Archive for November, 2017

Thanksgiving Through the Ages

Sunday, November 19th, 2017
Nov. 20, 2017

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. Today is also special. It is my younger son, Andrew’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Andrew! Thanksgiving is also a good time to remember that the USA is an exceptional country. I wrote the following two years ago. It bears repeating since it celebrates the birth of the Modern Age.

“When a family gets together for holiday dinner someone is sure to suggest saying grace. When it comes to my turn I offer the following version.

“We humbly thank the farmers who grew the corn and fed the animals; the factory workers who helped by making the tractors, computers and silos; the truck drivers who transported the food; the grocery clerks, baggers and stockers who sold it to us; the scientists and companies who discovered and distributed better seed and better ways to protect the environment; the accountants who found ways to make it profitable; the bankers who lent the capital to buy the equipment, land, animals and seeds; the miners, drillers and fossil fuel companies who provided the energy; the doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers, police and bureaucrats who healed, educated and gave us security; in short, all of the workers directly and indirectly responsible for our plentiful food, prosperity and all the other blessings of the Modern Age.”

“Sun, water, carbon dioxide and soil also played a part. If you believe an almighty God created them you can thank him or her. For myself, I think gods or goddesses had nothing to do with it. My faith is that, contrary to the Bible and the Koran (and most religious versions), Homo sapiens has had a long and natural evolution. We inherited our genes and memes from generations past. So too there has been a natural evolution of societies.

“(1) A Hunting/Gathering Age of more than a hundred thousand years when people lived in tribes; private property did not exist; violence was common; good hunting/gathering lands were critical; our remote ancestors competed with carnivores and with nature itself for survival; adventure and some leisure existed and the average human lived twenty-five years or so.

“(2) An Agricultural Age of ten thousand years when cities and civilizations came to be; populations and food production exploded; wealth was land, gold, and slaves; wars were constant; religions arose whose clergy set the moral patterns (memes); inequality was extreme–slaves, serfs and peasants suffered in poverty while lords, ladies and clergy ruled in extravagance–and average lifespans increased ten years or so.

“(3) A Modern Age begun in and by the USA in 1776, now only a little more than two hundred years old; wealth and resources were and still are created in abundance by efficient and smart work, science and technology with the help of capitalism and freedom of religion; populations exploded again; slavery, serfdom and peasantry disappeared; democracy became common; religion declined but did not disappear; wars and personal violence declined but did not disappear (memes of personal, religious and state tyranny from previous Ages are still fresh and powerful in minds today, especially Muslim ones–Allah is great!). Average life spans increased by forty years or so.

“How does evolution in human history help with current problems?

“Climate Change. The climate has changed often in all past Ages. No doubt it will change in future ones. Left-liberal leaders like Paul Krugman, the Nobel winning economist and NY Times columnist, claims, “when President Obama describes climate change as the greatest threat we face, he’s exactly right. Terrorism can’t and won’t destroy our civilization, but global warming could and might.” Krugman and Obama may be right about terrorism but are absurdly wrong about climate change. The idea that one or two degrees of warming or cooling (even partisans admit that is what we can expect from our best efforts to reduce carbon pollution) will destroy our civilization is so at odds with human experience over past millennia it is downright ludicrous. If you substitute overpopulation or resource scarcity or nuclear winter or DDT for “global warming” in the quote you can see where the threat is coming from–modern age clerical science advisors like John Holdren, James Hansen, Paul Ehrlich and the late Carl Sagan and Rachel Carson–all decent scientists with good intentions but extremely low batting averages for prediction.

“Racism. The Modern Age has already abolished slavery, serfdom, and peasantry. It is on its way to abolishing poverty. But it can never repeal the natural bell curves of life, all life, diversity. Recent attempts to do so have led to horror and disaster–the Holocaust, Soviet slave labor camps and the recent acute shortage of wealth (and immigrants!) in extreme left-liberal countries like Cuba and North Korea. Laudable well-intentioned attempts in the West have also often backfired and led to the family breakdown, dependency, crime and drug problems in major cities. Current well-intentioned ideas, like white privilege, wealth inequality, and multiculturalism, ignore the diversity of evolution and can lead to tragedy. Our challenge today is to invent new ways of living with inequality and diversity–providing income and dignity to the less talented and below average while avoiding crippling dependency.

“Terrorism. This is a toughie. In medieval times Islam was a world leader in science, health, education and scholarly achievement. Despite its early schism into Shiite and Sunni, Islam never had a Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment as Christianity did hundreds of years ago (in a sea of bloody conflict). As a result Islam is today grossly inferior to the West in its treatment of women, its total lack of freedom of religion and its contempt for basic civil rights and liberties. Whether we can help or hinder the change for Islam to enter the Modern Age is problematic. For starters, we need to admit the religious nature of the conflict. Accepting unlimited Muslim refugees is a serious issue, especially in Europe. How best to use our superior military power is another. Suicidal terrorism is a weapon of the weak. It succeeds if it can strike suicidal fear in the strong. I am like most people today. I don’t know what strategy will be best. My best advice is a mix of caution, courage and not giving in to fear.

In the long run the Modern Age will triumph. I guarantee it.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill
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P.S. What help I can offer are my Modern Age programs free on YouTube video.

Legacies

Sunday, 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

Sunday, 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