Posted by: bkivey | 6 July 2015

Thoughts on the Holiday Weekend

The past weekend featured 4 July, or Independence Day in the US.  This used to be a Big Deal. The Colonies broke away from England, fought a war lasting eight years against the dominant superpower of the day, and with help from France and Germany, managed to become an independent nation. And on the 239th anniversary of the Declaration, a growing number of people want to become dependent again.

Not that this is any big surprise. The Progressive thought virus has convinced people that freedom of thought and action is a bad thing, and they’d be much better off if their betters (institutional ruling class) told them what to think, what to do, what opinions were palatable for the day. A nation of children, and we’ve allowed it to happen.

When I was a child, and into my 20’s, I liked the Fourth. Parades, fairs, fireworks, and flag-waving.  It was fun. Depending on your job, you’d get the day off. But the nation has aged along with me, and not for the better. Now the news is filled with the nattering nabobs of negativity: celebrating the nation’s Founding is akin to supporting the killing of baby seals. I listened to a couple of radio shows that did “man-in-the-street’ interviews and while the samples were probably skewed, there’s no reason an American should be ignorant of their nation’s founding. Yet many people seem to be ignorant of not only the time, but the reason for America’s founding. If you lose your roots, you’ve lost your way.  And the ignorant people weren’t even ashamed of their ignorance. They laughed off their cluelessness like it was no big deal. But it is.

Perhaps the folks interviewed were ashamed, or perhaps they were existentially ignorant. The United States of America is, hands down, the greatest country the world has seen, and the most audacious social experiment undertaken. If you can name a nation-state that has done more to advance the human spirit than this one, let me know. And yes, I’m including England.

I think it’s safe to say that the experiment has failed. We had a good run, but it appears the majority of people don’t want freedom; they want security. Give most people three squares and a bed, and they’ll do whatever you say. It’s sad, pathetic, and entirely natural. America is about freedom of will and individual choice, but it’s hard to do that. It takes exceptional individuals to embrace those concepts, and most people aren’t exceptional.

I last attended a Fourth celebration some ten years ago. I’m not a crusty old curmudgeon, but I can’t get behind the rah-rah when I know that most of those in attendance are serfs to the State, and voted themselves into it. Think it’s tough being a pimp; try being a patriot.

Hey Japan, the US called and Wants Their Trophy Back

I watched most of the FIFA World Cup Women’s soccer game, because it was a sport’s championship, and the first ever rematch in Women’s World Cup.  Japan beat the US in the last iteration of the Cup in 2011, and it was apparent the US was out for blood. I started watching at 30 minutes in, which means I missed Carli Lloyd scoring a hat trick inside 20 minutes. That’s incredible.

Even after the own-goal in the 52nd minute, the US had a comfortable lead. And while the US side could have played ball control and run the clock, the team pushed the pace and shelled Japan’s goal. They wanted this game. The Japanese ball control and passing was impressive, but the US team was not going to be denied. Chapeau!

The Worst Internet Trend

I share a house and Internet with my landlord, and last month we noticed our data rate increasing. We both use about the same bandwidth monthly, so usage likely wouldn’t figure. We both noticed that websites increasingly use video ads.  Video sucks up more bandwidth than static images, so it’s likely our increased usage was the result of those same-same video ads.

So we have a situation in which we have to adjust our data plan, or switch providers (which we did), in order to accommodate advertisers sucking up our bandwidth. What this amounts to is our subsidizing people to send us advertising. I call bullshit. I may have to spend an afternoon looking into ways to curtail or prevent this practice.

Posted by: bkivey | 26 June 2015

Bonneville Dam

After touring the waterfalls along the Columbia Historic Highway, I drove up to Bonneville Dam to have a look.  Completed in 1937, this impressive structure was built for power generation, flood control, and river navigation. The first stop in the complex is the guardhouse , where you will be asked if you’re packing. The only acceptable answer is ‘no’. I asked the guard what happens if someone answers in the affirmative, and was told they’d be turned away. You can’t leave your firearm at the guardhouse, so if you visit, leave the heat at home.

The Visitor’s Center is about a mile from the entrance, and on the way you’ll drive across the locks:

Bonneville Locks 1

 

cross the bridge in front of the powerhouse:

Driving in front of the Powerhouse

 

Eventually you come to the large parking lot in front of the Visitor’s Center:

Bonneville Powerhouse Panorama

 

The powerhouse is on the left, and the Visitor’s Center is out of frame to the right. To the right of the parking lot is the spillway, which was in use this day:

Bonneville Dam Spillway

 

Given the paucity of precipitation this past winter, I was surprised there was enough water to justify spilling. It turns out that small salmon survive the spillway better than the trip through the turbines, so the dam will spill water to aid fish.

Bonneville Visitor's Center 1

 

The Visitor’s Center is a multi-story structure containing a museum, observation deck, and gallery to view the fish ladder. The museum has a variety of exhibits on the history of the dam and Columbia river. There’s a fairly good section on the Lewis & Clark expedition. Somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t see any exhibits proselytizing the State religion of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

The fish ladder is directly in front of the Visitor’s Center:

Bonneville Fish Ladder Downstream

 

There are fish visible in the water, but I didn’t see any fish leaping action. For a different view of the fish ladder, you can go to the bottom level of the Visitor’s Center:

View Into Fish Ladder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon underwater

 

But wait, what are those tubes on the bottom?

Lampreys on glass

 

What the fuck?! Apparently the Columbia is full of lamprey, nature’s piscatorial hellspawn. I knew what a lamprey was, but had never seen one, especially inches away. For the last 450 million years, these fish have been using their rotary saw sucker mouths to latch onto a fish and suck their blood. Good times.

After that horror show, I went outside to tour the powerhouse, where the water meets the wire, so to speak.

Bonneville Powerhouse 1

 

Disappointingly, the powerhouse is only available to guided tours, and the last tour had already left. I’ll have to think of a reason to come back out when I can catch a tour.

Finished up the day at a tavern in Cascade Locks for a late lunch/early dinner, and then the drive back home. All in all, a nice little day trip to break up the week.

Posted by: bkivey | 25 June 2015

Touring the Columbia Gorge

For the past three years I’ve complained that I don’t get to do anything in the Summer because I’m too busy. This week I had an unscheduled day off, and it was Summer, so I decided to do something fun outdoors, and that something was playing tourist in one of the great scenic attractions in the country, the Columbia Gorge.

The Gorge is where the Columbia river cuts through the Cascade mountains on it’s way to the Pacific ocean, and is the only water-level crossing through the mountains. Lewis & Ckark were the first Europeans to travel the river from Idaho to the coast, while the river served as a source of food and commerce for the natives in the watershed. The river still serves in those capacities, with railroads and highways along its banks, and large amounts of river traffic plying the waters as far as Lewiston, ID.

Because of the geography and the forces involved in carving the Gorge, it’s spectacularly scenic. That formational history also served to create the largest collection of waterfalls in North America on the Oregon side of the river. There are some two dozen waterfalls concentrated in a section about 10 miles long east of Troutdale. About half a dozen are visible from the road or by a short walk. There are also a number of overlooks along the way.

The first modern road through the Gorge was US 30. Influenced by the scenic highways of Europe, entrepreneur  Sam Hill and chief engineer Samuel Lancaster were determined to route the road so as to take advantage of the areas great natural beauty while maintaining moderate grades. They were stunningly successful, and the Historic Columbia River Highway is a must-see if you’re in Portland.

Taking I-84 east, the Highway starts in Troutdale, and starts to make it’s way along the escarpments lining the river. The first point of interest is Portland Women’s Forum Overlook. The plaque has a representation of Sam Hill.

Portland Women's Forum Overlook Sign

From the overlook there”s this view:

Portland Women's Forum Overlook

 

West is on the left and East on the right. There was a marine cloud layer, and it was threatening rain, but I figured the clouds would burn off by early afternoon.  A little further along is Vista House:

Vista House

 

There are stairs to the balcony above, and a museum and gift shop below. There is also a vista.

A couple miles down the road is Latourell Falls. They’re a short hike off the road:

Latourell Falls

 

It plunges over ancient lava flows (what, you thought our volcanoes were just for looks?), and the basalt formations are striking.

Next is Shepard’s Dell Falls. They’re visible from the road, but a short staircase leads down into the canyon for a closer view.

Shepard's Dell Falls

 

About a mile away is Bridal Veil Falls. Getting to these falls requires a short hike of about 1500 feet. The remains of a sawmill are in the area.

Bridal Veil Falls 1

 

About a mile and a half further are Wahkeena Falls. These are sort of visible from the road:

Wahkeena Falls from road

 

Sun starting to come out. There’s a short trail for a closer view:

Wahkeena Falls 1

 

Another view:

Wahkeena Falls 3

 

Here is where the fact it’s summer vacation season became apparent. Parking was at a premium, and there were a fair number of people about; more than I would have expected for the middle of the week. It was also starting to warm up, so the coolness of the forest and spray from the falls was welcome. There are several trailheads here, including one to Multnomah Falls about a half mile away. Rather than give up my parking space, I elected to hike to the falls.

Along the trail, some water falling down the slope and off the vegetation. Perhaps a nascent waterfall?

Trailside water falling 2

 

And the trail ducks under an overhang:

Overhang on Multnomah trail

 

The trail pops out at Oregon’s signature waterfall, Multnomah Falls:

Multnomah Falls 1

 

This waterfall is right next to the road. There’s a short trail to the bridge, and another trail about a mile long to the top. I only elected to go as far as the bridge, where you can look at the people looking at you:

View from Mutnomah Falls bridge

 

There’s a railroad bridge with a sign helpfully noting distances to various points:

Railroad sign at Multnomah Falls

 

Rail traffic is heavy, and the trains move fast. A good idea to stay off the tracks.

Back down the trail and to the car for the next attraction, Horsetail Falls. These are also visible from the road:

Horsetaiil Falls 1

 

The pool is a popular swimming spot. These are the last falls on this stretch of US 30, but a few miles away is another attraction, Bonneville Dam. I’ve passed the dam many times, but never stopped to visit. Bonneville isn’t just a hunk of concrete stretched across the river, but an entire hydroelectric complex. There’s a lot going on there, so I’ll save it for the next post.

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 18 June 2015

White Like Me

The shitstorm that’s sprung up around the revelation that former NAACP Spokane chapter president and former Eastern Washington University professor Rachel Dolzai was not, in fact, Black, has once again driven home the complete moral and intellectual bankruptcy of Progressivism. Ms. Dolzai is entirely a product of Progressivism, and her situation puts Progressives squarely in a dilemma.

  • For an ideology that’s always on about ‘equality’, they’ve shown again that they’re all about identity politics. Every position Ms. Dolzai held, and even her scholarship to Howard University, were opportunities she obtained, at least in part, on the perception she was Black. It’s hard to claim disadvantage when some jobs are more readily available if you happen to be non-White.
  • The expected outrage is necessarily muted because in the Progressive world, the Narrative must be maintained at all cost, even to the point of swallowing dignity and pride. Progressive ideology requires that the collective is sovereign to the individual, so vilification of Ms. Dolzai is fairly constrained.
  • Ms. Dolzai has put the Progressive notion of ‘inclusiveness’ to the test, and found it severely wanting. The fact that Progressives don’t believe their own rhetoric has again been publicly exposed. Where are all the people supporting Ms. Dolzai’s ‘chioce’?

Ms. Dolzai’s opinion that she can choose her racial identity may seem a logical outgrowth of the gender-choice section of the Narrative, but it has serious implications, none of which bode well for Progressives. The Progressive Narrative is based on inequality and disadvantage. The core of the Narrative is that dominant majority (White males) are the cause of all the world’s evil. With the idea that one can choose one’s gender, half the problem goes away. Now Ms. Dolzai has pioneered solving the other half. Want some White privilege? Self-identify as White. Boom. Problem solved. And so it goes for any problem perceived by Progressives. Because there are no absolutes in Progressivism, only relative perceptions governed by feelings, it seems that if everyone self-identifies as White male, there shouldn’t be any more social injustice.

White, White Baby (tune: Ice, Ice Baby)

Yo, check it out and listen
Rachel here with my brand new invention
Don’t like your race? Choose another.
You too can be a sister or a brother.
Like picking one of 82 genders
Take your race and put it in a blender.
Where will it stop? I don’t know
As long as I’m the star of the show
I’m assaulting tradition like a Vandal
Say I’m Black but wear Birkenstock sandals

Been told that being a victim was cool
Taught to hate myself from the first day of school
Darkened my skin and frizzed up my hair
Then I started bitchin’ how life wasn’t fair
People thought I was speaking truth to the Man
Not realizing I’m a casper with a tan.

If there’s a problem, the Left won’t solve it
Their only interest is to try and prolong it

White, White Baby
I’m narcissistic and crazy

White, White Baby
I’m narcissistic and crazy

She’s Always a Black Girl To Me (tune: She’s Always a Woman to Me)

Because the Progressive Narrative must at all costs be defended, some commentators have gone so far as to defend Ms. Dolzai’s actions.

Darkened her skin for awhile
She’s got blue in her eyes
She has ruined our faith with deliberate lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She thinks like a child
But she’s always a Black girl to me

She can lead you to believe
She’s oppressed and a victim
And you can ask for the truth
But you just can’t believe her
And she’ll take what you give her as long as it’s free
Yeah, she stole identity
But she’s always a Black girl to me

Oh, she takes care of herself
She can be Black if she wants
She’s a result of her times
Oh, and it’s never her fault
And she’ll never own up
She just changes the subject

Posted by: bkivey | 10 June 2015

Living in the Past

Anyone whose played organized sports, or watched professional sports, knows the script after a loss: “We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and move on. We’ve got to have a short memory and get ready for the next game. We need to focus on the future.” Political speeches after an electoral loss run along the same lines. So it goes in any field of endeavor in which the participant wants to achieve success: learn from mistakes, don’t dwell on the past, look forward to what can be improved in future, execute the plan. It’s the strategic blueprint for success.

And it’s historically been the American vision. We’ve always looked forward to new frontiers, new ways of doing things, new social experiments. It has made for a very dynamic society. People have come here to escape ossified societies and philosophies, to live in a place where they could try new things.

So why in the name of all that is holy do leaders and politicians on the Liberal side of the spectrum want to keep people living in the past?

Listen to the Progressive rhetoric: ‘the historical struggles’, ‘the injustices of the past’, ‘decades of oppression’, ‘traditional minorities’. Even when Progressive leadership claims to be ‘want to move forward’, the actions belie the words. John F. Kennedy is the last Liberal president I’m aware of who actually spoke about building a better future without dragging along the baggage of the past. Even Barack Obama’s campaign of ‘hope and change’ featured a goodly amount of lamenting the past. The primary reason people were so responsive to Ronald Reagan was because he articulated a genuine belief that the American people could accomplish great things, and that they had it within themselves to achieve those goals. No President since, and certainly no Democratic President, has been able to communicate a positive vision so effectively.

Now when Liberal leadership responds to crisis, it’s almost entirely in terms of the past. There’s no mention of building a future; now we’re supposed to ‘correct’ the injustices of the past. The past, the past, the past. People have been conditioned for decades that they have no future, only an irredeemably unjust past. But here’s the thing about the past:

The past never changes.

It’s done, it’s set, and no matter how hard one may wish for a different past, it’s impossible to achieve. If a person lives in the past, they’re always going to be unhappy. A person, or a people, living in the past is never going to have a future. And people without a future are going to be angry, dissatisfied, and eventually turn to violence. People with nowhere to go don’t care where they end up.

So why would the people who claim to lead the historically marginalized want to keep shoving that history in those folks faces without offering a way to build a better future? There is a way out of the past. The path forward started on 19 April 1775 with the battle of Lexington, and was codified on 29 May 1790 when Rhode Island became the final state to ratify the Constitution. But to the Progressive mind, the US is illegitimate because when the Founders ‘brought forth a new nation’, the US was a slavery nation. The tremendous social progress made in the intervening 225 years is for naught, because like Banquo’s ghost, our past must always shadow our present.

Again with the past.

It seems improbable that Progressives would operate in the same manner for decades without knowing what they’re doing. To keep people focused on the past, without recourse to a future, is an evil worse than slavery. At least the slave owners were honest about their intentions. Progressive leadership seeks to give people the illusion of freedom, while imposing ever more restrictive bonds, and denying them the freedom of determining their future for themselves. Now we’ve reached a point where people gladly sell their birthright as Americans for a little bit of security to people whose only interest is consolidating power.

It would be irrational to deny the past, but it’s equally irrational to live in it. It is the height of delusion to think that those who only talk about the past are going to lead people to a better future. The next time you hear someone talking about the past as a justification for actions in the present, ask yourself why they’re not talking about the future.

Rose Festival and Fleet Week

The Rose Festival took place in Portland last week, and it’s a Big Deal. There are parades, concerts, activities around town, and Fleet Week, when the Canadian and US navies send ships and sailors to the city, The ships tie up along the Willamette River waterfront, and are open for tours. The arrival Friday and departures Monday of the ships play merry hob with traffic, as bridges across the river must be opened to allow passage. But Portlanders are fairly tolerant of the inconvenience, more so than with Presidential motorcades shutting down entire stretches of freeway.

I had Sunday off, so I wandered around the waterfront looking at the ships and generally enjoying a Summer day downtown. Yes, it’s still Spring, but Sunday’s weather was typical of late Summer here.

Worlds Greatest Fairgrounds MAX

I took the MAX light rail into town, because parking’s expensive, and an all-day ticket is $5. At the Fairgrounds station in Hillsboro, there’s this sculpture. Judge for yourself. The ride into town takes about 40 minutes.

I got off MAX and walked up the Steel Bridge to view the ships.  That’s Benfold  nearest, with Rossalongside, and Canadian destroyer Calgary at the seawall.  Curiously, the names painted on the sterns of the USN ships don’t match their official listing. I noticed that the Canadian Navy doesn’t put the ship’s name on the stern; there’s just the ship’s number. I’m a little suspicious of services that don’t display the ship’s name. There’s a deep connection between any vessel that plies the void (water or space) and their crew. The relationship is symbiotic, and a ship deserves to have her name proudly displayed.

Destrpyers Fleet Week 2015

Another view of the ships. The Canadian vessel was noticeably shabbier than her American counterparts. Sailors tend to be proud of their ships, and I wondered why the Canadian Navy couldn’t scrape up some paint to put on a good appearance when they would be representing their service and country in a foreign land.

Destroyers bow view 1506.07

The Navy institutes an escort zone alongside the vessels, and pleasure boaters have to wait to be escorted through that zone.

Escorting boats

The Coast Guard watchdog.

Coast Guard watchdog

There’s a sailor manning a pair of prominently mounted .50 cal machine guns in the bow.

A 180 degree panorama from the Steel Bridge:

Panorama from Steel Bridge 1506.07

The US Bancorp tower (known as ‘Big Pink’) is on the right, and the Convention Center is on the left. The Steel Bridge carries road and light rail traffic on the upper deck, and heavy rail traffic on the lower deck.

A little further south along the waterfront was the USN minesweeper Champion

Minesweeper and destroyers 1506.07

USN minesweeper 1506.07

Compared to the destroyers, there hardly appears space for people to move around on deck.  Next up were two Canadian minesweepers. Portland was well protected from mines that weekend.

Canadian minesweepers bow 1506.07

Next up was the Canadian training ship OrioleShe is the oldest commissioned vessel in the Canadian Navy, but lacks some 150 years on USS ConstitutionThat’s the Burnside bridge in the background.

Canadain training ship 1506.07

Lastly, a couple of USN security boats:

USN police boats 1506.07

Posted by: bkivey | 29 May 2015

Two – Wheel Casualties

So far this month there have been four serious car – bicycle accidents in Portland; one of them fatal. The local cycling community is upset and demanding action from government. The last cycling fatality that generated big press occurred nearly three years ago, and I posted on it. From that post:

“It’s an unfortunate byproduct of this areas cycling culture that riders feel a certain sense of entitlement; an attitude shared by pedestrians. It’s not uncommon to see cyclists and pedestrians cross intersections with nary a look around, confident in the knowledge that they have the right of way. It’s a testament to driver awareness and modern brake systems that there aren’t more incidents between motor vehicles and bikes and pedestrians. It’s a tragedy that a young woman died, but the reality is that no amount of regulation or technology will mitigate bad judgement.”

Of the four recent accidents, two were known to be cyclists hit by vehicles making left turns. In those situations, my experience is that the fault probably lies with the driver. I’ve nearly been clipped several times by cars making left turns through intersections, and the most serious cycling injury I sustained was from a driver making a left turn onto the street. She never even looked left before pulling out.

There isn’t enough public information on the other two incidents, including the fatality, to make a judgement about liability. Given my experience driving in the area, and the cavalier attitude many cyclists and pedestrians have toward traffic laws and basic self-preservation, I’d not be surprised if much of the blame lies with the non-motorized vehicle. As an example, I was driving in downtown Portland yesterday and nearly hit a cyclist blowing through a stop sign at speed. That guy was literal inches from becoming a statistic. You’d think given the month’s events he’d pay a tad more attention to traffic regulations.

From the comments made by interviewed cyclists, it would appear Portland was plagued by hordes of metal monsters hell-bent on running down innocent cyclists. The blame is entirely on the drivers. Nary a word about how maybe cyclists should pay more attention to their surroundings, traffic laws, and the fact that 200 lbs of rider and machine is never going to do well against 3,000 lbs of metal, and people should ride accordingly. Because the commentary is monolithically one-sided, I doubt that the cycling community at large is really interested in solving a problem as much as pushing a narrative. This isn’t public debate; it’s divisive rhetoric intended to push an agenda.

And it’s not even a realistic agenda. Cyclists are calling for city measures designed to reduce cycling casualties to zero. That’s not even remotely possible. Nothing made by humans can be perfect, certainly not a system with tens of thousands of independent variables in the operators of various vehicles.  Realistically, people determine what level of system error is acceptable, and plan resource expenditures accordingly. Anything else is wishful thinking.

There’s also the annoying, but in this part of the world common, belief that it’s other people’s responsibility to address what amounts to an individual problem. I understand that there are parts of the city’s streets that can benefit from improved safety measures, but when you’re out in the world, your personal safety is primarily your responsibility. All the programs and money in the world won’t fix bad judgement.

If the cycling community wants real safety improvement, they should realize that any solutions will require support from all parties involved. Incriminating the majority of the community isn’t going to get that done. In the current climate, the real two-wheel casualties are truth and inclusiveness.

How to Be a Nerd

Anyone who listens to AM radio knows that it’s a great lightning detector.  I turned the ball game on today and the radio was popping and cracking. A check of the weather radar revealed thunderstorms across the high deserts of Washington and Oregon. Sure, it was nerdy thing to do, but it was cool, in a nerdy way.

 

Posted by: bkivey | 29 May 2015

Capitalism is Fine, But . . .

One of the tenants of Progressive thought is everything should be ‘fair’ and everyone should be ‘equal’, thus demonstrating a complete misunderstanding of both the words and how the world works. Individual achievement is often portrayed as having an ‘unfair’ advantage. Unless one professes belief in the One True Religion, then the rules used to judge others don’t apply. Progressives seek to elevate the sub-standard to the mediocre, the mediocre to the exceptional, and the exceptional is vilified. 

Progressivism has always been at odds with capitalism, because capitalism allows individuals to achieve to the limits of their abilities and ambitions. Individual shortcomings and strengths are publicly exposed. A person with ability and ambition is unlikely to be swayed by arguments for social and economic conformity.  But in the worker’s paradise, everyone is expected to explicitly work for the common good while taking no more than is required. The idea was summed up by Louis Blanc:

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

In a normally distributed population, about 16% will be above average (> +1 SD). In the Progressive mind, these folks are expected to contribute disproportionately to the common good, while enjoying no more benefits than anyone else. Because most above-average people balk at the idea of what amounts to virtual servitude, the socialist Utopia must find ways to control those people. But Progressives have reluctantly come to realize that the expanding welfare state requires funding, and the poor ain’t gonna do it. 

So the last several years have seen most Socialists pay lip service to capitalism in an effort to appease the ones paying for their vision. In the Conversation on Poverty earlier this month, President Obama gives a classic example of this:

” We don’t dispute that the free market is the greatest producer of wealth in history — it has lifted billions of people out of poverty. We believe in property rights, rule of law, so forth. “

By his actions during his term, this President has made clear he doesn’t believe in any of those things. He may not dispute it, but he doesn’t believe it, because in the very next sentences he gives the game away:

” But there has always been trends in the market in which concentrations of wealth can lead to some being left behind. And what’s happened in our economy is that those who are doing better and better — more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages– are withdrawing from sort of the commons — kids start going to private schools; kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks. An anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together. And that, in part, contributes to the fact that there’s less opportunity for our kids, all of our kids.”

And there you have it. In the Progressive world, free market economics is a zero-sum game. A dollar going to Warren Buffet is a dollar taken away from someone else. I’ve made the point before: unless they’re working for the same organization, Bobby Sue’s pay has no effect on what Billy Bob can earn. They are independent of each other. And if someone is “. . . more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages. . .”, so what? You’re only limited by those factors to the extent you’re occupied by them. If someone is a member of the lucky-sperm club, has every financial and social advantage, goes to the best schools, and makes more in their first job than many people will ever see (cf. Chelsea Clinton), it doesn’t matter. 

 “Greater advantages”? I can’t think of a greater advantage than being a native-born American citizen. As for skills and education, a person can acquire those. It just takes the desire, and really not much of that, to do so. The bar for getting a post-secondary education in this country is very low. These are fatuous arguments. More so because the very economic system Progressives rail against have made the opportunities available. 

Over time Progressives have limited those opportunities for those they’re fond of calling ‘the least’. President Obama states the obvious:

“– because it’s hard being poor. People don’t like being poor. It’s time-consuming’ it’s stressful. It’s hard.”

As someone who has at various times experienced economic hardship, I can say “No shit, Sherlock.” And because I didn’t like being poor, I did something about it. But as the welfare state has expanded, the opportunities for economic mobility have decreased. If a person can realize a greater income from the dole than they can from working, most are going to choose the former. This further divorces more of the population from the benefits of capitalism, to the point where they see capitalism as the cause of their problems, rather than the solution. Progressives engage in ideological brainwashing that’s pernicious, toxic, and evil. 

Capitalism is the best economic system devised by humans. At root all organisms are selfish, in that they put their own interests first. Capitalism harnesses that natural inclination so that people can contribute to the common good while satisfying their base desires. It works so well, many centrally-planned states have encouraged it. Success is hard to argue with. In the Progressive mind, though, success is something to be punished.

New Phone

I got a Galaxy S5 last week. OK, the company bought it; I just get to use it. I’d checked out the phone last year, and was impressed by the screen resolution, camera, and processing speed. It also made phone calls. I didn’t get the S6, because in my opinion the difference in features didn’t justify the bump in price. 

I also had a different kind of buying experience. When I lived in Beaverton, I’d go to the local Verizon company store. That’s where I bought my S3, and it seemed like the folks there were more interested in selling product and service than ensuring a good customer experience. I have no real complaints about service at the store, but it all felt very corporate.

This time around, I went to a franchise store in Hillsboro. I stopped in to see what kind of deals they were offering, and found out I could get a new phone and five accessories for under $200 out the door. Sold! In addition to the goodies and setting up the phone, they offered to migrate my files; something Beaverton wouldn’t do. I was there for over an hour getting set up and checked out, and never felt rushed. The goodie bag made me feel like a bandit. Overall a very positive experience.

I like the phone. It’s fairly intuitive, although the screen goes dark if you look away from it. I know this is a feature, but for me it’s more of a bug. Yes, I’ll fix it. The only really annoying item is that Samsung put a cover over the charging/USB port, something the S3 didn’t seem to need. I’ve gotten better at getting it open, but it seems like an unnecessary addition. 

There was one mystery. I’ve been developing apps for a little over a year, and while they show up on the apps folder, they don’t appear in any of the phone’s memories.  I had to manually reload them. I’m curious as to where these things live. 

Schooled

My Bluetooth headset died after a few days, which was frustrating. I’d thought the battery would last considerably longer. I couldn’t figure out how to get the battery out. My work partner (literally half my age) pointed out that there was a jack for a charger on the headset. I’d though that was to connect it to the phone (for some reason). Doh!

The Laziest People on Earth

As part of a semi-regular series, I have evidence of the Laziest People on Earth:

20150521_183452 20150523_125246

Seriously. How lazy/ignorant/unmindful do you have to be to leave trash on the trashcan instead of in the can? Is this a social statement? Performance art? 

 

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 25 May 2015

The Sentinel’s Creed

Tomb of the unknown

 

My dedication to this sacred duty is total and whole-hearted.
In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter.
And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements,
I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.

Posted by: bkivey | 21 May 2015

The Conversation on Poverty Part II

Poverty, like gender, is a social construct. There is no observable natural phenomenon called ‘poverty’. This isn’t to say that many, if not most, people in the world live in dire economic circumstances. But just as you can ‘define deviancy down’, you can define poverty up. Very few, if any people in the Western world live in true no-social-safety-net poverty.

The current definition of ‘poverty’ in the US is a gross income of $11,770 annually for an individual, and $24,250 annually for the statistical standard family of four. These incomes translate to an hourly wage of $5.89/hr and $12.12/hr respectively for a standard 2000 hrs of annual work. At these income levels, food and medical care are essentially free, while housing, especially for families, is heavily subsidized, so the actual annual compensation is considerably higher than the official rate. Compared to large portions of the globe, there really isn’t any poverty in the US as most of the world understands it.

Looking over the comments by the participants on the poverty panel, one might be forgiven the impression that ‘poverty’ was an unaddressed problem in society.

Barack Obama: “And right now, they don’t have those things, and those things have been stripped away. You look at state budgets, you look at city budgets, and you look at federal budgets, and we don’t make those same common investments that we used to. And it’s had an impact. And we shouldn’t pretend that somehow we have been making those same investments. We haven’t been.”

The first major Federal government intervention in the financial life of the individual occurred during the New Deal of the Great Depression. Prior to the mid 1930’s, there was no real government safety net for the individual, so if you didn’t have a strong family or church, you were on your own. Federal entitlement spending hovered around 2% of GDP until 1940, and rose slowly until the mid 60’s.

In 1964-65 Lyndon Johnson initiated the Great Society, a series of Federal social programs designed to transfer wealth from those with money to those without. Entitlement spending skyrocketed, and for the most part, hasn’t slowed much. Overall social spending has followed a steady growth rate the last half century. From around 2% GDP spending on all entitlement programs, the US now spends 6.8% GDP on pensions, 7.5% GDP on healthcare, and 2.6% GDP on welfare. That’s 16.9% of GDP spent on what are essentially anti-poverty programs.

The only Federal program that’s seen anything like a cut is education. Between 1953 and 1976 Federal spending on education rose from 2.7% GDP to 5.7% GDP. Education spending declined until 1984, rose until 2010, in the intervening five years has declined sharply, and is currently about 5% GDP.

One can truthfully say that some Federal social spending has declined, but to assert that ‘we don’t make the investments we used to’ is blatantly false.

One of the overarching themes of Progressivism is that people aren’t in control of their own destiny. If you’re situation is suboptimal, it’s because someone took something away from you, or did something to you. The individual is powerless, and must depend on the beneficence of the powerful in order to live. This is in direct contradiction to the founding principles of the United States, which was predicated on the premise that the individual was sovereign to the State, and that people should be allowed to find their own way within a liberally permissive societal framework.

There are valid historical reasons why some peoples and areas have been historically impoverished. Societal discrimination has at various times and places formed Polish, Irish, Italian, Asian, and Hispanic ghettos, just as Black ghettos existed and exist. With few exceptions, these and other ethnic groups followed the American blueprint of immigrate, educate, assimilate, and usually within three generations the grandchildren of illiterate, ignorant immigrants were fully integrated into American society. The American Dream is the idea of social mobility based on individual effort.

But Progressives are about things rather than ideas. That’s why you get quotes like:

“What portion of our collective wealth and budget are we willing to invest in those things that allow a poor kid — whether in a rural town, or in Appalachia, or in the inner city — to access what they need both in terms of mentors and social networks, as well as decent books and computers and so forth, in order for them to succeed?”

Barack Obama

In other words, let’s throw money at the problem. No rhetoric on individual effort, personal responsibility, and high societal expectations. Progressives like to use other people’s money to shower things on others, and then wonder why the recipient’s lives aren’t materially improved. If people are encouraged to sit around and wait for others to provide for them like over-age children, they’re never going to be anything but poor.

And that’s really what Progressives want: power over others. As long as significant percentages of the population can be kept poor and on the reservation, but made to feel like someone is doing something for them, then Progressives have a base. The minute people start thinking for themselves and making an effort to improve their lives, is the minute Progressives lose power. And they must have power above all else. As long as Progressive ideology is encouraged, we’re always going to have generational poverty.

Something Wrong with this Picture

Alaska Rising Tide activists pose in front of the Polar Pioneer drilling rig.

Above is an image taken during the ‘kayaktivist’ protest of an oil rig docked in Seattle to have some work done before it heads off to the Arctic to drill for oil. The protesters are all very proud of themselves for demonstrating against what they see as an environmental injury, and I don’t doubt their sincerity. But there’s something wrong here. Can you spot it?

That’s right! All of their craft are made of plastic or fiberglass, both of which require oil as a feedstock. The paddles don’t appear to be made of carved wood, and I’m guessing they didn’t tote those boats to the water on their bicycles, either. There is something insanely stupid and childish about protesting the infrastructure that makes your life possible.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 19 May 2015

American Airman

I don’t generally republish posts from other sources, because in this day and age, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake. Oftentimes items that speak to your prejudice turn out to be not real. But I came across an item that checks out from multiple reliable sources, so I’ll reprint it. H/t John Q. Public

Kayce M. Hagen is a pen name assumed by an active duty enlisted airman. She wrote the following words to capture her thoughts after attending mandatory annual training given by her base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) office. I’m publishing her letter here not just because it captures in visceral form a sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly from airmen who are frustrated by increasingly tone-deaf and overwrought approaches to this issue, but also because I believe her input raises (or renews) two important questions. First, what is the current Sexual Assault Prevention program doing for the Air Force? Second, what is it doing to the Air Force? Kayce’s input explores these questions in a powerful way.

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way.

You are the reason I room alone when I deploy. You are the reason that wives are terrified that their husbands are cheating on them when they leave, and I leave with them. When I walk into a room and people are laughing and having a good time, you are the reason they take one look at me and either stop talking or leave. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of me, and it’s because of you. They are afraid that with all of this “power” I have, I can destroy them. They will never respect me or the power and the authority I have as a person, or the power I have as an Airman, because I am nothing more than a victim. That I as a victim, somehow I control their fate. With one sentence, I can destroy the rest of their lives.

“He sexually assaulted me.”

I say enough. He didn’t assault me, you did; and I say enough is enough. If you want to help me, you need to stop calling me a victim. If you want to save me, you need to help me to be equal in the eyes of the people I work with. If you want to change a culture, you need to lessen the gap between men and women, not widen it. Women don’t need their own set of rules: physical training scores, buildings, rooms, raters, sponsors, deployment buddies. When I can only deploy with another woman ‘buddy’ you are telling me and the people around me that I can’t take care of myself. When you forbid me from going into my male friends room to play X-Box on a deployment with the other people on my shift, you isolate me. When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

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