Friday, May 31, 2013

If you're my friend, you can't be his friend.

Have you ever known a couple that was together for a long time, and then went through a bitter , or even downright nasty breakup?

If you have, you've probably noticed that during the breakup, and in the months and weeks afterwards, the couple's mutual friends do one of two things. They either gravitate towards one member of the couple, taking "their side", or they refuse to take sides, and as a result, eventually drift away from being friends with either person. Sometimes, one member of the couple will even outright say "Well, if you're their friend, then you must not be my friend." or something similar.

When a person has been a close friend of both members of the couple, things like this strain their ability to stay friends with both.  Especially when neither member is clearly to blame for the breakup, such as abuse, or infidelity.   The strain of their breakup affects friends, but friends have an out that the couples generally don't - they can often simply choose to avoid both people.

Many people take that option. Consider that for a moment.

Now I'd like you to consider a hypothetical couple - we'll call them Mike & Jill. Mike & Jill have been married for what seems like a hundred years, but have such opposing personalities and fight so often, it's hard to figure out why they're still together. They probably wouldn't still be together, save for the house they live in that neither wants to give up to the other.

Many of their friends have taken sides in the bickering, slinging accusations back and forth not only about Mike & Jill, but about each other as well, simply because of who they support. Meanwhile, a fair number of their friends have simply decided to ignore the entire situation, ignoring what Mike & Jill and their friends are saying about each other. They're not going to get involved.

Of course, without me telling you a bunch of stories, you can't really take a side in this hypothetical argument between Mike & Jill. So if I pressed you, right now, to pick a side, your most likely answer is going to be neither.  You don't have enough invested in either one of them pick a side.

But what if I told you that you were Mike & Jill's landlord? Now you suddenly have a vested interest in their arguments - because what they do could affect the value of your property, and whether or not you receive income for it.

Do you now feel you have to pick a side? Are you curious for more information about Mike & Jill and their arguments so you can pick a side?

Or, are you thinking, I'll just not renew their lease, and get another tenant?

You should be, because frankly, that's probably the wisest course of action - especially when you learn their fighting is damaging your property, reducing its value to you and anyone else.

The hypothetical situation I outline with Mike & Jill really isn't that hypothetical - it's a very apt analogy of our current political situation and the Democrats and Republicans.  I almost made the situation a little more obvious by naming my hypothetical couple Rick & Donna, but opted not to so that you would truly consider it on a personal level, rather than a political level. .

The two major parties are like a bickering couple, and we are their landlords. Their fighting is damaging our home - the United States. And while this Rick and Donna each have their own differing agendas, they both have a shared agenda - they want to stay in our house, they desperately want to stay in power.

And they are doing it by convincing a majority of voters that your only choice is one of them. Where that doesn't work, they're using every legal trick they can find or create to block any alternatives - they have become, in effect, squatters in your house, resisting every attempt you make to evict them.

A landlord cannot give up evicting a squatter from their property, otherwise they risk losing it. Likewise, we the people cannot simply accept the situation and give in to the Democrats and Republicans desire to stay in power indefinitely. They've been in power too long, and it's time to evict them both.

Think about it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

They're Coming!

The purpose of my blog is not to solely preach, but to try and get people to think. Sometimes that takes preaching and essays, but as any school student knows, that can get awfully dry and boring if it goes on for too long. You need variety. Fortunately, getting people to think can take a wide variety of forms. 

So I thought I'd do something a little different this week, and present you a little bit of fiction to enjoy and ponder over. 
Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Pentagon, Washington DC.

"Mister Secretary?", said Eileen. "Your 10:30 appointment is here."

"Show him in, Eileen," the Secretary answered.

General Martin, head of Area 51, stepped into the room, and held the door for a young man of about 30 with unkempt hair as he hefted a large box into the room. The Secretary, who was just coming around his desk to greet the general, paused for a moment, confused.

"General," he queried. "What's going on here."

"Mr Secretary," the general replied, "I would like to introduce you to Professor Malcolm Bennett, one of our top technology research scientists."   Professor Bennett looked up at the Secretary and nodded as he began pulling a long cylindrical object with scores of wires and tubes trailing from it.

The Secretary looked the young man over as he gently set the device on the desk, and began arranging boxes around it. He was wearing a high end grey suit with a pin striped shirt and a red tie. But even though the attire was appropriate for the visit, the young Professor looked like he had been sleeping in this particular suit for three days. His hair was a mass of black curls, and he wore thick wire rimmed glasses.

"Mr Bennett has something very important to show you," the General said. "Something I think you're going to want to bring to the President's attention."

"What is that thing," the Secretary asked, pointing to the large cylindrical metal tube on his desk. "It looks like a pile of junk."

"It was a pile of junk until I rebuilt what I could," Bennett said. He finally turned and faced the Secretary. "Mr Secretary, this is known as the Roswell Core.  It was discovered as part of the Roswell incident in 1947."

"The Roswell incident was just an experimental weather balloon," the Secretary said. "Are you telling me it really was a UFO?" He looked at the General. The General stayed quiet and looked to Professor Bennett for the answer.

"Not exactly," Bennett said. "It was a weather balloon, but what the government never admitted to is what brought the balloon down."  He paused, and connected some of the wires on the Core to his laptop.

"And?" the Secretary said.

"It was a missile," Bennett replied. "A missile of extra-terrestrial origin.  The Core here was the warhead this missile carried."

"A weapon?" asked the Secretary.

"No sir, a computer," Bennett said. "But the Core and its carrying missile were damaged in the crash. It didn't work on landing, and well, our scientists in 1947 weren't even close to capable of understanding it enough to repair it.   In fact, their so called forensic analysis of it actually did most of the damage to it. After a few years, they gave up, and set it aside.  I found it in an old storage room at the Area a few years ago, and started putting it back together as a side project. I didn't expect much from it.

"Now, don't get me wrong," Bennett continued. "The technology of the Core and their analysis of it jump started our own technology.  We wouldn't be where we are today, without it. It's important to our history and development.  But two weeks ago, it became even more important"

"So why is it important now," the Secretary asked.

"It is important because if the scientists in 1947 hadn't ruined it, had been able to repair it, or it had worked as intended, we'd be even further along than we are now. This computer, this Core, carries technological plans beyond anything we can even imagine now.

"And because we wouldn't face the crisis we're now in."

"What crisis?" the Secretary asked.

 "Watch," was all Bennett said as he flipped a switch, and the screen of his laptop came to life.

Thirty chilling moments later, the Secretary swallowed the large lump in his throat, and said simply "I'll get the President."
The Oval Office, Washington DC, three days later

Bennett shut off the video, and looked around the room at the assembled dignitaries. The room was quiet.

Finally, the Secretary of Defense spoke up. "What are we going to do?"

"There is little we can do," General Martin said. "The message said we had approximately 70 years from the time we received it.  There are only a few years left."

"But they sent us plans for weapons and defenses, didn't they?", the Director of Homeland Security asked.

"They did," Bennett said. "But we'll never get them analyzed and built in time."

"We have to go public," the Director of NASA said. "We need to tell the American people - the world - that aliens are on their way to invade."

The room erupted into chaos, as the arguments on the benefits and dangers of doing so were flung back and forth across the room.  Eventually the consensus was that they couldn't go public - not yet - but they still needed a way to prepare the public.

The President called for quiet. " Ladies. Gentlemen," he said. "I have a solution.  A way to arm the American public, without telling them." The room fell silent.

The President looked over every one as they waited for him to continue.

"Historically, what has been the reaction whenever gun control is seriously discussed?" the President asked.

The senior Senator from California made a face. "Gun sales go up," she said.

"Exactly," the President said. "So the best way to arm America is to ramp up the gun control rhetoric to unprecedented levels."   The room began nodding their heads in agreement.

"At least then when the aliens arrive, the American public will be armed," someone said.

"Yes, yes they will," the President said.

For the record, I do not in anyway think this is a likely scenario - it's just a piece of fiction I wrote for fun. But it makes you think, doesn't it?  And with all the conspiracy theories out there and how wild some of them are, you have to admit it's plausible in comparison, if not in reality.

But if it is true, I hope aliens are allergic to lead.   

Have a good Memorial Day weekend everyone.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A hypothetical question.

No long essay this week, just a question I want you to ponder for yourself.

"What would you do if a presidential administration nearing the end of it's term, attempted to cancel elections and retain power?"

A disclaimer here - I don't believe this will happen with this administration. Unlike a lot of people out there, I don't see Obama as a Hitler or Stalin wannabe, just as a man who has convictions, is blinded by them, and that blindness means he's refusing to admit he is wrong even in the face of proof.  But there are people who think he is - if they are right, the only way he could retain power would be to somehow cancel the 2016 elections.

I don't think there is anyway in hell the majority of Americans would accept such a power play, but then again, I could very well be wrong. But in either case, it's worth asking the question, so that people can figure it out for itself, in case a president ever does attempt it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

You can do it. No you can't.

Earlier this week, Defense Distributed announced they had finally achieved their goal of a 3d printable gun, called the Liberator, and revealed it on their website, The political backlash of this act is only just starting.

New York Representative Chuck Schumer - “Now anyone, a terrorist, someone who is mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon, can essentially open a gun factory in their garage. It must be stopped.”

New York Representative Steve Israel is pushing to update the current Undetectable Firearms Act to include the Liberator and other like weapons.

California State Senator Leland Yee is proposing legislation to ban 3D Printing in California.

Gun control advocates in Australia like Sam Lee have already begun pressuring the state and federal governments there to regulate 3D printers. 

Similar statements can be found across the world, in Canada, Britain, Europe and beyond. Overall, the general reaction is “You can’t do this!” and “We have to stop this!”    It is a predictable reaction - to clamp down when faced with an apparent threat. 

And in between the time I started writing this and before I got to post it, the US Department of Defense has pressured Defense Distributed to remove the files under its International Trade of Arms Regulations. 

No matter your viewpoint on this situation, it serves to illustrate something vital to understanding and coping with the future.

Many of our technological developments, particularly those of the last 50 years, are serving a far grander purpose of empowering the individual.  This is something that our founding fathers understood about firearms - they empowered the individual - and empowered individuals is something they tried to embody in the form the government they established.

The United States has constantly been on the forefront of technological change that empowers the individual, particularly in the last 50 years.  The computer, the laser printer, and the celphone are just a few of the technologies we have that empower the individual. And none more so than the internet. These developments have allowed the individuals to interact on an unprecedented global level. A perfect example is this blog - even as little as twenty years ago, my ability to make my voice heard would have required great personal expense, and most likely would have reached a much smaller audience than the small audience I’m reaching now.

At this point in history we can share knowledge more freely than before. Knowledge empowers the individual. And the more empowered we are as individuals, the better life should be, right?

Then why is it that government and society tend to be moving in the opposite direction, and attempting to contain the individual? Seatbelt laws, Helmet Laws, Drug Laws, Anti- Smoking laws, Gun bans, even soda bans all attempt to contain the individual in some manner.

These two things are completely at odds with each other.  Technology empowers us, while government and society attempts to contain us.  You cannot give a man more power, then tell him you don’t trust him with it. The natural human reaction to such a situation is to lash out.

In an era with empowered individuals, the emphasis needs to be on personal responsibility. Because only those capable of personal responsibility and entrusted with it can truly be entrusted with the technology that empowers them.

Increasingly, though, our government is moving in directions that actively discourage personal responsibility.  This is not a good situation - we cannot continue to punish those who are practicing personal responsibility by decreasing their liberties while at the same time rewarding those who practice irresponsibility by “taking care of them.”  Especially not in an era of technological change that empowers individuals. 

Empowered individuals have the capability to strike back at government and society, and there is little that can be done about it. At least not without imposing draconian and tyrannical measures of control on everyone. And the more you do that, the more people you have with reason to strike out and government and society.  

If we really want to see the utopian ideal of a world of peace and harmony, the path lies with personal empowerment, personal responsibility and trust, not down the path of control, restriction and distrust.

Just something else to think about.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

As a society, we're becoming more and more afraid. We're afraid of things like bombings, school shootings, abductions and a growing list of other things. But statistically, we're afraid of the wrong things.

You're more likely to be hurt in an auto accident than any of those things. Auto accidents and a whole host of other things like diabetes are more likely to affect you personally than a terrorist bombing or a school shooting will. I could quote a whole host of statistics to prove my point, but I'm going to take a more anecdotal and personal approach.

How many Americans do you know - personally know, not a friend of a friend or someone you encountered once on a plane or at a bus stop - how many do you know who have been seriously injured or killed in a car accident? Now how many do you know who have been killed or injured in a bombing or school shooting?

The vast majority of you reading this will have more of the former than the latter. Those of you who don't probably have a personal connection to one of this nation's tragedies like Columbine or 9/11 or Virginia Tech.

My point in bringing this up is to point out how we tend to deny the most likely bad things that can happen to us. And that leads me to mention another fear that most of us are ignoring. The fear we should have of government.

Whether you admit it or not, we do live and act in fear of government every day. Why do you follow the speed limit? Fear of getting a ticket. Why do you pay taxes? Fear of what will happen if you don't. Etc, etc.

Now, mind you, I am aware it's not all fear - many things we do are also part of social responsibility. And, as I've gone over before in my Cupped Hands Analogy, government is a lubricant that makes society work.

But for the last century or so, we've been slowly and surely handing over our liberties to government "for our safety."  At some point, that willingness to hand over our liberties is going to come back to bite us. If we don't reign in this willingness, we're going to eventually encounter a President who takes the laws we've let Congress enact, and the precedents we've let the government establish to enslave us, much as Hitler and the Nazis took over Germany from the Weimar Republic.

Some people believe that day is already here.  And when you really pay attention to some of the incidents that have happened, particularly surrounding the TSA, DEA, ATF and various "Child Protective Services" agencies, it does give reason to think they may be right. It IS time for a revolution.

I don't believe we've reached the threshold yet where that revolution has to be bloody.  There is still time to fight with votes. An election or two that completely throw the existing parties out of power will go a long way to revitalizing our government "Of the People, For the People and By the People."  All it takes is YOUR vote.  Vote now against the establishment. It's a hard thing to do, but it will take a large number of us speaking up to make it happen without blood shed.

I'll end with a great passage from John G Hemry's bood, Stark's Command:

"If you think you don't matter, then you don't."

Stand up and matter...