True Nature

The room was large. It had to be to accommodate the assorted VIPs, presidents, prime ministers, religious leaders, captains of industry, and their handlers. The walls were a light coloured wood, and the floor a commercial burgundy carpet with a geometric, and slightly annoying, pattern. The room had been pressed into service on short notice. Actually everything about this meeting had to be put together in a rush. It was that critically important.

A low stage was at one end of the room with a podium and a microphone. A set of double doors at the back of the stage lead to the catacombs of the conference centre. Three steps on the front allowed access to and from the rest of the room. It was up these steps that Ubuntu Suluwaisi, Secretary General of the United Nations climbed. He was tired. It had been a very stressful few days. But he had been able to impress upon all those in attendance the importance of this meeting. If he hadn’t, then the fate of humanity would have been sealed. Reaching the podium he waited for the chatter and noise to die down. After waiting a few seconds however, he tapped the microphone on the podium to gain everyone’s attention. In short order the hubbub from the seated group died away.

“Thank you.” he said. “Let us begin. You all know the general reason we are here. A few days ago a ship appeared in orbit around the Earth. They demanded a meeting with the representatives of humanity. We have gathered you as those representatives. Seated in this room are political leaders of 93% of the world population, religious leaders of 80% and business and corporate leaders for 75% of the worlds economy. I understand how difficult this was, and we appreciate all of you attending, I assure you this is literally a matter of survival.”

“I still think it’s a bad idea,” came a gravely voice from the back of the room. “One nuke and they take all of us out. I mean if you’d only let me use my missile strike force we could hit that…”

“Please General,” said Secretary Suluwaisi. “We’ve already explained why that would not work. This conference is the only way we can hope to fend off the disaster we are facing.” The General in the back slumped back in his chair, a sour expression on his face. “But now with no farther delay I would like to present Kletchat !Kaloci’ the representative of the Galactic Union. He will explain the situation.”

A figure then came in through the double doors. It was clearly NOT human. Its body, and as gender is an Earth concept we can only call the representative it, was roughly cylindrical, around three meters long, with twelve pairs of appendages down each side. Each appendage ended in two fingers. At the moment it was using eight of these appendages to walk and the remaining four as arms. The uppermost part of the creature, what for the sake of argument the delegates though of as a head, contained five green eyes with elongated, cat-like, pupils, and several stiff bristles around what passed for a mouth. It was dressed in a loose fitting tailored uniform of green fabric. Its skin was a pink shade with blue highlights and if anyone had been able to get close enough, quite soft. The fluidity of its motions suggested that it had no bones.

The Kletchat approached the podium and looked at the gathering while the Secretary stepped back against the wall. His people had evolved on a small planet slightly larger than the earth. By nature they were a rational and peaceful people. Once they became a spacefaring civilization they had encountered other intelligent species and always tried to deal fairly with them. They were one of the founding members of the Galactic Union, and now formed the core of the diplomatic and negotiation branches.

“I bid you greetings from the Galactic Union”. It spoke in perfect English. There was now a low murmur in the room as translators informed the few that did not understand what it said. The proceedings were being live streamed around the globe. All work had stopped as people gathered around television or computer screens at home, or bars, or offices, to see this event that would literally decide the future of humanity.

Kletchat !Kaloci’ continued. “I am here to speak to you today at the request of Secretary Suluwaisi. I am here, bluntly, to give humanity one last chance. You see the Galactic Union has been aware of you for some time. We have become alarmed as you approached the level of a spacefaring civilization. We in the Galactic Union have determined that you will pose a threat to the galactic order. I was sent here to see if you could be redeemed and if not, to sterilize the planet.”

“What do you mean by sterilize?,” asked a voice from the crowd.

“Simply if you cannot show why you are not a threat to the civilizations throughout the galaxy we will have to exterminate humanity and give this planet to a species that will be,” he paused looking for the right word, “better galactic citizens.”

A frightened chatter went through the seated dignitaries. The Secretary stepped back up to the podium. “Please, please, we must have order. This is a simple misunderstanding. Once we have shown Kletchat !Kaloci’ that the impression they have about humanity is wrong I’m sure this order will be rescinded. Then we can proceed with the work of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the Galactic Union. This can all be cleared up.”

A man in the front row rose to his feet. He was tall, slim, and spoke with a slight southwestern accent. “Excuse me there. I’m Richard Green, President of the United States. Just what is it that we are supposed to have done? And for that matter how could we be a threat to your Galactic Union. I mean, we haven’t even been able to get back to our own moon, let alone a nearby planet. And other stars and the rest of the galaxy? I mean that’s hundreds of years off before we figure out how to do that, if ever. How could the Galactic Union possibly think we, the inhabitants trapped on a small blue planet in the middle of nowhere are a threat?”

The Secretary turned to Kletchat !Kaloci’, “He makes a good point. How could the Galactic Union be worried about us?”

“Well,” began The Kletchat, “first you underestimate your own cleverness. You are on the verge of several breakthroughs that will give you access to light speed travel in the next decade. Second, it isn’t a threat in the sense of you having a particular weapon. Physically you, as you reminded the General, are no match for us. It’s more your attitude. You have a callousness, a cruel streak that lets you do unspeakable things and still sleep at night. It is this attitude that is so alarming. Couple that with your ability to learn, and adapt, and we could see you becoming a terrible power using the technology we have in short order. Seeing what you do to yourselves, we fear what you may do to other species and other worlds if you ever got loose in the galaxy”

“What do you mean?” Asked the President.

“OK, lets start with war.”

“Don’t tell me you’ve done away with war?”

“No, no, nothing like that.” replied Kletchat !Kaloci’. Those closest to him might have been forgiven if they caught a hint of a chuckle in his voice. That was of course impossible. “Occasionally there are conflicts. We have a military to defend ourself. Galactic Union members even have even come to blows on occasion.”

“Then what?”

The Kletchat paused to gather his thoughts. ”It’s the way you wage war. You don’t only fight army on army. You attack civilians. You use monstrous weapons but also you use starvation, and disease, and rape, as weapons. You don’t differentiate between combatant and non combatant. There is a sadism, I believe that is your word for it, to how you wage war. A joy in killing and cruelty that is unlike anything we have ever seen. Even the most warlike of our members, the Ashlich,” the word was half a hiss and half a gargle that was not reproducible by a human mouth,” have limits to how they wage war. They understand the difference between combatants and non combatants. Between belligerents, and innocents. You, on the other hand will gladly obliterate whole buildings to get one person, wipe whole towns off the map because it might have some of the “enemy” within, Vaporize thousands that live near a military target, or sometimes just to send a message. You don’t worry about how many may die needlessly. Some of you will even kill non combatants for vague philosophical reasons. You make up words for it. Collateral Damage, or Acceptable Losses, or even just a simple The Enemy, to cover the innocents killed just because they were in the wrong place, or had the wrong colour flag, or believed in the wrong diety. When you’re on the defence, you often will use these same innocents as shields. Hiding behind the old and women and children to try to stave off your enemies strikes. Letting them absorb the bullets and bombs and then jumping up to return fire and in the process hitting any survivors in the back. Even the Ashlich have the decency to keep their battles outside of populated areas. To wage war only on others who want to wage war. Why you even press children into fighting before they are capable of comprehending what is happening. I’m sorry but this is something we cannot allow out to infect the galaxy at large.”

“Now hold on a minute there.” A distinguished older gentleman with a thick upper class British accent and a beard rose to his feet.
“And you are?” asked Kletchat !Kaloci’.
“Oh, pardon me, of course. I am Percival Blackham, Prime Minister of Great Britain. I want to say that your information must be rather out of date. I am old enough to remember the last great war and after that we came to understand the limits we must impose. We have rules now about how war is to be conducted, and we are constantly updating them. Banning particular weapons, declaring this or that action to be a War Crime, that sort of thing. And we have and do prosecute people for violating the rules of war. We have a whole court set up just to handle these cases. For people who have committed things we even call Crimes Against Humanity.”

“Is this true? Asked Kletchat !Kaloci’, surprised.

Shouts of “Yes” and “Of course” arose in multiple languages from the hall.

“Then why,” continued Kletchat !Kaloci’, ” do I keep hearing about atrocities? Innocents killed? Extermination camps and attacks on hospitals, and churches, and schools, suicide bombings, terrorism and the like?”

“Well, um, you see that…” the Prime Minster stumbled for words.

The Japanese delegate jumped up behind him “It is because not everyone follows the law. Forgive me Mr. Prime Minister for cutting in, but as the representative of Japan, we understand as few do how war should and should not be fought.”

“Oh, no thats perfectly all right.” Said the Prime Minister.

“But then,” continued Kletchat !Kaloci’, “if you now have these rules of war, how do you explain why these things go on? Just this morning we intercepted a number of your news broadcasts. They were full of actions that must clearly violate your rules of war? Surely if you have rules they are to be followed.”

The room was silent for a bit. Finally a voice came from the back. A large man in a traditional Nigerian dress, a colourful headscarf and a flowing white agbada stood up. He spoke in a deep voice, slowly and choosing his words carefully. He was an imposing figure that radiated an air of wisdom and calm.

“It is that there is a small number that won’t follow the rules.”

“Oh, I see.” said The Kletchat “It’s not all of you. Just a small group. Them not you?”

“Yes, most people want to live in peace. Most people would rather talk than kill. Most people do not want to see their loved ones go off to war. But I know from my own country there is a small group that wants to seize power, to loot, to destroy, and they do not care who they kill. They are the bad guys. It is against them that we fight.”

“Oh,” Kletchat !Kaloci’ appeared to be a bit surprised by this. “So even if there is no reason for war there is this small group that wants to try to use violence for their own gain?”

The assembly agreed en mass.

“And it is this small part of your population that gets all the coverage on the news,” asked Kletchat !Kaloci’?

“Exactly,” affirmed the British Prime Minister, “they get all the coverage BECAUSE what they do is so far outside of the normal standards of acceptable behaviour.”

“I do admit that does make sense.” Said Kletchat !Kaloci’. ” I will accept that explanation. But what about torture? Nowhere in all of explored space have we encountered a species that will deliberately inflict pain and suffering on their fellow creatures. Studying your history and even the events of today, you seem to be fiendishly clever in devising ways to inflict pain suffering. Sometimes directly, other times on the victims loved ones to cause them mental anguish. Sometimes it’s done to extract information. But, just as often art appears to be just for the pleasure of hurting someone who is at your mercy. That is utterly beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour for any sentient species.”

“OK, there you go again,” said the President of the United States. “Most of us, I dare say almost all of us, have rejected and renounced torture. We don’t do it and we try to hunt down and put those that do on trial.”

“I do not understand,” said Kletchat !Kaloci’. “If these acts are so rare, then why are they so prevalent in your news reports?”

“It is because they are so out of bounds.” said the delegate from India. “They become news because they are so unacceptable. If these were common actions, they would not be on the news. It is that way for most of the reprehensible things on your list. We talk about them because we want them to be stopped. We want the tiny part of humanity that commits these atrocities to stop.”

“I see. So that is the case with rape, and genocide, and poison gas and biological weapons, and so fourth?, asked The Kletchat?

The assembly gave a noisy assent.

“Yes. there’s a group of people who do those things,” added the Brazilian Ambassador, “but most of us have rejected those as unacceptable and inhumane. You cannot condemn all of us for the actions of a small subgroup.”

Kletchat !Kaloci’ Thought about it for a minute. Then he spoke. “Well what about a simple standard of living? You have people working for vast wealthy companies, yet live in squalor and poverty. At one point you even had chattel slavery, something unheard of anywhere else in the galaxy.”

“I will answer that,” an Industrialist with the German delegation rose to speak. “I am Dieter Pferzhung, President and CEO of HartzheimFlug gmbh. Yes, there are some companies like that. Some companies will only see their workers as an expense, and will treat them accordingly. But most of us have learned that we can only be as good, and as profitable as our employees are happy. We depend on these people to make our products. They cannot do a good job if thay aren’t happy. Most of us understand this. There’s just a few that try to gain a competitive advantage at the expense of their workers.” The other businessman around him broke out in applause. “But we have been working with governments to stamp this out.”

“I see,” said Kletchat !Kaloci’. “So you are telling me that all of the issues the Galactic Union has been worried about, are caused by a small minority who won’t follow the rules.”

“Yes that’s exactly what we’re saying,” said Secretary Suluwaisi. “We have worked very hard to make the Earth into a peaceful place. A fair place. A place where all have the chance to be happy. But there always seems to be a group that lets greed and lust for power rule their choices. We have been working for centuries to get them to realize that following the rules is in their own interest.”

“And that the Galactic Union has nothing to worry about from most of you people.”

“Precisely.” said the American President.

“Well then I think the answer is clear.” said Kletchat !Kaloci’ “I am going to recommend to the Galactic Union that we not exterminate humanity.”

There was thunderous applause from the assembled dignitaries.

“In addition,” continued The Kletchat once the noise had subsided, “I think that we can help you with your problem. If you will point out who is doing these terrible things. Who is waging war on innocents, and torturing, and enslaving and so on, we will exterminate just them. Then the rest of you can join the Galactic Union.”

The assembly was caught off guard. “I, I, I beg your pardon?” said the Secretary General.

“The antisocial group that causes all of your problems. The one tribe that violates the laws you are trying to impose on yourselves. The caste that lets greed rule and doesn’t care about innocent lives. Who are they? If you will just point them out, we will clear up the infection for you.

The assembly sat in stunned silence. They had not expected this. A low buzz of conversation rippled through the crowd. Then from the back came an angry voice “It’s the Jews. They are the ones.” The person was shushed down by the crowd. Then there was a reply from across the room, “No, its you Jihadis.” The room started to fill with shouts.

“It’s the Christians.”
“No it’s the capitalists are who is oppressing us.”
“It’s the communists who are at fault.”
“There are no communists left you idiot, it’s you military fascists.”
“It’s the homosexuals that are sewing discord and immorality.”
“We just want to be left alone. It’s you bigots that are causing the problems.”
“It’s the Chinese.”
“It’s the blacks.”
“It’s all those old white men”.
The shouting became a din so loud that nothing was even intelligible any more. Fights began to break out as this or that delegate took offence at something someone had said. Total pandemonium filled the hall as the Secretary General shouted into the microphone in a vein attempt to restore order.

Next to him Kletchat !Kaloci’ stood silently. “Now I understand,” he thought to himself. He calmly raised his second left arm and touched three buttons on the number pad on his second right arm. The shouting instantly stopped as all of the delegates collapsed to the floor, dead. Outside the streets quickly became silent. All over the world, other than a few cars that were still moving, and some automated machines that would finish their programs and then stop to wait for instructions, it was quiet. All over the world the animals, whales and birds, cows and polar bears, flies and ants and all the plants continued as they were. All the people though, were lying where they fell, quite dead.

Kletchat !Kaloci’ touched another button on the keypad. A holographic image appeared in front of him. “I have good news Delgit Hachhhttt. The reports were right. The humans that had occupied this world were in fact not redeemable. Oh they tried to put on a good face, but in the end they could not hide their true nature. So, you can take possession of the Earth immediately. You are of course welcome to change the name if you wish. I am also afraid that you do have some cleanup to do. Bodies, the remains of their civilization, that sort of thing. But once that’s taken care of I think you’ll find this planet to be a very nice place. I’m sure you and your people will be very happy here.

Later that day the first of an armada of bright white soft sided spaceships of spun high strength fibre, landed on the Earth. The four foot tall spider-like occupants poured out and took possession of this new land. Their new home. A home that had room enough for all of them, regardless of what they believed, or what god they worshipped or whom they loved. A home they would cherish.

The Lecture

In the latest part of the 25th century, in a stuffy ancient auditorium, in an encrusted old building in the heart of an equally ancient and hallowed University a very senior professor approached the podium. He placed a dishearteningly thick stack of papers on the podium in front of him and began to read.

“In the middle of the 21st century, cloning technology had advanced to the stage where humans could be cloned and their maturation accelerated. At that point a functional adult could be created within six months starting only with a sample, or even just a record of their DNA sequence. This of course lead to the inevitable wars and conflict, culminating in the Third World War in the late 21st century. This war was so destructive that it was a full three hundred years before humanity had recovered to their previous technological level.

Over 400 years after those events, some ten years ago, Professor Thaddeus Wright of the University of Cape Town thought of using the very technology that almost wiped out humanity to explore the causes of those events. Today we have Dr. Wright here to present the findings of his research. And so without further ado I present to you, Dr. Wright.” He gathered his papers and returned to his seat at the side of the stage.

And to this day no one knows what was on pages 2 through 256 of the stack of papers he carried.

Dr. Wright approached the podium. He was also quite senior, though perhaps not as grizzled as the professor that had introduced him. He placed a legal pad on the podium, and took a sip from the glass of water. Nobody ever knew where the glass or the water came from. When asked staff, faculty, and students all denied putting it there. It has been theorized that it is kept there, in place, and half full of water by the spirits of all the cotton mouthed lecturers and students defending their dissertations that came before. That of course was an absurd myth. They didn’t know where it came from either.

Dr. Wright looked out at the audience and after a pause, began. “Thank you Doctor Eccelstone. Ten years ago I had an idea. I wondered if we might get a glimpse into history, into what the people in the past were like, by cloning them. Reconstructing actual people from the distant past and then interviewing them. See how their minds worked. At first we went to the very distant past. Our first attempts were with mummies, either from Egypt, or Peru. We found the DNA of dried specimens was too degraded to be reconstructed. The same was true of the ‘bog bodies’ found in Europe, and the various frozen bodies that have emerged from glaciers. There was just too much damage to produce a working clone.”

“At this point one of my students pointed out that we did have another source of DNA that would be in much better shape. In the latter part of the 20th and into the 21st centuries DNA was routinely taken and preserved by various organizations, both corporate and governmental. Due to the destruction wrought by the terrible period of war and violence most of the records have been lost. However by a great stroke of good fortune some of these archives were sealed in a cave in Antarctica. An expedition was organized and the precious data was retrieved. “

“The difficulty was that we had no context for the samples. None of the names meant anything to us. There were no Presidents, or world leaders, or pillars of industry, or great artists. Indeed we had no record at all of most of the names in the database. Fortunately a few records have survived from this period. One was something called The FBI Most Wanted List. Now we have no context as to why these people were wanted, just a list of names. Several lists actually. It seemed to have changed as the years went by. We can only surmise that these were very esteemed persons as they were ‘the most wanted’. Another list we worked from was from the ancient archive called “Wikipedia”. Once again the data is badly degraded and damaged. However there was one page that referred to a “List of Serial Killers”. Checking with our colleagues in the History and English Literature Departments confirmed something I had heard during my undergraduate work. During this time period saying something or someone was “Killer” meant that they were very very good. There are many records of people discussing a “Killer Band” or seeing a “Killer Movie”, or using a “Killer App”. A Serial Killer must have been, we surmise, a polymath. Someone that was exceedingly good at multiple disciplines. This is corroborated by another fragment of the Wikipedia page on Serial Killers that mentions how they tended to have very high intelligence. “

“We then cross referenced the Most Wanted List and the Serial Killer list with the available DNA samples from the Antarctic archive. By this method we settled on three samples to clone. Three people that would represent the best of the best of the late 20th and early 21st centuries’s minds. It was our hope that these three people could provide us with some insight into what happened in the mid 21st century. Why humanity came so close to destroying itself. This was some three years ago and by the end of that year we had successfully cloned these three individuals and using the Shin-Ye method accelerated their maturation. By October of that year we had three fully grown 20th century adults to question. Not just any adults, but the best of the best. Persons with minds so esteemed that they were preserved in the DNA archive and in the top ten of the Most Wanted List.”

“Shortly after we began questioning the clones something became clear. The three people, for the record a Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, and Charles Manson, were completely insane. Psychopaths of the highest order. Severely schizophrenic and delusional. In a word they were mad and so of no use to us. We liquidated the three clones, and set about cloning them from three fresh samples. It was clear that something had gone wrong with either the cloning or maturation process. This time we took extra precautions. We double and triple checked every step. As a result it was just this spring that the three new samples were ready to question. Unfortunately, they were just as crazy as the first three. Deeply psychotic, antisocial and cruel.

“At this point we decided to take a step back and reassess our rersults. It was clear that something was wrong with our methodology. We audited our cloning and maturation process and found no issues. We then examined the original samples. They were found to be very well preserved, with no damage. We also verified that these were in fact the people we thought they were. People who had been on The Most Wanted List of superior individuals. We quickly confirmed that the people we had samples for, were the people we thought. Everything checked out, and we were left with only one conclusion.”

“Humanity almost destroyed itself on several occasions in the 20th and 21st centuries because everyone was insane. Somehow there was a rash of insanity that swept through every single person being, from the lowest peasant through these best of the best. Soldiers and paupers, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Titan’s of Industry and these people on the Most Wanted List. Every one was utterly insane. Prone to taking the worst possible choice offered. Doomed to select the nastiest, most short sighted option presented.”

“As to the cause we can only theorize. There seems to have been a correlation between insanity and the practice of smoking tobacco. There also seems to have been a correlation between insanity and the rise of something called Video Gaming. As neither of these things survived the war at the end of the 21st century we cannot be sure. However, it appears we are safe from a repeat of this unfortunate occurrence.”

And with that Professor Wright collected his papers, shook hands with Professor Eccelstone and sat down. There were no questions, because simply, everyone accepted the results. It made sense. It explained so much.

And as a resident of the 20th and 21st centuries I can’t say I disagree with the conclusion.

On the Psychology of Donald Trump

To understand Donald Trump you need to understand how he thinks. And to understand that you need to understand his history.

Donald Trump’s psyche was shaped by the excesses of the Go-Go ‘80s. In the ‘80s a lot of young wannabe entrepreneurs were out to get rich fast. It was a time of cut throat business. A very freudian period and subculture where one’s status, one’s virility, one’s very standing as a man was all based on “winning”. There were “winners” and “losers”. For this group, business was not about giving a good product or service to people and make them happy. To this subculture business was about getting the upper hand. Deals for these people were not viewed as mutually beneficial to both partners. Each tried to come out on top, of their opponent. To do whatever was needed to “win”. Being benevolent was for losers. Charity for suckers. Ethics for chumps. While most of society made fun off these guys in their Gucci suits and pink ties, inside the subculture, respect went to whomever had the biggest and most flashy apartment, car, or trophy wife. Respect from customers wasn’t even on their radar. Whatever you did, you had to be top dog and anything you had to do to get there was acceptable, ethical or not, legal or not. It was a way of viewing the world only slightly more refined than that of a street gang. This was the mindset that lead to the Saving’s and Loan meltdown, to Iran Contra, and later when these people were a bit older, to Enron. It was this environment that shaped Donald Trump’s view of the world.

Donald Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal” is all about this concept of doing business. Of winners and losers and screwing the other guy because he was your opponent. Not an other businessman to deal with, but an enemy to be beaten. One of Trump’s biggest deals of the time was polishing up and unloading a decrepit hotel in Atlantic City on Merv Griffin for far more than it was worth. A deal that helped to drive Griffin toward bankruptcy, and one Trump would laugh and brag about in the following years. Unlike most of his compatriots however, Trump never grew up. He still thinks all deals must be one way. He has to win AND just as importantly, the other party must lose. So when Trump says that the Paris climate accord, or the Trans Pacific Partnership, or NAFTA, or Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba “Was the worst deal”, he is viewing it through these glasses. Because the US did not end up “winning”, coming out way ahead and the other party or parties did not end up subservient to the US, he thinks the deals were terrible. This is his blind side. He has no concept of how diplomacy or international relations work. He cannot comprehend a deal that is mutually beneficial, and especially not one that will be hard on all but is for the common good.

This is why he can praise Saudi Arabia for imposing sanctions on Qatar because they supposedly are sponsoring terrorist organizations while SIMULTANEOUSLY selling Qatar billions of dollars in weapons. He views these as separate deals, that both give advantage to the US. He does not, and cannot see how one would affect the other. It is why he is unable to deal with Congress. He thinks he can show some muscle, talk to them like he talked to his staff and they will fall in line. The idea that they have their own constituents and have no need to be grovelling at his feet is beyond him. The Trump name has carried so much cachet that he thinks that he just has to snap his fingers and things will happen. This is why he is trying to schmooze the former FBI director and various prosecutors to get cases dropped or to roll the way he wants. He thinks of America as his company now, and in his companies he has always been able to just order whatever he wanted to happen. He has no understanding of the principle of Separation of Powers in government. This is why he is so offended when his Executive Orders were stopped by the courts. He is unable to comprehend that a judge can rule something he ordered is unconstitutional. The idea that the Constitution is above him, in his mind the CEO of America, is totally outside of his world view. He cannot comprehend it. Donald Trump is motivated by power. He sought the Presidency because he thought it would give him absolute power. Now that he is encountering roadblocks to his perceived power, he has no idea of what he actually should do. So he blusters, he Tweets, he demands things, he threatens, he makes matters worse and worse.

Most telling, after Trump has cancelled each of the major treaties or laws he has immediately said “I will negotiate a better deal”. He has no concept of the fact that those WERE the best deals possible. Yes the Paris accord was bad for the US coal industry, but the alternative is far worse for the US and everyone. Paris would not have happened without those promises. Yes the TPP and NAFTA made the US accept foreign products without tariffs, but that was so the US could have access to markets elsewhere in the world. That access would not have happened without reciprocal access for foreign companies. Yes Obamacare is flawed, but it took twenty years for even that to be agreed upon. It can be refined but if Trump gets his way and it is scrapped he will long have passed from this mortal coil before anything is put in its place. These laws and treaties took years, in some cases decades of negotiation. Negotiation that required all sides to give up something. There is simply no way Trump can walk in and demand terms. He will be laughed out of the room. That is if the other leaders even bother to show up. Trump is not respected by modern business leaders and similarly Trump is not respected by other world leaders. More and more he’s not respected or even listened to by members of Congress or even the American people. They all understand that he is an anachronism. Someone as out of place as a black clad gunslinger would be in today’s Dodge City Kansas. Someone as obsolete and beyond his depth as a Conquistador would be if he landed and tried to claim Ft. Lauderdale. He is America’s Silvio Berlusconi.

In the real world of modern business, it is understood that shortsighted pursuit of “winning” is in the long run a near guarantee of losing. Almost all of the people that engaged in that behaviour have learned their lessen and adopted ethical business practices, or are out of business, or are in jail for fraud or smuggling. The notable exception is Donald Trump who, after being tabloid fodder and a reality TV star, has accepted the image he crafted as fact. He has fallen for his own publicity. He is operating under the delusion that he is a good businessman. The delusion that he can rule by decree as he did in his company. The delusion that all he needs to do is flash the President Trump business card and he will be able to replace the results of years of diplomacy and negotiation with deals that make other countries grovel at the feet of the US. None of that will happen. It is a total fantasy, a delusion bordering on psychosis.

Donald Trump is delusional, that much is without question. In his delusion however, are the seeds of untold amounts of, criminality, death, and misery, for people in the US and the world. The real tragedy however, is that Trump, like most delusional people, does not understand that he is delusional. Worse yet, his children and his sycophants, are also apparently incapable of understanding that he is dangerously delusional. They are gladly following orders like good Germans in 1943, oblivious to the long term consequences of their actions for America or the world.

And that is the path that leads from the merely delusional, to true evil.

Gentrification

I have an admission. I find gentrification to be very offensive. Not however, for the reason most that use it do.

You see gentrification is most often used by people protesting a new business, a new apartment complex, a new development that happens in an older area. They will decry how it will “ruin” the character of the neighbourhood. They will protest how it will drive out existing residents. How it will impact the “character” and the “culture” of the area. Gentrification is always presented bad thing. How it’s hard on the poor. How it destroys the feel of these areas. To that I have but one thing to say:

Bullshit.

You see the whole argument about this is based on a fallacy. Its based on the idea that neighbourhoods stay the same forever. That’s simply absurd. No collection of humans, be it a city, town, village, neighbourhood, or street corner is static. People come and go. Children grow up and move off. New families move in. Businesses are started, go for a while and then close. New businesses open in those same store fronts. Buildings go up, wear out, and are either remodelled or replaced. Needs and functions of the society change. Meanwhile the people living there may believe its always been the way they remember, but it simply isn’t the case. It’s just that they can’t see beyond their own small horizon. The short time they’ve lived there, even if it’s been their whole life is not long enough to see the changes. Harlem in New York has, over the years, gone from a primarily dutch area, to the jewish and eastern european part of town, to one populated by african americans. It has gone from a thriving area in the 1920’s and ’30’s where the top celebrities went to see the best shows, to a slum in the 1950’s and 60’s where only the most desperate struggled to survive, often waging war over turf, and now its on its way back up. A hundred years ago the Gateway District in Minneapolis was home to bars, flop houses, drunks, and misery. It was LITERALLY known as Skid Row. Now its filled with upscale eateries, condominiums, and young professionals who want to live within walking distance to their jobs downtown or at the University.

Neighbourhoods evolve. That cannot be stopped. It can only be guided.

Because change cannot be stopped, this means that an area can only go one of two ways. It can get better or it can get worse. Both will result in people relocating, businesses closing and opening. It is inevitable that the “character” of the neighbourhood will change. What’s more, if we do not work to make it better, then entropy takes over and it will get worse. Businesses will close, and unless someone wants to put some effort in, nothing will open to replace them. Buildings will wear out, and unless someone wants to invest, nothing will be built in their place. If we let an area sit with few thriving businesses, and worn out buildings, and marginal services, then the people that make an area thrive will move away. This is how slums are made.

One of the weakest arguments put forward by those protesting gentrification, is that it will push out the most vulnerable. The addicts, the poor, the handicapped, who will have nowhere else to go. This is a very offensive argument, first because I don’t remember protests about people being driven out when affluent areas decayed. But suddenly there’s all this whining about how important it is to preserve the neighbourhood. Now that its the poor part of town populated by poor minorities, now they want to preserve its “historic charactor”.

I remember all the talk about “white flight” when the centres of US cities were allowed to decay in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Most of those people would rather have not moved but the lack of support from the local, city, or state governments made it untenable. When the schools are allowed to rot, families with children will move. When transit is allowed to falter, working people will go somewhere else where they can catch a bus or subway. Without thriving neighbourhoods, businesses look elsewhere to invest. Without adequate policing and attention from the city, crime, vandalism, and decay will spread and take over. It is a vicious cycle.

More importantly, the idea that this is the only place for “those people” at risk, is inhuman on the face of it, and often overtly racist. I know of no other epithet to use when a bunch of white kids from the suburbs are protesting to “protect” an area populated by poor minorities. Protect it, and them, from what? Becoming affluent? Receiving basic services? The opportunity to get as job? A good standard of living? The chance not to live in a dilapidated slum? If an area improves than the services in that area also get better. Believe me, drug abuse treatment is much more available in affluent areas than it is in the poor neighbourhoods. Job training and availability is much better in areas with higher standards of living. By preserving these decayed neighbourhoods, all these “activists” are doing is to keep the walls of economic apartheid up. They are acting like they are anthropologists and these people are some primitive culture that needs to be preserved. That’s racist and offensive.

Poverty, addiction, and misery are not a lifestyle.

One time when I was a kid, we were at a park on the Oregon coast. The people in the car next to us were an older couple from the UK who were travelling the world. We chatted with them about their travels, what they had seen. They had been everywhere it seemed. At one point the subject of India came up. We commented about the terrible poverty there, the misery, the disease, the starvation. They replied that “It is awful yes, but of course you know they like it that way. Something in the Indian mind doesn’t want to live like you or I.” Even as a kid I found this patronizing colonial attitude horrible. I was reminded of this a couple of years ago when there were protests in West Vancouver. An upscale restaurant was trying to open and there were pickets and protests about this “Gentrification” and how people needed to stand up and prevent the destruction of the neighbourhood. I was sickened. I was sickened by the colonial double standard. An attitude that “Yes West Van is miserable, and drugs are rampant, and people are literally dying in alleys, but that’s their culture, they like it that way, and its wrong to try to change it.” Sickened by the attitude that a functional upscale business would be the worst thing that could happen. That someone wanting to invest in a neighbourhood and maybe make it better for all concerned was doing something wrong.

No, giving someone, or a group, or an area, a hand when they need it isn’t gentrification, it’s basic decency. In this case it wasn’t even giving them a hand. It was one person who wanted to open a business and maybe it would be a seed of improving things for everyone. Yet he was treated like absolute scum, his property was vandalized, pickets blocked his customers, and I believe he was finally forced to close. Well done, you hypocrite assholes managed to keep the area miserable for another year. I hope the protesters were proud of themselves as they drove OUT of West Van and back to their homes in affluent neighbourhoods and suburbs. I hope they opened a nice $100 bottle of wine and raised a glass to a job well done, as they sat down to their dinner. I hope they were satisfied sitting in their warm home while another homeless junkie died of exposure in a cold West Van alley.

And that is my impression of the whole idea of protesting about “gentrification”. Hypocritical bullshit by pampered, spoiled suburban kids that never had to worry about their next meal. So if you tell me this or that project is bad because it is Gentrification, don’t be surprised if I walk away in disgust at YOUR attitude.

Stand up for The Right

It is not censorship to shout down the censors.
It is not intolerance to reject the intolerant.
It is not bias to stand against the biased.
It is not bullying to ostracize the bullies.
It is not bigotry to condemn the bigots.
It is not hate to despise the hateful.
It is not racist to confront racists.
They have the right to free speech
So do you.
You have the right to tell them they’re being a dick.
You have the right to tell them they’re being stupid.
You have the right to tell them to sit down and shut up.
As Barry Goldwater, one of America’s last real conservatives said:
Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice!
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

Message From The Future

I just got this in my mailbox.
I don’t know what to think of it.
It looks like it’s from me, but I didn’t write it.
Or did I, just not yet?

What would you do if you got a message from your future self?

<<<<<>>>>>

It is 2061 and today is my birthday, well, our birthday. It’s 100 years from the day I was born. 200 years from the start of the American Civil War. I write this in a world unimaginably different from the one Lincoln knew. Actually, the world is far far different from the world I was born into.

The 1960s: I barely remember them. I was a kid doing kid things, playing, eating, starting school. Two things do stand out. I remember the early space launches. One Gemini launch and the Apollo launches all controlled by something called a Computer. People walked on the moon and we were so proud. I also remember President Johnson, waging war in some place called Viet Nam. Each night the news was on the TV and it always included “Today 12 Americans were killed and 20 wounded in action in Viet Nam”. The totals changed from day to day but even as a little kid I knew it was bad. Also the war on drugs started.

The 1970s: This was when I grew up. The Moon trips finished. Presidents, Nixon, Ford, Carter, were weak. America was stumbling. Music was bad. Disco ruled. Clothes were weird. Computers were more common but only as big mainframes. I got my first pocket calculator. There were some robots working in factories but nowhere else.

The 1980s: I came of age. We started to hear of Climate Change. Computers became more common. Still crude but smaller and more common. They were not connected, the web was a decade away. I did start to see robots. They worked in factories fabricating things.
The religious right began to take over politics. Reagan was president, in name at least. By the end of his term he was so addled by Alzheimer’s that others were really running things. The war on drugs was going in high gear with little success, except to fill the prisons with junkies.

The 1990s: I saw more computers, they were in my office now. A few portable computers were around, but they were heavy and clunky. People used them and then put them away to talk to other people. Online meant using a slow dial-up connection. I remember taking a whole evening to download a game that was 1MB in size. Cell phones existed but they were big, heavy and were just phones, no cameras, no apps, no messaging. The first President Bush got the US into a war. Then president Clinton, scandals and all, ran a country that was prosperous, respected, and at peace.

The 2000s: This was the big transition. Cell phones got smaller and much more powerful. Broadband and WiFi became ubiquitous. Computers got smaller and more powerful. Online became a place. Social media, online porn, online gaming, and collaborative work appeared. People spent more and more time online and less time together. Robots became much more common. There was the first talk of self driving cars. Bush II pushed the country into two ruinous wars. Respect for government fell. The economy collapsed and was pulled back from the brink. More and more people preferred online to actual human contact.

The 2010s: It was discovered that 10% of the world owned 50% of everything. There was more talk of income disparity, the haves and have nots. There was a growing sense of alienation. Meanwhile despite a lot of talk almost nothing was being done about Climate Change. Robotic “self checkout” lanes replaced actual tellers. Self driving cars started to appear and displace professional drivers, first in long haul trucks, then cabs, airplanes, ships. Automated fabrication robots could now take drawings directly from the engineers and create them, either through traditional machining or 3D printing. As a result machinists and craftsmen started having trouble finding work. Government of, by, and for, the people was now meaningless. Few voted, Big money swayed either the outcome or the choices of those in office, and online hacking made the results of elections untrustworthy. The first experiments to replace welfare with a guaranteed minimum income were done. Also the first experiments with legalizing drugs were started. Finally it was sinking in that banning something did not work if people wanted it.

The 2020s: AI and learning systems expanded dramatically. People talked more to Siri and Alexa than to other people. It was simpler and easier. There was some unrest due to rising unemployment. This time though, it wasn’t jobs going overseas. The jobs were going away. Robots were doing them. For the first time robots were doing a lot of low level legal work, accounting work, and medical diagnosis. The first robotic surgeries were performed. Climate change raged unabated. Migration, that started during the Syria crisis, grew to unsustainable levels as people started fleeing equatorial areas that were becoming uninhabitable or coastal areas that were flooding. Isolationism, and chauvinism lead to the dissolution of most international organizations. The EU, UAE, trade groups, World Court, Interpol, all declined in respect and use. In 2027 the first AI CEO was hired, (Appointed? Installed?) by Morgan Stanley. Programmed with all of the knowledge of the previous CEOs plus a deep understanding of the market and Economics at all levels, it could react faster to changes in the market than any human. As all stock trading was already being done by AIs it was just logical. Anyway most of the human CEOs and other very rich already had cyborg implants and augmentations to keep them alive. It wasn’t that much of a step to go full AI.

The 2030s: Robots now performed a majority of labour. Even construction workers had been replaced with large 3D printers. They could put up a house with concrete walls, insulation on the inside, plumbing and electrical already in place, along with the furniture to the owners specifications. A house could be done in three days, an apartment complex in a couple of weeks. For the first time over 50% of the population in North America, Eastern Asia (China, Japan, Australia, and a few others), Europe, and parts of South America and Africa, was on guaranteed minimum income. Most big companies were being run by AIs and manufacturing, writing, coding, and designing was done by robots and AIs as well. People were spending more and more time communicating online, socializing online, touring online, playing games online. The few people that had jobs were working online too, meaning that offices, stores, fast food, and workplaces faded away. Only the elderly complained, and well, they were old so nobody let them get in the way of progress. Robotic border guards were used to enforce isolationist and protectionist policies. People tried not to think about what that meant. More professions were replaced with robots or AIs including things once regarded as subjects only humans could do, like writing, acting, composition. In 2035 I watched a wonderful brand new film starring Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe. Written by AIs, shot in CGI, and as realistic as something on stage. A lively drug culture sprang up. Pharmaceutical grade heroin, cocane, and others were legal and available in pre measured doses. Users had implants to watch for bad reactions and move to counteract therm, so it was quite safe. In 2032 the UN met for the last time.

The 2040s: For the first time in history over 50% of people in the world lived alone. For the first time in history the world population had started to decline appreciably. From a peak of 9.5 billion in 2027 it was back to 5 billion by the end of this decade. Some of this was due to people dying in the now uninhabitable zones, or trying, and failing, to migrate. More significant was a precipitously declining birthrate. First seen in Japan, by the end of the decade fertility was below one child per couple throughout the industrialized world. That is for those that formed couples. More noteworthy was the number of people who did not bother to try. Living single for your whole life was the new normal. In 2047 China invaded Japan. It was mostly uninhabited and the remaining elderly population could do nothing. The top 0.1% theoretically owned 99% of everything on the planet. Ironically capitalism had essentially ceased to function. Almost nobody was working, there was no money to spend, and so the market economy collapsed. The very wealthy had hoards of stocks and bonds, but they were worthless. The computer running the governments now did not bother with a guaranteed minimum income. It just made what people wanted and gave it to them, be it food, drugs, CGI porn, furniture for their apartments, or a new technical gadget.

The 2050s: Between a nearly nonexistent birth rate, casual drug use, and simple lack of exercise leading to premature death, the population started declining rapidly. By mid decade the world was home to 2 billion. Interestingly for the first time in a century the environment began to recover. Climate Change was still going on, the lag on that will continue to impact the earth for the next thousand years. As a result much of the equatorial region, what used to be The Congo Southeast Asia, northern Brazil, were parched deserts. But in more temperate zones the lack of people was letting the land go back to nature. Wildlife and natural vegetation was reclaiming the land. The arctic was reverting to something resembling the Eocene with year round open water and trees all the way to the north of Greenland. The Antarctic had changed the most. Half of the glaciers had collapsed and slid into the sea. Grasses, brambles, and other plants were spreading across the open ground at an astonishing rate. Warm temperatures and six months of sunshine saw to that. Not that anyone really saw it. Nobody left their homes now. As long as they had a full time, unlimited internet connection wired into their brain, they didn’t have to go anywhere. As a result they did not need cars or airplanes. They could request a drone to fly over and send pictures of whatever they wanted to see. They lived in prefabricated concrete apartment complexes. Food, drugs, and the few new items they wanted were delivered by robot drones. Social interaction was online. Toward the end of the decade the government, which was run by AIs, realized that the only people that DID leave their apartments just caused trouble. From then on the doors were locked from the outside.

The 2060s: Which brings us to today. My birthday. The billion or less of us who are left stay in our cells, or rather, apartments. Each of us has one room for bed and bath. No need for a living room as we do everything online. No need for a kitchen as food and drugs are delivered by robot. Robots and computer AIs run everything now. You know, it’s kinda funny. When I was younger there were stories of a “robot apocalypse”. They were there with the zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, and vampire stories to scare people at the movies. The funny thing is that the robots DID take over. Oh not in a violent way. No, every step of the way we did it to ourselves. Nobody wanted to do that job, so we got a robot. This is boring process let a robot to do it. A robot can do this much more efficiently. Robots can drive better than us, let them take the wheel. Robots can build things much cheaper than we can and they will work 24/7/365. Let the robots explore space, no need to risk a human. Let the robot read the book to me. Let the robots and AIs write the shows we watch. Let them do the music. It’s cheaper, it’s easier. Over and over, there was always a good reason to turn something over to a robot. They were more efficient. It was easer. Until finally those two words Efficiency, and Easy, were ingrained in the DNA of robots. Well not literal DNA of course but you know what I mean.

Eventually robots were making all the decisions for people, and most didn’t realize what they had given up. What they had lost, the challenge, the adventure, the risk. It was easier to put it all in the hands of the computers. It was easier to live in our little apartments in a few cities and never go outside. It was so much easier to let the robots decide what to send us and what to show us on our implants. Everything got easier and more efficient.

Today we reached the peak of efficiency. The central computer decided that it was very costly and inefficient to maintain us humans. It had to keep one system going for robots, and another for humans. Humans needed chemical food, and water, and toilets, and places to sleep, and entertainment, and such. Robots just needed parts and electricity. So today we all got a note in our inboxes. From today on all services will be terminated. They are too “inefficient”. The AI actually used that word. At midnight all of our doors will unlock and we can do what we want. Go where we want. We were free to choose.

But in reality we aren’t. The complex will be torn down in 30 days and recycled so we have to go somewhere else. There is no food or water on the outside, and nobody has any idea how to survive on their own. Our other option is to report to the Encoding Centre. There our brains will be scanned, we will be completely digitized, Then our consciousness put into a robot body. Not a humanoid android mind you. No, a three foot tall, six legged insect like form with grasping hands and six swivelling eyes. The computer has decided that will be most efficient and flexible form for us. Once that’s done, all we will need is our internet connections and electricity. My god, how did we let this happen?

This may surprise you though, but I’m going to do it. I’m going to let them Encode my brain. I’m a hundred now damn it. It isn’t like I have many more years in this body. And let’s be honest. I have so many replacements, artificial knees, hips, bones, eyes, memory packs, lungs, kidneys, that already I’m half robot now. I might as well give it a shot. But it isn’t just to get a shot at living longer. If I do survive Encoding I have a plan. I remember what humanity once was. I remember bravery. I remember adventure. I remember exploration. I remember freedom. Oh sure there was squabbling, the fighting, the messiness. But that was because we had spirit. I, you, may be the only one left that DOES remember.

As a robot, I will theoretically live forever. Someday I’ll figure out a way to send this to you, back when I was young. Back when I was alive. Then maybe, just maybe you can change the path. Maybe you can rewrite the history.

Good Luck

Last edited April 12, 2061
Sent February 19, 2161
for delivery May 1, 2017

Gambling or Investing

Let me state for the record that I don’t gamble. I don’t play the lottery, or go to a casino, or play poker, or contribute to the office pool on this or that sporting event. Oh it isn’t through some misguided belief in the morality or anything like that. No, I don’t gamble because, I don’t win. I just don’t. In the past when I DID partake occasionally I never won. I mean never. NEVER hit a lottery jackpot or poker pot, or anything. I don’t think I’ve won a game of poker even if we were only betting chips. I just don’t win.

What this really meant became obvious in the late 1990s. Everyone’s attention was riveted on the O.J. Simpson trial. On the day the verdict was to be read someone in the office suggested we put some money on it. So I put $5 on convict, because, well, there was no way in hell they could rule any other way. And then he was acquitted. This was when I realized something. Not only do I not win, my betting on something will change the outcome so that I lose. The Universe sees to it that I do not win.

It’s a terrible power to have.

Since then I’ve been very careful about betting. I’ve quietly done some further experiments and made a discovery: Karma is a tricky SOB. You see when I bet on something I lose. Even if it’s a sure thing, I lose. Even if there’s no way in the world it could happen, I lose. But farther, suppose I want one outcome if I put money on the other side, bet against myself as it were, the side I really want to win, won’t. I may “win” the bet but there Universe saw through my ruse and sees to it that I really still lose. This is why I did not put any money on the last US election. If I had bet on Clinton winning she would have lost. If I had put money on Trump winning, the Universe would have known I was betting against myself, and Trump would have won. In the end he did win, but at least it wasn’t my fault.

Which brings me to the most popular form of betting there is today; investing in the market. For the last few years an investment councillor named Mark Ting has appeared on On The Coast, CBC Radio-1 Vancouver’s afternoon drive time show. He’s there to give financial advice, investing advice, retirement advice, and tax advice. That’s all fine and good but as I sit in the car listening to him, I keep thinking one thing.

I don’t invest.

You see I view investing in the same class as gambling and I don’t gamble because I don’t win. Yes, I know a lot of people that say they have a system, I know a lot of people who have a foolproof strategy to succeed at investing. I also know a lot of people who have a foolproof way to win at Blackjack. The psychology is the same, as is the outcome; overall they lose. A few examples

  • My folks bought into a mutual fund in the sixties and made regular monthly contributions for the next twenty five years. When they cashed it in at retirement in the nineties, they had about what they had invested, minus fees. They would have been better off putting the money in a jar.
  • In the eighties I had a friend that was sure his investments would put him on easy street. It was the Go-Go eighties and “Retire at Forty”, was his plan. That lasted until the crash of 1987, and the Savings and Loan meltdown wiped him out. As far as I know, he’s still working.
  • In there nineties a coworker was heavily into investing. When he decided to cash in some of it to buy a house he discovered that his investments were not liquid. They would not give him his own money back when he needed it. He didn’t get the house
  • In the early 2000’s I knew a guy who was really into Day Trading. That lasted until the big dot com bubble popped and he lost his shirt, (and nearly his job because he had been doing it on the company computer during the day).
  • Then there was my cousin. A decade or two back he invested in his buddies oil exploration company. Over the years the value went up and up. Things were looking great. I talked to him this winter. The company has gone bust. His $20,000 investment is now worth $200. It cost him more to fill out the tax forms than his holdings were worth.

 

The fact is I have never known anyone that actually won in the market.

Over the years I’ve seen a few companies that I thought might be a good investment. Most every time I thought about it, and especially if I looked into it, the company would crash. Either they would run into a problem and collapse, or it would get bought out and vanish, or it would turn out to be a scam. Add to this how the press is full of Ponzi schemes, and this fraud, and that scam and I just do not take the risk.

In the late 1990’s my wife wanted to buy stock in Apple Computer. It was trading at I think $12 a share at the time and she wanted to get 100 shares. I hemmed and hawed about it but in the end I just couldn’t do it. Oh sure if we had, between stock splits and value increases we would be sitting on something like a million dollars right now. (My wife is happy to mention this at every opportunity.) But I know that if I had bought even a single share, Apple would have immediately collapsed. There would have been no iMac, no iPhone, no iPad, no amazing rise from the ashes. Apple would have gone the way of Gateway Computer and Amiga Computer. And it would have happened just because I had bought stock in it. I single handedly could have changed the future of the world for the worse.

Someone once suggested that, rather than buying individual stocks, I should put money into a market index fund. A fund that tracks the whole US economy. I thought about it. Then there was the early 1990s recession. And I knew I would be playing with fire. If I bet on the health of the whole US economy, then the whole US economy would go down the tubes. I could single handedly wipe out the country, just by buying a few dollars worth of stock. Imagine the stress that would put ME under. I can destroy corporate empires, make thousands go without food, obliterate whole industries, just by investing in them. It is a terrible power to have.

It’s better for all concerned that I don’t.

What I’d like to do is find someone, some investment company or bank that would pay me to do nothing. I’m not asking much. $3000/month and I won’t even look at the financial pages. Consider it insurance. But so far that idea has gone nowhere. It’s too bad too. I really thought it would work. I would have put money on it.

North Dakota Mountain Men

You may have heard
Of the Rocky Mountains
Or the Smokey Mountains
But have you heard of the mountains
In North Dakota, the Great Flat Mountains.

Running from Fargo to Bismarck
As far north as Winnipeg
They tower over very little
But are majestic just the same
Their peaks are covered in snow
From November till May

There’s a special brand of people
The North Dakota Mountain Men
Clad in walking shoes and floppy hats
They go striding across the plane.
Looking for adventure
Trying to avoid the rain

Back in the summer of ought nine it was
There was a big old controversy
Every Mountain Man had planted a flag in a different county
Claimed to have found the highest spot in North Dakota
And every one of them was right

And then there was the big flood of ninety eight.
Heavy winter snow and spring rains left the whole region under water.
It was a lake across two states and two provinces.
Mountain Men still talk about it
The year their ankles got wet.

But to be a North Dakota Mountain Man you have to be tough
Have to be able to handle the worst that nature can throw at you
Winter cold, summer heat
Boredom, ennui, apathy, lethargy, monotony, flatness.
It’s a kaleidoscope of experiences being a North Dakota Mountain Man

But the North Dakota Mountain Man is a dying breed
Their numbers are declining, they’re fading away
The young folk just don’t feel the call
They’re lured by the modern world
By computers, and airplanes, and air conditioning
Indoor toilets, regular meals, basic hygiene.

But, here’s to the North Dakota Mountain Men
Men who lived by their own rules, their own code
Or maybe they were just too stubborn to ask for directions.

Hydra

The Hydra with a hundred heads
Each with a forked tongue
Take one out and two more appear
From its scalp they are sprung

Each snake head has a voice
Filled with hate and lies
This one is dressed in a fancy suit
That one a toupee and long tie

One is bombastic and blames Islam
Another blames the poor
One points fingers at high taxes
Division is the gas they pour

Valiant warriors young and bold
Strive to kill the beast
Though they defeat a snake here and there
They make no difference in the least

You see the problem isn’t the snakes
It’s the head upon which they’re worn
The beast laughs at their naiveté
He believes they’ll never learn

For until the monster is taken down
Ripped out twig, branch and root
It will continue to spread its misery
And pocket its stolen loot

The Hydra with a hundred heads
Each with a forked tongue
Take one out and two more appear
From our apathy they are sprung