Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,

December 10th, 2017

Dec. 11, 2017

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

Aside from inflation, I’m glad I didn’t live in earlier Ages. I am like that old man. And I don’t even have a decent hat to beg with. But that song brings up thoughts of olden times and very pleasant Christmas’s charity, kindness, and forgiveness.

Memes from earlier ages are the base for charity, social justice, and social welfare in the Modern Age.  Personally, I think it would be better to give social security to everyone rather than just the old and disabled. In real ways we all are disabled. We are rich enough to do this. It would automatically make every family middle-class. It would still be charity, but the sting of dependence and the nasty side effects would lessen.

Be this as it may I do want to wish all my readers a great Christmas holiday and a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President, Hawkhill

P.S. For the curious looking for a last-minute gift for people who have everything but who care and want to know more about my life-long journey through the idea swamp, from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian. I suggest buy, give, and read yourself one of my recent books (very cheap and, in my humble opinion, good reads)—Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs. Or view some revolutionary ideas on science and society now streamed free on YouTube.

Violence

November 26th, 2017

Nov. 27, 2017

Jane and I watched the HBO series The Pacific two weeks ago.  Produced by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it is a moving story of marines fighting in WW2 for South Pacific islands, notably Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.

Talk about violence! I’m amazed any marine could have survived. But as the final episode makes clear; quite a few did!

Steven Pinker, a Harvard scholar has written a welcome antidote, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. One story he tells strikes a particular tender spot in my heart. He claims that Parisian aristocrats in the not-so-long-ago 18th century had an amusement that I find un-thinkable (because Jane and I have a very old and very nice cat). They would string up a cat in a blazing fire and watch with roaring laughter as the cat writhed in agony until he or she was reduced to carbon.

He attributes the decline to two factors; evolution and the civilizing influence of the Modern Age, especially its freedom of religion and trade. Violent “humor” like the above would not happen in Modern Age Paris. Or London. Or New York. I have lived over 90 years in the Modern Age and have not been involved, or even witnessed, a single instance of violence! I suspect I’m not alone.

Believe it or not, this diabolic delight in real, not fictional, violence was common in the Agricultural Age. For that matter real violence was even more common in the Hunting/Gathering Age. The Modern Age may indeed surpass previous Ages in total numbers killed—in wars, Holocausts, Communist, and Fascist tyrannies. We have a few thousand times larger world population now. In earlier Ages, the quality and quantity of everyday mayhem were not even close to the actual violence of the Modern Age.

In pretty much all past Ages, large boisterous crowds would often gather to watch tortures, hangings, beheadings, or burning of heretics and thieves. Genghis Khan and many other warriors did not hesitate to wipe out an entire city—men, women, and children—if they did not surrender to his army of killers. Charlemagne, the fabled Holy Roman Emperor, did not hesitate to torture and kill hundreds of heretical Christians to ensure his followers would survive in their after-life.

The rationale for these cruel actions was simple enough—survival. Thieves stole goods essential to all human lives survival;. heretics denied truths essential to humans survival after death.

For a good example see the Japanese movie, The Ballad of Narayama. The original 1958 version film is a good example of what life was like in most earlier Ages. Once a person reached the age of 70 in this agricultural village, he or she must have a relative carry you to a remote mountain, Narayama, to die of starvation with a God. The story features Orin, who is 69, with sound health and good teeth. When she notes a neighbor dragging his father to the mountain, she resolves to not cling to life beyond her term. She proceeds to knock out all of her teeth in order to not eat too much of the families slim food stores. She leads a mob to punish a family of hoarders. The punishment is to bury the entire family alive! They do this unbelievably cruel thing because the family was hoarding potatoes and rice that the tiny village desperately needed for winter food.

Some readers object to my dwelling so much on memes from the past Ages that are still present in Modern times. What good does it do? Here’s one example!

Wealth in all past ages was measured in how much land and gold (or potatoes or rice!). Or how many serfs, slaves, or peasants they had to help them. Land, gold, and serfs, peasants, or slaves were desperately needed resources for getting and staying rich in all early Ages.

No wonder then that violence was honored and important. How else were poor individuals, families, or nations to survive or get richer?

The answer is clear today. The poor can go to Harvard, as Barack Obama did, and end up with a lot of power and wealth! Or drop out of Harvard, invent a programming language, and start a digital company as Bill Gates did, and end up the richest man in the world! Or invest early in profitable companies as Warren Buffet did.  Or sell a lot of books as Jeff Bezos did and start Amazon. Or drop out of a small college like Reed in Oregon and found a company now the wealthiest in the world! That’s the story of Steve Jobs.

No violence is required.

Instead, politicians today can raise taxes to steal from the rich on the feeble, but very popular, excuse of “paying their fair share”!

Remember Adam Smith, the moral philosopher of capitalism, pointed out that only three things were necessary to get and keep wealth in the Modern Age—private property, diversity of talents, and free trade. It’s true capitalists and politicians (and often the public) were fond of imperialism. But this was yet another hypocrisy meme inherited from past Ages. If they were consistent with the logic of free markets, they would abhor such thievery.

In other words, they could realize that wealth today depends on what you do with your talents, not on how much land, gold, and servants you have inherited or stolen. Denmark, Taiwan, and Japan are very rich. Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali are very poor.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President, Hawkhill

P.S. For the curious who want to know more details of my life-long journey through the idea swamp, from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian. I suggest, or stronger, I beg you to buy and read one of my recent books (all dirt-cheap and, in my opinion, truly good reads)—Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs. At minimum view some ideas on science and society streamed free now on YouTube.

Trump and the Media

November 19th, 2017

Dec. 4, 2017

I’m getting a little tired of this subject. I bet some readers are too, but it is a hot one these days in the news so here goes.

I fully agree that President Trump is not the equal of Lincoln, Obama, or FDR in eloquence; he is not close to John F. Kennedy in wit, sophistication, looks, and womanizing; and most certainly he is not the scholar, philosopher, and intellectual giant Thomas Jefferson was. He is and remains a salesman and CEO capitalist with all of the virtues and failings of that calling.

I’m not much of a salesman. My father was. Trump, like my father and most good salesmen, and CEOs, has probably has not read all, or even many, of the important books and magazines. But Trump does know some tricks of efficiency. He works hard like most salesmen and CEOs. In addition, he knows how to make a profit! Those skills are relatively rare in politicians and may well be what we need nowadays if we want real economic progress.

That’s because profits from capitalist efficiency are, in my view, the only real guarantee of economic progress.

China, for example, had fearful famines as well as quite a few massacres under the international hero and socialist, Mao Zedong.

It is only now recovering due almost solely to profits from its new business-friendly market economy and tolerance for inequality. In other words, prosperity has indeed trickled down. Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, as well as most of Europe and the UK, should pay more attention but most are not. Instead, they are going in the opposite direction with still more dependence and concern about inequality. I think we in the US we should pay closer attention. Trump is.

Excessive consumer and producer regulations are often the culprit in our decline. Trump is doing his best to reduce regulations, especially environmental ones

Another drain on efficiency and profits are affirmative action, clean-energy crony capitalist subsidies, and excessive social-justice and social welfare laws. Trump is doing his best to reverse their impact.

Still another drain is immigration laws that let both legal and illegal immigrants en masse. Not always, but only too often too close for comfort as Trump claims, these legal and illegal immigrants include Radical Muslims, murderous and much deported thugs, and drug dealers. Trump is doing his best to keep them out. His famous Wall may not be a complete answer but it’s a start. As poet Robert Frost wrote years ago, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Finally, Trump is also not fond of diversity for its own sake. He is fond of diverse talents to help the economy grow, as his immigration views show. I agree with him.

And lastly Trump is for low taxes, especially on job-creating and profit-creating oompanies. And he was able to deliver a tax reform bill just late Friday night!

He does face fierce resistance from a college-educated clergy that is, for the most part, sympathetic to socialism and often opposed to free-market capitalism and individuals looking for “do good” work.. (I hate to point out that socialism does benefit, for lack of a better term, what I call “do-gooders.” I further confess I used to be one! After all is said and done, I admit “do-good” work does usually tend to be more interesting, more respected, and more emotionally rewarding than most work that makes a profit.)

That may be the main reason why professors, teachers in K-12 schools, bureaucrats in government, most journalists, scientists and professionals,  assorted college-educated intellectuals, most celebrities, and many artists, writers, actors, editors, producers, and musicians are near unanimous in their intense dislike of our president. He makes profits king and does not get much emotional reward. (The fact that socialist governments often censor and imprison dissident intellectuals and artists just doesn’t count with most left–liberals. They typically ignore this fact, or just say never mind. A few college graduates like me do watch, or even work for, Fox News! but ninety plus percent of college-educated groups are sympathetic to socialism, are very politically correct, and at best are leery about profits, salesmen, and CEOs.. In short, Trump is not as cool as Barack Obama was.

Never mind that Obama presided over the weakest recovery from recession in history, apologized for our past, and left the country in a mess, according to many including Trump.

Today most journalists go to college. They too end up, for the most part, opposed to Trump and their bias shows, especially in headlines and basic news coverage.

One very recent example: Trump allegedly made a racist slur calling Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor,  “Pocahontas.” Warren, a possible rival for the presidency in 2future years has prided herself in elections past on her fake news Native American ancestry. I want to know who is the racist here?

Trump has taken the strategy of resorting to Tweets to combat the media’s dislike, and often downright hatred and bias.

I am not one of his alleged 100 million followers so I don’t routinely read his Tweets. I recently looked them up and was surprised at their numbers and quality.

In his Thanksgiving holiday week in Florida, for instance, Trump managed to write over 20, including a long Thanksgiving video to the nation. The Tweets and Thanksgiving message were mostly ignored in the media. Trump also worked on getting more profit-making jobs in between rounds of golf with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, which was reported.

I can’t help noting that Obama too played a great deal of golf at posh country clubs but didn’t write many Tweets or create many jobs in the profit sector. Obama did create a lot of non-profit government, especially in consumer regulations—1600 alone in the CFPB—most in the swamps of Washington, Virginia, and nearby Maryland, which routinely votes  Democratic.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President, Hawkhill

P.S. For the curious who want to know more details of my life-long journey through the idea swamp, from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian. I suggest, or stronger, I beg you to buy and read one of my recent books (all dirt-cheap and, in my humble opinion, truly good reads)—Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs. At minimum view some ideas on science and society now streamed free on YouTube.

Legacies

November 12th, 2017

Nov.13, 2017

I am a good writer. I am a decent, a long way from great, philosopher. When I die I’m not going to leave a whole lot of cash (sorry family, wish I could), but I will leave a goodly store of ideas as legacies.

Central among these is that genes and, especially, the memes from past human history—100,000 years of Hunting/Gathering life, 10,000 of Agricultural, and just over 200 years! of Modern–give important clues to many current problems (see Bill’s Blogs, p. 18); three Bill’s laws (see Bill’s Blogs, p. 8) which accurately predict how long major changes in science, politics, and religion will take to change behavior; a critique of socialism and social-welfare democracy as snuggling up to fascism; and finally a defense of capitalism, inequality, and profits as essential to progress (see Bill’s Blogs, pp. 126).

I admit my big ideas are not on the same level as big ideas of the past on the atom, the gene, and evolution (they do have a close bond to evolution).

My ideas have also stood the time test! Longer than many concepts in philosophy, politics, and economics have. To top it off I stumbled on these ideas late, in my 60s, 70s and 80s. With all due modesty, I think I deserve a prize. If not a Nobel, a Pulitzer? It’s not likely to happen soon, I guarantee.

,As for inequality, capitalism, and profits, my view is simple and cleat—the profits of capitalist companies are the one and only guarantee of progress for all. If that results inequality it is sad but without profits there would not be progress for anyone.

For diversity my view is more complex. When modern liberals talk about diversity they are mostly saying they are in favor of getting blacks and Hispanics into the mainstream. I sympathize with this goal but disagree with the methods. Diverse talents yes, equal talents no

Take racism and Bell Curves (see Bill’s Blogs, p. 39). Democratic presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt were racists by current standards. (FDR, like Trump with Muslims, turned down saving thousands of Jewish refugees in 1941. He also sent thousands of Japanese citizens to concentration camps in WW2. Wilson did the same with Germans in WW1). Actually, the Republican credited with freeing black slaves could also be called a racist.

Abraham Lincoln said in the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates, “I am not, nor ever have I ever been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. … There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality.”

Lincoln also said, “As I would not be a slave so I would not be a master … Black people are entitled to the fruits of their own labor.”

Faiths like this would disqualify Republican Lincoln and Democrats Wilson and FDR, from ever being nominated, much less elected, for any public office today.

Current TV advertising and fake news support equality of talent in all fields. On the other hand, science says all talents of all living things––humans, animals, and plants—are best described in bell curves (see Bill’s Blogs, pp. 39).

Consider; Blacks and Latinos are on the high side of talents for the most popular and highly-paid sports. (Football is 80% black in the NFL. Basketball in the NBA is an even higher percentage. Latinos dominate in major league baseball.).

Blacks and Latinos are on the low side when it comes to academic intelligence. There are millions of black exceptions with high IQ’s, like Barack and Michelle Obama, but also millions more with below average IQ’s, (in the 80s, which means barely literate), who live poor violence-filled lives in the inner cities and rural areas of the US, Africa, and South America.

Jews, on the other hand, are the opposite—poor in sports but rich in intelligence. (Jews are only 0.2% of the world population but have won 30% of the Nobel Prizes!).

This striking disparity is recognized by nearly everyone but is strictly forbidden to even hint at when it comes to schools, advertising, entertainment, politics, or sports. Whether it is caused by environment or genes is not relevant. It is to my mind a simple fact.

Trump hopes to bring blacks into the mainstream by giving them jobs in new inner-city industries. Good luck with that. I think a guaranteed minimum income is more promising idea (see Bill’s Blogs, p. 131, 135).

Similar disparities flourish in other issues—notably in Climate Change.

Propaganda for climate change, for instance, is aggressively present in all media. The same clerical media are also united against inequality and in favor of diversity. Alas, all of these dogmas have only the slim evidence, most of it anecdotal stories.

Activists, with the help of the media, have convinced the public and many scientists too. A government scientist who stands to gain by acceptance of this concept is leader NASA’s James Hansen. He has much help from leftist scientists like John Holdren (Chief Science Advisor to President Obama) and Paul Ehrlich (author of the famous 1968 book, The Population Bomb, that predicted tens of million Americans would die of starvation before the turn of the century due to overpopulation). They have convinced most citizens of the world that climate change is a threat to our very survival as a species!

These same scientists, along with the Pope and former Vice President Al Gore, are also leaders in Green crusades to cut back on living standards, reduce our energy and resource use, use more recycling, and above all reduce population by any means possible, including sterilization and abortion (the Pope draws the line here).

What to do about Radical Muslim terror and immigration is still another issue. On the one hand, we do have a proud history of freedom of religion. On the other hand, radical Muslim religion (use of terror and Sharia law as tactics) are in direct conflict with Western values and traditions. The left-liberal clergy has come out firmly on the tolerance side. Trump and followers are torn. Europeans decided to go with an open border policy. Trump objects. There really may be no good solution. In the void and dilemma, I will support Trump.

This is getting much too long. My feeble voice will not make a difference but that does not mean I should shut up about my legacy.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President, Hawkhill

P.S. For the curious who want to know more details of my life-long journey through the idea swamp, from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian. I suggest, or stronger, I beg you to buy and read one of my recent books (all dirt-cheap and, in my opinion, truly good legacies)—Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs. At minimum view some ideas on science and society streamed free now on YouTube.

Thoughts on Aging and Death

November 5th, 2017

Nov. 6, 2017

A friend and reader reminded me of a correction in the title of last week’s blog. It should read, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” It does change what follows a bit and it seems important to get the Bible quote right. Now for some thoughts on Aging and Death.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day.

Dylan Thomas, a Welch poet who wrote those lines, lived in NYC in the 1950s. My first wife and I also lived in New York in the 1950s. Thomas drank too much alcohol at the White Horse Tavern, also near our apartment, and died in his 38th year.

My youthful ambition was to be a great poet like Dylan Thomas. I am in my 91st year on this planet and can’t match him in great lines like the above or, fortunately, in alcohol consumption.

I remember listening to Dylan Thomas dramatically read this classic at the 91ST Y….

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

I dearly wish I could have written that.

And then there are the American writers, Thoreau and Dickenson.

Thoreau’s quip that “most men live lives of quiet desperation” is as true of my 20th and 21st centuries as it was in his 19th. An aunt asked whether he had made his peace with God before dying of tuberculosis at 44. (Many adults died young in the 19th century.) Henry’s reply is classic, “I wasn’t aware we had ever quarreled.”

Speaking of dying—and I am—I admit to a tiny bit of envy of Emily Dickinson’s confident faith when she penned this classic.

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

Emily lived as a recluse and died in 1884 at 55. Like most people in the 19th century, Emily saw many deaths, young and old. She never turned to gloom as one of her most famous poems shows…

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all –

Though very religious, Emily never went to church after her teens. I too haven’t been to church after my teens and never flirted with gloom. But I have rebelled against Emily’s faith in an after-life. I do envy her confident faith but therein lay a grave question! Do Muslims share heaven or hell with Christians? How about Hindus? Or Buddhists? Or for that matter all “faiths?”

To add to the problem, the exclusive-faith idea has led to an awful lot of heretic burning in past ages.  I choose to distance myself from that gory history and no longer believe in an after-life.

I don’t choose to distance myself from a lighter handling of death. Like Peggy Lee’s talking-song, Is That All There Is?

When I was twelve years old,
My father took me to a circus, the greatest show on earth
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads
And when it was all over
I felt something was missing
I don’t know what.
So I said to myself
Is that all there is to a circus?

Is that all there is
If that’s all there is, my friends
Let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is.

(Two more verses about a fire her father takes her to, and her disappointment after a first love affair.)

I know what you must be saying to yourselves
“I that’s that way she feels about it
Why doesn’t she just end it all.”
Oh no, not me
I’m in no hurry for that final disappointment
Cause I know just as well as I’m standing her talking to you
When that final moment comes and I’m breathing my last breath
I’ll be saying to myself

Is that all there is
Is that all there is
If that’s all there is, my friends
Let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is.

Dancing is fine. The truth is I never cared that much for boozy parties or balls. I like Peggy Lee and most of her song sentiments but I don’t much like that chorus. Religious people would not like it either. (Face it, people who believe in heaven or hell don’t seem that eager to experience them soon or indeed with the last breath!)

More thoughts?

Add to the above frustration with my aging, feeble, and hopelessly inefficient body often confined to a wheelchair for hours on end. Hunting and picking letters to polish weekly blogs, paying bills, answering emails, or filling the occasional order. Often I curse my faulty fingers and helpless body and want to cry like the baby I‘m fast becoming!

At nearly the same time I catch myself and humbly thank my extended family, the VA, Senior Helpers, and close neighbors and friends for their considerate , compassionate, and welcome help. I also thank my lucky stars that, so far at least, I have been spared the ugly pains of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or any other crippling disease. My mind is fine, but my body is weak.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President, Hawkhill