Wednesday, June 29, 2005
You haven't really laughed until you've watched a cat lose track of all four feet skittering around on the linoleum chasing a hair binder.
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Yeah, that's the question foremost in my mind 90% of the time.
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Oh thank god. Now I have a real reason to hate them.
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There is actually a lot of hope on the social security and medicare issue. It's just a question of a painful adjustment of expectations that millions are going to be dealing with. No, unless you're a millionaire, it's unreasonable to expect someone else to pay for you to spend a few decades golfing. No society can allow productive members to sit idle for decades. In an era of statins hormones and titanium hips, the decrepitude of old age doesn't haunt our parents the way it haunted our grandparents. On the other hand, there is a legitimate desire to allow people to rest on their laurels for a few years before they shove off. It'll be interesting finding a balance as medicine extends the 'golden years' by a few decades before you end up looking like this. (Turns out that the secret to living to 114 is a herring and orange juice everyday. Don't ask me.)
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One benefit of our recent luxury binge is our converse ability to scale back. We spend something like 80% of our GDP on luxuries, not necessities. GDP isn't just a measure of money or income or production. It's also a gauge on the energy of the economy. If we can feed clothe and shelter our population with only one fifth of our energy, what might we choose to do with the rest of it if sufficiently motivated?
Look to WWII. Gasoline was rationed to 3 gallons a week! Consider the gender roles of the 1950's and then consider what a pragmatic flex it was to send women to the factories. Remember scrap metal drives? Little kids would tow wagons door to door collecting scrap metal for tanks and guns.
We had enough skill, manpower, and material laying around in our collective basements to defeat one the most efficient practioners of warfare of all time. What might we do now? Now that billionaries are pursuing private spaceflight the same way millionaires pursued flight in the 20's... Now that we've all accumulated so much stuff that we spend billions more on ways to organize it.
We could scale back so far that the prospect of a second real Pearl Harbor should fill any rational evaluator with stone-cold dread. I don't know what it would take to truly motivate the american people as a whole to pursue war. 9/11 didn't do it. It generally takes quite a bit. We prefer bickering with each other, lounging in air-conditioned splendor, and swilling 18 year old scotch. But, and this is the biggie, once we decide to get our fat lazy spoiled asses off the couch... Once we decide that leaving things to our smallish all-volunteer military under Washinton's direction isn't enough against our enemy... I shudder to think. Right now we spend millions of dollars on smart bombs to spare the hospital next to the munitions depot. We could certainly build an awful lot more boring old conventional bombs for the same price. If we decide that there's no advatage to be gained by holding back, nothing can stand against us. We're astonishingly slow to anger but once you get the USA truly enraged... Once more with feeling: The bloodiest most brutal war the US has ever fought was against ourselves, in our own homes and fields, in some cases against our own families. What might the Hatfields and the McCoys do if they decide that they hate that other fella more than they hate each other?
If you own two sets of clothing and a pair of shoes you're richer than half the people on the planet and most who have ever lived. We're so astronomically far ahead of the rest of the world, that regardless of the catastrophe, we'll still end up at the top of the heap. Of course all of those advantages could atrophy away if we discard the source of our own strength which is: the rule of law enacted by elected reps, the protection of private proprerty as an incentive to accumulate it, and capitalism the means with which to produce and accumulate wealth.
(If you don't believe that capitalism produces wealth rather than transfers it, ask yourselves why all the drug manufacturers are based here where their right to profit from their intellectual fruits is most protected, thus enabling new and better fruit to be grown with that profit. As opposed to say, Canada where the prices of their products are set by the govt. Or in other words, the reason drug prices here are so high is because american consumers are subsidizing pharmaceutical miracles for the rest of the world. This is the last place that such miracles can be developed.)
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I certainly hope that there are enough angry rich and subtle people to be after every piece of real-estate that those 5 judges own, for the rest of their lives. In fact property belonging to those five is the only instance in which I would say that it is a morally superior course of action to deprive them of their property by concerted decades-long action. That's why courts award punative damages after all. The truly beautiful part is the potential to use his own words against him if he utters even a peep of protest. Karmic justice should be a swift metaphorical 2x4 between the eyes.
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One of the things that King John of England was fond of saying was "the law is in my mouth." Whatever he said was law because he was the king. Unsurprisingly he was the first ruler to be held at swordpoint and forced to sign a legal document limiting his power. They just outright killed Ceasar.
Thus did arrogance and overreach spawn: "...here is a law which is above the King and which even he must not break. This reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter is the great work of Magna Carta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it."
In colonial america, arrogance and overreach so provoked the good men of the day that they snapped, and the echoes of their actions are still with us.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."
Those complaints built up over the course of years.
You'll never know what the last straw will be. Might be a stamp tax, might be a tea tax. Might be ruling that Pfizer can bulldoze your home because they make more money than you, and thus give more taxes to the govt. Might be ruling that growing a plant for your own use on your own property involving no other person, is grounds for kicking down a cancer patient's door and hauling her away to jail. In spite of the fact that her state's elected legislature had ruled that what she was doing was indeed, licit. Might be going on and on about our vulnerability to another 9/11 and then refusing to secure the Mexico border for fear of looking racist.
Small in the overall scheme of things, but for a critical mass of people, possibly, the last piece of evidence that they require to conclude that matters will not be settled justly without action on their part. For a government to provoke their own people so, is akin to juggling matches in a munitions factory. This feels like static buildup. The discharge, whenever it happens, will not be pleasant.
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"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."
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"We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind--black or white, Christian or not, left, right or a million different--to be free, free to raise a family in love and hope, free to earn a living and be rewarded by your efforts, free not to bend your knee to any man in fear, free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.
That's what we're fighting for. And it's a battle worth fighting.
And I know it's hard on America, and in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to, but always wanted to go...
I know out there there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me? And why us? And why America?"
And the only answer is, "Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do."
-Tony Blair, 2003 address to US Congress
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