People are having cows over recent policy and legislation proposals to base immigration on things like possessing useful skills and speaking English.

First off, let’s deal with that English issue, shall we?  Someone coming to the US and wanting to be a functioning member of our society is going to have to deal with other people.  While Congress has never bothered to declare an official language in the US, we do have a common language.  The vast majority of people in the US speak English.  They may also speak another language.  English may not be their first or primary language even.  But most speak English.  If you want to communicate with the majority of people one might meet in America, then English is the language you’ll need for that.

Recognizing that is not any kind of “ist”.

Indeed, this will remain so even if we push more people to be bilingual.  Get more people to learn a second language and what happens?  Some learn Spanish.  Some learn French.  Some learn German.  A few go with less common (in America) languages:  Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Swahili, Hindi, whatever.  But all of the speak English.

It just makes sense to ask people who want to come here to live to acquire at least a basic knowledge of English.

“But it’s not fair,” some say.  “It’s too much to ask.”

Spare me.

My wife is Japanese; born and raised in Japan. She learned English well enough to attend and graduate from college in the US–in English. (She came over on a student Visa and when we met one thing led to another and…)

A friend of mine is from Russia and speaks English better than most native speakers I know. (He’s also a stronger proponent of America’s founding values than most as well, but that’s a different essay. I am definitely proud to call him friend.)

Another friend is from Portugal.  She speaks, reads and writes English.  She came to the US as an exchange student in high school and finished her senior year here in English.  She returned to Portugal but ended up marrying an American and emigrating.  Since coming here she’s written and sold thirty some novels for various publishers.  In English.  Yes, she does have an accent, but while its different it’s no more extreme than many of the regional accents in the US.  Her use of written language is certainly as good as anyone’s.  Oh, and she’s another stronger proponent of America’s founding values than most people born here.

And so on and so on.

Works the other way too.  I learned Russian in the Air Force. I had a pretty damn good accent at the time (as approved by instructors who were native speakers). My vocabulary and grammar weren’t quite up to “native speaker” levels but one of my classmates was good enough to be selected as the person to play the role of a Soviet defector in an exercise at the base he was assigned to (note: the folk at the base did not know it was an exercise. They thought he really was a defector) and fool other linguists into thinking he really was Russian.

So, no, it is not too hard.  It is not an unreasonable expectation.  The above examples go far beyond what anyone is asking of new and prospective immigrants.  It is not too much to ask that they have, or seriously commit to gaining, a working knowledge of English.  Why would anybody coming here and expecting to live and work here, to be part of our country, do anything else?

I, personally, welcome folk who come to the US to be part of our country, to celebrate and live by our founding values of liberty, self-reliance, and the rights of the individual (we haven’t always lived up to those ideals but they have always been the ideals), to become and be Americans.  People who want to turn it into the same place they are leaving, not so much.

And if you’re coming here to become an American, then why in the world would you not commit to learning the dominant language of America?


Rape culture?

So, there was this:


First off, I wouldn’t tell anyone what they can and cannot wear.  I get to that in a little more detail later but first let’s consider why this picture presents a stupid (yes, I said stupid) argument.

Your dog will obey that command. Now, would you use the idea that your dog will obey as evidence that you can leave steaks lying about wherever dogs happen to be.would you consider that a good idea? Some dogs aren’t trained. Some dogs, no matter how much you train them won’t restrain themselves.

Consider.  I wear black. (No.  Really.) Now, does wearing black mean that I deserve to get hit by cars?  Of course not.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m harder to see at night.  So while I don’t “deserve” to be hit and in the end it’s the drivers’ legal responsibility to avoid me it’s still in my best interest to use a little bit of extra caution compared to someone who is dressed in outfits that are easier to see at night.

Truth is, I don’t know if a rapist is more likely to choose a woman in “revealing” attire than one more “modestly” dressed.  And the truth is, most places I’ve seen where that question is asked don’t. answer. the. question.  They answer a different question about who’s to blame for the rape. (The rapist.  Duh.) The closest I was able to find was an answer on a quora question which said:

In South Africa, where rape is a extremely big problem compared to India, they did actual study and found out that dress did influence a rapist, but in a different way, and it has NOTHING to do with the sexiness of the dress. (Will update link if I find it)

Dress made up a small percentage of the victim picking, but it wasn’t based on how sexy it was, but more so based on how much of a trouble the dress would be for the rapist. So jeans,shorts, and certain pants are big turn offs, skirts no matter what their length are advantageous to the rapist,( so are the “traditional” Indian dress of Salwar-Kameez).  Essentially all the rapist cares about is how easy it would be to get to her, rape her, and get out of the area, and the dress that caused the least issue was chosen.

Even so, in the end it’s the rapist that’s at fault, not the victim whatever her attire.  Now, if I were to say that because certain styles of dress are more likely to be picked by rapists for attack that when wearing such styles one should use extra care not to be victimized, there are those who would scream “rape culture”, “blaming the victim”, and “teach men not to rape.”

They all really boil down to that last one:  teach men not to rape.

Here’s the thing, though.  We already do.  We have been teaching men not to rape for a very long time.  Just like we have been teaching men and women not to steal, teaching men and women not to murder, teaching men and women not to defraud others, and so on and so on.  For the most part, it works.  Most men and women don’t steal, they don’t murder, they don’t commit fraud…and they don’t rape.

But there’s always that one asshole who doesn’t get the message.  It’s not the vast majority of men one has to worry about.  Like the dog in the picture of the OP, they’ll take “no” for an answer.  But there remains an irreducible fraction of scum who won’t, that no amount of attempting to teach them to morally and ethically get along with others will reach.  Those are the ones you have to worry about.

In the end, you have to look after your own safety.  Not because you’re at fault, even if you don’t.  But because you don’t want to be a victim.  So when I suggest that you might want to learn to defend yourself against an attack, to use care in situations where you might be attacked, or to arm yourself against an attack by someone bigger and stronger than you (after all, rapists rarely pick victims their own size and strength), I’m not blaming you for being victimized.  That blame lies entirely with the attacker.  I’m trying to help you not be victimized since there’s little I can do about the attacker.

So if you want to take extra precaution, I’ll cheer your choice  If you look at the options and decide they’re not for you, I’ll cheer for you making your own choice.  If you want some specific advice, there are some things I can suggest.  Changing to frumpy clothes would probably not be among those suggestions.

But if you want to accessorize, I hear Colt, Beretta, and Kimber make some excellent anti-rape fashion accessories.  Nothing teaches rapists not to rape like jacketed hollow points to the center of mass.

And if that’s a direction you’d like to go, I’d be more than willing to help as would a lot of other people.


Blast from the Past: Land of Second Chances

One of the thing I like best about the US is that, more than just about anyplace else in the world, it’s the land of second/third/fourth/morth chances.  The ability to say “I screwed, up, but I can still make things better” and have that mean something is quintessentially American.

It makes sense, in a way.  So many people originally came to America because they were looking for a second chance.  For one reason or another things weren’t working for them “back home” so they came here for a new start in a new home.  Maybe they were looking for wealth in a new land.  Maybe they were looking for religious isolation.  Maybe they wanted to build their own farm in the wilderness where they wouldn’t be beholden to anyone.   For whatever reasons, they left what they had behind for a new try in the “new world.”

This whole “try again” attitude permeates American culture.  It did, anyway.  Lately it seems to be falling by the wayside.

My own life has been driven by a series of bad choices made on my part and new chances to make better choices.

In High School I never learned to study.  I didn’t need to to “get by” and simple unstructured reading in subjects that interested me was enough to get me “good enough” grades in most of my classes.  But I never learned the discipline of sitting down and studying a particular subject, especially any that didn’t particularly interest me at the time, until I’d mastered it.  Bad choice on my part.  Also in High School I never took the time to seriously look for work.  Whether I found it or not, I needed to be looking for it..  This resulted in my having very poor work habits by the time I graduated from school.

But the real bad choice I made in that era was only applying for one college.  It was a religious school, run by the religion I was practicing at the time.  When the local clerical leader essentially vetoed my application (because I wore my hair too long–it touched my ears and yes they were that strict) I had nowhere else to go.

So I went with “second chance” number one.  I joined the military.  Here I made yet another bad decision.  I originally planned to go into electronics, take whichever job had the longest school (thereby getting as much electronics training as possible), and parlay that into college afterwards.  I let the recruiter talk me into switching to another field.  I would prove remarkably unsuited to that field (thus making a military career out of the question) and it was also almost completely devoid of civilian application so I couldn’t turn military training into a decent civilian job.

Still, I could have put my time in the military to good use.  The military was willing to pay 75% of tuition costs in accredited colleges while served.  Also, the “GI Bill” of the day was voluntary—save up to $2700 for college and the government would match it 2:1.  Bad decision on my part was to not take advantage of either of these.  The only “college” I got from my military tour was from my technical training itself.

So, as the end of my enlistment neared, I got to “second chance” number two.  I applied to college again, several colleges this time.  Each of these colleges, however, required recommendations from high school teachers.  I sent the proper forms back home, to my mother, with lists of teachers to contact.  Once again I made the bad decision of putting my future in the hands of one person . . . who failed me.  She never forwarded the forms.

On returning from the military with no job prospects and no college, oh, and a broken collar bone because I was hit by a car shortly before separating from the military, I ended up in some menial jobs–bussing tables, washing dishes, that sort of thing–and I got to second chance number three.  I tried again to get into college.  Money was tight even for application fees so I applied to only one college, the state university.  I hand carried the forms to the college, met with various people at the college, and got accepted.  The proposed financial aid package would cover my need and all would be well except . . . bad decision:  I had been spending my money, even at the menial job, as fast as it had been coming in.  I had been working at a resort in Virginia at the time (my State of Residence was Ohio).  The job came with a room and cheap meals.  If I had sucked it in for just one summer–banked my paychecks and lived extra frugally for just one summer all would have been well.  But I didn’t think I needed to.  I had the financial aid package that would cover college, including room and board, so I thought everything would be fine and did not plan for the unexpected.  Naturally, something unexpected happened.  I would not receive part of the financial aid until halfway through the semester.  However, the housing arrangements required payment up front.  No one would grant me a short term loan to cover the gap between needing the money and getting the money.  So no college for me that year.

So I went back to menial work yet again, falling deeper into depression.  That’s when I took second chance number four.  My mother had returned to school in Akron and, when the resort job had ended (they closed for the winter) I moved back there.  I was unemployed, selling plasma for cash, and was walking with a cane because of problems with my knees (since improved).  The knee problem, which meant I couldn’t stand on my feet for long at a time, even prevented me from taking most menial jobs.  I was so depressed that I had largely stopped trying but my mother (whose financial situation as a college student was little better than mine) said she would front the application fee if I would just apply at the local university.  I did.  This time I was accepted.  I found housing I could afford based on the financial aid I would actually be receiving.  I entered the University of Akron majoring in physics.

While I was at school, I learned to study.  I learned to talk to people who actually worked in industry about what I needed to be able to get a job and to act on what they said so that when I graduated I would be able to get a good job.  I then acted on that and got the job.  Once I had the job, I got married.  Once I’d been stably employed for a couple of years I then went looking for a house, one I could afford (even though lenders were urging me to take more based on the “ratios” I had at the time) and would be able to continue paying for even if things took a “downturn” down the road.

I’d like to say that I’ve stopped making bad decisions but it would be a lie.  I still make them.  But when I make them, I have to realize that they are my decisions and it’s up to me to make them right.  I cannot rely on other people to make them for me.  They have their own interests at heart and if they also have mine it’s happy chance, not something on which to count.  My choices are my responsibility.  I can take advice or leave it but in the end it’s my choice.

And so I continue to be employed.  I have a wife and family.  I have a house that is not in imminent danger of foreclosure.  And I did it despite the very many bad decisions I made along the way.  And I did it by recognizing that the bad decisions were bad decisions, that they were my bad decisions not anyone else’s, and that I needed to make better decisions if I wanted to move ahead.

Second chances feature strongly in the second story in my short collection “FTI:  Beginnings”:
$2.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read in Kindle Unlimited

The Future is Now:
Richard Schneider forms a new company to develop a space launch system. His philosophy is simple: don’t cut corners; find better ways. His main rival, however, operates on a different philosophy. Originally written as near-future SF, the story is now alternate history, a tale of what might have been.

Match Point:
Set some years after The Future is Now, top ranked tennis player Tom Stryker is stricken with a neurological disorder that slows reflexes. No longer able to compete in professional tennis on Earth, he decides to try his hand at the low-G variant of the game, finding himself in a rivalry with the top-ranked low-g player in a match on the Moon.

Alchemy of Shadows: a Snippet

From a current work in progress, tentatively titled “Alchemy of Shadows”:

When we returned to Daryll’s room, we found a large man standing by Daryll’s bed.  Seen from behind, it took me a moment to recognize him as the same man who had been on the field during football practice, the coach.

Jeff looked up. “Becki?  Adrian?  What are you doing back?”

“I remembered my grandfather had a light sensitivity after his first heart attack.  I wanted to talk to the doctors, make sure they knew about that.”

The story sounded less plausible every time I said it.

The big man turned and looked at us through mirrored sunglasses.

“Becki, how nice to see you.  And this is?”

“Coach,” Jeff said, “this is a friend.  Adrian Jaeger”.

“Jaeger?” The coach smiled. “That means ‘hunter’ in German, does it not?”

I shrugged.  I knew quite well what the name meant but the youth I was pretending to be likely would not.

He held out his hand. “Aleki Ata.”

I did not hesitate.  A shadow riding a human had to depart its human host to touch me.  I took the hand.

“Pleased to meet you.”

Inside, my mind was racing.  The coach, and now one of the team members, both clearly ridden by shadows.  Had they known somehow that I was coming or was it just chance that I encountered a nest doing, whatever it was they do.

I tried to release Ata’s hand but he held tight.  He jerked me close, so that his mouth was near my right ear.

“What a pleaseant surprise…Johann.”

My eyes opened wide.  I pulled back.  The lights went out.  I tugged but Ata still held my hand fast in his grip.  By the dim light spilling around the curtains I could see Ata reaching for his glasses.

I’d left the flare in my right pocket.  Stupid.  I could not reach it with my right hand secure in Ata’s mitt.

I am not a fighter.  One does not live as long as I have by getting into fights all the time.  I avoid fights.  But neither does one live as long as I have without being able to fight at need.  I lifted my left knee then stomped forward into Ata’s knee.  I then raked the edge of my shoe down his shin.  As his leg started to fold, I turned, twisting my right hand up.  I continued to pivot and drove the heel of my left palm into Ata’s wrist.  His grip, loosened in reaction to my kick, popped loose from my hand.  I drove my hand down into the pocket of my pants and dove aside, hoping to avoid the tendrils of shadow that he knew were protruding from his eye sockets.

I succeeded.  My hand wrapped around the magnesium flare, withdrew.

I struck the flare.  Light blazed forth.  Tendrils of shadow recoiled, not just from me.  Some, I saw, reached for Becki but those too recoiled.  Beck stood, her eyes wide for just a moment before her left arm rose to shield her eyes.  Her right arm hung limp at her side.  On the far side of the room Jeff stood, his mouth agape, his face cast into stark relief in the actinic light.  Daryll still lay on the bed, his arms across his eyes, his mouth open in a soundless scream.

I had to think fast.  The flare only gave me a few seconds of light.  My first instinct was to run, get away before the thing riding Ata could recover.  But the shadows kept their existence as secret as I kept mine.  That meant Jeff and Becki…

“Run!” I shouted.

Neither Jeff nor Becki moved.

I dove onto the bed, reaching across to grab the front of Jeff’s shirt.  I pulled.  It was like pulling on a tree, firmly rooted in a mountain.

“Run,” I said again.

Jeff stumbled, his arm still shielding his eyes but he started to round the bed in the general direction of the door.

I pushed myself off the bed but pulled up short.  Daryll had grabbed the edge of my sleeve.  I jerked away, harder.  Fabric tore.  The sleeve came off in Daryll’s hand.  I whirled and placed a hand on Becki’s shoulder, turning her toward the door.

“Run,” I said yet again.  I moved my hand from her shoulder to the small of her back as I chivied her toward the door.  We reached it just ahead of Jeff.

The fluorescent lights of the hallway provided what seemed a dim illumination after the brilliance of my flare.  Bright purple after images from the flare rendered me nearly blind but I could hear people shouting, see others running toward us.

I turned in the direction I remembered for the exit and pushed Jeff and Becki in that direction.  I did not have time to let my eyes recover naturally.

I pulled the vial of elixir from where it hid behind my belt.  The lesser elixir would serve for this purpose but even so, I dared not waste it.  When I confirmed Jeff and Becki were moving, I twisted off the cap of the vial.  I tipped it to moisten a finger tip then flicked a few drops into first my left eye then my right.  My vision cleared immediately.

Hospital personnel were running for the room we had just vacated.  Strangely, nobody was paying any attention to us.  I moistened my finger with the elixir again and flicked some into Becki’s eyes, then into Jeff’s.  They both stopped as their own vision cleared.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” I said.

“What…what was that?” Becki said.

“Later,” I said. “We’ve got to get out of here.”

I grabbed her by the arm and pulled.  She followed me.

Jeff hung back. “But…”

“Later,” I said again. “I’ll explain everything letter.  Right now, we’ve got to get out of here.”

The light leaking past the door to Daryll’s room died as the flare within burned itself out.

“Now!” I said.

Becki came with me.  Jeff followed.

The lights in the hall went off.  Gloom filled the hallway, broken only from the light leaking from open doorways along its length.

“Scheisse!” I whispered.

Door.  Where was the door?

I found the door opening button and pressed.  Nothing.  The door itself resisted my push.  I let go of Becki’s arm and placed my shoulder against the door to shove.  It creaked partially open then stopped.  Panic rose in me.  Even without power those doors should open.

I heard a shout behind me, not quite a scream, then silence.

“Johann?” Ata’s voice.

Jeff rammed the other leaf of the door.  It burst open.  His left hand twisted in the front of my shirt while his right grabbed Becki by the arm.  He pulled us through the doorway.  I stumbled for a moment before my feet caught the rhythm and I ran after him.

“What the hell is going on?” Jeff asked.

“Get to the car.  I’ll explain.”

He let go of me.  I glanced over at Becki.  Her right arm still hung at her side.  Jeff still held her left, not quite pulling her along.

“Jeff,” she said, “let go.  I can–”

Her right foot slid out from under her.  She started to fall.  Jeff pivoted, moving with an agility I never would have imagined in someone as big as he was.  His left arm caught her, just under the shoulder and he set her back on her feet.

I leaned back hard, coming to a stop before colliding with the two of them.

We stood for a moment, panting.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said. “I’ll explain everything.  But we’ve got to get out of here, away from that thing, now.”

“What thing?” Becki said.

I waved at her immobile arm. “I’ll explain later, I said.  Let’s go now.”

Without further argument they followed me to the car.

If you enjoyed that, you might like some of my other work.  Click on the cover images to the side or go to the “My titles for Sale” page for brief descriptions of my books available for sale.


I got busy yesterday so didn’t get a blog post up.  Sorry.

Today went with the family to see Dunkirk.

See.  This.  Movie.

One thing annoyed me about it, the use of shakeycam.  However the movie was so riviting that toward the end when I was getting nauseated I thought maybe someone had mixed up the drink machine and I’d gotten sugared pop.  It wasn’t until later that it dawned on me.  I was so rivited by the story that I completely forgot the shakeycam even though it was making me sick.

That may sound like a mixed result but really, it’s high praise indeed for a story.

The movie starts with a squad of British soldiers in town making their way back toward the beach.  They come under fire from unseen assailants.  As they flee, they get picked off one by one, until there’s only one left.  The one, finally reaches a street blocked off by sandbags with another squad guarding it.  He comes under fire from them until he’s able to announce, and have them believe, that he’s British.

This guy is one of several we follow through the movie.  And this opening scene pretty much sums up his luck through the whole thing.

There are three basic intertwined stories.  There’s the British soldier, and a companion he picks up near the start.  There’s the owner of a small boat, his son, and a young friend of theirs.  And there are the pilots of a flight of Spitfires.  We also have a Naval officer on the shore at Dunkirk, overseeing the evacuation (and played by Kenneth Brannaugh; it took me a while to recognize him) with whom we spend somewhat less time than the others.  These intertwined stories give us different views of the events of the evacuation.

The timeline of the film is rather non-linear.  In the soldier’s story we see daytime, then nighttime, then daytime again but the small boat is all daytime as is the pilots’ story as their tale is told over the course of one sortie.  This gives the film a surreal quality as we’re clearly jumping back and forth in time.  The soldier’s story starts well before the boat crews’ which in turn has to start well before the Spitfire pilots’.  But we’re cutting between their scenes simultaneously.

An interesting narrative choice is that during the movie at no time until the very end do we see the Germans.  Or if we did, I missed it.  They are seen at the very end, but I won’t spoil that.

As things are in reality, some people react with courage and dedication to duty during the crisis.  Others react with moral and physical cowardice.  Some rise to the occasion.  Others are broken.

In summary, I found it a deeply moving picture of a desperate time in the beginning of the 2nd World War.  Highly recommended.

Blast from the Past: Moving Forward

The recent failure of the repeal of Obamacare, with the “defection” of several Republicans has brought this back to mind.  Unfortunately some of the economically most insupportable provisions of ObamaCare remain highly popular.

Elsewhere, the discussion came up again about the political landscape.  Some people, frustrated by Republican lack of anything resembling a spine and repeatedly rolling over for the current administration (Update:  and seem in some cases Hel-bent on rolling over for the previous administration now) are talking about “alternatives” including going third party, “letting it burn” (and thus having society and rule of law collapse), or worst of all “revolution.”

First, let’s be clear on one thing:  If we lose liberty here, it’s over.  Unlike past generations, people elsewhere in the world living under tyranny, we have no place to go.  If the US stops being a Constitutional Republic of limited powers where ultimate sovereignty comes from the people and individual liberty is the primary watchword, then there’s no place else to go.

This is not a new idea:

Some people look at the American Revolution and say “we need to do that again.” What they miss is that the situation here in the US at the time of the Revolution were unique in history, they haven’t been recreated since, and don’t hold now. By the time of the US break with Britain, we had a nation of immigrants “self selected” to a large extent for desiring freedom. Oh, it may have been the freedom to create their own highly insular and regulated communities but the key words there are “their own”. Even the “loyalists” were more “we can work something out to keep our freedoms” than “we should just kowtow to being ruled” (at least that’s my impression from my readings over the years).

The American revolution is, therefore, unique. Looking at other revolutions in other times and places does not lead to happy making feelings “Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite” and The Terror. That’s a more common model, especially “The Terror.”

If it does come to actual revolution, I expect that to be the most likely outcome, not “a new birth of freedom, kumbaya”. The odds are so very long against getting anything like a free society out of an armed insurrection that, well, things have to be pretty far gone indeed for that forlorn hope to look like the better option.

As for the actual conduct of such a revolution itself, that will get ugly. Incredibly ugly. I’ve discussed that a bit elsewhere:

Second American Revolution–I Hope Not

In 2008 a movie was made about Jewish resistance fighters in Nazi occupied Bellarus. One of the things I noted was the partisans execution of an informer. That’s exactly how things will have to be. Doesn’t matter how intimidated you are, doesn’t matter if they beat it out of you or threatened your family, or what. You inform; you die. And if (more like when) that doesn’t succeed in stopping informers (or keeping the level low enough that the insurrection can proceed) the next step is to escalate: you inform; your entire family dies.

Immoral? Downright evil? Yep. But that’s where it will be. That’s what it will be. That’s what an armed “Second* American Revolution” will come to.

Better be damned sure it’s justified before pulling that trigger.

Some other thoughts to ponder about a Revolution.  Back in the days of the American Revolution, what most Americans wanted was to be left alone. They liked the idea of liberty. They might disagree on whether negotiating with the King or declaring independence is the best way to get that but they pretty much agreed (oh, there were exceptions–there always are–but by and large). The problem was outside, the King and Parliament.

We have almost the exact opposite situation here. Now, in America, entirely too many people are infected with “there ought to be a law” or a lust for “goodies that other people pay for.”
So, you have your revolution. You win it. It isn’t hijacked by people wanting to use it for their own ends rather than the cause of “Freedom”. (Three miracles in a row of which the last is the greatest, but let’s go with that.) Now what? The people are the same people. You have your new Constitutional Convention? The people who send Pelosi and Boxer, Schumer and Jackson Lee, to Washington are also going to be sending delegates to this convention. How do you prevent them from doing something just as bad?

If you set up a Representative government, you’ve got the same problem because you’ve got the same voters with the same attitudes. What are you going to do? Kill or forcibly deport everyone who disagrees with you? There is a word for that. (Actually several words, but I’ll just go with “evil”.)
Or maybe you’ll go the other way. A benevolent dictatorship can be as free as a Constitutional Republic: provided you get a dictator whose goal is to leave people alone. There’s very little necessary connection between the form government takes and the freedom of the people under it. So, that can work for a generation, maybe two. Of course how benevolent is a dictator who puts himself in power by force of arms likely to be. (A fourth miracle, greater than the other three combined?)
So you get your revolution and you win it. Now what?

Now as for this “third party” vs. “working within the existing parties” argument. I note that the Libertarian Party to use one example for which I have numbers) was founded in 1971. It has run candidates in every Presidential election since 1972. So far, it has only once been able to capture even 1% of the vote. If you plot its results out as a trend it‘s several thousand years before they reach a level high enough to actually win the Presidency.That should put paid to the “third party” idea.

“But, but, that compromise approach is what got us into this mess.” Yes, because the other side has been willing to go for a little bit here, a little bit there, “compromise” so long as they can get some net gain. taking any setbacks and redoubling efforts for the next round.

The exact same “long game, make small gains where you can, minimize losses where you must” approach that I advocate, has been extremely successful. It’s just the other side that’s been doing it. But it takes discipline, patience, and perseverance. Strange that these are the traits that supposed “conservatives” seem to be lacking in politics
I wasn’t particularly surprised by the House and Senate continuing to roll over after the last election. That’s not a sign that “voting for new people does no good”. If you look at the way the new folk vote vs. how the old folk vote you do see a change. But there aren’t enough Cruzes and Gowdy’s and such yet. It’ll take a few more iterations before the balance shifts enough to really be felt–that is if people have the discipline to keep the pressure on.  Update: and we’ve had some improvement since the original post on this.  Still not quite enough.  There are a couple of Republican senators that yet need to be “primaried” and replaced by actual small-government conservatives.

If I ever start voting third party, it will mean one of two things: either the third party has somehow managed to get into the double digits in the vote (hey, I can dream) or I’ve simply given up. It won’t be because I think voting for someone who can’t even get one percent of the vote is going to make things better in any way.

It will also be about the time I start drinking.

(Update) As it happened, I did vote third party this last time around.  Going into the election, we had two people with a history of being liberal democrats.  One of them was claiming to be a Republican, claiming all sorts of things.  However, he’d also wrote the book on saying whatever you have to to “make the deal” to get what you want.  I had no expectation that it would be any better.  So, I went third party, playing the long game in the hopes that libertarian ideas would be seen as popular enough that some future candidates would see it as “politically profitable”* to support them.

So I voted third party.  And I started drinking.

*Poltically profitable:

My recruiter lied to me!

No, actually, he or she almost certainly didn’t.  You just heard what you wanted to hear.

In spring of 1981 I enlisted in the United States Air Force.  That was the culmination of a series of events, and the beginning of another series.

First, some background.  I grew up in a “broken home.” My parents separated when I was about three.  Some time after that, my mother remarried.  I have some isolated memories of that period and it seems like it was a good time but it didn’t last.  For whatever reason, my mother and this other man separated.  We moved to a little house in Portsmouth Virginia which my mother shared with one of the women she worked with (she waited tables) and her two children.

Shortly before I entered school, my mother married yet again to a Navy sonarman who served on destroyers.  Neither my sister nor I liked this guy.  We much preferred her other suitor, who was also in the Navy.  He proposed to her shortly before shipping out and my mother did not want to give him an answer in that rather narrow time window.  My sister and I (I was like six.  My sister was four) urged her to accept the proposal but she said she had time to decide.  My argument was that if she waited, then the other guy would convince her while the preferred guy was out.

Damn, I was awfully perceptive for a six year old.  Not only did I peg that the other guy would convince her to accept his suit, but that it would prove to be a really bad idea.

For a while everything seemed okay.  Oh, there were some hints.  When I was bullied at school, he didn’t do anything positive–not even to the extent of teaching me to defend myself.

Then, for reasons that I will not go into here, he lost his job as an officer of the Portsmouth City (Virginia) police and he moved back to his home in Cambridge, OH.

That’s when the problems really started.  You see he was an alcoholic.  While we were in Virginia, he wasn’t drinking, at least not much, but on return to Ohio he started drinking a lot and he was a mean drunk.

Another nice little bit is that he brought home a nice little present from a “side piece” (I believe that’s one of the current terms for a person with whom one is breaking ones oaths) and gave it to my mother.  He got himself taken care of but never said anything.  We didn’t find out until my mother literally collapsed on the floor and had to be rushed to the hospital where they found the damage was so extensive that she needed a total hysterectomy, plus the removal of one of her ovaries.

And yet my mother stayed with him.  A modern term for that is “co-dependent”.

In that timeframe, his treatment of me was harsh, but did not rise to the level of physical abuse, at least not by the standards of the time.  How he treated my mother, OTOH, that was a whole other ballgame.  I remember lying awake at night, listening to him coming home drunk, their fighting, the smashing sounds that I learned later were of a porcelain lamp being broken over my mother’s head.

And still she stayed with him.  For years.  I was thirteen when she finally left him and made it stick.  And while she had the occasional relationship after that, she never remarried.

The upshot of all that was that I never had a good male role model in my life.  I never had anyone to show me what it was to be a father, what it was to be a man.  And when I started growing up and the folk around me were growing faster, there was no one to explain that puberty hits different people at different times.  Some come earlier and some, like me, come later.  Frustrating as it is, it’s not something wrong.  And most importantly once it did come I would catch up.  Nobody to help me understand what was going on when I was the last one in anything related to gym class.  Years later, looking back I could see that I was basically just one year behind.  But then?  I was just a wimp, physically inadequate, completely incapable at anything requiring muscle.

As it happened, I did catch up.  There were signs that I was starting to catch up at the tail end of the Freshman year.  They had a track and field block near the end of the year and while my running was pathetic, one of the last things we did was high jump.  As student after student dropped out from failing to clear progressively higher bars.  I was still in.  This despite my horrid form (I was more hurdling than high-jumping).  Then there were just two people in–me and one other.  And the other guy was on the track team specializing in high jump.  I eventually failed twice at 4′ 8″ (Having cleared 4′ 7″).  The other guy managed 5′ 4″.  Not great numbers, but compared to anything I had ever done before?  I was actually pleased at that fluke.  If I’d had the practice to get good form, I probably would have been close, at least, to that other guy.

That year, however, was the last year of mandatory physical education and I firmly put it behind me.  After all, what was the point?  Despite the fluke there with the high jump, I was just a physical wimp, right?

Yeah.  I had severe self confidence issues.

Years later, I’d completed school, tried to get into college (my grades and test scores were fine but…well, that’s another story) and didn’t.  Worked for a bit in food service–bussing tables and washing dishes–and decided to join the military.  Talked to a recruiter.  Took the ASVAB’s.  Practically aced them (lost a few points in the “administrative” category so I was not qualified to be an accountant or a disbursement accountant–not that I wanted to.

But I was physically a wimp.  Of course I was a wimp.  I knew I was a wimp.  The physical demands of the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy intimidated me.  I was too wimpy for them.  I knew it. (That I was wrong didn’t enter into it.  I knew it.)

So I joined the Air Force.  I had a plan.  I had always had an interest in electronics.  Abusive stepfather was also a Ham radio operator and the one good thing he did do in those years was teach me some basic electronics.  So, at the advice of a friend, I was going to go into the Air Force and study electronics, take the longest school they have with the idea that electronics is electronics so the longer school I would have more to build on once I got out if I didn’t decide to make the military a career.

My recruiter, however, had other ideas.

Did I mention I had self-confidence issues?

He presented this alternative option, something called “Cryptologic Linguist.” It sounded intriguing.  I would be working with radios and recording equipment.  I would be sent to a language school to learn a foreign language. (I’m sure you see where this is heading.) I’d have to pass a background check for a top secret security clearance. (Got it now?  Nothing I’ve said here is not in the actual field description that I was handed as a potential recruit.)

Oh, and I would be able to enter in April rather than have to wait until September or later for the electronics fields (and I was out of work so that mattered).

He just sort of mentioned that if I signed up for six years, because of how long the training was, I’d get an automatic promotion to E3 on graduation of Basic Training and a $2500 bonus when I finished technical training.

That sounded like a lot of money to a kid just out of high school whose only experience is with jobs paying 1980 minimum wage.

Did I mention I had self confidence issues?

I took it.  Not the worst mistake of my life, not even top ten, but probably in the top twenty.

What he didn’t tell me was the long hours of boredom.  Of time spent sitting, waiting for something to happen.  And you can’t. do. anything. but. wait.  Some people an handle that.  I can’t.  I had a friend (different but related field) who described it as he could “turn off” his brain and just trigger whenever what he needed to respond to happened.  I can’t.

I went quite slowly mad.  My performance led to a counseling session where I was rated “not eligible to reenlist”.  And, well, the suicide attempt (not stemming from not being eligible to reenlist; I was perfectly happy with that; the feeling was mutual) lost me my security access and I ended up working in building maintenance (what was called “casual status”) for the last few months of my enlistment.

Then I was hit by a car.  But that’s another story.

So, no, my recruiter never lied to me.  I heard what I wanted to hear and, frankly, I was young and stupid (but I repeat myself), and simply did not have the self-confidence to stick to my plan.  But none of that was the recruiter’s fault.  He was just doing his job, and doing it well.

I’ve talked to friends since who suggested other areas that I might have been much better suited for.  And I sometimes wonder how things might have gone had I taken a different path–like say sticking to my original plan.  Even if my military career had gone no better, I would have been in a much better position no separating. (The only thing “marketable” from that cryptologic linguist field was the security clearance, and I’d lost my access so that was right out.)

And, yet, for all the trouble, that process started a sequence of events that, in the end, led to the wonderful daughter who’s currently napping in the next room.  With that in mind, looking back, even if I could, I don’t think I’d change it, not if it meant I wouldn’t have that daughter.