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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Back Seat Solutions and the End of America

©  by Tom King

The Apartheid Solution to the Back Seat Unrest Dilemma
Remember when you were a kid and you went on one of those long rides with your parents. You were stuck for hours in the back seat with your brother or sister (or both in my case). Remember what happened when you ran out of things to do back there? Inevitably, one of you began to do the favorite thing that bored kids in the back seat of a 1963 Rambler do. One child always starts poking the others because it is vastly entertaining to hear them squawk. Next comes your sister going, "Mama, he's touching me!"And as the unrest in the back seat escalates, one of several things happen.

In one response scenario, the wise mother and seasoned-traveler-with-children pulls out her magic bag, tells the back seat bully to cut it out if he knows what's good for him and gives each child his or her choice of new somethings-to-do from the bag. With something new to keep their attention, soon everybody is busy and quiet again. The wise Mom smiles and settles back to enjoy the ride, knowing she's got more stuff in her bag and can keep the youngsters entertained for the whole trip. Notice that she gave each child a choice from the bag rather than arbitrarily assigned them a toy of her choice. Remember this. It will be on the quiz.

In the alternative response scenario, the ill-prepared mother turns around and tells the children, "Stop it!" The ensuing quietness lasts maybe 30 seconds if she looks sufficiently stern. Then, because sitting still is not a natural state for a human child, someone starts poking someone again. Invariably, the persecuted child demands, "Mama make him stop!"

The first response to the alternative response scenario is an escalation of the mother shouting tactic. "Do you want me to stop this car?" She asks. This is a stupid question because if she did stop the car, at least that would be something new. When this response fails to elicit a terrified spate of obedience, she issues alternative response scenario first response, part 2, "Don't make me turn this car around!" When this doesn't work, because this tells the children they have the ability to make mom do something and what child can resist that power, we quickly move on to...

The final response scenario: Mom actually stops the car (hey, it works). She gets out, drags the kids out alongside the road and commences to whip them till they squeal, or, more likely, she gets Dad to do it because his arm is stronger. Then everyone gets back in the car and drives on with much snuffling coming from the back seat. The snuffling continues until someone gets bored again, stops snuffling and begins poking someone else and then the cycle repeats.

"Now, of course," you say, secure in the knowledge that Doctor Spock has taught us better parenting skills than that, "Nobody these days would do anything that barbaric."  Yeah? Well I bet I'd win a lot of money on that wager.

What an angry mama looks like!
Now lets look at the progress of civilization juxtaposed against the back seat scenario. The country grows, reaches the limits of its borders and settles down to become more and more crowded. As the frontiers disappear and there are ever fewer new horizons to explore and conquer, the natives settle down and get restless as natives are wont to do when they're all piled cheek by jowl in the back seats that are modern cities.

Someone starts poking someone else. Maybe someone's not being "fair". Someone's picking on or exploiting someone else.  Inevitably, these restless souls appeal to the one entity they perceive as everybody's "Mama" - the bureaucrat-soaked, unimaginative, busy-driving-the-country-into-the-ground-for-its-own-purposes, government.

The government generally reacts in one of two ways just as the Mom driving the car does. Like Mom, the government is busy driving the car or telling the people who are driving the car how to drive it. She does not want to be bothered by the noisy children in the back seat (who are not driving the car).

Rarely, a wise government reacts by finding something for people to do. Whether you liked FDR or not, his Civilian Conservation Corps and Rural Electrification Project at least gave restless unhappy people something to do. President Kennedy, at the beginning of the restless 60s gave us the collective goal of going to the moon which took at least some of the edge off the back seat tantrums that would characterize the next decade. JFK also implemented another keep-them-busy project that at least served to keep people working and to thin out the number of restless young men - the Vietnam conflict. FDR had WWII, Woodrow Wilson had WWI, there was the Spanish-American War, the Mexican War and the War of 1812 to valve off a little steam. The Civil War was an example of what can happen when you delay dealing with problems in the back seat too long. The Great Westward Expansion of the 1800s and the Industrial Revolution kept people busy and relatively quiet back there in the back seat despite the fact that the back seat was often a pretty uncomfortable place to be while it was going on.

Typically, governments react by telling the people to stop being brats (going straight for the alternative response scenario). When ordering folk to stop misbehaving fails as it surely will, they move right along to making empty threats and from there straight on to paddling the miscreants in the grader ditch alongside the car (or in a nice gulag or concentration camp).

Often, the children in the backseat will help insure their own forthcoming flagellation by demanding that the government "do something".  By demanding that the government fix the problem and to do it NOW, the children give tacit assent to the government's assumption of even greater power over them (in the name of doing something about the problem, of course). Government, which firmly believes that you should never let a good crisis go to waste without using it to increase the power of those who hold the reins, passes laws ostensibly to protect the kids in the backseat from themselves. In the process, wherever possible, the folks in power will use the opportunity of creating laws to "protect" us ll, to also make sure that the folks, who are in charge at the moment, remain in charge. After all, who loves you more than your Mama. Certainly not those nasty Republicans. 

When it get's to the "Don't make me turn this car around" stage, you know you're in trouble. In turning the car around, the government takes you out of the public eye and takes you where nobody can see what's being done to you to shut you up and make you behave. Isolation is the prelude to particularly nasty things happening to the kids in the back seat. Examples of these nasty things that happen to naughty children include China's great cultural revolution that resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths, purges of "enemies of the state" under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Adolph Hitler and ethnic cleansing under Slobodan Milosovic, Hitler and Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Every dictator in history came to power believing their job was to bring order to their beloved nation and that order was best achieved by making people compliant. Most of them believed or at least said they believed that they were making things fair for everyone. The started out to make people stop poking each other and ended up in that grader ditch flailing away with the nearest switch they could find because they would not. If the United States winds up a police state in the name of hope and change, remember.....

YOU asked for this!

Disturbing image from a law firm's advertisement

If your government ever comes to believe it's purpose is to make sure the people in the back seat comply with all its orders, we are well and truly in trouble. There is a bit of advice that the old sailing ship captains used to give to their helmsmen (these guys who actually steered the ship).  It applies to how we ought to empower our governments to steer the ship of state. The captain's advice?

"Steer small."

It's not big changes we need, but small course corrections.
We don't need to bring out the lash and start lashing any sailor who complains. We need to choose a course and keep to it. A straight well-plotted course is far more inspiring than one that wanders aimlessly whichever the way the wind blows. Useful work for the sailors to do (or for that matter, the kids in the back seat) keeps both the quarterdeck and the back seat a happy place. You get there by having a government that meddles as little as possible, sets a clear course and allows the children plenty of stuff to keep them busy and content.

Not a terribly progressive idea, I admit.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Galileo Flippeth the Byrd!

Galileo's finger immortalized!
Galileo Galilei, the developer of the modern telescope, the man who proved by observation that the Earth moved around the sun, that Jupiter had moons that orbited around it, that the moon wasn't a smooth sphere and that the sun sometimes got spots on it, spent the last years of his life under house arrest for "vehement heresy" under orders from the Holy Inquisition. He was forced to publicly disavow his own research, promise not to believe what he believed anymore and then to add insult to injury, was even refused burial next to his father in the Basilica of St. Croi, but was instead shunted off to a box in a small room next to the novices' chapel because the Pope didn't want a condemned heretic buried with the decent folk.  

Later after overwhelming corroborative evidence forced the Church to back off it's persecution of Galileo, his body was moved back to the Basilica where a monument was erected in his honor.Now here's where it gets interesting. While moving his body, three fingers of his right hand and a tooth were removed. One of his fingers, ironically the middle finger from Galileo's right hand, wound up on exhibition at the Museo Galileo in Florence, Italy where the venerable scientist's middle finger is displayed raised in what some would say was an appropriate gesture directed at those who persecuted him.

© 2014 by Tom King

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Keeping the Lady's Weapon in Her Holster

Jeanne Robertson tells a story about her husband "Left Brain" going to the grocery store and making a serious mistake. She tells it funny and like every woman alive she remembers every detail of the incident. Like most women she has a photographic memory for every mistake that poor man's ever made in his life complete with date, time, temperature and map coordinates - every detail vividly recorded in such a way that he looks completely stupid. 

Somehow women manage to keep a vast collection of such embarrassing incidents slung somewhere inside their brains in some kind of mental holster where they can whip them out in a split second, whenever they need them to win an argument with their virtually unarmed husbands who have either forgotten any such incidents in which their wives figure prominently or simply dare not retrieve them for fear she might exercise the nuclear option. Married men, you understand. Unmarried men, you don't want to know.

I believe that this asymmetrical distribution of forces between men and women is one of the primary reasons why men like my grandpa, who in their youth were talkative enough fellows, eventually lapse into a laconic quietude as they ages. 

One does what one can to keep Mama's weapons in the holster.

© 2014 by Tom King

Monday, March 10, 2014

Is There a Correlation Between Poverty and Crime

Yes, but it's probably not what you think.

I hear a lot from the liberal left and the libertarian right that there are these malevolent forces in the world who are determined to keep poor people poor. They cite a statistical correlation between high levels of crime in areas where poverty abounds. From this many people assume that poverty causes crime. That exploitation by the evil corporations, the Illuminati, the Jewish bankers or other such nefarious characters are responsible first for poverty and that crime is the result of poverty. I do not hold with this idea.

The only use you can make of poor people for profit is by forcing them into an enslaved condition. We do not allow slavery in this country and still we have poverty, albeit at a much lower rate than in other countries. The correlation between crime and poverty does not necessarily "prove" that poverty causes crime. It is just as likely that crime causes poverty and not the other way round.

I, myself, am currently living well below the poverty line through a series of unfortunate circumstances. Under no circumstances would I steal from someone, assault or kill simply because I can't have everything I want or see that my neighbor has. There are plenty of places I can get food and places and people who would help me if I asked for it. There is honest work available and I am doing my best to live within my reduced means by living a much simpler lifestyle and working hard to overcome my circumstances, but I find that the government programs, which seek to alleviate my poverty, are not very effective at doing that. The government actually tends to limit my ability to rise from poverty - at least that's been my experience.

What I've found is that drug use and crime tend to create poverty all around them. Have you not noticed that criminals in poverty stricken areas tend to prey off the poor and lower middle classes far more than they prey on the wealthy? It's wealthy criminals that prey on the wealthy. The libertarians and liberals keep looking for a villain who is keeping the people down. They are looking in the wrong place. While the wealthy classes do have their own kinds of villains, these people have little to do with keeping poor people down in this country. We keep ourselves down. Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you."  He said that because he understood the roots of poverty. That is not to say poor people are inevitably sinful or that they are guilty of some sin that makes them poor.  It is, rather that sin and crime creates the kinds of fear, discouragement, physical and social devastation that allows poverty to gain a foothold and to catch the innocent within its clutches.

It's useless to try and figure out a "system" that makes everyone good and happy and middle-class. Man-made utopias are a fairy tale. Man has been trying to create them on his own hook ever since The Fall. 

Were we all instead to make an effort to lift each other up and encourage each other to be better people instead of vying for power, claiming we will, if given enough power, use it to create a better world by external force, we might get somewhere toward actually making a better world. To make a better world, we need better people to inhabit it. Change the people and poverty and misery will vanish. 

Trying to stop the sin, degradation and crime which creates poverty and want by feeding the beast, what it heretofore has been stealing and killing for, is like feeding a tapeworm. You only make it bigger and hungrier and give it the power to do even more damage to its host.

One cannot change the world by writing laws upon tablets of stone or upon the pages of books of law. One can only change the world by creating in every man upon this spinning globe, a clean heart, upon which is indelibly written the Golden Rule.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King © 2014

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Twisters and Bullies and Isms, Oh My!

"Woe to him who unjustly gains wealth for his house 
to place his nest on high 
to escape from the reach of disaster." 
Habakkuk 2:9

There is a reason power get's misused. Corrupt people who exploit and steal to accumulate wealth unjustly, need a mechanism by which to protect that wealth and place it out of reach of those from whom they have stolen and who, quite rightly, want some justice.

To many among the exploited, it seems a good thing to create a powerful system which prohibits such behavior and which redistributes ill-gotten gains back to the people from whom it was exploited. This is the raison d’ĂȘtre for political systems like communism and socialism. For that matter, even capitalism in its pure form seeks to control the greedy through free-market trade and equal opportunity. The problem with any of these systems is that they are predicated on the idea that man, through any system can be made perfect, for perfect men are needed to sit in the seats of power in those systems in order to protect the integrity and intent of the system. John Dahlberg, Lord Acton, famously said, however, that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

But power does not always corrupt. Men like George Washington have laid down great power willingly when their task was done, but power does attract the corruptible and so long as it does so, no system, however benign it intends to be, which creates great power as a way to prevent corruption, will long remain uncorrupted. No system that concentrates power in the hands of the few will long be able to accomplish its purpose of protecting the many. C.S. Lewis said this:

  • "What is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behaviour, if we know that, in fact, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self-conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them? I do not mean for a moment that we ought not to think and think hard, about improvements to our social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine unless we realise that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system; but as long as men are twisters or bullies, they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law and without good men you cannot have a good society. (C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity)
The most robust system of justice yet created on Earth has been the constitutional republic created by the founding fathers of the United States. In their wisdom, they placed the decision as to how long those who sat in government above us remain in office in the hands of the people governed. Our system, which decentralizes much power to state and local government that in other nations is concentrated in the central government has remained tough, resilient and prosperous for more than two centuries. Part of that success has been that throughout that time, we have, as a people, also focused on making men good through their association with their Creator.

In essence, America has two systems working in the interest of its people.
The first is its limited government and the second is its faith in God. You will notice that as we have abandoned our faith, our system of government has become more repressive as the corruptible have climbed the ladders of influence to grab the power they need to protect their ill-gotten wealth. The corruptible have always done this.

We would like to end the domination of the men Lord Acton called "the great men", but because we live in a sinful world and sinners are relentlessly self-interested, we fight a battle that is in reality a steady and inevitable retreat. One day, the corruptible will get their hands on so much power that the historical fall and reset of nations will be impossible.

The Second Coming of Christ is not an invasion and occupation of this world; it is a rescue mission. Once it is accomplished and God's influence is entirely removed from this world, all these great men will fall upon one another and, in the attempt to attain ultimate power, the power of the gods that such men have always craved, they will destroy themselves and the planet along with them.

This is why Revelation speaks of a New Earth. This one cannot be entirely saved. The great conceit that we can "save the planet" is a vain hope. Only God can save the planet and He must do so by allowing the infection that has overtaken it to run its course, wipe the planet clean by fire and rebuild it again with the help of men and women who have no lust for power; no need to sit as Lords over their fellows; no reason to destroy themselves ever again.

© 2014 by Tom King

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The 3 Laws and Mom With a Rock

Why stoning was seldom, if ever, used in OT times.
Interesting Bible study this morning: The Old Testament (Torah), apparently offers up three distinct types of law.

(1) Moral Law - The Ten Commandments
(2) Ceremonial Law - The Temple services, ceremonies and feast days
(3) Civil Law - The finer points of law which govern a nation-state as they are interpreted by the moral law.

The moral law represented the absolute moral do's and don't of the Judeo-Christian religion. The ceremonial law was designed to predict and remind worshipers that the deliverer was coming. Finally, the Civil Law was to be the operating system for the new Hebrew Nation. You should remember, though, that the Civil Law was just based on the moral law, but also worked out a working relationship between moral laws and deeply ingrained cultural practices of the time as well. The Civil Law is intended to handle criminal and civil issues not covered directly in the moral ten commandment law. I mean somebody needs to come up with some kind of a civil legal code or the cops won't be able to write parking tickets for people who leave their camels blocking the Temple door or allow them to poop on their neighbors' cabbage patches.

Remember that the Hebrews were coming off 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They weren't really used to all this liberty that God was offering them. The law was designed as a teaching tool to encourage them to be independent, self-actuated independent people. A quick look at the modern nation of Israel will show you how well that worked. The civil law often played justice and mercy off against one another to arrive at a more balanced legal system that might appear at a cold reading might indicate.

Case in Point: There is an Old Testament civil law providing for the stoning of sons and daughters (specifically adult sons and daughters) who disrespected their parents. Pretty brutal, huh?  This law would include all sorts of disrespecting of the parental units including abusing your parents, rendering them homeless, stealing their money, etc.. Along with this law and it's rather grim punishment for conviction, there was a provision for an extended punishment phase of the judicial process. You could only stone a disobedient offspring if you got the final approval of the child's parents. I would imagine that that particular legal requirement made for some pretty dramatic court scenes.

In other words, they could on kill you IF your Mom said it was okay. What kind of sick thing would you have to do to your mommy that would cause her to pick up a rock and bash you with it. The law, by all accounts was rather successful at deterring children from rudely shipping their parents off to Canaanite nursing homes or moving into the house and taking all their money from them. This was a rather brilliant interpretation of the fifth commandment by civil law. The consequence of this law was that there was not one single recorded case in Scripture of a son or daughter being stoned for lipping off at their mums.

This proves the adage that the best sort of law is one whose penalties need never be enforced. Wouldn't it be lovely if, instead of writing 2000 pages of laws on how close you are allowed to build your garden fence to the street curb, we put a lot more effort into making our laws simpler and wiser?

Just one man's opinion,

© 2014 by Tom King

Monday, March 03, 2014

I'm in Trouble Again - and So's the Dog!

What did I do?

I decided to be honest and speak my mind. The second part was where things went wrong.I live with my lovely wife, just the two of us for the first time in our lives in a carriage house apartment in Puyallup, Washington in the midst of a cottonwood swamp with ducks, deer and a plague of angry squirrels. The dog loves it. The wife's got a little cabin fever going. She's decided that she therefore needs to clean every square inch of the house at least once or twice a day. Okay that's an exageration. It's twice or three times a week, but every day she sets these impossible goals for herself.

Her health is poor, but she has a terrible fear that she's going to not be able to clean her house anymore and she has the great misfortune of living with two impossibly filthy creatures - me and the dog! It gets a little hot in the afternoon when she realizes she's in pain and her daily cleaning goals have not been met.

Daisy (right) with the amorous Sheltie who
runs loose in the neighborhood and follows
us on our walk hoping to get lucky
(not likely since Daisy's trip to the vet).
So the dog and I go for a walk with some of the neighborhood strays (Left), because it's just better not to hang around and say stupid things like, "Why don't you sit down and rest for awhile?" To a clean freak such a suggestion is insulting.  And you NEVER insult a clean freak in the midst of her freaking.

When we got back I washed the dog down before I went back to work. My Sweet Baboo has a basket full of towels and washcloths by the kitchen door. My job is to wash every crevice of the dog's feet, legs and to remove all dirt from the dog's fir. Finally, I have to wash her butt with warm soapy water. The love of my life, when she's in a manic cleaning phase is pretty certain that I do not do these things adequately because I apparently do not care about the cleanliness of the house.

So I missed a patch of dirt on the dog's belly when we came in and she carried it into the bedroom and left a smudge on the carpet beside the bed when she laid down. I thus confirmed Mrs. King's low opinion of my attitude toward cleanliness. I scrubbed up the spot, vacuumed everywhere the dog had been and apologized, pointing out, quite correctly, that I did not skip the dirty spot on purpose.

Daisy and I are now sitting in the corner thinking about what we have done.

© 2014 by Tom King