The Arrow Is Plugging the Wound: An Updated Blast from the Past.

In other places I’ve made it pretty clear that I lean sharply libertarian and that the role of government should be sharply limited. “To preserve these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  That’s it.  Going beyond what’s necessary to “secure these rights” is to go beyond “just powers.”

As I point out in earlier blog posts, a certain level of government actually helps to secure the basic rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Obviously, we are far, far beyond that point.  To get there we need to cut government back, way back.

Here’s where I part company with many Libertarians.  They want to do it in one fell swoop.  Every part of government that is not part of the minimum necessary “to secure these rights” (which some consider to be “all of it”) must go.  Now.

That, however, may not be a good idea.  Oh, the end goal of getting rid of most of what government does may be a laudable one but the question is how.

Consider this analogy.  A man has been shot with a number of arrows and is lying there like a meat pincushion.  The wounds, if properly treated, are such that he can survive and heal.  If left as his he’ll bleed to death.

Some folk have the instinct to jerk out all the arrows since they’re what caused his wounding.

Very foolish that.  Those arrows are also plugging the holes so he doesn’t quickly bleed out.

This is where we are with government.  It’s bleeding free society to death, slow or fast depending on your perspective but it’s also “plugging the holes”.

Consider what President Dwight Eisenhower said about Social Security and other programs: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Eisenhower was not endorsing Social Security and those other programs.  No, he was pointing out the reality that so many people had grown dependent on them that people would rise in such outrage that the “offending” party would be voted out of every office they hold, from President all the way down to dog catcher, and never be heard from again. [Ed. Note also what I had to say in Yesterday’s post, The Dismal Science.]

And the plain fact is that many more people are dependent on many more government programs than ever before.  Cut the program and people will suffer, in the short term at least.  Maybe, probably, they would if given time adjust to the new situation and the economic growth that comes from the increased freedom and less tying up of the economy caused by the government passing money back and forth from hand to hand with no new products and services to show for it would improve their lot.  But there’s the problem “given time”.  Most people will only see their immediate hardship.  As the line says from the movie Annie (the 1982 version; I haven’t seen the 2014 version and don’t intend to) “People don’t eat in the long run.”

There’s another factor as well. Even if you remove the arrows and stop the bleeding, infection brought in by the arrows through the open wounds they created can still kill the body.

What is the infection in this metaphor? Infection is the beliefs and ideas that are only government can solve problems or, perhaps more pernicious, government can solve them best. And so, even if you reduce the size and scope of government (or, miracle of miracles, get rid of it entirely) the moment problems arise (and they will, this being far from a perfect world) people will immediately turn to government to “solve” those problems. And how do you stop them, short of force, which would make you a government?

It’s a strange infection that causes people to stab themselves with the very arrows you just pulled out of them, but, well, it’s not a perfect metaphor.

The other problem is that the arrows are barbed. The organs of government, in the end, are made up of people and they are going to “softly and silently vanish away” because you are no boojum. They’re going to resist. Remember the Iron Law of Bureaucracy? The people in charge of most of the bureaucracies are “type 2” bureaucrats, those dedicated not to the goals for which the bureaucracy was formed, but to the organization itself. They aren’t going to quietly see it go down, and they’re perfectly willing to do untold damage in their fight for institutional survival.

We saw exactly that under Trump. The irony was that people claimed Trump was paranoid for claiming that the “Deep State” was working against him to undermine his Presidency (starting with putting surveillance on his campaign). And time and again during various hearings we saw witnesses describing how they had worked against Trump to undermine his Presidency, starting with surveillance on his campaign.

Thus, while reducing the size of government is a good thing–indeed, it’s something that must happen if we’re to remain anything resembling a free and prosperous country–great care must be taken in how its done.  It needs to be done gradually–we didn’t get where we are in an instant and we won’t get back in one either.  We must be prepared to deal with the “bleeding” that will come from removing each “arrow”, with the infection that it’s let into the system, and with the hidden barbs it contains, lest instead of a healthy, prosperous nation we end up with an exsanguinated corpse.

Recognizing this, of course, makes me a horrible “statist” who doesn’t care about freedom.  Or so I’ve been told.

“Intellectuals”

So there was this guy:

Could he possibly be any more ivory tower?

What he’s saying is that he defines an intellectual as someone who is so immersed in his inbred little group that he’s totally and completely out of touch with larger American culture.

You know, it’s entirely possible to recognize the William Tell Overture as part of a larger musical work of some significance about a legendary figure and recognize how it has entered the public consciousness through the tales of another fictional (as Tell appears to have been) popular hero. Likewise, it’s also possible to grasp the works of Wagner and recognize that a lot of people’s exposure to the music was through “Kill the wabbit!” And, of course, there was Beethoven’s symphonies and the Disco beat version “A Fifth of Beethoven.”

But no, you define “intellectuals” as a tiny little circle jerk that allows nothing of the larger world to enter the confines of their naval gazing.

And I agree with you. But that’s not a good thing.

Some Flash Fiction

Lord Tenet laughed as his fool gamboled between the tables, his own voice nearly lost among the raucous laughter filling the hall. Servants swirled about the tables, bearing pitchers of wine to the guests at Tenet’s feast. Other servants carried away the plates and trenchers of the first course of food, beef in gravy seasoned with enough cinnamon and cloves to leave the spicebox bare. Tenet’s extravagance meant that meals in the coming winter months would be bland, with little more than onions and leeks to season them, but it would be worth it to…

Tenet let his eyes slide to the side to where Baron Zelquon, his rival at court, gulped at his own wine cup. Yes, to impress, no, to intimidate, Zelquon, was worth near impoverishing the keep.

“You set a hardy table,” Zelquon raised his cup in salute.

Zelquon’s words were polite, but his voice tone was grudging.

Tenet returned Zelquon’s salute with one of his own. “I have but begun.”

Tenet stood and raised his cup. Silence fell over the hall.

“Bring in…the beast.”

The doors to the kitchens opened and six servants entered, carrying between them an enormous platter on which lay the roast carcass of a mighty aurochs.

“My huntsman has done well,” Tenet said. “Rise, Edoran, and accept the thanks of these who feast.”

From one of the lower tables a slim man stood. He bowed. “My Lord is kind, but it is My Lord who slew the beast with his own spear.”

Tenet laughed. “Ah, but it is my loyal huntsman who led me to the point where I could use my spear. How shall I reward–“

Before Tenet could complete his question, the main doors to the hall burst inward limned in blue flame. A man in dark robes strode through the remains of the shattered doors.

Several things happened at once. The hush in the hall, if anything, deepened, followed a moment later by a repeated murmur, the single name, “Delros.” Guards appeared from behind tapestries, their swords drawn and ready. At Tenet’s side, Zelquon sprang to his feet, his hand grasping for a sword that was not there. Against this foe, they were not rivals, but allies.

An icy hand of fear clutched at Tenet’s heart but long practice schooled his face into resolve.

“You dare?”

The robed man, Delros, lifted his hands and pushed the hood back from his face. “I come in peace.”

“Peace? With the prophesied conqueror?”

Delros sighed. “I cannot speak to any prophesies. But, the truth is, I mean you no harm.”

Tenet opened his mouth to speak but Delros raised a hand, blue flames licked about his fingers.

“I had not finished.” Delros took several steps forward, to the center of the hall. “All I ever wanted to do was pursue my studies in my keep. No more. And yet, people keep coming attempting to kill me.

Delros’ eyes narrowed. “Well, I am alive and the assassins are dead. But that they keep coming is…annoying. I want them to stop. Just…leave me alone and I will be able to stop killing the people you send to kill me.”

“You expect us to believe…”

“Believe what you want. I don’t want to kill your people. It takes time from my studies. Leave. Me. Alone.”

With that Delros turned and strode from the hall. Once he’d passed through the doorway, he gestured and the pieces of the door gathered themselves up from the floor and reassembled themselves.

Tenet looked at Zelquon and shrugged.

“We must stop him,” Zelquon said.

Tenet shrugged again. “How? You saw his power.”

#

Outside, Delros sighed and pulled his hood back up.

“Did they believe you?” A young woman, dressed in a buff leather tunic and pants, her hair pulled into a knot at the nape of her neck lounged against the wall opposite the great hall’s door.

“Probably not,” Delros said. He turned and strode toward the exit of the keep weaving among the magically slumbering guards.

“Why didn’t you tell them about the prophesy?” The young woman fell in at his side.

“They don’t believe I mean them no harm. Do you think they’ll believe that their fool astrologer got the prophesy wrong?”

When Delros had first heard of the so-called prophesy, he had investigated. The astrologer had miscalculated the position of the lesser moon. While the prophesy was true, he’d missed the time by five hundred years.

The young woman shrugged as they emerged from the keep into the bright sunshine. “You’d think they’d be glad that they had five hundred more years to prepare for this conqueror.”

Delros laughed. “Oh, you misunderstood. It isn’t five hundred years from now It was five hundred years ago.”

Delros waved his hand and his sky-barge descended from where it had lain hidden in a cloud.

“A…go?”

“One of the many wars. A wizard king gathered several kingdoms together. They went conquering, built an empire. And in time the empire broke up.”

The gangway on the sky barge unfolded and Delros gestured the young woman to precede him.

“Just on of their interminable wars, like any other. They didn’t even notice. That’s all the prophecy was, just one of their endless wars.”

Happy (or not, as you prefer) World Goth Day: An Annual Event

For those unfamiliar, here’s a brief history of Goths, the Gothic subculture and why “Goth”  even though they, we, were nowhere about when Rome was being sacked. (I’ve got an alibi!)

And some pictures of Goths, being Goth (what can I say, I like couples):

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goth couple 4

If this interests you, Toxic Tears has some tips on getting started:

Today Should be a National Holiday (An Annual Tradition).

If there were any justice today would be a national holiday at least as big as Independence Day.  I’m not kidding.

Back in the 1770’s an unrest that had started more than a century before–with Colonial reaction to the English Civil War, the Catholic reign of James II, and the Glorious Revolution that followed–was growing in the American colonies, at least those along the Atlantic Seaboard from New Hampshire down through Georgia.  Protests over taxes imposed without the taxed having any voice in the matter, complaints about a distant monarch and legislative body making rules and laws over people to whom they are not beholden.

There had been clashes which fed that unrest, including the famous “Boston Massacre” where British troops fired into a rioting mob resulting in several deaths.  Think of it as the Kent State of the 18th century.

In an effort to quell the unrest, or at least have it be less of a threat to British officials, General Thomas Gage, Military governor of Massachusetts, under orders to take decisive action against the colonists, decided to confiscate firearms and ammunition from certain groups in the colony.  His forces marched on the night of April 18, 1775.

The colonists, forewarned of the action (the Longfellow poem, which children learn in school–or they did when I was in school “Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”–is historically inaccurate, but it sure is stirring, isn’t it?), first met the British troops at Lexington Massachusetts where John Parker, in command of the local Colonial Militia said, according to the recollection of one of the participants, “Stand your ground.  Don’t fire unless fired upon.  But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

Whether Parker actually said those words, the first shot was fired.  No one knew who fired it, whether British or Colonial.  In the ensuing, brief battle the British regulars put the Colonial militia to flight.

The British then turned toward Concord.

A small unit of militia, hearing reports of firing at Lexington marched out but on spotting a British unit of about 700 while themselves only numbering about 250 they returned to Concord.  The Colonial militia departed the town across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile north of town where additional militia reinforcements continued to gather.

The British reached the town and began searching for the weapons they came to confiscate.  They found several cannon, too large to be moved quickly, and disabled them.  Other weapons and supplies had been either removed or hidden.

On seeing the smoke of the burning carriages from the cannon, the Militia began to move.  It is not my purpose here to go into detailed description of their movements but in the end the British regulars found themselves both outnumbered and outmaneuvered.  They fled, a rout that surprised the Colonial Militia as much as the British regulars.  Again, I simplify but in the end they marched back to Boston continuing to suffer casualties from what amounted to 18th century sniper fire from the surrounding brush.  The frustration of the British soldiers led them to atrocities, killing everyone they found in buildings whether they were involved in the fighting or not.

Eventually the British forces fought their way back to Boston where they were besieged by Militia forces numbering over 1500 men.

And the Revolutionary War had begun.

And so, on this day in 1775, the nascent United States took the course that would lead eventually to Independence.

And that’s why April 19 deserves to be a National Holiday on a par at least with Independence Day.  The latter was recognition of what became fact on the former.

Called. It.

Originally wrote this back in November of 2018. Didn’t take long to prove prophetic.

We have, of late, been enjoying a booming economy.  The economy has been growing.  Jobs are up.  Unemployment is down.  GDP is heading up.  These are all good things meaning an improved standard of living for the American people.

However, as sure as death and taxes there will come a time when the economy takes a downward turn.  This is not a gloom and doom prediction.  The economy can continue to grow in the long term but there will be ups and downs along the way.  Given a long enough perspective we’ll see that the ups average bit higher, the downs not quite so low, and the general trend is up.

This long term general upward trend is why the average standard of living is higher than in the paleolithic age, or Roman times, or Medieval, or even the 19th and early 20th century.  But there will be stumbles and down turns along the way.  This is normal.

But when a down turn happens, people forget that it’s normal and don’t simply batten down the hatches, as it were, to ride it out.  Nope.  The urge is to do something.

In the modern era the thing people generally turn to in order to “do something” is government stimulus of the economy.  The government will spend money on public works projects or offer loans or outright grants to select businesses to “stimulate” economic activity and foster economic growth.

This sounds very good in theory but what about in practice?  Well, the first thing you have to do is ask where this money the government is spending comes from?  Since government does not generally produce and sell products in a competitive marketplace, there are really only three ways government gets money:  tax it, borrow it, and a third way I’ll get to shortly.

The problem with “tax it” is that the money the government puts into the economy must first be taken out of the economy.  More money in sector A, where the government “stimulus” is going is at the cost of less money in sector B.  Classic Peter and Paul situation.  The money taken from B cancels out the money put into sector A.  People in favor of this approach can only argue it on the basis that the “experts” in government will use the money more wisely than will the market if the money is left there.  In short, it’s a specific instance of the command economy theories that date all the way back to Plato’s “Republic.”

The history of actual planned economies suggest that nothing could be further from the truth.

The second way to get the money for stimulus is borrow it, take it as a debt on the future economy.  This has much the same issue as the “tax it” approach although it’s a bit slower in application.  The impact of taking that money out of other elements of the economy is not felt quite so immediately but the end result is the same.  Paul is very happy at Peter’s expense, but the net that they both have does not improve.

Then the third way.  And that way, one that has been very attractive to governments in history:  simply make more money.  In the days when most money was in the form of coins of precious metals, the way this was done was to debase the coins in various ways. They would do things like alloy the coins with base metals, make the coins smaller while retaining the same denomination, or even make the coin entirely of base metal and just give it a “wash” of the precious metal.  All of which meant more coins in circulation, more money which the government could use to pay for more goods and services (starting there, since the governments generally gave itself a monopoly on the making of money) and then the coins could be used by others to buy other things.

Paper money made that process easier.  Want more money?  Print more.  The paper for $100 bill costs no more than that for a $1 bill.  And in the modern age, they don’t even need to do that.  Much of the “money supply” consists of nothing more than electronic bank records.

So, when an increase of money supply significantly larger than the growth of economic output hits the market, what happens?  Businesses, and soon individuals, have more money to spend on things.  And that means they buy more.  For example, people might buy more pencils.  As a result, the dealers order more pencils from their distributors.  The distributors order more from the manufacturers.  And the manufacturers order more raw materials, maybe even hire more people to increase their capacity to supply the new increased demand for pencils.

The economy humming along and more people working.  A good thing, right?

Well, for a while.  You see, normally an increased demand for one particular product, pencils in this case, would be because people are choosing that product over some other product.  Increased demand in one would mean reduced demand in another.  Perhaps, say, the popularity of pencil drawing increased in the art world over that of pen and ink.  People would buy more pencils, but fewer pen nibs and less ink.  And these shifts would in the end (through various intermediate steps) divert resources from the manufacture of pens and ink to that of pencils, thus managing the allocation of scarce resources which have alternative uses.

But that’s not what happens with an increase in money supply.  Instead, the demand for everything  goes up.  So instead of resources being shifted from something that has decreased in demand to something that is increased, everybody is clamoring for the same resources.  The result is that they have to bid against each other and prices for those resources goes up.  The prices of the materials for manufacture of those pencils goes up.  The manufacturers have to charge more to the distributors, who charge more to the retailers, who charge more to you.

This doesn’t happen instantly.  It takes some time to work through the system.  You get an initial “stimulus”, then prices rise and eat up the result.  However, it’s done its job for the politicians.  They got their “stimulus” and enough time has passed that they can blame the problem of the increased prices on someone else.

By the time the prices have all caught up with the money supply, the stimulus effect is gone.  The demand is no longer being propped up by the increased money supply.  If anything demand can fall.   Someone who bought a bunch of pencils at the start of this doesn’t need any now.

So what’s the politician to do?  If you said “increase the money supply some more”, you get a gold star.  We get another “stimulus”, another rise in prices, and another flagging of the economy as prices catch up to supply.  Which means another increase and…

Thus you have the inflationary spiral.

The only way to get out of it is to stop increasing the money supply faster than economic output is growing.  The problem is, that “stimulus” that happened at the start?  It happens in reverse.  Demand falls.  People buy less.  Businesses do less business.  Unemployment goes up.  All things most people see as “bad”.  Now, with a bit of patience these will settle and the economy will go back to its normal operation.  The thing is, neither politicians nor their constituents are noted for their patience.  “Things will be fine if you can just hold out for the next few months” is not something that plays well in the political trenches.  Thus, as I’ve noted elsewhere, it’s not politically feasible to fix such a problem all at once.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t fix a problem with inflation.  It just has to be done gradually, in stages that are politically feasible.  You’ll still get the drops in demand with the concurrent reduction in business, but they can be kept to a smaller, less painful level.  It just takes longer.  That requires more patience.   But, again neither politicians nor their constituents are noted for their patience.

And so, here as well, Economics is the Dismal Science.

Rights and Government (A Somewhat Updated and Expanded Blast from the Past as “Rights and Government”).

Democrat Presidential Candidate Francis O’Rourke (calling himself “Beto” to try to give himself a Hispanic cachet) said, as part of his arguments for gun confiscation back when he was running for President (call it a “mandatory buy-back” if you will it’s still confiscation) said that you can’t fight a tyrannical government “nor do you have a right to.” (I’ve dealt with the “you can’t” argument before.)

That follows, of course, if you take the view that rights are something granted by government.  If Rights are granted by government then of course there is no right to forcibly resist that government.

He’s not alone. There was this genius:

If the only rights you have are those granted by government than no government can ever be said to violate “human rights.” The rights, after all, are what the government says they are, neither more nor less.  The UN Human Rights Council is meaningless. (Well, I agree it is, but not because rights are only what governments say they are, but because of the UN’s penchant for putting representatives there whose positions are anathema to the very idea of human rights.) All the “sanctions” against various nations for violating human rights?  In error because how can a government that gets to decide what rights one does or does not have possibly violate rights.  If it kills you, has it not simply decided you don’t have a right to life?  If it imprisons you, has it not simply decided you do not have a right to liberty?  If it impoverishes you, has it not simply decided you do not have a right to property?  And so on.

I would like to think that the person with the obscured name was engaging in satire or sarcasm but the wording of the comment suggests otherwise.  This person apparently truly believes that the right to life–the most fundamental of all rights as one cannot hold any other right from the grave–is only yours if government permits it to you.

I do not subscribe to that view.  Here’s why.

First off consider what it means if rights only exist because the government says they do.  That directly implies that rights don’t exist if the government says they don’t.  If you take that position, then nothing government does can ever be “wrong”.

Let’s look at some examples to see where the government granting rights, and therefore is able to take them away, leads.

In March of 1492, the then government of Spain, specifically the Joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, ordered the expulsion of all the practicing Jews from Castile and Aragon and all their territories and possessions (including essentially all of modern Spain as well as additional territories).  This, of course, was entirely proper (given our presumption that government grants rights) since the government is simply rescinding the right of those Jews to live in Castile and Aragon and possessions.

There can be no objection to this, of course, since the right to live there was granted by the government and therefore could be taken away by the government.

In 1836 the “Treaty of New Echota” called for the removal of the Cherokee from all lands east of the Mississippi.  Some few moved voluntarily in response to this treaty.  However, in the end the Cherokee were forced first into concentration camps, then on the horrible Trail of Tears in forced migration to the west.

There can be no objection to this, of course, since the right to live east of the Mississippi, or to live at all, was granted by the government and therefore could be taken away by the government.

In 1838 the then Governor of Missouri issued a proclamation that the new religion of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) were to be treated as enemies of the State and exterminated or driven out.  (This order was not rescinded until 1976).

There can be no objection to this, of course, since the right to live in Missouri, or to live at all, let alone practice ones religion, was granted by the government and therefore could be taken away by the government.

In 1934, among many other things, German law stripped Jews of their German citizenship, forbade them from marrying or having sexual relations with non-Jews. (There was much worse to come, of course, so let this stand in proxy for that.)

There can be no objection to this, of course, since the right to citizenship, to marry, and who one might have sex with, were granted by the government and therefore could be taken away by the government.

If Francis has his way, at some future date he will deprive people of their arms.  There can be no objection to this, of course, since the right to keep and bear arms was granted by government and, therefore, can be taken away by government.

Well, we could go on and on.  If one takes the view that rights are granted by government and follows that through to its conclusion that therefore government can rescind those rights at its pleasure, then there is no atrocity, no matter how heinous, that government can do and one is left with no basis to object.  If your right to life comes from government, then it is equally valid for government to rescind that right and kill you.

No, if rights exist at all, they must exist independent of government.  They might be, as the Founders of the US stated something a person is “endowed by their Creator” or simply something they hold simply as the virtue of being human.  This is the only way that one can say that a government does right or wrong.  If rights come from government then nothing a government does can be wrong.  Only if rights are inherent in being human can say that a government does wrong.

The people who made up the Continental Congress did not think it necessary to go through this reasoning to come to the conclusion.  It was “water to a fish” to them.  Thus: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, securing their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Governments do not grant rights, not in the ultimate sense.  We may use the word “right” to refer to some things that are not innate human rights, but are tied to the form of government.  The right to vote is a big one there.  But when it comes to the basic human rights, they are completely independent of government.  Government does not grant them.  Government can not rescind them.  Government can only uphold them or infringe upon them.

And when government infringes upon them, it is government that is wrong.  And it is the right of the people, collectively or individually, to stand against that government and say “no.”

History, of course, is replete with examples of governments trampling on the rights of the people.  Indeed, that seems to be the norm to the point of being universal.  It is only when the people, united in their determination to enforce their basic human rights stand up and force government to recognize their rights, when they are willing to put their all behind the rights not just of themselves but of all men and women within their reach, that “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” becomes an achievable idea.

It happens when to these ends “We Mutually Pledge To Each Other Our Lives, Our Fortunes And Our Sacred Honor.”

Privilege Bingo

So I saw this over on Larry Correia’s Blog (who mocked it well, but let me add my two cents as well):

Of course, the purpose of this is to have folk like, well, me, wringing our hands in guilt over just how “privileged” we’re supposed to be because of our melanin deficient states.

Cry me a river. Let’s take a look at that, hmm? I’ll start by just taking the “bingo” card and treating each “cell” as a line item and just count up the “points” from things that, personally, count as my “privilege.” So let’s begin:

Native English Speaker –Okay, got this one. Score 1.

Both Parent Went To College – Unknown. My mother did two years of college (which, perhaps counts for this purpose) but I have no idea what the stepfather I lived most of my childhood with did. Don’t know offhand whether my natural father went to college (could find out by asking his wife) but…probably doesn’t matter for this purpose since I had no contact–actually thought he was dead–from when I was 3 until I was in my thirties (although the Wokies would likely count it anyway). Call it half a point. So 1.5 so far.

Never Worried About Food – Any number of times I wondered where my next meal was coming from. I remember a time when we lived on “civil defense” soda crackers and hard candy. Other times when if I wanted protein I had to catch it from the creek, and the fish often weren’t biting. No points So, still at 1.5.

Drive/Get Driven To School – Except for very brief periods, I walked. The brief periods involved taking the bus. I hated taking the bus. I was bullied in school (late bloomer physically, so always a scrawny runt, with “unusual” interests like science and stuff) and taking the bus was just another opportunity to be bullied. No points, still at 1.5

Employed This makes no sense. Employment is not “privilege” but accomplishment. So I’m not going to count any points for this and point and laugh at the idiots who came put it on this list. Still at 1.5

Comfortable Walking Outside Alone – I could make jokes about “Eww, people. Eww, sun” (being goth and all) but really, it comes down to you haven’t lived in some of the places I’ve lived, I guess. So…no points. Still at 1.5

White – I could snark that according to my DNA tests I’m as much African American as Elizabeth Warren is Native American. Could also point out that including your conclusion (that “wypipo” have privilege denied to others) as one of your premises is fallacious. But I’ll go ahead and give myself a point for this: 2.5 total so far.

Parents are Married – Hmm. That stepfather was an abusive alcoholic. Was living with him for a large part of my childhood really “privilege”? Was it privilege to lie in bed at night listening to him screaming at my mother and in the morning see the ceramic lamp that he’d broken over my mother’s head? I’ve given “benefit of the doubt” to this list in that “both parents went to college” thing but, nope, not going to do that here. Still at 2.5 points.

Born In Country of Residence – Not just born in the “country of residence” but born in the most awesome country in the world (however much people like the creator of this list are trying to ruin it). So…yeah, I’ll take the point. In fact, I’ll take two. 4.5 points.

No Speech Impediment – I have an occasional stutter. But, more importantly, I get tongue tied around others (or, worse, go into “verbal hemorrhage mode”). I can gear up to power through the situation in certain circumstances where I’m prepared to talk on a particular subject (science fiction convention panels being an example) but without that I have definite difficulty talking to others. So, again, no points. Still at 4.5 (not kidding about taking 2 for being born in America).

Heterosexual – Okay, yeah, the same privilege something like 90% of the population has so we’ll take the point. 5.5 points.

Christian – Nope. Agnostipagan, or Asatru leaning Agnostic. Take your pick on the label. I’m a practitioner of Norse Paganism without exactly believing in the gods of Norse Paganism. It’s complicated. But what it’s not is Christian, or anything like Christian. Still at 5.5 points.

Free Space – Oh, there’s a free space. So they give folk one point of “privilege” just for being there. Ok then. For the free space, we’ll take the point because Free Space, Free Nation, and America is just that awesome. (Yes, this works out to three points for being born in America). 6.5 points.

Feel Safe Around Police Officers – Um. I am a long time believer that the Iron Law of Bureaucracy* has long run its course for police departments. “Feel safe” no. Take steps to be safe? Absolutely. See the Chris Rock video on “How not to get your ass kicked by police” (it’s on the Tube of You and I’ll link it here). Still at 6.5 points.

Mentally Healthy – I’m going to be pretty candid here. Depressive, Possible autism spectrum, avoidant personality traits which might (haven’t worked that out with my provider on that yet) rise to AvPD. So, no points here. Still at 6.5 points.

College is the Expectation – Again, how is this a matter of privilege? It’s a choice. But, funny thing is, I’m a big proponent that not everyone should go to college. There are trades out there practically begging for individuals with a good work ethic to use their hands, and their brains, to make stuff. My daughter decided not to go to college, preferring to instead turn her artistic talent to tattooing and I applaud her for that. So, no points here. Still at 6.5 points.

Never Been Racially Profiled – Just was. But that aside, have you ever been a white person in certain neighborhoods? Or an Irish person in certain areas in England? I’ve experienced both of those. I’ve been let go from jobs because of having the wrong skin color. (Temp agency sent me over, manager said “nope, don’t want whitey.”) No points. Still at 6.5.

Feel Represented in Media – Does being the bad guy count since that seems to be the standard representation of white liberty-minded men in movies and TV these days? I’m going to say no. Fortunately, I can identify with people who are not. like. me. Frankly, people who are just like me living lives just like mine, facing the same problems I face are about the least interesting things to read about/watch on screen. So…no points. Still at 6.5.

Able-Bodied – Let’s see, I noted above I was a “late bloomer” physically which always left me smaller and weaker than my peers growing up. And now, I’m 61 years old with bad knees and shoulders. I work my ass off, finding workarounds to those limitations to remain active, relatively fit, and healthy. Those are choices, not privilege. No points. Still at 6.5.

Military Kid – Both my natural father and my stepfather left the military before they became whichever version of “father”. Still, how does growing up in an environment where you get uprooted every couple of years to move somewhere else, live in generally substandard housing (I’ve lived in military housing) and generally have a difficult, miserable life, count as “privilege”? No points. Still at 6.5

Have Your Own Bedroom – Shared a room with my sibling until I was in my teens. No points. Still at 6.5

Involved in Extracurricular Activities – Once again, choice, not privilege. Seriously? And in my case, the only “extracurricular” activity I tended to be involved with was sitting in my room reading. Again, no points. Still 6.5.

Cisgender – Gasp! A privilege I share with 99%+ of the world. Color me privileged here. So we’re up to 7.5 points.

Never Lost A Loved One – Seriously? There are people out there where no. one. in their lives has died? My great grandmother certainly counts as a loved one. My aunt Pauline. My grandmother. Then there were beloved pets. You can’t tell me they aren’t “loved ones.” So…again, no points. Still at 7.5

Male – Okay, this appears to be even more privileged than cisgender because it only applies to just under half the world’s population. One has the privilege of being more likely to die on the job, more likely to commit suicide, more likely to suffer job related injuries (even if the job doesn’t kill you), more likely to die or be maimed in combat. So count me in. 8.5 total points.

So, out of 25 items, including that free space, I rate a total of 8 and a half. And that’s counting “being born an American” as three of them. Let’s see how the scorecard looks:

The pink circle is the half point. The big circle in “born in country of residence” is counting it twice (and a third time for the free space). O, look, if only I were able bodied I’d be able to call bingo but, nope, no bingo there. And that’s with several of those items not being matters of “privilege” so much as choices one makes and a couple of things that are utterly ridiculous to count as “privilege” in the first place.

So, chuckles, you can take your insinuations and assumptions of “privilege”, fold them so they are all sharp corners, and shove them where the sun does not shine.

And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

No, actually. I don’t.

*The Iron Law of Bureaucracy: In any bureaucratic organization there are two types of bureaucrats–those dedicated to the goals of the organization, and those dedicated to the organization itself. The Iron Law states that in every case (and I do mean every case) the second class of bureaucrats will take control. They will write the procedures and control promotions within the organization. Yes, that includes the police bureaucracy. There are good and decent police officers out there but they are not the ones “driving the bus” as it were. Forgetting either side of that is a mistake.

Why, Yes. In fact I have been wearing a mask. My boss insists.

So I went to the doctor today. I had a rash in the mustache area on my face that was sometimes bright red enough to actually show through the mustache. I thought it was just dermatitis since I am prone to that but my usual treatments (hydrocortisone cream) weren’t helping and I figured they might have something stronger to deal with it.

Turns out that it was a staph infection. According to my doctor “we’re seeing a lot of that from all the mask wearing–creating a warm, moist environment for bacteria to grow.”

I predicted this kind of thing a year and a half ago. What I did not expect was to be an example case. In any case, I’ve got a course of antibiotics to deal with the infection and we’ll proceed from there.

Two lessons:

  1. Masks suck. Wearing masks did not stop me from getting COVID last December, and wearing masks led to a staph infection this December.
  2. Even if you think you know what that odd rash is, it might still be a good idea to get it checked by a doctor. If I hadn’t I would never have known and the infection might well have spread.

Goth on Ice: My Journey to Skating

The first exposure that I really had to ice skating, figure skating, was watching Dorothy Hamill at the 1976 Olympics. I was 15 at the time.

Incidentally, Ms. Hamill was the last women’s figure skater to win the Olympics without a triple jump.

I may have seen figure skating before that, but it made no impression on me and I don’t really remember. So this was what first put figure skating “on my radar” so to speak.

Along about that time, I saw some other kids skating on a frozen stream and somewhere along the line I saw a bit from a movie about Hans Brinker where the main character mentioned making skates from wood but he couldn’t skate for long on them because the wood absorbed water and swelled. One of the plot points was that he needed good skates to enter the race and, hopefully, win the silver skates. To be honest, I tried to make wooden skates but, well, it didn’t work.

And that was it for a while.

A few years later, I saw the movie “Ice Castles” (original 1978 version staring Robby Benson, Tom Skerrit, and Lynn-Holly Johnson).

Do I need a spoiler warning on a 43 year old movie? 😉

I didn’t see it in the theaters when it came out but rather a couple of years later While Hamill introduced me to the idea of figure skating as something to watch other people doing, and while the short bit of Hans Brinker got me curious enough to try (and fail) that “wooden skates” thing, it was this movie that really lit a fire in me to learn to skate. I saved up money from my summer job and scraped bought a pair of skates from Montomery Ward (then still a going concern). The skates, to be honest, were junk. The blades were neither screwed nor rivited to the sole but molded into it (how they were fastened internally, I have no idea). Not much I could do with them until I made a trip out to a friend who lived in Phoenix Arizona. One of the malls in the area had an indoor rink and it was there that I first went to skate.

I had no formal instruction, just messing around on the ice and using descriptions from books and…well, I got to where I could do basic forward stroking, something that sort of looked like a forward crossover, and a not-bad T-stop. Couldn’t skate backward at all and my one-foot work was abysmal. Still, it was something.

For a while I tried to relocate to Phoenix. I had just turned 18 and, legally an adult, I enrolled in school locally and went looking for work, making a little bit of pocket money by mowing lawns. And, whenever possible, I went to the rink and skated. Badly, perhaps, but with great enthusiasm.

And those skates I’d bought? Within two sessions on the ice I had to discard them. One of the blades came loose and would wobble, making the skate impossible to control. And with the blade molded in, there was no way to tighten fasteners so…cheap junk was cheap and junk and ended up being a complete waste of money. (A lesson for any would-be skaters out there.)

In the end the relocation to Phoenix failed. I ended up returning to Ohio. The community I was in had no real rink. In the winter, when it was cold enough, they’d flood one of the outdoor basketball courts and let it freeze so people could skate on it. If that sounds horrible, it’s because it was. But, it was all I had and I did the best I could. Somebody gave me a pair of skates. The boots were worn out. The blades were dull (and there was nowhere to get them properly sharpened–I tried with a round file in the hollow but…I don’t think it really helped). Again, all I had and I did the best I could.

I think I only even gave that a serious try for maybe one winter before graduating from school and well, before another winter rolled around I enlisted in the Air Force.

While I was in the Air Force, I was assigned to a base in England for two years. While I was there, I discovered Queen’s Ice Club. And they had a pro shop with skates for sale. So I got my own skates. To be honest, they were probably no better than entry level skates but, well, they were the best skates I’d ever skated on. Between work and other interests I probably only had about a half dozen opportunities to skate at Queens, but I made the most of them. Again, all I really did was the most basic of forward skating, but I had fun at it. And, once again, no formal instruction.

When I turned 23, I was reassigned away from England back to the US. I never really found an ice rink at the new place. There may have been one but it never appeared on my “radar”. So, I set the skates aside and that was it for a long time.

In the interim I went back to college, got married, got a job, and moved to my current city and state. And I had largely forgotten figure skating. I don’t even know what happened to the skates I’d bought from Queen’s Ice Club. I know I had them when we moved here, but, somewhere along the line they disappeared. I think maybe my ex, my then wife, donated them to Goodwill or something. In any case, they’re gone.

Time continued to pass and my daughter took up ballet. Then, not long after the divorce (I have custody) she asked about starting figure skating. I was amenable even though money was tight and told her we’d try a few public skate sessions just to see if she was really into it before getting her into lessons.

And so, for the first time in something like 35 years I got back on the ice and…

Odin’s One Eye, skating is not like riding a bike. I couldn’t skate at all. However little what I’d accomplished before had been it was all gone. I was starting completely from scratch.

And it was a lot harder to re-learn than it had been to learn in the first place. For one thing, older bodies don’t bounce like 18 year old bodies do. Falls hurt a lot more. It’s easier to get injured. And injuries take longer to heal. Still, I persevered and got my daughter into classes. Soon, however, her figure skating classes started conflicting with ballet. There was another rink, however, a bit farther away but not completely out of reach, which had classes on another day and that one also had adult classes.

And so my daughter and I started taking classes right next to each other: her at 14, me at 58. I’ve continued since then, working my way up through the adult classes from Adult 1, where I started to Adult 6 where I am now, poised to move on to the actual “figure skating” classes which start with Pre-Free Skate.

And that’s the story of my journey into figure skating, a journey that from one perspective is decades long, and from another that has barely begun.