Archive for July, 2017

Game of Thrones memes

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

July 31, 2017

I guess “our revels are” not “ended.” Remember, I warned last week I might not quit.

Jane and I watched last week some early episodes of the popular HBO show, Game of Thrones. Jane liked them. We both found it hard to follow the many characters, the complex plots, and the bizarre names.

The shows had lots of sex and violence, but not enough meaty ideas for my tastes. It’s true that violence was common as dirt in the 10,000-year Agricultural Age–Western Medieval Version, the time of this series. As for sex, it’s also true that most of our ancestors in medieval Europe lived long enough to be our ancestors. So they must have had some interest in sex.

The series does not show or imply that many of the long-lasting memes of the Agricultural Age (mental habits and practices of earlier Ages) survive today. I’m the one who has to point this out. Most of these memes from this and earlier Ages are indeed alive, well, and devastating in this Modern Age. For instance…

Game of Thrones makes honor a must. Most of the male characters had oodles of it. Understandingly being popular fiction, the series does not tell you that honor as a holdover meme has a lot to do with inner-city violence today. Black, and poor white, males are very sensitive to slights on their manhood. Disrespect is likely to lead to violence by fist, gun, or riot. In early days of the Modern Age, honor also caused fights. In 1804 it led to a duel between the Vice President of the US and the former US Treasury Secretary. The two fought the gun duel and it led to the premature death of the latter.

Other memes born, nurtured, normal, and fitting for the 10,000-year-long Agricultural Age are vividly brought alive in Game of Thrones. Many of these memes remain active in the Modern Age USA today–in spades in most Muslim countries–where they are no longer normal and don’t fit. For instance…

The depiction, treatment, and abuse of women as wives and mothers, whores, or nuns and queens; old men are okay but old women are not (in this typical HBO show they glorify sexy women, young or middle-aged, but rarely even show old women); constant imperialist wars; violence when Kings or Queens come and go; shortened lives due to sudden death of young from disease, violence, or childbirth; frequent thefts, murders, and street violence.

Then there are the walls, moats, and castles for security and to keep out undesirables; the routine ignoring of real workers–peasants, serfs, and slaves; the giving of excessive honor to warriors; the stress on beauty, youth, and sexual power of women; tolerance of rape; near-pornographic sex and extreme violence in the series presumably for popularity; cheap words and aphorisms presumably for profundity; illiterate nobles who put faith in old books; common use of rituals, prayers, and magic to solve insoluble problems; use of wolves, bears, ravens, and dragons as symbols of fear, power, and magic.

Last but not least, the depiction of merchants as for-profit simpletons, knaves, or worse. Merchants were we crucial to the transition and the benefits, including wealth and old age, of the Modern Age. This demeaning of merchants has lasted into the Modern Age. Actually the truth today is that merchants, sales people, and blue-collar workers and farmers are the most enthusiastic and optimistic supporters of the Modern Age! On the other hand the progressive clergy (see Bill’s Blogs, pp. 74, 78, 103) tend to be the most cynical and pessimistic about the Modern Age.

I realize my historical meme idea doesn’t give a whole lot of help in solving modern problems. But it does explain where they came from. This is a necessary first step, especially for violence, racial, imperialist wars, racial, and women issues.

Oops! I almost forgot. The single most important meme of the series Game of Thrones (more often implied than openly and clearly stated) is the idea that real wealth is land, gold, and slaves. Actually this was true in the Agricultural Age. It was even truer in the preceding 100,000-year Hunting/Gathering Age (where wealth meant good hunting and gathering, and this in turn inevitably led to tribal wars, torture, starvation, and often cannibalism).

So memes themselves are not a fault in Game of Thrones since the series is firmly set in the Agricultural Age. The sex and violence that follow from the wealth meme may account for the popularity of Game of Thrones today. This fact does’t excuse the havoc the Game of Thrones memes bring with them today..

Is it any wonder these over 100,000-year-old habits of mind have lived on into the barely 200-year-old Modern Age? Especially when the wealth meme is not true or even relevant today?

In other words this idea that wealth is land, gold, and slaves (servants in modern terms) is the most basic meme of all previous ages. It leads by deduction to most harmful memes of previous Ages. For instance–if wealth is land, gold, and slaves, then violence, theft, imperialism, demeaning domination of women, radical faith in monotheistic religions, rape, prejudice, segregation, Jim Crow laws, and imperialist wars will inevitably follow!

I admit that my theory is not much help in solving the problems. But I humbly ask, how can we hope to change them if we don’t understand where they came from?

Despite the shortcomings I enjoyed Game of Thrones. I applaud the writers, directors, actors, stagehands, special effects, sets, costumes, and the gorgeous outdoor settings in Iceland, Scotland, Malta, Morocco, Croatia, and Northern Ireland. I also applaud the producers and financial angels. It was risky and very expensive to make this hit.

I’m also green with envy. I hope to duplicate their feat with a similar fictional work using my key ideas on history, philosophy, science, literature, and politics. (Echoes of Ayn Rand?)

I’m gloomy about my chances though. I don’t have the experience or the contacts for producing movies or an HBO series. More important, I don’t much like science fiction. It’s too much like playing tennis without a net. I fear this dislike is my most serious handicap!

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President, Hawkhill

A Fond Farewell

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

July 24, 2017

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.“

–William Shakespeare
From The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1

I was planning another blistering attack on the left-liberal clergy’s views on immigration. But it has become difficult for me to pick, choose, and click the right letters. As a result, I think the time has come for me to wind up the work on these idea blogs. I’m really sorry to do this because I have invested so much and I do enjoy writing them. I chose one of my heroes (and namesakes), Bill Shakespeare, to grace my final offering. Some scholars think the above quote was Shakespeare himself in disguise as the old Prospero in his last play, The Tempest

I do reserve the right to return occasionally if I so desire.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President (and sole employee), Hawkhill

P. S. For the minority who want to know more details on my journey through the ideas swamp from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian, I seriously suggest you buy, curl up on the couch, and slowly read any one of my three recent books—Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs. Or view some of my video-illustrated ideas about science and society free on YouTube.

Diversity, Equality, and Bell Curves

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

July 17, 2017

Warning: this blog is short and not sweet.

I wrote in my last blog, “equality has two faces. Our Declaration of Independence promised one—equal treatment under the law. Equality is good in that sense and necessary for profits and progress, but when the government mandates equality of talent, income, and wealth, as it does in Cuba, it is bad, bad for all.”

Diversity is a popular substitute for equality today. It also has two faces. Adam Smith, the godfather of capitalism, said we had to have three things for nations to get rich—free trade, private property, and diversity of talent. That is one face of diversity—the good one.

There is a bad face too. When this diversity side faces left today it means suppression of ideas and inefficient work: support for shouting down, and if necessary using violence, to silence libertarian and conservative speakers and professors at major colleges; leaders and followers in Citizens United, immigration, and anti-Trump protests; quotas in education (whether called that or not); “Black Lives Matter” protests; fake news and biased media stories; celebrity insults; biased stories on police and law enforcement crimes; gun restrictions; fierce opposition to vouchers in education by teachers unions and leftist media; affirmative action in employment, education, government, along with patronizing and pandering ads of non-profit and large corporation on TV and in print.

In other words the clergy, and the public they control, are committed in the US and Europe to equality (and diversity) in talent and numbers despite of the solid evidence that bell curves fairly, accurately, and clearly describe the very real differences in talents in all living things, groups, and subgroups of living things, which certainly includes human beings.

Only in sports is this science not followed. No one expects the NBA (or major colleges) to rigidly enforce affirmative action to get more white players on their basketball or other sports teams. Teams that did this might lose games!

Whether the bell curve differences are due to genetics or environment is not relevant. Differences do exist. Differences do show that blacks are dominant in basketball, track, and many other sports (as a 1992 movie put it, “White Men Can’t Jump”). I am sad and reluctant to point out, it also shows that lower-class blacks are likely to be on welfare and knee-deep into violence and poverty. (In so far as the environment is involved [and it is] we should not reinforce this bad version with bad programs—i.e., charitable aid to dependent families that ignores males and damning of police who are doing their best to pacify violent inner cities.)

Even more important, if we assume differences are all due to environment as the clergy (see Bill’s Blogs, pp. 74, 78 & 103) seems to believe, we are still faced with serious problems of inefficient work and its effect on individual and national wealth.

Nearly everyone today (mostly due to the Politically Correct media and advertisements) expects schools, businesses, employers, the courts, and the government to do so. And when they do effectively follow that advice—profits, wages for all, freedom, and pretty much all economic progress—suffers. Donald Trump for one suggests a different approach and is viciously attacked.

Obama and his wife Michelle, as well as many other very successful blacks, are the exceptions that prove the rule. The cry for affirmative action and diversity have no doubt helped capable blacks on the upper ends of bell curves. But the majority on the low ends of the bell curves for talents and has suffered in inner city slums.

As I wrote before, we should not, in any case, reinforce the tendencies for violence and poverty in this majority class. I humbly suggest that a wholesale expansion of social security (Guaranteed minimum income) might help (after all we all are handicapped in some way, shape, or form!) Intresting enough this possibility is now getting some news shows coverage so it may not such a long shot!

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President (and sole employee), Hawkhill

P. S. For the minority who want to know more details on my journey through the ideas swamp from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian, I seriously suggest you buy, curl up on the couch, and slowly read any one of my three recent books—Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs.


Sunday, July 9th, 2017

July 10, 2017

President Obama established official ties (Embassies and all) with Cuba in 2015.

a year before his term ended. In March 2016 Obama, with his family, visited Havana for two days. He was the first sitting U.S. President to visit since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. President Trump and the GOP-led Congress have not lifted the embargo, and are not likely to do so anytime in the future.

Jane and I also visited Cuba a few years ago when it was illegal to fly there from the US (we flew from Mexico). It was also illegal to spend US dollars in Cuba. (We did spend a few but not a lot.)

Our impressions will no doubt be different from the Obama family. We stayed in friendly citizen’s “bed & breakfast “ rooms for less than $20 a night. The beds were comfortable enough but the showers in the bathrooms left something to be desired. The showers were fitted with a Rube Goldberg type fixture to supply hot water. When we tried to turn it on sparks flew. We decided to stay dirty.

The Obama family of course had more luxurious quarters at the U.S. ambassador’s residence that is half the size of the White House “This is a place that was built to impress. It is one of the grandest diplomatic residences we have anywhere,” says John Caulfield, America’s chief diplomat in Cuba from 2011 to 2014. It sits on a 5-acre site in Havana that once featured a swimming pool and tennis courts. The upper level has four large bedrooms with private baths, among them the presidential suite. Obama, Michelle, their two daughters, and the first lady’s mother will stay there two nights.

Of course the Obamas could have stayed in tourist luxury at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski where the cheapest room is $440 a night (almost 30 times the monthly pay of any Cuban citizen). They also could have stayed of course in the Presidential Suite at $2,485 a night.

I learned that none of these tourist hotels or residences were built or remodeled by Cuban workers. Foreign craftsmen (mostly from France, Spain, or India) were paid an average of 1500 euros a month by the government to do the work (over thirty times what their Cuban counterparts would have made!).

Which brings up an interesting point about the respective efficiency of free markets and socialism. It also sheds light on the current minimum wage issue. There is a lot of goofing off in Cuba. Every worker in Cuba makes the same salary. When we visited it was the peso equivalent of $16 a month (probably slightly more now) whether you cleaned the floor or operated on a patient’s brain. One of our cab drivers had been a lawyer. He told us that he could make more money in tips than he ever made as a government lawyer. Doctors and other professionals often do the same.

You ask how could anyone survive much less prosper on that small amount of cash? The government gives many freebies.

Education through college and professional school is free. Health care is free. Rent, food, and heat/cooling, and transportation are all heavily subsidized—very close to free. People make do. No one gets rich, except the ruling clergy, but many of them are dedicated socialists so they choose on principle to live on pitifully small cash incomes.

This is not as hard as you might think because there is really not much to buy! The government owns all land, farms, houses, apartments, buildings, offices, and factories so you can’t buy property. There are severe shortages of most consumer goods like coffee, soft drinks, prescription drugs, aspirin, toilet paper, coffee shops, restaurants, cars, refrigerators, watches, TV sets, furniture, etc., etc. The Internet is not available for ordinary citizens. Books, magazines, and newspapers are censored or not available.

The government blames these chronic shortages on the US embargo. This is actually a good reason to abolish the embargo! It would deprive the Castro’s and their communist colleagues of the excuse and force them to confront the obvious fact that their system has failed.

What can we learn from Cuba’s failure?

For starters, we can learn that efficienct diversity, freedom, and creative science and technology are all essential to creating wealth. In fact the very year our nation was founded, an Enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith, pointed out they are the way, and really the only way short of theft and imperialist war, for individuals and nations to get richer.

We can also can learn that equality has two faces. Our Declaration of Independence promised one—equal treatment under the law. Equality is good in that sense and very necessary for profits and progress, but government mandating too much equality—of talent, income, and wealth—is usually bad. Bad for all.

For instance, leftists in this country, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are fond of claiming wealth never trickles down. How then can they explain countries that tried to make income and talent equal—like Cuba, North Korea, China under Mao, Venezuela today, and the Soviet bloc en masse yesterday—have all failed miserably? On the other hand, countries that allow, even encourage, diversity in income and talent, like China and India today and European countries in the past, have been successful. Even the poor and less talented have done relatively well.

As for minimum wage it is equally obvious. Why not increase it to $100 an hour or even $1000 an hour?

The answer is obvious—soon you will need a bushel basket of cash to buy toilet paper, aspirin, or an apple, if as in Cuba or North Korea, you can find any for sale!

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President (and sole employee), Hawkhill

P. S. For the minority who want to know more details on my journey through the ideas swamp from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian, I seriously suggest you buy, curl up on the couch, and read slowly—Twilight or Dawn: a Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs.

Intellectuals, ghosts, sports, free spirits, fun, and children

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

July 3, 2017

I’m a sucker for flags and patriot days. So naturally, I love the 4th of July.

A good friend didn’t quite agree with my atheist-knocking-life-after-death blog, He emailed, “Although the majority of paranormal experiences are pure fiction, there is a small percentage, perhaps 1 to 2 percent that do appear to be supernatural, particularly clairvoyance and ghostly visitations. ”

I mailed back that Hamlet said much the same, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I agree with Hamlet and Shakespeare.

Jane said it better in low fog prose. “Ghosts are sneaky.”

Patriotism comes this year with sad news. My beloved brother-in-law, Barney Otten, has died!

He was 92 so it is not a shocking surprise. Nevertheless it is a very sad event, especially for my younger sister Pat, his children and grandchildren, and his many friends and admirers. I remember well their wedding sixty or so years past and their reception in my parent’s home. Funny, it doesn’t seem all that long ago!

Pat and Barney seemed solid fixtures that would always be there. Pat will no doubt live on for more years but Barney is gone. Pat and her seven children and fifteen grandchildren (and four great-grandchildren!) will no doubt remember him and children and grandchildren will make up for the loss by having more children as countless ancestors have always done.

Barney was always deferential with me. Which bothered me a bit. After all, he was the college football star! He was also the father and loving mentor of seven talented and beautiful children. By all rights, I should have been the deferential one. I do have two fine sons whom I love dearly, but like Abe Lincoln, not a single grandchild!

I’m not sure where this blog is headed but I think it is in the direction of the inevitable conflict between people fascinated by intellectual ideas in history, philosophy, science, economics, and politics and people into small talk, puzzles, games, sports, babies, pets, puzzles, clothes, style, smart phones, personal photos (with lots of smiles and action), and free spirits, friends, charm, fun, and warmth. The truth is I like all of these things too. But I like ideas more!

Guess which side is the winner?

I have usually been on the losing side. I don’t do well with small talk and personal photos, but I do fine with gloomy (boring to many) philosophy, history, economic, and political talk—and, if need be, loud argument. I don’t go quite as far as W.C. Fields who once said, “Anyone who hates dogs and children can’t be all bad.” But close enough.

Sports can sometimes be a good compromise. Both sides can appreciate playing tennis, golf and going swimming and skiing, or watching football, baseball, basketball games and horse races.

Barney himself was himself a good athlete and he sired some fine ones. Two of his sons, Chip and Mike, were football stars at Bowling Green University. His other son, Danny, was a high school runner’s coach and ran himself in quite a few marathons.

Their five daughters were all athletic. Many won blue ribbons in swimming and gymnastics, and all were charming, free-spirited, and loving. As an aside, successful coach Barney was once fired for his too aggressive defense of women in athletics!

Chip followed his father in an outstanding coaching career. His high school football teams have won many Ohio State Championships! As Ohio football fans know this is no small feat.

One would think after such real-life success I should be the deferential one. But no, I’ll stick to my guns on the intellectual side and confess I do feel some sadness, and at times bitter regret and depression, that so few of my extended family have moved beyond the clichés of the lliberal clergy and understood the power and scope of my original ideas in history, economics, philosophy, science, sociology, and politics. As explored and explained in my books, blogs, and videos.

I admit this is not new. My growing up family was also more interested in style and sports than they were in ideas. My first wife, Virginia, was and still is a fine artist, but she has never been much interested in politics, history, economics, or philosophy. In fact, she was famous for using jokes to change the subject whenever social occasions veered too far in the heavy idea direction.

And then my second wife, Jane, as well as most of her family, can be caring, free-spirited, intelligent, charming, and fun. But she, and most of her children, don’t apologize for much but stay firmly on the non-intellectual winning side. In short, my families, both married and growing up, have much preferred sports, sex, children, friends, and fun to my specialty, what I consider the deeper waters of philosophy, history, economics, science, and politics.

I really shouldn’t complain since that my preference for ideas has served me well in my career and now in my old age. Like W.C. Fields and Abe Lincoln I admit that fascination with ideas sometimes brings with it bouts of depression! Even now it leads to loneliness. I don’t have many people I can discuss or argue with.

On the other hand, I can sit happily for hours on end in my wheelchair in front of my computer—researching, writing, and polishing my weekly blogs. I am also happy to report the readership of my blogs is slowly increasing! Other oldsters my age may languish in nursing or retirement homesnbeds sans sports, sex, children, pets, personal photos, clothes, style, puzzles, games, smart phones, charm, free spirits, friends, or fun i plan to continue my love affair with ideas.

Not a 100% win I grant you. But close enough!

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President

P. S. For the minority who do want to know details on my journey through the philosophic and political idea waters from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian, I seriously suggest you buy, curl up on the couch, and read slowly—Twilight or Dawn: a Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, EEast Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs.