Daylight Scammings Time

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Crazy time! I miss my backwards Bullwinkle clock.

Those of you unfortunates in the rest of the USA lost an hour today. We in Arizona (and Hawaii; our fellow holdout Indiana succumbed to the Borg a few years back) do not practice such nonsense. The idea was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin, though it was a moot point since official time zones had not been established. It came into common usage in Germany during World War I with the rationale of saving coal by promoting energy savings. Daylight Savings Time is the archetypal grand government scheme in that its proponents exaggerate benefits and ignore negative external costs. If it’s such a great idea, private businesses are free to adopt summer hours on their own initiative. There’s no need for coercive standardization.

The original benefits touted for DST were energy savings. By adjusting the hours most people were awake, it would supposedly require less use energy usage. Wikipedia’s article on DST reports several studies in which energy savings were predicted, but subsequent follow-ups showed little to no benefits. In fact, when Indiana adopted DST in 2006, energy consumption actually increased due to greater use of air conditioning in the summer evening hours.

The other alleged benefit of DST is that people can enjoy more time after-work outdoor activities in the summer. Here in Arizona, this is a drawback. Due to the high temperatures, we welcome the sunset. (A few years back, our august legislature proposed reverse DST. Ugh!) Again, private businesses are free to adopt summer hours. Government offices could do so as well. However, with increasing air pollution and traffic congestion, communities would benefit far more from staggered work schedules, which would render the whole issue moot.

Now for the widely ignored downside: DST has a significant detrimental effect on health. Days on which the clock shift see a 10% increase in heart attacks (also from Wikipedia.) Its effect on global business is a nightmare because the many nations who observe “summer time” tend to shift their clocks on different days, making time coordination more baffling than a backwards Bullwinkleclock. For example, Mexico adopted DST as a result of NAFTA (so-called “trade pacts” have little to do with reducing tariffs and everything to do with the centralization of authority) even though, as a sub-tropical nation, it sees little benefit. It’s interesting to note that Mexico changes its clocks on different days than the US, meaning this “standardization” simply increases confusion.

Daylight savings time is a scam that offers our citizens little or no benefit at a significant cost. If we’re going to eliminate grand government schemes this would be a good place to start, since its repeal wouldn’t bankrupt any companies or start any rebellions. President Trump, gadfly that he is, should consider this move as a less controversial way to benefit America.

The wise Victorians didn’t observe DST. Escape to a simpler time with my steampunk novels Fidelio’s Automata and Miss Ione D and the Mayan Marvel.

 

Liberty and its Discontents

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Lady Liberty, Photo from Wikipedia

For many years, we libertarians studied, wrote and theorized in the shadows. We believed with a religious zeal in the benefits of liberty and a laissez-faire economy. The Libertarian Party’s motto says it best: “Working for freedom because freedom works.” Though we continued to be marginalized as a movement, our efforts began to pay off. Starting in the Reagan era, many of those in power began to take our ideas seriously, or so it seemed. Four libertarian principles – deregulation, privatization, free trade, and open borders – have become economic and political orthodoxy.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” In other words, we should have been suspicious of our rulers’ good intentions. Politicians and bureaucrats are not inclined to surrender money and authority without a personal benefit. In this case, it was the monetary support of billionaires and multi-national corporations. As their elite-centric policies have borne their rotten fruit, we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of defending our ideas on multiple fronts, from progressives, populists and even the Alt-Right.

Though we still believe in freedom, the issues are more complicated than they once appeared. The recent relaxations and abolitions of laws and regulations happened to apply mainly to the rich and powerful. Yes, freedom is an end in itself, but it is not always beneficial when enacted unevenly or unfairly.

Take for example deregulation. The Enron scandal occurred partly as a result of the government’s deregulation of energy distributors but not energy producers, allowing the company to reap massive profits. Even more disastrous was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act during the Clinton administration. This allowed banks to move into risky derivative markets, while still insured by the taxpayer, creating a moral hazard that caused the financial crash of 2008.

Privatization, too, has had its share of disasters. Privately owned prisons are another source of perverse incentives. Rather than simply providing a cost-effective alternative for the incarceration of dangerous criminals, these corporations made contracts with governments specifying minimum “occupancy” levels, which indirectly led to a vast expansion in the US prison population. The “Affordable” Care Act, too, was conceived as a “free market” alternative to a single-payer health care system like the one in Canada. Markets do not work well with compulsion, and the Obamacare “mandate” allowed insurers to raise rates and deductibles dramatically for their captive consumers.

Perhaps the worst example of privatization gone awry occurred after the fall of the Soviet Union. Led astray by Western “experts,” Russian officials privatized their nation’s industries, granting shares to every citizen. This happened simultaneously with massive unemployment and the gutting of Russia’s social safety net. In order to avoid starvation, citizens were forced to sell their shares to foreign investors who proceeded to strip-mine Russian industries. This is why the Russian people love Putin because his government put a stop to this madness.

As for “free trade,” when the elitists use the term, it means more than eliminating tariff barriers. Trace organizations like the European Union create a huge unelected supranational bureaucracy, which is accountable only to large corporations and the wealthy. Newer trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would create special courts in which corporations could sue to have national laws and regulations changed for their benefit. If this wasn’t insidious, why were the terms of the TPP kept secret even from Congress?

Despite its benefits of efficiency and closer international relations, free trade has the downside of promoting the outsourcing of jobs and industries from high-wage to low-wage countries. Instead of using tax policy to mitigate these problems, the US government actually incentivized the practice, ravaging the American middle class and bankrupting the heartland. It was this problem, not the rise of minorities, that made the so-called “deplorables” so furious.

At the moment, the biggest issue in both America and Europe is immigration, with illegals and refugees causing anger in the native population. Though libertarians have traditionally favored immigration as a component of individual freedom, we find the double standard infuriating. Why does one group get to flout Federal law, when a citizen doing something comparably illegal would end up in a private prison? Even worse is the uncontrolled Islamic invasion of Europe. These so-called refugees receive taxpayer support and special legal privileges. Rather than expecting the newcomers to assimilate, European governments demand that their citizens accommodate the newcomers’ primitive, misogynist culture. This insanity is what turned me away from my life-long “open borders” advocacy.

Can the philosophy of freedom survive? Some of us libertarians have turned to populism and the Alt Right and supported President Trump as a lesser evil, even though many of his policies are authoritarian in nature. Yet the fact that the entire Establishment opposes him is a mark in his favor. As for the Libertarian Party, if it is to continue, it needs to pick a standard-bearer who isn’t a single-issue (legal weed) know-nothing like Gary Johnson. Speaking of weed, could there be something behind the marijuana movement besides the desire for increased tax revenues? Perhaps the Elite once again have something sinister up their sleeves.

 

Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes, V for Vendetta, and Anonymous

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Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes Day, a British holiday which commemorates the foiling in 1605 of an anti-royalist conspiracy to blow up the House of Lords. Traditionally, it was celebrated with bonfires and burning effigies of the treasonous Fawkes. It’s ironic that the image of this historical villain has been transformed into a heroic symbol of anarchism and the liberty movement.

This is because in V for Vendetta, the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, the anti-government protagonist wears a Fawkes mask to hide his identity. This work and its popular movie adaptation led the hacker group “Anonymous” to adopt the Fawkes mask as its symbol. In a case of life imitating art, they have staged protests with masked members, just like in the movie. This brings up the question of extralegal political action. When is it justified and in what fashion?

On one end of the spectrum, we have violence against people, including political assassination. While this may be justified in the case of a Hitler or Stalin, it is almost always counter-productive. As the Who put it, the “new boss” will be “same as the old boss.” Terroristic and retaliatory violence is similarly flawed. If an organization is willing to sacrifice innocents in order to gain power, how will it behave after the battle is won? If we expect them to change, we will surely be disappointed.

At the other end are peaceful protests, including the non-violent civil disobedience advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Such tactics are more likely to achieve lasting change, but they may require members of the movement to sacrifice their freedom or even their lives. Furthermore, nonviolence is less effective against authoritarian governments, which is why Iran’s “Green Movement” did not achieve its goals.

In the middle, we have destructive but non-violent action, such as sabotage, computer hacking, and release of secrets. This may be the only option when peaceful and legal channels are blocked. In the US, the release of state documents by Wikileaks has done tremendous good in revealing the machinations of the power elite. Cyber-attacks against institutions that kill innocents and violate our privacy, such as the CIA and NSA, would also be morally justified. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that hackers could win those battles. This is why the rebels have focused on easier targets such as corrupt politicians and thieving bankers.

I believe that extralegal action is sometimes necessary, even in a “free country” such as ours, because democratic systems are prone to capture and manipulation by the rich and powerful. Those who participate in such actions must be aware of the risk. Consider, for example, the steep price Chelsea Manning is paying for blowing the whistle on US atrocities in Iraq. Violent actions, such as Fawkes’ “Gunpowder Plot” are not just wrong, they are damaging to any positive goals one might have.

If you’re a “V for Vendetta” fan, you’ll love my books. Check them out on Amazon.

Image is from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_%28group%29

GAVIN MCINNES AND THE MENACE OF STRAIGHT WHITE MALES

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Photo: Gavin McInnes at Super Deluxe’s Make Funny Not War event at SXSW 2008, by Matthew Schuler.

In my recent article on the Alt-Right, I tried to be as inclusive as possible. It’s a broad movement of dissident conservatives and libertarians, not just a bunch of neo-Nazi skinheads as Hillary portrays us. I admit that there are those within the movement who say “you’re not Alt-Right unless…” for example, you must support a white-majority America. Sorry, guys, but on the Internet, there are no gatekeepers. Nobody has the right to determine what the Alt-Right is or isn’t.

While we’re on that topic, one person I accidentally omitted from my list was the co-founder of Vice Magazine, Canadian-expat punk rocker and comedian Gavin McInnes. He considers himself to be an anarchist rather than Alt-Right (I myself am both of those things) but people place him there on the spectrum because of his edgy, anti-PC humor.

McInnes is a favorite of mine. Being by nature a Midwestern nicey-nice, I find offensive humor particularly hilarious. I don’t care whether it’s Howard Stern picking on Baba Booey, Parker and Stone mocking Mormonism, Triumph insulting nerds, or the Wayans Brothers goofing on everybody. McInnes, like Donald Trump, is crude, crass and tells it like he sees it.

While doing on-line research on McInnes for this article, I was surprised by the amount of venom and hatred people have for the man. There were dozens of spiteful screeds by Social Justice Warriors gloating about the fact that he had been booted from his position at the Rooster Ad Agency because of a particularly offensive article he’d posted on August 12th. What could he have said to finally cross the line?

You may not be aware of this, but in the Bizarro universe of Social Justice, there is a pecking order of official victims. That’s why Jesse Jackson could refer to NYC as Hymietown and not get drummed out of polite society, while Eddie Murphy caught hell for making an AIDS joke. It turned out that the uber-powerful group McInnes had offended was transsexuals. Thinking back to this year’s heated bathroom controversies, I realized that the “T” in LGBT was now at the top of the victim pyramid.

Disclosure and disclaimer: in my participation in the “Out Loud” theater group sponsored by Phoenix Pride, I’ve become acquainted with several transsexuals, and I’ve become quite sympathetic to their condition. One of the pieces we staged was a very moving poem about a drag queen who becomes a real woman only in the afterworld. Though I couldn’t care less what strangers think of me, I don’t wish to offend anyone I consider to be a friend. I hope that if any of them read this, they don’t interpret it as a personal attack.

McInnes’ article, “Transphobia is Perfectly Natural,” appeared on a website called Thought Catalog. In response to numerous complaints, they took the article down, replacing it with a scathing critique. As a libertarian, I believe that it’s their right to do so. But the name Thought Catalog implies impartiality. It’s all well and good to preface the article with a “content warning,” and to include an opposing view. But I’m a grown-up and this is not Iran or China. Don’t tell me what I can and can’t read, assholes.

By this point, I had to read this uber-offensive article. I found a repost of it here. As I expected, there’s plenty of crude, graphic language. McInnes sees transsexualism as a form of mental illness and deplores how progressives support them mutilating themselves in a futile quest for happiness. He adds that he doesn’t know any transsexuals over 40 because they so frequently commit suicide. The politically correct rejoinder would be that they do so because of the cruel intolerance of society, which is why meanies like McInnes must be silenced. I imagine that this evil article alone probably caused seven or eight troubled teens to kill themselves.

Pardon my obvious sarcasm, but McInnes has the right to speak his mind, and he’s not responsible for anyone’s self-hatred. Remaking society is a fruitless task. Rather than demanding that some authority figure make the bad man stop, it’s a million times more effective to support LGBT groups who provide counseling services. I know from personal experience that basing your self-worth on other peoples’ approval is a mistake; you have to accept yourself first.

Speaking of psychology, the banned article seems like a bit of a confession on McInnes’ part. He is quite frank about the discomfort the idea of gender surgery causes him, a squeamishness that I share. Yes, people own their own bodies and I believe they should be free to do whatever they want with them, up to and including suicide. But the thought of amputating healthy tissue gives me the creeps. Heck, I’m even opposed to circumcision.

Like McInnes, I worry about transsexuals’ mental health. In this PC atmosphere which glorifies gender reassignment surgery, some people may see it as a magical cure for their unhappiness. What happens if the happiness doesn’t come, and they’re left with only regret? For some people, the transition may be an irreversible mistake.

In summary, I think McInnes sincerely believes what he’s saying, and that he says it out of genuine concern for the transgender community. Just be gay, he urges; you don’t need to mutilate yourselves. You may accuse him of being ignorant and projecting his hangups on people who really, really want to change their sex. But if would be wrong to call him a hater, and you can’t blame him for anybody’s self-destructive behavior.

The Alt-Right is Alright!

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Some of my favorite Alt-Right villains: Vox Day’s Vile Faceless Minions

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” – Barry Goldwater

Hillary Clinton is at it again, smearing Donald Trump and those who support him as racist extremists who shouldn’t be taken seriously. The Alternative Right, or Alt-Right, is a hotbed of Trump support and thus suspect. It’s important that, rather than taking Clinton’s extremely partisan word for it, we take a look at these so-called Alt-Right-wingers and what they really stand for.

The Alt Right are a loose collection of pundits, bloggers, and activists, mostly former conservatives or libertarians, who have “come out of the closet” with their true politically incorrect opinions. As the “social justice” leftists who dominate the media continue to restrict the range of acceptable thought, many Alt-Rightists believe they must speak out now, lest the “hate speech” police silence them forever.

The Alt Right exists because mainstream conservatives – whom they hilariously call “cuckservatives” – have given up the battle and surrendered to the “social justice” warriors without a struggle. They’ve caved on every significant issue from the Rebel flag to unisex bathrooms.

Alt Rightists refuse to parrot the “social justice” nonsense that polite society espouses. They include such figures as immigration patriot Pat Buchanan, #Gamergate figure Vox Day, human biodiversity guru Steve Sailer, gay free-speech activist Milo Yiannopolous, and South African expat Ilana Mercer. These people speak out for truths that should be self-evident  but are now deemed heretical. Below are ten examples of unspeakable Alt Right truths.

  • Campus “rape culture” is a myth propagated by angry anti-male feminists.
  • There are only two sexes, and wanting to be something one is not doesn’t make it so.
  • So-called “white privilege” ended fifty years ago and is not a valid excuse for anyone’s personal troubles.
  • Islam is not a “religion of peace” or tolerance; the proof is in the Koran itself.
  • Western civilization is the current peak of human accomplishment and is well worth defending.
  • The USA has no “responsibility to protect,” help, or democratize people in other countries, only to leave them alone.
  • Traditional gender roles exist because men and women are different, with different priorities, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Diversity is not “our strength,” it’s irrelevant at best, and the mindless pursuit of it leads to arbitrary, divisive quotas.
  • Immigration to the USA is a privilege, and we Americans have the right to choose whom we will welcome.
  • White middle-class voters are not angry about the rise of minorities, but because government and big business have stolen their savings and shipped the best jobs overseas.

My personal theory as an Alt Right sympathizer is that the “one percent” have endorsed political correctness because it’s an effective way to divide the rest of us into warring camps. Fussing about unisex bathrooms and gay wedding cakes diverts our attention from the good hard screwing we’re getting from the IRS, the banks, and the insurance companies. That’s why the progressive media is so hysterical about Donald Trump. I don’t agree with everything he advocates, but his opposition to corporate-sponsored trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP are in my opinion, sufficient reason to support him.

I’ll end this with a surprising note. I’m going to thank Hillary Clinton for her “Alt Right is evil” speech. Any publicity she gives to the movement, even hysterical criticism, will help make it stronger in the end.

P.S. I just heard Hillary say that Trump would abolish the “bedrock Constitutional principle” that makes the children of illegals born in America into citizens, A.K.A. “anchor babies.” I say, what other nation tolerates this kind of nonsense? Go Trump!

 

My 2016 Election Predictions

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Above image from patheos.com

Most of the 11 or so people who follow my blogs and my Facebook author page are probably aware of my bias on the upcoming elections. After really pissing off some old friends with my recent post bashing Gold Star dad Khizr Khan for his work on behalf of the terrorist state of Saudi Arabia, I’ve decided to quit pussyfooting around and make my unvarnished opinions public. After that, I plan to take up Zen meditation and only blog about things which I can spin in a positive way, unless of course, the sky turns out to be actually falling. Submitted for your approval below are my predictions and odds for the four, yes four, major candidates.

Hillary Clinton
Best case: Clinton’s reign is a continuation of the Obama administration, with the US muddling along through a stagnant economy, botched foreign interventions, and increasingly stifling political correctness. Congress manages to nip the worst of the Clinton agenda in the bud. She does manage to appoint a totally unqualified transgender lawyer as Attorney General. Social justice warriors blame whites and Republicans for “lack of progress” and incite fierce riots in the inner cities.
Worst case: Clinton is the “fall gal” for the Evil Globalist Agenda, which I believe is this: America’s individualist culture must be destroyed. Christian, conservative, and libertarian websites are shut down by “hate speech” laws ratified by a progressive-dominate Supremed Court. The Draft is renewed for men AND women, to provide cannon fodder for the US invasions of Syria and Iran. Local police are forced to carry out door-to-door confiscation of private firearms, which provokes open rebellion and the secession of ten states. Vladimir Putin, furious with the admission of Ukraine to NATO and the US carpet-bombing of the Russian-speaking rebel areas, threatens nuclear war.
Odds of winning: Despite being ahead in the jury-rigged polls publicized by the media, Clinton is despised by half of the population, so I’ll say 50%.
Personal stake: I would vote for Satan Himself before voting for Hillary.

Donald Trump
Best case: Trump becomes the American Putin (who is viewed by the Russian people not as a dictator but a national savior.) He takes down Wall Street, arrests corrupt bankers, and breaks up the big banks and health insurance monopolies. He withdraws from NATO and NAFTA and scuttles the TPP. Congress blocks the building of the  border wall, so Trump instead promotes a constitutional amendment banning government benefits for illegals and ending “birthright citizenship” for their kids. It passes, causing millions of them to self-deport. The economy briefly tanks but then begins to recover. On the downside, Trump finds legal ways to arrest his most vocal critics. The inner cities experience devastating riots as welfare benefits are cut, and most large cities are put under martial law.
Worst case: Trump’s administration is like that of Arizona’s Sheriff Arpaio, presenting a “get tough” image with little substance. Congress blocks Trump’s most radical reforms and begins impeachment proceedings within the first 90 days. Trump’s executive order repealing Obamacare leaves nothing in its place and millions are left without coverage of any kind. Several liberal coastal states threaten to secede. Trump negates the Iran nuclear deal, causing the frustrated mullahs to start an actual nuclear weapons program (as opposed to the current one, which exists only in the minds of the neocons.)
Odds of winning: Despite also being despised by half of the population, Trump’s supporters are better at getting out the vote, so I’ll say 55%.
Personal stake: I will hold my nose and vote for Trump if there appears to be any chance that Lucifer, I mean Hillary, could win my home state. By the way, that’s very doubtful.

Gary Johnson
Best case: The allegedly libertarian Johnson wins as a Congressional compromise after a deadlocked electoral college. As President, Johnson muddles along like Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford, managing to enact modest cuts in entitlements and military spending. The economy grows, albeit very slowly. Johnson’s biggest success is to replace Obamacare with a voucher system and repeal laws that prevent health care competition, giving the public much-needed relief from astronomical health insurance premiums.
Worst case: Same as the above, except that Johnson’s weak-minded cuts to government engender fierce opposition from “entitled” public dependents as well as conservatives frustrated by a lack of progress. With his approval ratings at rock bottom, Johnson’s firing of mutinous neoconservative generals causes the first successful military coup in US history.
Odds of winning: Believe it or not, I think the above scenario has an actual chance as the Establishment desperately tries to prevent Trump from winning, especially if Clinton’s legal situation worsens. The Republican-controlled Congress is likely to see any former Republican governor, even a proponent of legalized weed like Johnson, as the least evil outcome. I’ll say 5%.
Personal stake: If Ebeneezer Scrooge, oops I mean Trump, appears to have Arizona sewed up, I will hold my nose and vote for this very un-libertarian libertarian to maximize Johnson’s popular vote totals in the event of the above scenario.

Jill Stein
Best case: Stein extricates the US from all foreign conflicts and cuts contributions to NATO, balancing them with increased funding for the UN. Her plan to replace Obamacare with a single-payer system is blocked by Congress, as are most of her socialistic economic reforms. She does manage to allocate savings from military cuts to enact Medicare coverage for otherwise un-insurable citizens, thus taking most of the pressure off the failing health care exchanges. Stein becomes wildly popular with her partisans, who blame Republicans for blocking her agenda. Middle Americans, relieved at the economy’s continued slow recovery, ignore the ubiquitous SJW-inspired protests.
Worst case: Same as above, except that much of Stein’s socialist agenda is enacted as law. Her programs for free universal medical care and college education cause the US to spend its way into hyperinflation and eventual national bankruptcy. Stein presides over a disaster comparable to Maduro’s Venezuela.
Odds of winning: Zero. The major media will work overtime to marginalize Stein, as they believe (correctly) that she will take votes from Clinton.
Personal Stake: I will vote for Stein if and only if Trump and Johnson drop out and she is the only alternative to Mephistopheles, I mean Clinton.

Disclaimer: The above article is satire and I don’t actually believe that Clinton is Beelzebub. Besides, it’s my understanding that Hell is equipped with an impenetrable Glass Ceiling.

Note: You may have noticed that the percentages do not total up to 100. There’s a simple explanation for this. President Obama has declared that all Americans must give 110% toward our nation’s economic recovery.

Denialism: Conspiracy’s Rabbit Hole

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Above: the classic illustration by John Tenniel from Alice in Wonderland.

The word denial conjures up many images in our minds. Besides its association with Twelve Step philosophy, which is not the subject of this article, it usually refers to the refusal to believe in certain events or phenomena, such as the Holocaust or climate change. The latter is not my subject either, as it refers primarily to the future. I am talking about the delusional rabbit hole of historical denialism, of which Holocaust denial is just one example.

Although I agree that Holocaust denial is offensive, I oppose all laws that criminalize such speech. It’s better to counter a lie with truth, rather than to censor speech, which the crazies will spin as proof of the “worldwide Jewish conspiracy.” Holocaust denial is wrong, and not just for its anti-semitic implications. Hitler’s regime also murdered gypsies, gays, and the handicapped by the millions. Denial is cruel because it is because it fails to recognize the suffering and death of the victims, and marks the survivors as liars, adding insult to injury.

Here in America, denialism was a fringe form of lunacy until after 9/11. Then, along with the more mainstream conspiracy theories about possible government foreknowledge of the attacks, there were rumors that the passengers of some or all of the doomed planes didn’t die. Supposedly they were whisked away an unknown location. Or perhaps the planes themselves were holograms, projected on the Twin Towers to draw attention away from the explosives planted within.

These ideas were so loopy, they didn’t get much traction, but they gave support to politicians who claimed the 9/11 Truth Movement was disrespectful to the families of the victims. This claim is, of course, false, since it was victims’ families who pushed the government into doing an investigation. Truthers do not deny the attacks happened. Rather, they question the official story, which has some pretty improbable elements of its own. See James Corbett’s brilliant short video, “911, a Conspiracy Theory.

Denialism reared its ugly head again after the Sandy Hook school shootings. People began claiming that the whole event had been faked by the government as an excuse to carry out gun confiscation. Not only is this argument delusional, it is needlessly cruel to the parents of the victims. Furthermore, it gives the false impression that Second Amendment advocates have no valid arguments against gun control.

What about the possible role of psychiatric medications, which have been a factor in so many recent mass shootings? The media, which receives millions in advertising revenue from pharmaceutical companies, is loath to raise this issue. By embracing the lunatic notion of denial, Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists let them off the hook. Another interesting story says that the shooter, Adam Lanza, was diagnosed at Yale University as “profoundly autistic” with “isolationist and anti-social tendencies.” This begs the question of whether Lanza’s mother, knowing that her son was mentally ill, was irresponsible to keep guns in her home. These are difficult questions, not cut and dried like the mindless claim that “it didn’t happen.”

More recently, I’ve heard these same denialist notions raised in relation to the mass murders at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. “Where were the bodies?” say the on-line trolls. There’s a simple explanation for this: the media holds back pictures of victims, out of respect for the feelings of the families. Again, the allegations of fakery side-step more important issues. Was the shooter, Omar Mateen, taking psychiatric drugs? Why did the FBI, who interviewed him twice about extremist statements, conclude he was harmless? Did his parents’ Islamist ideology cause him to attack fellow gays out of self-hatred?

The problems with the denialist mindset are not just cruelty and misdirection from real issues. It’s irrational as well. Occam’s razor states that the simplest explanation is usually the best. Yet elaborate theories about events being faked are much more complex than the more straightforward conclusion that “it happened, let’s find out why.”

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of denialist theories is that they deny evil. Are we to believe that Hitler, a brutal dictator who invaded his neighbors without provocation, was actually a nice guy who would shrink from mass murder? Were the 9/11 terrorists (or the US government, take your pick) too ethical to kill four plane loads of people? Was Adam Lanza just a mixed-up kid set up as a patsy? Was Omar Mateen the innocent victim of Islamophobic prejudice? None of these alternate explanations make any sense. If the powers behind these conspiracies are so bad, why stop at deception? Any government that has ever gone to war has killed civilians or allowed innocents to die for the cause. Furthermore, companies have knowingly put out dangerous products that have killed people. Could the irrational theories of denial be the work of trolls and their innocent dupes, to make conspiracy theorists look foolish, or to draw attention away from the holes in the official stories of these tragedies?

Denialism is not just cruel to the victims of the denied events, it’s foolish and counter-productive of the denialists’ professed anti-government ideology. As always, truth is the answer, not censorship. Those of us who research conspiracy theories must expose these denialist narratives as the toxic nonsense they are. The rest of the public, who may not agree with our interpretations of recent history, must understand that these people do not represent us. As always, the events in question are far more complex than they appear.

And now, a serious candidate for president.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

Triumph for Top Dog

Here in the US, the 2016 election cycle has been plagued by cynicism, as all the candidates for the Highest Office in the Land seem to be puppets of special interests. The only (possible) exception is Donald Trump, whose obnoxious pronouncements have offended half the nation and made him insanely popular with the other half. What this country needs is a combination of the two, someone who is both a puppet AND obnoxious.

Announcing the Puppet Party nominee for President in 2016, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog! He will go the existing candidates one better, in that he (a) is not just metaphorically but literally a puppet, and (b) is at least as offensive as Trump if not more so. His name even sounds a bit like Trump, which, if the Donald succeeds in getting the Republican nomination, may garner him millions of ballots through voter confusion.

A President Triumph would be a dogged, no-nonsense, take-charge kind of guy. Instead of wasting his time hob-nobbing with the high and mighty, the Puppet in Chief would give them what they deserve by urinating on them. Triumph would, of course, make an exception for female politicians, such as former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who would instead receive a furious leg-humping.

Selecting a dog for president would also serve the interests of diversity as American’s first non-human President. It would also be a symbolic “bite me” to the world’s dog-despising Muslim theocracies such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. In the troubled Middle East, Triumph’s strategy would be “I poop on ISIS!”

Miss Piggy

Miss Piggy: #2 is #1 plus one!

And speaking of diversity, the Puppet Party’s nominee for Vice President is that indomitable Muppet, Miss Piggy. Unlike Joe Biden, this porcine feminist would not suffer being the “butt” of jokes about vice-presidential ineffectiveness. A few well-placed karate kicks would ensure that the White House Press Corps would grant her the respect she deserves. Piggy’s number two position would also serve to deter terrorist attacks on President Triumph, as no self-respecting Muslim would want to see a female swine with her pudgy finger on the nuclear button.

As a long-time Libertarian activist, I’m accustomed to hearing the argument that a third-party vote is wasted. However, this ticket is sure to Triumph!

Vote Puppet Party, Triumph & Piggy 2016!

Complicating the Obvious: An Engineer Responds

mad_scientist

The mad scientist persona on my Facebook author page (shown above) is somewhat appropriate because, besides being a full-time radical malcontent, my “day job” is an an engineer. A recent article by Thomas Sowell  prompted me to respond from an engineer’s perspective.

I’m a great admirer of Mr. Sowell; he’s a brilliant thinker and a great writer. To be a black conservative in this country takes a special kind of courage, and he was on the right before it was fashionable. His recent article, which appeared on January 5th on numerous websites, about the deficiencies in modern product engineering.

In general, I agree with his comments. Many if not most electronic products are over-complicated. In my defense, it’s not just a software problem. Even the labels on an over-the-counter medicine bottles are too complex. The critical information on dosage and frequency is lost in a thousand words of fine-print warnings and disclosures. Why should I have to dig out my reading glasses to find out how long I can go between doses? A similar issue applies to appliance manuals. They’re printed in three to ten languages with at least a dozen pages of warnings that no one but an imbecile should need. I’m not sure it’s due to government or to multi-cultural correctness, but this so-called “internationalization” is the impetus behind the babel of languages and the widespread use of non-textual hieroglyphic’s that Sowell detests so much.

Safety regulations make for some especially idiotic designs. You can’t buy a simple gasoline container any more, there are locks on the caps and baffles in the spout. Environmental rules can be even worse. A few months ago, when Arlys and I bought a new washing machine, we discovered that government “water conservation” regulations had rendered it almost unusable. You’re no longer allowed to choose your own water level. The machine figures that out, adding time to the cycle, and if it screws up, your clothes don’t get clean. We returned the new machine and had our old one repaired.

Though government is, as usual, our biggest nemesis, it’s not our only one. One of my mantras as a software engineer has been that a properly designed interface should be so intuitive that it shouldn’t require one. Sadly, that seldom happens. Creating a good interface costs money, something the folks in accounting don’t always appreciate. Being tangible, the hardware usually gets more attention. Yet it’s a mistake to neglect the software to save a few bucks. Ease of use can make or break a product.

Another temptation for manufacturers is to save design effort by relying on the Internet. Even if the product’s interface is too difficult for the average person to figure out, some 15-year old genius will do it, and publish how-to instructions on You-tube for free. Though streaming video is a powerful tool, I really don’t want to watch a 20-minute video by some pimply faced kid so I can work my toaster. We should save that option for more complicated products, like the cell phones Sowell complains about.

Though corporate stinginess is a problem, it’s also possible to make a bad interface by going overboard on the design. One company that puts a lot of resources into the interface design is Apple, which explains the popularity of its products. At the very least, they’re pretty, but that doesn’t guarantee ease of use. The philosophy of simplicity for its own sake can sacrifice usability. (Why a one-button mouse?) For the product to look slim and elegant in the ad is everything. In particular, the ability to repair, maintain or upgrade Apple devices (consider the I-Phone’s non-removable battery) goes out the window.

By the way, I share Sowell’s frustration with needlessly complex cell phone interfaces. Perhaps if the author gig doesn’t work out I’ll create my own Android distribution, and it will actually make sense. Any suggestions?

 

My Arcane and Esoteric Predictions for 2016

Hourglass

Everyone likes to start the new year with a bunch of optimistic forecasts but this is not that year. I have three:

  1. Donald Trump will not be President. At the rate he’s going, he could legitimately be elected, but the powers that be won’t tolerate a loose cannon like him in the White House. Not that presidents have all that much authority, anyway, but the elites need to maintain at least the facade of democracy.
  2. There will be no economic recovery. Nothing has changed since 2007. The bad actors weren’t punished, and the big banks weren’t allowed to fail. The economy needs a reset; we need to repudiate government debt, ax laws and regulations, and close our expensive and unnecessary overseas military bases. Until that happens, things won’t get better.
  3. We can expect civil unrest to expand beyond the inner cities. The American “Deep State” is a big believer in “divide and conquer” which is why they’ve pursued chaos in Ukraine and Syria. Lately I’ve suspected they want to try it here. If they can get the majority to riot, they’ve got an excuse for repression, and maybe even for repudiating some of the aforementioned debt. Consider the offenses to Christians, conservatives and Southerners: gay marriage by judicial fiat, making transsexuals a protected class, denigrating the rebel flag and destroying Confederate monuments. I’m not saying I share their outrage but I’m baffled that we haven’t seen more push-back. The clincher would be (a) forcing us to accept massive numbers of Muslim refugees, and expecting us to accommodate their prejudices, as Germany and Sweden have done, or (b) gun confiscation. This is especially likely if Hillary is elected President. The elite can make her play the bad guy, then follow up with impeachment and prosecution for her criminal past. Of course, whatever outrages she imposes upon us will stand even after she is gone. Read Machiavelli, it’s in “The Prince.”

There you have it. I hope I’m wrong. If I’m right, you all owe me a beer – if our new Muslim overlords will allow it.