my data and identity, and I despise the idea that some monstrous mega-corp is harvesting it for their profit.  In fact, the idea makes me physically ill.  I am not a crop to be harvested for advertisers and marketers.  The idea of Google or Microsoft or Amazon making even a tiny bit of revenue off of my personal data and identity makes me hopping mad!

For this reason, I don't shop online, I don't use any app that requires payment, and I sure as hell avoid any of their services to the extent that I can find a small start-up offering the same or better.  In that I have succumbed to using some anti-social media, I never post personal information, like where I am or what I am doing.  I just link to other information.  This blog is the full extent of my "social" presence on the web, and I use Ubuntu OS and Tor when writing and posting.  In fact, I primarily use a server in Tobago to pop out into the open.

So, OK, my wife fist-whipped me into accepting the inevitable, but I still fight.  In fact, I use Tor and Orfox browser on my phone and tablet, except when things like Waze and Uber require my exact location in order to function the way I want.

I'm neither ignorant nor naive.  I know my paranoid antics do little to protect my data, but I like the idea of creating an entity in the mega-corps' vast data farms that isn't entirely accurate.  I like getting ads in German or French, because they have no idea I am in Indonesia.  I like that the ads have nothing to do with my interests because their profile of me is so bass-ackwards - assuming their ads can get through my various blocks.  I like that targeted junk mail and ads never have my correct name.  I also like knowing who precisely sold my data to whom by which names and addresses they use.  Puts them on my shit list of products and services I will never use again.

Any more, we basically have two options: live the Neo-Luddite life as a nomad in the Gobi desert, or succumb to the all-invasive Machine that is modern life.  I take some gratification that I can do the latter without completely giving in.

13.3.17

Sticks And Stones

Giordano Bruno
In any free society, according to the brilliant Enlightenment thinkers of 250 years ago, the most critical individual freedoms are Free Speech, Free Press and Freedom from Religious Tyranny.  The US Constitution backs these principles up with the Second Amendment, which recognizes the individual's right to arm himself to defend those three lynch-pins of liberty.

Of the Big Three, Free Speech is the one that supports all the others.  My unaLIENable right to speak my mind, and your unaLIENable right to respond is the basis of a free and open society.

The two greatest enemies of Free Speech are the State and Religion.  The most dangerous condition is when Religion has sway over the State.  Throughout history, the most repressive regimes have all been theocracies.  The first thing a theocracy does is shut down criticism of itself, then it proceeds to define everything in terms of itself.  Since Religion claims to have the keys to all of existence, naturally it sees just about anything as a threat to its grandiose claims - especially the right to freely speak the contradictions and pure fantasy inherent in all religions.

In ancient Rome, it was a capital crime to speak out against Caesar, who being deified as a matter of course by the Senate, was a demi-god created by the State.  To speak against Caesar was to speak again Nature and the Universe themselves.

In its most benign form, theocracies are still intolerant of Free Speech.  Thailand does not tolerate any speech about the king, unless it is glowing and praiseful.  One can get in quite a bit of trouble for pointing out flaws, contradictions or wrongs on the part of the king, and to a certain extent the immediate royal family, as well.

Here in Indonesia, there is a blasphemy law that primarily protects Islam, though it has occasionally been used by Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.  Most recently, Jakarta governor Ahok quoted a bit of the Koran that prohibits Koranic verses from being used for political purposes.  Of course, he was immediately charged with blasphemy (being a Christian and reciting the Koran), and is still being politically attacked for reminding folks what the Good Book says.

The US is a rather strange situation.  Since the government and Religion are not allowed to be bedfellows, a sort of secular religion was created.  Blending "science", "environmentalism", "tolerance", and "diversity", a beast called Political Correctness was born that has the same effect as Religion, but the word "religion" is religiously avoided.  Through the rampant use of PC, people are forbidden to raise topics such as immigration, climate change, or any of a host of other topics that "blaspheme" the State Religion.

In any repressive regime, there are always quasi-official gangs whose job it is to go round and commit acts of violence and destruction against those deemed to be enemies of the Religion.  Here, it;s the FPI, in the US it's SJW.  Either way, the goals and results are the same.  It's just a game of semantics, really.

The Roman Church went on its own pogrom, known affectionately as the Inquisition, in order to stifle Free Speech.  People like Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei were hounded and harassed, and in some cased killed, for daring to speak out of turn.  Even up until the 50s, publishers strove to receive a "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" from the Church so that sales would not be limited by having the Church ban its mind-slaves from reading the books.  Even though the system was a sanctioned form of bribery much like "halal" or "kosher", it still had the effect of stifling Free Speech at some level.

The fact of the matter is that limiting Free Speech is a very old institution used primarily by the state and religious authorities.  It is a blatant admission of weakness, since those enforcing limits know that their "arguments" are so inherently illogical, they cannot stand up to open inquiry and criticism.  Speech limits always carry the threat of violence, and an individual or group who resort to violence have run out of verbal defenses of their positions and admitted their weakness through the use of force.

Of all the perceived sins against the State and Religion (i.e. authority), Free Speech is the most dangerous, since any limit on the individual must be backed up with the threat of violence.  Furthermore, "authority" will continuously expand its definition of limits until it meets resistance from the greatest number of people. and ultimately those threatened will expand until it includes everyone who is not an "authority".

What most people fear about Free Speech is that eventually they will run into ideas that offend them.  For speech to be truly free, we cannot limit anyone's right to express ideas or opinions, no matter how ridiculous or offensive they are.  Once a group accepts that there is any limit on speech, then all speech is limited, since the movement will ultimately expand to encompass just about everything except the proscribed "right think".

Most people will agree that the Nazis were very bad folks and that the rest of us don't want them around.  However, we are forced to admit that even the Nazis cam up with ideas like the Volkswagen Beetle.  ao

In every ugly or abhorrent idea, there is some kernel of truth that can be gleaobned.  We may not agree with, or may even be deeply offended by someone's speech, but it is absolutely vital that we allow that speech.  By limiting anyone's speech, we do ourselves and the world a disfavor by cutting off potentially world-changing ideas, no matter how buried in hurtful or hateful trappings.

It is never speech that hurts anyone, it is the actions taken based on it, and that is where limits are properly placed.

Galileo was imprisoned for life by "authorities" because he observed objects orbiting a body other than the Earth.  This was deeply offensive the the State and Religion.  However, imprisoning him for life did not change the facts, only who could hear them.

11.3.17

Special 7th Anniversary Edition

Well, it's the seventh anniversary since I started assaulting the web with this little blog project.  I began it at the urging of a dear friend based on the regular letters home back when I was still fresh and new here in Indonesia.

After a decade, the letters trailed off into background noise, since my daily discoveries in my new culture were tapering off, as well.  Don't get me wrong: Indonesia never ceases to shock and amaze.  After a while though, it becomes more internalized and harder to regale others with tales of adventure.  You can only see so many massive lizards stretched across jungle highways, or elephants working in the fields, before it becomes a normal part of daily life.

Ultimately, this blog became two-pronged: 1) a means to inform, entertain and express those things for which I believed I had a unique perspective on; and 2) a means to keep my mother tongue sharp and my vocabulary fresh.

With regard to the latter point, folks who haven't lived outside their home countries probably aren't aware of how much one's own native language can suffer when not used moment by moment.  Teaching English doesn't serve the purpose, since that involves a lot of time rehashing the basic rules and regulations of language.  It does noting to maintain style and vocabulary, and for a writer (such as I pretend to be), that is a death sentence.

Three years ago, I added Radio Far Side, since I had this burning desire to talk to thinkers and authors that I admired.  Naturally, it was easier to entice them into impromptu discussions if it helped promote their own work, so recording and publishing the conversations was a logical methodology.  It also allowed me to use my media background for something other than family vacation photos (folks get angry when I continually refuse to put people in my photos).

Over the years, the audience here has expanded and has fallen more or less into two camps: North America and Asia, being about equally balanced.  I lost many folks when I took a two-year hiatus to work on a major project here in Jakarta, but I have slowly recovered some and gained many others.

Last year, I launched the Reaser Survey (still up below every column) to gauge what people liked here, what their reading habits were, and what improvements I could make to keep this site fresh and relevant.  To date, I have received 310 responses with some interesting results - at least to me.

The vast majority of respondents, 87%, are daily or weekly readers, which is fantastic even though it puts a hell of a lot of pressure on me to produce.  The remainder were first-time readers who did not indicate whether they would be back for more.

In terms of how folks found this site, 50% got a link from another site (thanks y'all!), while the rest found it via friends, search engines or random clicks in the Dark Web.

The overwhelming majority, 93%, come here just for the articles, which I interpret as putting us in the same league as Playboy, since no one looks at the pictures in that second-rate mag, either.

When given multiple choices about what they like to read here, respondents said 82% politics, 68% witty anecdotes, 63% science, 45% religion, 31% travel/ex-pat, and a full 64% wanting weird stuff.  I've adjusted content accordingly, figuring most of what I write about is weird stuff anyway.

As for the question of what we can do better, the comments were overwhelmingly positive, with most saying "keep it up," a few expressing appreciation for our rather off-beat take on things, and a couple taking me to task for disappearing for a year-and-a-half.  OK, OK, I've set aside the weekends to write as many columns for the coming week as I can, so that my usuall 12-15 hour work days don't interfere with the regular content here.

As for rating the Far Side, 60% gave us a 4, 23% a 5, and the rest were 3s.  On a college-level grading basis, I interpret this as a solid B+ GPA, which is rather amazing, since almost every column is first-pass only (meaning no follow-up editing), and I am well-sotted when I write half of them.  If I were attending a party college, I would probably have a full A average after the curve, while not missing a moment of fun.

Fully 11 folks took time out of their lives to leave a note in the essay section.  All were very positive (which means I didn't piss anyone off enough to say so), with comments spanning the spectrum of simple encouragement to appreciation for my headline writing, to requests for additional columns on specific subjects (which I have tried to do without becoming too monotone or drole).

At the beginning of the year, we launched a Patreon page.  This is not so much a way to beg money as a means to fund some specific projects we have for the real world.

One of the projects is Cabaret Indonique, which will be an original entertainment venue blending the unique Indonesian culture with the style and irreverence of cabaret.  We hope that the project will become so popular as to allow us to franchise and tour our all-original productions, giving the highly talented local artists a global platform for their remarkable abilities.

Another major project is to launch a couple of new YouTube channels (in addition to Radio Far Side) for producing and distributing original content that spans the gamut of entertainment, infotainment and down-right grousing.

Both of the projects require significant up-front funding to pay artists and equipment during the set-up phase.  We are selling off our real estate holdings to invest in these projects, but we need additional input from the global community, as well.  Not only can you become a supporter of real, cultural enhancement, but you will receive special benefits like production credits, sneak previews, documentaries, etc.  We also plan to do special live-stream performances just for subscribers.  Could be fun!

If you have any doubts about what I am capable of, see here and here.

The bottom line today is that we are attempting to convert some of our online goodwill into real-world projects that we hope will have positive effects on not only the local arts community, but also the world (never dream small).  By becoming a Patron subscriber, you are not just supporting some YouTube video channel, or a slightly off-center writer, but an entire gang of artists, performers and musicians who are dedicated to creating something new and envigorating for a potential audience of millions.

And you, dear reader, can be a big part of this effort.  Not many websites out there that offer this kind of opportunity, but then we've never tried to be just another website.

If you like what you see here, not just today but regularly, then consider doing the following action items:

  1. Send a link to at least three other people you know;
  2. Subscribe to our Patreon page (as little as $12/year);
  3. Follow our Twitter feed (links in right-hand column);
  4. Follow our YouTube channel (links in right-hand column).
We are not using hyperbole when we say those four simple steps could actually change lives.

Most of all, thank you dear Reader, for being a regular part of the Far Side, supporting our efforts through the years, and for spreading the word  It's been a slow but gratifying process to create something fun, interesting and informative.  With your help and support, we intend to continue growing in new and surprising directions.

God willing and the creek don't rise, we'll continue to do what folks here apparently like, strange stuff.

10.3.17

Shelter From The Storm

If the headlines are starting to sound like a Hogan's Heroes running gag about the Russian front, you've only just begun tumbling down Lewis Carroll's rabbit hole.  In draing the swamp, folks are finding it to be MUCH deeper than anyone thought.

There is a most unique crisis brewing in American politics right now, and it is one that bears close observation.

Donald Trump has accused Barack Obama of personally ordering wiretaps on the Trump campaign headquarters for what appears to be obvious political motivations.  The wiretaps seem to have been ordered both to provide intel on the Trump campaign, and to create a narrative to derail the Trump administration in the event of his election.  One imagines this would have also benefitted Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention, so the tentacles run deep in the Washington establishment.

Some folks might point to Richard Nixon and the Watergate break-in as being precedent for the current situation, but we must remember that Nixon won the election and was a sitting president when the scandal came to light.  This means that Nixon was protected to a certain extent by his position, with the only possible remedy being impeachment.

In addition, Nixon's resignation meant that Gerald Ford, another Republican succeeded to the office and was able to pardon Nixon before any criminal trials could be brought to court.

In the current case, Obama has served his two terms in office and Clinton lost the election.  Had she won, she would have been able to cover up the dirty deeds, or in the worst-case scenario, pardon Obama and head off any criminal proceedings.

We can now fully appreciate the panic going on within the Democrat Party and the sheer terror they must be feeling at this moment.  This precarious legal position certainly goes a long way toward explaining the amazing amount of effort being put forth to discredit and unseat Trump, and get an insider, if even a Republican, into the office.  The gravity of the situation vastly increases the danger to life and limb that Trump is facing, because the stakes, as we will see in a moment, are enormous - and that is not hyperbole.

If the current situation continues to roll out of control, at least from Obama's perspective, he faces felony charges without the benefit of being a sitting president.  Thus, the case would proceed directly to the courts, and not to Congress, which would be far more lenient on corruption, since they are - for the most part - just as dirty if not more so.

One imagines that if charges are brought against Obama, the proverbial blood in the water will likely bring additional scrutiny of the blatantly false birth certificate proffered by Obama some time back.  Forgery of government documents is also a felony, and seeing Obama already behind a barrel would encourage enemies to pile on.

At that point, one could make a fairly safe bet that the Fast and Furious scandal would resurface, where Obama authorized, and then-US attorney general Eric Holder carried out, the "strawman" purchase of thousands of automatic rifles.  The rifles were given to Mexican drug gangs, after which one of them was eventually used to kill a federal drug enforcement agent.

This is all bad enough, but it gets far worse, and in fact becomes a genuine nightmare crisis of amazing proportions.

If Obama were convicted of committing a felony while in office, any felony, he would certainly go to prison.  That would obviously be bad for Obama, but that's not the half of it.  If a sitting or former US president were convicted of committing a felony in office, EVERY SINGLE ACT HE DID AS PRESIDENT WOULD BE NULL AND VOID.

Let that sink in for a moment.

As a convicted felon, every single law, Presidential Directive, Executive Order, budget, and act Obama did while in office would suddenly be vacated.  The entire past eight years of his administration would become the acts of a convicted criminal, and thus considered fraudulent.  Every bomb and bullet, every life lost, every dollar spent would thus be criminal acts and unenforceable - and unprotected.

NOW one can appreciate the magnitude of what is unfolding in Washington at this moment.

Furthermore, this would make Obama and his entire administration personally liable for war crimes, banking and wire fraud (on a mass scale), and even conspiracy to commit any number of crimes (RICO in US legal parlance).

What's worse, Obama is no longer in power and the Democrats lost control of both the House and Senate.  Once the ball gets rolling, there is little or no resistance anywhere in Washing ton to protect the past administration, and Trump being the celebrated outsider that he is, has no skin in the game to protect anyone but himself.

This is HUGE, folks.

If you were in the same position, would you be doing everything in your power to undermine the election, discredit Trump, block and obfuscate every word and deed Trump makes, foment riots, formulate Russian conspiracies, activate the entire media establishment against the sitting president?  Oh hell yes, you would.

The scandal touches every corner of the Washington establishment on both sides of the political spectrum, since Congress would have been complicit at least by omission and dereliction of duty.  You can bet that every person who had any amount of power and authority over the last eight years is currently checking prices and availability of South American flights, especially landing near George W. Shrub's 100,000-acre ranch in Paraguay.

It is difficult to overstate the case.  The huge vulnerability that has opened up threatens the entire US federal government and could literally collapse the empire.  If this situation "gets legs", as they say, it will take decades to unwind and would see US politicians on trial in a dozen countries and in the World Court.  There is a critical singularity approaching.

To compound matters, the Obama gang and the DNC has chosen to fight fire with fire, rather than slink quietly off into a corner.  By throwing everything in the arsenal at Trump in an effort to completely unseat him, they have sealed their fate.  In years past, former presidents slithered off into obscurity, only trotted out for special occasions, but they kept their heads low and let the incoming administration clean up the mess.  It was a kind of unspoken rule that each succeeding president covered for the previous one, in order to be afforded the same courtesy once out of office.

Because Trump is a true outsider who financed his own campaign, there is little or no pressure that can be brought to bear on him.  Also, his personality is such that once attacked, he will go on the offensive and won't stop till the opposition is thoroughly vanquished.  Furthermore, Trump has proven himself to be very short-sighted, and so is likely not considering all the consequences for the long term.  He is in war mode and winning is his only option.  It is his defining characteristic.

Thus, we find in Washington at this moment the legendary rock beating itself silly against the immutable hard spot.  Hundreds of elected and un-elected heads sit squarely in the guillotine just now.

Throw in the already building phalanx against the PizzaGate pedophiles that spans the globe, and we are looking at a potential scandal of epic proportions. If things continue along the current course, our great-great-great grandchildren will be reading about this moment in history class twoo hundred years from now.

Yes, it is THAT serious.

Batten down the hatches, get your hip-waders and slickers on, this is going to be a major blow and seas are going to get just a bit choppy from here on out.