Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Eclipse and Memes

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Aug 21, 2017

This is the day for a full eclipse of the sun in the USA. It’s also time to take seriously memes (mental habits and practices inherited from the distant past). Again.

Strange combination! No.

Not nearly as strange as the more common coupling of eclipses with eye safety! How about brain safety! Meme safety! (Caution; you do need to take care of your eyes and not look directly at the sun without appropriate glasses!)

I like to watch my favorite baseball team on TV, the Milwaukee Brewers. On occasion a Brewer hits a home run. This happens fairly often since the team is a leader in home runs. Often as the home run hitter rounds the bases he points to the sky, presumably to thank God for this unlikely but blessed event.

I don’t really deplore this gesture. (The truth is I’m too busy applauding the rare and needed home run! So long as it was a Brewer and not a Cardinal or Cubs player that hit the homer!) I do think it’s kind of an insult to the Almighty to imagine He cares that much about home runs (or touchdowns) in a ball game.

The gesture also displays a common ignorance about science and religion! God is not up there! There really is not anything “up there“ except clouds, moon, and stars, and more space of course.. In other words the earth is a sphere surrounded by a whole lot of empty space and there is no god up there. Ball payers are not alone in thinking this meme from the distant past describes reality. Most ordinary citizens, including me, still think more or less that we are living on a flat earth with the sky “up there” and a solid earth “down here.”

Over six hundred years ago Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton proved beyond a shadow of doubt this is not true. But most of us still don’t believe it.

At least ordinary language has not caught up. Most people, including me, still say when we go “up” in a airplane or go “up” the stairs. We are not really going “up” or coming “down.” If scientific reality is strictly followed we should say we are going ”out” from the earth or coming “in” to a spherical planet whether it is in an airplane or going up a simple staircase.

I can almost hear some readers objecting, “Come on Bill, you’ve made your point, don’t push it!”

My real point is memes from past ages like this minor example are severely damaging our Modern Age. The sooner we recognize the memes and admit that they are memes and not harmless, the sooner we can devise effective ways to escape from these harmful beliefs from the long ago past. (I’m talking now about major memes like: thinking wealth is land, gold, and slaves; sexism; imperialism; wars; political correctness; racism; inequality; diversity; honor; violence and riots, whatever the cause; charity and compassion as cures; etc.; etc.).

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President and only employee of Hawkhill

P. S. For any who want to know more details on my life-long journey through the idea swamp from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian, I suggest you buy, curl up on the couch, and read any of my recent books (they are all cheap)—Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs. Or view some ideas on science and society, streamed free on YouTube.

Fighting Bob LaFollette

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Aug 14, 2017

Sorry about the technical faults recently. My computer has suddenly been taken over by commercial jerks that insert unwanted advertising with my blog. I don’t know how cure this virus yet, but I am doing my best to get rid of the pesky ads and other stuff that shouldn’t be there. (As before please ignore the twice underlined ads.)

In that process I appreciate all the more the old fashioned virtues of real books. I did read, slowly, a real book over the last few weeks—a biography of Fighting Bob LaFollette, The Righteous Reformer, by Nancy Unger. LaFollette is still revered by progressives in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Her book has a glowing plug on the back cover from Howard Zinn, the radical Boston College historian, writer, and progressive hero and guru.

I learned a few facts I had not known before. Fighting bob was indeed very righteous as was his wife, Belle Case. As with other righteous people neither Bob nor his wife, Belle Case, had much use for humor or any other frivolous activity. Bob himself was also very long-winded. A typical campaign or political speech lasted 3 to 6 hours (shades of Fidel Castro! Bob once talked on the Senate floor for 19 consecutive hours to support his propoaed laws on labor and anti-trust legislation. Rumor has it 11 hours into his speech some Senators tried to end it by giving him a poisoned glass of milk!). Whatever, both Fighting Bob and Belle Case were dead serious in their hatred of big corporations as well as any and all profits from business.

They also had chronic personal money troubles and both suffered from overwork and poor health, especially Fighting Bob. In the early years of the 20th century LaFollette was elected Governor of Wisconsin for three consecutive terms, twice as a US Senator. He ran for president against Cal Coolidge in 1924. In all that time Bob worked long hours for progressive causes but was forced by ill heath to spend a great deal of that time in bed from depression and overwork.

His son, Robert Lafollette Jr., also a senator from Wisconsin, was very close to his father in political views and personal life. Bob Jr. was also plagued by depression, overwork, and ended up committing suicide He did have a lonely childhood (his parents were often busy with political tasks. Bob Jr. and his siblings suffered). Losing a primary election to, of all people, Joe McCarthy, may well have been the last straw.

One other fact sticks in my mind after reading this biography—the UW Faculty has changed dramatically! When Fighting Bob was running for President in 1924 he was still stung by his unpopular stand on WW1. Senator LaFollette bitterly, and in the end hopelessly, opposed the US participation in that war. (Even I, not a progressive but aided by hindsight, agree with this Progressive Republica—WW1 was futile and unwise.)

The surprise was that the UW Faculty at the time went further and voted 421 to 2 to censure LaFollette as well, claiming that he was “unwise and shamefully dishonest…[in] his failure to actively and earnestly support the government in the prosecution of the present war.” I don’t really know for sure how similar faculty votes today would turn out on LBJ and the Vietnam War (or on support for Donald Trump’s. I suspect it would be quite different.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President and sole employee of Hawkhill

P. S. For any who want to know more details on my life-long journey through the idea swamp from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian, I suggest you buy, curl up on the couch, and read any of my recent books (they are all cheap)—Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs. Or view some of my ideas on science and society, streamed free on YouTube.

One meme leads to another

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Aug 7, 2017

I wrote two weeks ago, “I do reserve the right to return occasionally if I so desire.” I so desire. For a short time. And a short blog.

The cause for my quick retreat is our local newspaper, The Wisconsin State Journal. As I recall it used to be middle of the road. The Cap Times, an afternoon more left-lieaning paper, came on hard times and switched to a free weekly tabloid version slipped into the Journal every Wednesday. I think quite a bit of the leftist bent has rubbed off on the Journal with the change. (Pay no attention to the double-underlined clips. I don’t know how to get rid of them. Some jerk virus is adding them!)

Briefly, since most of my readers are not local and can’t be expected to have much interest in this city. Madison is actually so left-leaning it may fall into its lakes, all of which are clogged with algae in one of the most environmentally-aware, science-talented, and sophisticated cities in the world.

In writing for newspapers, magazines, and TV it’s a matter of memes and tone. The headlines often tell the tale.

For instance, last Sunday’s headlines in our State Journal were: “FOXCONN | WORTH THE PRICE” (all caps but small light type, followed by larger, darker, and more readable type) “Proposal has huge tradeoff in jobs, taxes.” The article was a mostly negative take on a current story about a Taiwan firm planning to invest $10 billion dollars and bring up to 35,000 jobs to SE Wisconsin. Next to it on the front page and in larger type with a big photo, “Curtain rising soon on auditorium renovation.” A feature story about a local high school theater in a school with minority students. To complete the front page (with type midway in size between the high school story and the Foxconn one), “Championship CrossFit Games coming to Madison.” A feature story about a new sport.

So what?

The guy who pays the piper gets to call the tunes. Madison is a city many left-liberal clergy (see Bill’s Blogs, pp. 74, 78, 103). To succeed here you must play to the clergy’s PC tunes.

I do question the moral tone and the effectiveness of the clergy’s Politically Correct faiths, believed on very little evidence. Among these are: we should favor policies that advance a radical agenda of equallity of talent (some would claim superiority) and subsequent wealth equality for “people of color.” Despite the fact that Madison has the same convincing tale of disproportional crime, wealth and poverty, intellectual and educational achievements, and low IQ in bell curve science for that “people of color” minority that so many other cites have. And yes, despite the historical examples of failure in Cuba, Venezuela, Mao’s China, North Korea, and the entire Soviet bloc. When these socialist countries tried to follow this meme).

Then there is the progressive’s long-standing meme against profit-making despite the fact that profits are needed for any progress in the Modern Age; and the related meme that says non-profit and government work is somehow more uplifting and moral than work in the for-profit sector, especially when it rcomes to large corporations; and the alleged need for diversity in all sectors (with exceptions for a few professional and college sports); and last but not least, memes of the major progressive green issues (hypocritically ignored in practice by both leading activists and the public, but still firmly held by the clergy) that claim the country and the world is: (1) overpopulated, (2) with dwindling resources, (3) increasing pollution, and above all, (4) faced with catastrophic Climate change.

The evidence for all of these faiths is slim and spotty to put it gently. But the fervor with which they are held is close to the religious faith of fundamentalist Christians (or Muslims) who believe the Bible (or the Quran) is the source of all wisdom.

Need I point out these memes are amply shown by everyday headlines in our local Journal? Or for that matter in the NY Times, The Washington Post, The LA Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSBC, and most local papers and TV stations? The President, in short, may well be right! The media is an enemy.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President, Hawkhill

P. S. For anyone who wants to know more details on my journey through the ideas swamp from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to libertarian, I suggest you buy, curl up on the couch, and read any one of my 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 ideas on science and society streamed free on YouTube

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.