A Reasonable George W.?

Last Thursday my eldest daughter graduated from college, which put me in Colorado from Thursday through Saturday. Then Sunday I was getting ready for Monday, when I had a colonoscopy (perfectly normal, thank you) that required liquid diet and other nonsense that I’m saving for a stand-up routine. (It will be funny, I promise.) Which is just by way of explaining where I’ve been. In other news I’m actually going to start the teaching job next week, so I’m no longer an unemployed bum, as I am employed. As for the other, once a bum . . .

So, apparently our President is losing confidence in his ability to pull his party along on whatever he wants, as he actually made reasonable suggestions about immigration last night. I don’t agree with everything he says, but for the most part, and this does shock me a bit, I actually do think I could get behind what he outlined. The real problem with immigration, of course, is that there’s no real problem with immigration, but some people need someone to blame for the problems that they cause themselves, so immigrants are a handy target for them. But, like I said, kudos to Mr. Bush for making what seems like thoughtful suggestions. Thanks, George. It won’t help his party come fall, but then I wonder if he really cares any more. Not like they’ve been all that nice to him lately, is it?

Mr. Bush’s sudden transformation into someone who likes to find a compromise illustrates what I’ve said before about the two-party system. That is that it works better when neither party can really claim to be fully in charge. It worked for the Gauls, and it works for us. Whenever one party gains temporary control, the party tends to fall apart, and then the government is forced back into compromise. The bad thing for this administration was the attacks on New York and Washington, which caused an artificial unity because of the fact that everybody was afraid. The administration knew damn well that having people afraid was keeping them united, but obviously that ploy has run its course, which is a good thing in itself. Again, as I’ve said before, acting out of fear is a good way to get yourself into worse trouble than you already are. Now that we’re over being scared of our shadows, maybe we can get back to doing whatever it is we do and stop reaming each other new ones every day just because you and I don’t agree on how to solve our problems.

Speaking of which, don’t you love it when people say stuff like, “Well at least we can all agree that . . .”? Yeesh. I think that’s another post. Look just above and see if I’ve done one.

I’ve Been Bugged!

There was a singing group from “deepest New Jersey” that now lived in New York City back in the eighties, but they spelled it Roches, which isn’t the same. If Maggie, Terri and Suzzi had been living here we could’ve charged them rent so it might have been okay. Instead somehow we managed to get infested by what started out looking like little red and black beetles. I have some actual education in controlling pests, having been a bio major years and years ago, but

(yes, sorry, this is not a rant)

I’m afraid that my best efforts were inadequate with those little devils. I’ve been doing the perimeter of the house with commercially available bug spray for about as long as we’ve been here, but those little things just wouldn’t go away. Then they started getting bigger and bigger. You know, a lot bigger, and they started doing things like showing up in my cheerios, and I really do like my cheerios to be insect free if at all possible. My wife insisted that they weren’t roaches because roaches that big would just be too much. I knew better and when I finally called an exterminator and got the official word, she had to agree that the were giant cockroaches.

Not as big as the giant cockroaches I’ve lived with for a bit in South Florida. There they’re known familiarly as “palmetto bugs” and they’re about two-inches in diameter and they fly. Straight out of my sock drawer and into my forehead, in one case. After that these Nevada bugs just don’t seem so awful, but still . . .

So one day last week a man arrived to poison them all. I know, it’s a terrible thing to put poison into the fragile environment. Sure it is, but it’s a worse thing to have cockroaches living high off of your food supply and spreading disease while they’re at it. Besides which, they’re ugly. Oddly, I don’t mind spiders and snakes, but those German cockroaches (yes, that’s the most common species and I have no idea why the Germans get the credit) are truly revolting. Before that man arrived, I had to clean out the kitchen and both bathrooms and even a bit of the laundry room. I put all the food and dishes on tables and covered them with sheets to keep any overspray off. The bathroom stuff I stored in the next room. Once he started I had to leave for three hours, which for a while meant taking a nap in my car in the carport, because what the heck, it was a nice day, eh?

The thing is, if you get roaches eliminated, they don’t just disappear. They all crawl out to die. And I do mean all of them. Some instinct drives them out into the light, where normally they’d never go, so every day for a week now I’ve been vacuuming up little toes-to-the-sky bug bodies. Yesterday it seemed that the march of corpses was easing up, but today there must’ve been twenty of them in the laundry room alone, and the rest of the house, even places forty or more feet from any poison, held dozens more. Still, a dead cockroach is a lot more appetizing than a live one. Besides, it’s entertaining to watch them marching out in the evening, running along until suddenly they flip over, twitch for a few seconds, then pass over to that great pantry in the sky.

I know I’m not the first person to deal with an infestation of these little guys. Like I said, I majored in Biology, and to a biologist, a roach is an awesome thing. They are, as a species, almost impossible to kill. Roach genocide is just not in the cards. When T-Rex was stomping the plains of North America, cockroaches were infesting her nest. And not radically different cockroaches, either, but pretty much the same insects you see today. If a roach finds itself in a favorable environment but alone, it’ll basically clone itself a few thousand times. Male or female, no kidding. It’s incredible, from a biological standpoint. It’s creepy as hell, from a homeowner’s standpoint. You need one, that’s right, one roach to infest a city.

Eeeeeewwww!

The Conservatives See the Light

First, if you’re reading this the week it’s first published, please click the “Current Funny Page” link to the left, because that article is on the same topic and I think it might even be funny, which is unusual enough for my stuff. Or, if you’re looking over back issues, so to speak, click here to look at the same article. You can right click and choose to open it as a new window, even. Go ahead, this text won’t go anywhere.

Now, to my topic, without the exaggeration and satiric wit added. I think it is interesting that the conservative movement has finally seen through Bush II. I might note that it took them long enough. I think that a part of it is due to a major weakness of idealistic thinking, which is of course endemic to my generation. If you have high ideals, you tend simply not to see anything that conflicts with those ideals. I know that “high ideals” is one of those things that are supposed to be wonderful, but in practice they tend to be quite the opposite. The Nazi Party had very high ideals indeed, high enough that they were, in a historic sense, easy to defeat when it came down to it. (I didn’t say it wasn’t horrible difficult work, but compared to, say, the hundred years war it was over rather quickly.) Our President and the hard-core of his supporters are idealists. Each knows what god wants him or her to do, one way or another. Jesus is the driving force behind the great crusade to remake the world as a moral and upstanding, not to mention democratic, place. The trouble with a group of people knowing what god wants them to do is that god always seems to have different ideas for each person, even though every person seems to assume that god’s plan for them is the same plan god has whipped up for every one of them. So, Bush’s hard-core supporters deluded themselves in their idealism into thinking that he would support just what they (each one of them, I mean) wanted him to support. Instead, like everyone seems to, Bush listens to his own conscience, or god, or dad, or mom, or whatever it is, and ends up disappointing a great many people.

For the record, the Republican Party has never been for States’ Rights. Lincoln got a whole lot of Americans on both sides killed in his successful effort against that idea. In fact, at the time of its founding, the Republican Party was the progressive arm of the body politic. They said they would open up the west, build a railroad, link the country with telegraph lines, abolish slavery and create a new society and, if you look at history, you’ll see that is exactly what they did. What those republicans would think of President Bush is of course moot, but I have to believe that at least some of them would be a tad bemused at what’s been going on. Not that everything has been un-Republican in spirit. Lincoln suspended bits of the Constitution he found inconvenient, and he’s got a beautiful memorial with his words etched into the walls and his face on the fiver. Republicans have always stood for a strong central government and uniformity across the States. Until Reagan, of course, they never out-and-out lied about it. I’m not sure Reagan lied about it, in fact I’m not sure he said anything truly substantive in eight years, but his supporters lied about it then and now. Since I’ve read American History, I was pretty sure that GW Bush would increase the size of government, centralize power, and run up an amazingly large deficit. That’s what effective Republican Presidents have been doing ever since Lincoln. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. It’s just not what was promised in the campaigns.

But, too bad for W, the conservative movement has caught on to the fact that they have been deceived. Well, as I said, it’s about time after all. It’s not conservatism that I mind, or liberalism; it’s lies. It’s common to hear the truth stretched by government officials, but in the past couple of decades, the people who are probably ultimately responsible for the fact that the President looks like a ninny have been stretching the truth beyond all recognition, apparently following the dictates of such techniques as “lie often enough and loud enough and people will think it’s the truth.” But, as they seem to have run into their own asses as they run in ever tighter circles, allow me to offer some advice on seeing those lies, no matter who starts making them, earlier on the next time.

Here it is: If an answer seems simple and easy to understand, and it feels really good to believe that it’s true, then it most certainly is false.

Sorry, but that’s the absolute truth about how things are. Backing up a step, here’s something else I’ve observed:

If someone tells you that he or she knows what god wants you to do, they’re selling you a bill of goods.

Those two behaviors, that is, believing what someone tells you about what god wants and giving in to the easy, feel-good solution, are what gets a society into the sort of hot water in which we currently find ourselves. It ain’t pretty, but it’s the truth. Since I’m on a roll, here are a few more true things:

It isn’t easy resisting the lure of easy solutions, but it’s the only way to succeed over time. You can do it fast, you can do it right, but you can’t do both at the same time. That’s true for building a new house and for solving a national problem.

It’s a dangerous world. The only security is in having the confidence that you’ll be able to figure out what to do when the crisis hits. That means thinking about the downside of your situation and deciding what you’re going to do when it hits full force. Or, as I like to say, prepare for the worst and it will never happen. (Because it won’t be the worst any more.) Murphy’s law is often quoted as a joke, but it’s true: “anything that can possibly go wrong, will go wrong.” If you figure out what can possibly go wrong and prepare for when it happens, it won’t be so bad at the time. You’ll never get security from your government; they’re a tool you can use, not a solution.

You will pay taxes. There is no getting around that fact. There is solid biological research (Space and the Strategy of Life by John C. Calhoun, National Institutes of Health, for example) that points out that double the population will require more than double the amount of government intervention. This is true of rabbits, wolves, lions, and, well, humans. Sorry, but that is an actual fact. Also, whatever you may have heard to the contrary, the income tax is legal and constitutional.

Heck, I could go on. People believe the damnedest things. I’ve heard that the Postal Service wastes taxpayer money (it hasn’t used any since 1972); that I-95 runs through Las Vegas Nevada (?!?) and other ridiculous claims, and I really don’t have the time nor the patience to remember them all, much less try
to refute them. Sorry if I’ve been tedious this week; it isn’t my intention. If you want, go read the companion funny article again. See, I’m not all
that serious!

Know Thine Enemies

Everyone has enemies of one sort or another. Sometimes you’ve got your basic elbow like Osama Bin Ladin, who says he’s our enemy and proves it by killing a few thousand of our fellow citizens. Sometimes you create your own enemies, as when people decide that the people who enter this country illegally are not just lawbreakers, but enemies of our culture and economy. I’m not going to argue the immigration issue from either side here, but I do want to use both of these examples in making my point about knowing who you’re up against.

First, consider the Osama Bin Ladin contingent. Previously I’ve written about Sunni vs. Shiite, a war that, as I pointed out, has been going on for at least twelve centuries. Now, as another ingredient in this stew, consider the other Middle East hot spot I’ve mentioned: Israel. I absolutely respect Judaism. I’ve attended services. If you, like me, were raised Christian, you might be surprised to learn that the prayers are essentially the same. That makes sense if you remember where Christianity came from in the first place. It wasn’t, as you might imagine, Roman in origin, although the Romans probably had a lot to do with making it popular. My respect for Judaism does not in the least make me any less incredulous that Israel was set up after World War II. Yes, there was a Holocaust. People who deny it are idiots. (I’m against jailing them like some European countries do, though. Let the idiocy shine, I say.) But prior to the British occupation of Palestine it was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, and prior to that by the Byzantine Empire, and prior to that by the Roman Empire. Several times over the millennia the Jewish people of Palestine were forced to leave or convert to either Christianity or Islam. Nobody in the Allied Powers had anything at all to do with the Diaspora. It is a horrible thing what happened to the Jews in Europe during the twentieth century. It was pretty despicable when Jews were discriminated against in this country. But I don’t see anything in any of that to suggest that the dispersed Jews have any greater claim on Palestine than those still living there, including those who converted to one or another religion. There is only about a century of history behind the Jew/Arab conflict. Used to be an Arab would tell you that they had nothing against Jews, only against Zionists. A Zionist, for those too young to know, was (or is, if you look at it the right way) someone advocating a Jewish state in Palestine. Since the United States of America is a major supporter of Israel, the United States of America is the world’s largest Zionist. That is not propaganda, that’s just the truth. I’m not passing judgment on the situation, just outlining it as it really exists.

The fact that the United States of America is the world’s foremost advocate of Zionism is what allows elbows like Bin Ladin to call us the “Great Satan.” Obviously, we may have perfectly good reasons for supporting Israel.   That doesn’t make it less true that the Islamic faction that hates Israel is close to telling the truth when they call us such names. They do not, as has been suggested by inferior middle management types, “hate us for our freedoms.” Most Muslims actually appreciate our freedoms and wish they had some like them, and that’s the truth. They’d probably appreciate us more if we’d argue honestly against the radicals’ positions, rather than blather platitudes, but that’s not likely to happen real soon. Consider the following argument as a quick and dirty example.

While the creation of Israel following the Second World War is certainly moot, it is not moot that Israel exists. In fact, there is probably no good way to make Israel cease to exist. And while some of the people in the United States support Israel for what might seem rather odd reasons, it is the right of a citizen of the United States to support whatever he or she sees fit, and there is no constitutional way to prevent them from offering that support. This includes lobbying their elected representatives to authorize official aid from the United States to Israel, a situation that has existed for some time and will probably not go away any time soon.

Israel will exist with or without American aid, but since we recognize that there are others with a legitimate interest in Palestine, some of whom have lived there historically much longer than the Israelis, we also support the Palestinian state, and pledge to work to prevent egregious violations of national sovereignty by either Israel or the State of Palestine against each other. We therefore offer our financial and other aid in equal measure to both parties, but we will reduce that aid proportionally for every such incident. This will be our position so long as each side recognizes the other’s right to exist, and respects the national borders as previously agreed upon.

We could say something like that, for sure. I can’t see the current crop of ideologues having the intellectual muscle to even figure that position out, much less try to enforce it, as all of their energy seems to be channeled toward proving that they were right in the first place regardless of evidence to the contrary. But, still we could try it, and it’s only there, as I said, to serve as a quick and dirty example.

As to the illegal immigration problem, it seems to me to be a clear case of created enemies. It is, in short, a fight that some of us have chosen to fight. But even among staunch anti-illegal immigration advocates there are differences of opinion as to how to wage the war. The most extreme example of an opinion is the proposal to build a two-thousand mile wall from San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico. It would spoil some views for sure, but there are other serious arguments against it. One I haven’t seen is that a passive defense like a wall basically doesn’t work. Consider the small town of Cañon City, Colorado. There are a lot of prisons nearby, including the “Supermax.” Supermax is where Ted Kaczynski wound up, to give you an idea of the security that is in place there. Also inside that prison are illegal drugs. With the best security we’ve got, we can’t keep illegal drugs out of one prison. I can’t see any possible way of keeping all the teeming multitudes wanting into the country out. Even with a wall, and any wall can be breached given time and ingenuity, we don’t have enough people available to patrol that border to ensure that nobody gets in. In fact, I’d lay odds that there would be no real lessening of the influx, but the immigrants would have to find other routes. If you still like the idea of an impregnable wall, consider the Maginot Line in Eastern France. The Germans simply drove around it and found themselves behind the French guns. So now what? Fence off the entire Gulf Coast?

The people who come here illegally are considered heroes in Mexico. They work hard, live in overcrowded conditions to save on rent, and send money home to their families. Rather than bristle at the idea that they are “heroes” because “they aren’t ‘heroes’ they’re just damned law breakers”, we could use that fact about social perception in M
exico to figure out effective ways to fight the influx, rather than hare-brained schemes like a wall. These people may not be heroes in America, but if the Mexican people think that they’re heroes, then that’s what they will remain in their own minds. The fact is that an unskilled worker can make more in an hour here than in a day in Mexico. Skilled workers are a different matter, and in fact there is an actual shortage of skilled labor in Mexico. That is true. Instead of spending oodles of cash building a wall that wouldn’t really work anyway, how about if we spend quite a bit less cash to provide scholarships for unskilled Mexicans so that they can become skilled labor and find good jobs in their own country? And, even better, how about if we do what we can to raise the income level of the average Mexican to be closer to that of the average American? Believe it or not, the average Mexican is proud and happy to be a Mexican, but if you can’t make it at home, you got to move. If we can make it possible for Mexicans to make a decent living in Mexico, they won’t want to come here any more. I’ll bet dollars to pesos (the exchange rate is about 11 pesos to 1 dollar) that we could do that for a lot less time and effort than we could build a wall.


So, that’s really just a couple more quick and dirty suggestions, but they help illustrate my point. If we take the time to study our enemies, be they external or invented by ourselves, we can figure out how to defeat them. In the Middle East it may mean simply acknowledging the truth about the history of the region. With illegal immigration it may simply be recognizing that economic forces are the real enemy, not the people sneaking into the country. Or, we can keep on flailing around with our idealistic blinders on, which has worked so very well these past few years. Just a thought.

Pointy-Haired and Proud Of It!

Enough, already! I know I said I was going to leave the poor Bush administration alone because they were doing so much damage to themselves, but enough is, well, enough, ain’t it?

I’ve never been a “Bush Hater”, in the sense that so many strident voices seem to be. Trouble is, those guys make as much sense to me as the “Clinton Haters” that still crawl around the national discourse, although I’ve never been sure what they hated about him. There are also some inexplicable “Gore Haters” lurking about, which really amazes me, as the guy never has done anything, much less has he lied about anything much. (Gore’s been lied about, of course. He never said he “invented the Internet” and what he did say is in the Congressional record if you’d like to read it.) Nevertheless, while I don’t hate Bush like his biggest detractors, I do feel that some comparison with Slick Willie might be in order.

Clinton didn’t get us into Iraq. He launched some missiles into Iraq, but he also listened to his intelligence services, and was smart enough to wonder what we would do after we won the initial war. Mission Accomplished indeed. But Clinton, like anyone who knows anything at all real about the Middle East, knew, as I knew, and as all sorts of people painted as “unpatriotic” and “cowardly” knew, that the war was a quagmire just waiting for someone to step into it. Thanks to having a pointy-haired boss as CEO (and if you read Dilbert you’ll notice that the PHB is definitely not the CEO) we jumped in with all four feet, led by an incompetent who is more concerned with the appearance of competence and leadership than in competently leading. Of course, you’d have to know how to competently lead to actually do that, so I guess that appearance is all he’s got.

A CEO worth his over-inflated salary would fire those responsible for his misunderstanding a situation badly enough to make the sort of decisions Bush made a few years ago. That’s a big way to tell Bush is a middle manager: he doesn’t fire people. Instead he apparently imagines that if he shouts his support loudly enough, if he reiterates his original position often enough, that reality will adjust itself to his previously erroneous position and all will be right with the world. I’ve worked for some bosses like that, and it isn’t pleasant. Of course, not a one of them got anyone killed through his incompetence, so far as I know. I could forgive Bush for doing that, because he may well have been acting in good faith, but I can’t forgive him the idiotic way he handles criticism. Ever wonder why Slick Willie was so slick? It was because he knew how to take that criticism and answer it without looking like a conniving scofflaw. Of all the spurious BS I heard Clinton accused of, of all the idiotic things he did in his personal life, even, I never heard about anything that approaches the deadly level of misinformation and ineffective ducking that’s been going on in the current administration.

Thanks to one sort of incompetence or another, the anti-Bush crowd can post a bumper sticker that says “Nobody Died When Clinton Lied” and be absolutely correct. That half a dozen former Generals are lined up asking for Rumsfield’s resignation (heck, they have as much right to do that as anybody, huh?) is only one more bit of evidence of the mishandling of public business that’s been going on ever since the Supreme Court got involved in a State election (State’s Rights? We doan need no steenkin’ States Rights!) It’s really too bad because there are a whole lot of people in Iraq today, risking their lives trying to make the whole thing better, but I can’t imagine the administration that’s made such a botch of things to date having the talent or brains to pull it off. I imagine that if we started putting our money into rebuilding infrastructure and giving the Iraqi people a reliable supply of electricity, as a quick example, we would be ahead in the Public Relations war that this Iraq thing really is. Instead, after we’ve been there three years they still don’t have reliable utilities, and they still can’t be sure they’re going to live through the day as they do such risky things as shop for groceries, go to work, or even pray. Maybe Bush is too worried about the appearance of normal life in Iraq to worry about actually establishing it. Of course, I am a tad bitter that my country is being made to look like a bumbling bunch of arrogant idiots and there doesn’t seem to be a lot I can do about it, so perhaps my statements are overly harsh. Yeah, right.

My point? Well, there’s an election coming up. Consider what you’re voting for. You can vote for some candidate who pays lip service to a higher cause while pursuing the path of eternal recklessness if you want to. That would result, of course, in business as it has been should your candidate win. Or you can find somebody to support who has the brains god gave green apples, and possibly we can end up with a government that’s able to function with a reasonable degree of confidence and competence. I’m not saying vote for a Democrat. I’ve always split my ticket and I doubt if I’ll stop any time soon. I’m saying find a candidate who puts some actual thought into rhetoric and actions and get behind her or him. Start with the primaries if you’ve got ‘em. It’s bound to be an improvement over a pointy-haired boss in charge of the executive suite, wouldn’t you say?

Another Damned Liberal in Education

I have a half-time job teaching at a technical college in Henderson. It’ll be computer stuff plus the odd course in humanities since they just started offering Associate Degrees. The ad wanted an MCSE with a science degree. Oddly, the other guy teaching computers is also an MCSE with a degree in Biology. See where Biology can take you?

I promise I’ll still be bitter. The only reason I don’t rail more against the current crowd in Washington is that events have made it seem superfluous. (Try spelling ‘superfluous’ from memory some time, by the way.) Of course, there’s always Tom Cruise . . .

Thanks!

I just looked at the statistics for my visitors for this week. I’m actually impressed, and grateful to all of you who have dropped in. Ninety percent of my visitors are from the United States, which figures as most of my rants involve my home country. But, I’ve also had visitors from Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Guyana, Italy, Sweden, Thailand, and The United Kingdom. This is since Sunday the 9th. Wow. Thank you all. I’m truly flattered. Do check back, or subscribe to a feed from ATOM if you like. I’m hoping to get more reciprocal links set up in the coming months and become a Force For The Triumph of Good Over Evil . . . er, I mean, get an interesting blog going. Thanks!

Conspiracy Theories

I caught part of a History Channel program on conspiracy theories this week. It may have been an old one, but it was new to me. The program mentioned three groups considered by conspiracy buffs to contain the evil core of the committee that really runs the world. They are the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and of course the Skull and Bones of Harvard. They had a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in an interview, and in spite of the fact that he insisted that there is no underground conspiracy going on, and the fact that I’d bet real money that he was telling the truth, the conspiracy folks say that it’s actually the “secret core” of these three groups that is so secret that even the general membership doesn’t know what’s really going on. Sure. But even the hard-core conspiracy buffs will tell you that the entire Skull and Bones Society is the secret core. The Skull and Bones is so secret that, as G. H. W. Bush says in his one-line reference in his autobiography, “I can’t say anything more about it.” Yep, one heckuva secret society it is.

Except of course that in two-hundred years more than one member has spilled the beans about what goes on in the meetings. They do use skulls and bones in their rituals, of course. And they are like any other fraternity in that they have secret handshakes and rigmarole that they go through to prove to themselves that they’re special. Their clocks, for instance, are set five minutes fast. Standard time is referred to as “barbarian” time or some such epithet. They meet at 6:30 several days a week. One day is just sharing biographical information: you know, what you been up to, brother? Another day is devoted to sharing sexual exploits. Their rituals are borrowed or stolen from Freemasonry as practiced a couple of centuries ago. In the first quarter of the eighteenth century, Freemasonry got into all sorts of trouble with even murders and cover-ups attributed to it. What Freemasonry is today I have no idea, but most of the people who wrote our constitution were Masons, which in those days meant Rational Deists and Deep Thinkers. Good for them, and as the Skull and Bones predates the great fall of Freemasonry its members can presume to have an authentic link to the rituals and beliefs of the Founding Fathers. Somehow I can’t see Adams and Jefferson sitting around trading kiss-and-tell stories, but you never know.

There have been three Presidents who were members, one of whom still is. Thomas Jefferson is rumored to have been a member but there’s no collaboration. The third was Twentieth Century, although I don’t recall at this moment which one it was. It was not Carter, Reagan, or Clinton, or Nixon, I know that for sure. In fact I think it was early in the century, or maybe even in the nineteenth.

My point in writing all that is not to let everyone know how much we know about this secret society, but is rather to question very strongly the conspiracy theorists’ ideas about this secret fraternity. If these guys are a secret cabal running the world, then I’d expect them to exhibit some craft, skill and wits. Instead, the current incumbent, who is a member, seems better suited for a sitcom than public office. If it’s such a great conspiracy, why is it being run so poorly? If your aim is to get the public behind you by telling them some formerly secret information, wouldn’t it be simpler, and safer in the long run, just to do that instead of telling somebody to ‘leak’ the information, risking who knows what sort of contamination in a sort of political game of “telephone?” If you’re a deep thinker, wouldn’t you think about the various factions in the country you aim to convert to a more favorable form of government before you go in and depose the current ruler? If you’re so savvy, would you be fighting your own party over things like immigration reform and budgetary policy? Would you be quite so much the butt of jokes from everyone who presumes to be a comic if you were so slick as all that? I have the answer: no, you would not. There is no way in heck that any organization that grooms and promotes an obvious doofus is capable of any major conspiracy that has a snowball’s chance in Hell of succeeding.

What do we really have? First, a fraternity that closely guards it rituals, which are apparently mostly an insult to Freemasonry. Second, a group of individuals dedicated to trying to improve the world situation in the form of the Council on Foreign Relations. And of course, a smaller group dedicated to getting nations talking and trading rather than fighting, of course I mean the Trilateral Commission. But, it is so reasonable that there is a vast conspiracy loose in the world. What could that be?

Walt Kelly had it exactly right. His cartoon strip Pogo ran for decades, and one of the signature lines of the strip was “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That’s right, folks, the vast conspiracy is human nature. Consider that absolutely no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head forcing them to form a government at all. Yet, having overthrown England, the first thing the American Revolutionary movement did was set up a government. That one didn’t really work so well, so they formed another one, creating our Constitution as the framework. There’s not a bit of holy writ anywhere that says “thou shalt elect representatives, and verily they shalt govern in a lame and senseless manner.” But that’s what we’ve been doing since before the Revolutionary War, and that’s what we’ll keep right on doing in all likelihood. Other countries’ rulers claim divine right. The English Parliament rules by consent of the Queen (officially at least) and the Queen gets her power from God as it says in the Royal Motto (Dieu et mon droit.) Emperors have ruled by divine right for millennia. Caius Caesar, you remember him, of course, rigged an augury so that the people would know that the gods favored his reign. I doubt if he believed in a single power anywhere greater than himself, but he knew how to use the tools he found lying about. Caesar ruled because the gods willed it so. So did William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, Louis XIV, and every other despot prior to our revolution. Now only some of them do, and most that do have ceded most of their powers to elected bodies. Yet, even without any gods chartering them, governments continue to be formed and re-formed. That we have this innate instinct to form governments (which after all might be a good thing if you look at them properly) is the reason that people see a conspiracy. The driving force is the very nature of human beings. We act from instinct, much more often than we’d like to admit, and a vast worldwide conspiracy is the result.

That makes it difficult to figure out who to blame. I mean, if God isn’t setting up our governments, then who is at fault. Oh, wait, I’ve got it. Maybe God set up the world so that humans would have that instinct, so we can still plop the blame right at God’s holy feet. Yeah, that’s it. Good! Just so it isn’t our fault, huh?

Driving on the West Coast

I live, more or less, on the West coast. I know, Nevada isn’t quite beach property, but even Mark Twain, in his travelogue Roughing It, called it the West Coast, and in a lot of ways he’s right. In the Valley of Meadows it’s really a lot like Los Angeles except that it’s a whole lot dryer, and there are a lot fewer cars per square inch, or maybe square foot. Culturally, though you might not believe it if you didn’t live here, we’re a lot like Southern California. This extends to the style of driving, even, which is a step toward my point in writing this.

Californians, like everyone in a tourist area, like to complain about drivers from somewhere else and how they mess things up. It’s certainly true in the Rocky Mountains that people from places like Kansas have no earthly idea how to go up and down steep grades. It’s as if there are no gear shift levers in their cars, but by gar they’re not slow drivers so they stay in that left lane, going slower and slower and frustrating the heck out of those who know about down shifting. But, oddly enough, if you mention Nevada drivers, they’ll say, “Oh, they’re okay. They’re not like the other states.” Which I mention to illustrate my point: that we in Southern Nevada are honorary citizens of Southern California. Since I first drove in Southern California sometime in the nineties I’ve been struck by a couple of things about drivers here. One is that they tend to drive faster than drivers from most places, excepting Arizona of course. Nobody else drives as fast as the people in Phoenix and lives to tell the tale. But what I’m saying is that West Coast drivers are perceived by the rest of the country as being hell-bent for trouble, driving so fast as we do all the time. And, there may be some truth in that argument, but even allowing for that, I am going on record, having driven in at least forty states and one District plus even Mexico and France and Canada, that the drivers in Southern California are both more courteous and more skilled than any other drivers I’ve witnessed.

Consider, with the traffic in Los Angeles, and the speeds (0 to 80 to 0 in sixty seconds or less), if they weren’t skilled drivers they’d be dead. In fact, the Southern California traffic tends to weed out those who can’t handle driving in traffic pretty quickly, as it is ruthless in its blind pursuit of getting somewhere. Anywhere but here, or so it seems. And, also as a matter of survival, drivers here tend to be more courteous by nature, in spite of the fact that they’re going like bats out of hell, or maybe Autobahners on I-15 between Vegas and LA. (You know, the road where the movie stars get picked up going 120. I think I’ve been passed by a few, in fact.) I witnessed a good example of this on a trip last week to Boulder Colorado to hear my daughter’s Senior Recital. (She’s damn good, but that’s for another time.) In Colorado especially it is common for someone to be driving along in the fast lane and have someone from the slower lane to the right pull out suddenly, making one slam the brakes, who will then go right on being ten to twenty miles per hour slower than was the approaching vehicle. Feeling self-righteous because you obey the speed limit at all times and don’t like those “speeding idiots?” Well, don’t, because that’s the sort of aggressive driving that causes fatalities, and also the sort of aggressive driving that is relatively rare in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I’d forgotten to watch out for it, even, and had a couple of close calls before I remembered to remember all of the time. Regardless of the speed limit (and I don’t much speed when I’m out of state, as I was in Colorado) that behavior is discourteous and dangerous, not to mention probably terribly unskilled.

Las Vegas has a bad accident rate, but it isn’t the general driving style causing it. It is, to put it simply, that this is a 24/7/365 party town full of strangers who don’t know the roads, which is as good a recipe for disaster on the highways as I could think of. But for those who live here, it only makes us more alert, responsive, and oddly enough, responsible drivers. Rather than mere speed, which back East is the Big Bugaboo of Traffic, different speeds and irresponsible behavior are what cause accidents in most cases. In fact, in the West the accident rate on rural Interstates went down when the speed limit was raised, because now those who must drive the speed limit are going the same speed as those who would rather drive fast. I know this won’t get through to places like Ohio, Michigan, California and other places with those idiotic slower speed limits for trucks, but it’s true. Fortunately, in the case of California, I’ve never seen that lower speed enforced, which segues into a bit of a discussion of traffic flow, starting now.

Traffic flow is a flow just like water flows through a pipe. That was figured out in the 1930s, but apparently most people still don’t realize it. This is why those slow trucks are a problem: because they in effect become clogs in the pipeline. Just as in a flow of liquid, various particles (cars) will pop out to get past the clog (the truck) causing a dangerous situation with swerving in and out being the norm instead of the rare exception. In a similar vein, mistimed traffic lights are clogs in the drain as well, and any former small town now in a metro area that still insists on timing the lights to “make people slow down” should be fined heavily. I’ve made jokes about the inconsideration of stopping to let somebody out of a side street, but when the traffic is really heavy such an action can have an effect that slows traffic for hours. I’m not saying don’t let people out, just that you should consider what your actions are doing to the overall flow of things before you make up your mind whether to do it. I’m cursed with the ability to see traffic flow, so I find it frustrating when people work against it. Some of the problem is situational, for instance in a small town it’s courteous to let your neighbors meet and talk in the middle of the street, because what the heck, you may want to do it next. In a big city it’s courteous to use the street as quickly as you can, because a lot of other people need to use it also.

Which circles back around to why so many people may think that West Coast drivers are discourteous and driving too fast. Southern California has thirty million residents, and even more cars. That makes it one heckuva big city, and big city rules of etiquette apply here more than in any other place besides the Boston to Washington corridor. As our population increases (and it will you know) more and more of the country will be in the same situation. Like it or not, California is a harbinger once again. The good news is that it actually works quite well. The bad news is that people from smaller towns all think you’re a maniac.

The maniacs.

Let the Rants Resume

Okay, then. An apology, a bit of travelogue, but for Dog’s sake this blog is supposed to have summat to do wit politics an humor, innit? Well, then, lets get a rant on, whaddya say?

The other day I was sitting around the Denver area bored out of my skull waiting for the closing on a house we just quit owning in that area. I bought a Discover magazine to pass the time, and read about the woman who discovered the soft tissue from a dinosaur a few years back. She’s an evangelical Christian, and she gets hate mail from others of nominally the same religion chastising her for espousing such ‘Satanic’ ideas as that Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. Her response is that she feels so much more in awe of a creator that could engineer evolution than of some god that just waves a magic wand and there everything is. Boy, do I have to agree with her about that.

For those who believe that the world was created in six days six thousand years ago, the world and its creator are such petty and small things, if you think about it. Those folks worship some cheap magician doing card tricks and making planets appear out of a hat. “And for my next magical trick, EARTH!” Great googley moogley, how cheap can you get? In Vegas we’ve got better acts than that who can’t even break into the good rooms. Heck, we’ve got better street actors, even. How much more impressive is the incredible intricacies of DNA and evolution. And isn’t it amazing that you’re here to witness it all? Why would you be so crass as to think that the creator was done just because you’ve been born? The thing about evolution is that it allows the creator to keep right on creating, and right before our very eyes if we’d care to watch. Truth is, I feel sorry for those poor souls who worship a god with less talent than David Copperfield. To insist that god do or be one thing or another seems more than a bit presumptuous, but that’s how some folks see the world.

It’s a crying shame, is what it is, and an attitude that seems to me to be likely to send you to the same fate as those dinosaurs. Nice knowing you . . .