So Wednesday morning, before the big debate, I followed through on my big fancy plan. I shook up the schedule and by a quarter to four in the morning, I was swinging on to the freeway entrance ramp with my mountain bike strapped to the back of the Honda. Destination, Angel Island. The woman can’t join me in things like this for another couple of weeks, the manly thing to do is check it out by myself ahead of time and see what there is to do. I’ve lived here quite awhile by now. Should’ve been to Angel Island already.
Driving that early in the morning, I’m always blown away by the pack mentality of people, especially when the trucking flow is on the light side and the freeway is pretty much an empty parking lot. Big empty spaces, interrupted by small dense “flocks” of cars. I wonder if they know they’re doing it. I was particularly amused by the fellow who was speeding by a good ten miles an hour, until he got right on my ass and hovered there, clearly frustrated. I was in the second of four lanes, all empty, and he just hung there like a cow who encountered a bail of hay and didn’t know what to do. I shifted right and he proceeded onward. Californians.
Tiburon, where the ferry terminal is located, is very much like Petaluma it turns out: Sleepy. My schedule was not a good fit here. I arrived about 5:30 and ended up finally grabbing a plate of chow a little bit past eight. My one chore between that, and the departure of the first ferry at ten o’clock, was to move the car from two-hour parking to an all-day arrangement, this was accomplished by nine. Having managed that, I took to exploring Paradise Drive, probably about as far as the park on the North side of the peninsula. I recall thinking at 9:43, alright I really should turn around now and maybe I’ve already screwed up my schedule…but, it worked out, I managed to double back and walk my bike on to the dock at 9:58. The ferry ride itself is a cash proposition and the boarding is quick. This particular line has no space for cars; bicycling and walking, that’s all you get. Simple. Inside of five minutes we were watching the pier recede, making good time over the water.
Angel Island is a popular stop-off for Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, and I was a bit embarrassed, and surprised, that the younger set was making a go of it in the middle of a Wednesday morning. Don’t they have school? Evidently some arrangements had been made. By this time it was a bit balmy for my jacket, and the chosen tee shirt of the day was “One Big Ass Mistake, America.” Which doesn’t quite fit…but I guess, in these times, that’s not seen as vulgar as it would’ve been back in my day. Had I known there would be this many juveniles around, I would have opted for “Re-Defeat Communism in 2012″ instead. There were two other bicyclists on this ferry ride, a couple somewhere around my age, maybe just a couple years senior. When time came to disembark the woman approached me and said, in hushed tones, “I really like your tee shirt.” I hear this a lot back in Folsom, there’s always a daily compliment-count, which month by month is on a perceptible increase. I was expecting the compliment-count for today to be zero since, hey, this is Marin County. And I said so. “Yeah, no kidding,” she said. “Gotta hand it to ya.” Oh well, that’s one. Two, actually, since her husband clearly approved as well.
This means something. Tonight was going to be the big debate. For anyone following this stuff, for whatever reason, the air was thick with suspense.
Regarding the Island, I’m left a bit concerned about what to do without bicycling. I have noticed there is stuff you can do, the signs say so, but I didn’t try it out personally since the bike was my mode of transportation for the day. There is something called a “Segway Tour”; I do not believe this is in the cards. All this technology coming out of The Jetsons, with no hint of the rocket-powered vest I was supposed to have by the 1990′s. A moving platform that does the walking for you? Can’t get past that. Looks like a decline of civilization to me.
I can see why the island is a great place to take kids, though. The military structures out there, abandoned and not-abandoned; they make learning fun. Truly a mind-expanding experience. I pushed onward, on the paved avenue that is the perimeter of the island, past the sign that said, 1.6 miles down 3.4 miles to go. By which time there was a half hour before the first return ferry would leave the island. I had to make a decision here: Stick to my original plan as opposed to hanging around an extra hour or two, loop the island, keep taking pretty pictures — I could have two out of those three. I vacillated on this a bit, and ultimately decided things would be much more exciting for everybody if there was still some exploring to be done, so I used the remaining minutes heading back the way I came. Sissy. Oh well, it’s fun that way.
This time, I didn’t shave things quite so close. I pulled up to a picnic table with the ferry terminal barely within line-of-sight, and started hydrating. As I was about to get going again I heard a voice behind me, “Did you loop it?” It was my two admirers, again. No, I said. It’s my first visit to the island and I’m here for pretty pictures, not performance benchmarks. It was their first time too, but they didn’t bring a camera. I think they said they opted to push on through. Well we got to talking about the nonsense that’s going on; we found common ground in our failure to understand Obama fans, and started comparing notes.
They’re not stupid, we all agreed. Not necessarily anyway. Some of them are actually quite bright. But their way of looking at the world is different.
I realized I had just jotted down the draft of an e-mail a few hours earlier, while it was still dark in Tiburon, waiting for a diner to open. And the subject didn’t have anything to do with national politics; not much, anyway. It had to do with economies. How people go about fulfilling their needs and their desires. There is bartering, in which something of value is surrendered whenever an expense event comes along, and then there is insuring, which means to classify the expense events and get whole classes of such events “covered.” Quoting:
[W]hen you barter, you have to earn, and as long as you’re earning you might as well pull in five clam shells when the bartering transaction for which you’re preparing demands only two or three…An economic model that encourages saving, is in rapid decline, while the replacement economic model that does nothing to encourage saving is in rapid ascension. So people don’t save, and they are not fortifying the mental discipline required to do the saving. They cut costs, and feel this false sense of accomplishment, but they fail to see it as the subtraction equation that it is. So they sacrifice things that are important to them, feel the pain of it, at the end of it the numbers still don’t come out right, then they feel abused, beaten down, get jaded and cynical. As I have these exchanges on Facebook with Obama fans trying to “educate” me on how the Affordable Care Act will make everything all moar-better, I sometimes ask them if they’re under the impression that health care coverage might be in a process of replacing the dollar as our society’s primary legal tender. Cool bike bro, thanks hey you know what, I’m selling it — really? How much you want for it? A year of basic coverage. That’s kinda stiff, I’ll give you six months for it. Make it nine. Sold!
Now what’s wrong with a society in which we’ve been pussified, done away with bartering, and take care of all our expenses by making sure “it’s covered”? I’ve already discussed the savings aspect; nobody has savings because nobody has any reason to have them. Closely intertwined with that is the dependency issue: It isn’t always covered! When there’s an expense, and it’s unavoidable, and no savings and revenue stream to support a line of credit…then you have a beggar. And so we have a future filled with whining, incapable mooching beggars. That is the real Obama agenda, it seems to me: If you try to save for a rainy day, and enjoy some success in doing so, then you’re “rich.” The Obama zombies say, oh no, that’s not true because Obama doesn’t want to punish you until you make X. I’ve been hearing the number “two hundred and fifty thousand a year” quite a bit there…well here’s a question, what’s Y? Meaning, the gross annual income you need [in order] to maintain some assurance that you won’t be a whining, mooching beggar post-retirement. As you’re no doubt aware, Y and X are moving treacherously close together, and Y may have passed X already for a lot of us. So Obama’s target, whether people want to admit it or not, is not “millionaires and billionaires flying around on their corporates jets”; it is self-sufficiency. In intent as well as in ultimate result, His war is against those who are attempting to accumulate the personal wealth needed to simply handle their own problems without bugging other people. In years past, that is what we were all supposed to be trying to do. Lately it is treated as some kind of neurosis, or worse. “C’mon, what’s the matter with you, you have ENOUGH money why do you need more?”
Complicating this is a subtle misunderstanding with just a glimmer of truth in it: “Making sure it’s covered” feels like the responsible thing to do. And it certainly is, when it’s known that a catastrophic event occurring within some set definition would likely be outside of your ability to pay. But I think it is generally understood that there’s nothing responsible about going before Congress and whining that your contraceptives cost too much and you need someone else to pay for them.
Consider what happened in that particular boondoggle: It was an election year stunt from the very beginning. It was about Congress, not the White House, so whether it worked or not is something to be determined within each district. But overall it’s a huge fail. Main Street understands the difference: There is $300 for Sandra Fluke’s birth control, and then there is $300,000 for liability events with your car insurance. The car insurance liability is much bigger, and it becomes reasonable to say, I’m probably not going to have that in the bank so I’d better get it covered. With the smaller number, let’s face it, it’s just bitching. Wah! I don’t wanna have to pay that! And then there is the very concept of liability…the coverage is in place to keep from screwing the other guy over. Fluke & friends just want to get their jollies. Alright, medicinal purposes or whatever…it’s still their thing. No, I don’t want to buy it for them, and more importantly, Main Street doesn’t want to either. Bottom line: This was one step forward and three steps back for the democrats — and to this very day they think it’s a win.
But here is the point: Our country, today, has a crisis with hard work. We don’t seem to have a good understanding of what it is. There is evidently a whole lot of loud, opinionated people running around, many of them nursing resentments, who see it as what could best be expressed as “suffering that pays something.” Dig a hole, dig another hole, take the dirt from the second hole and put it in the first hole, dig the first hole and put the dirt in the second hole…at the end & middle of the month you get a check. Um, that’s not what work is supposed to be. It’s supposed to have something to do with objects changing states for some purpose to be served. Also, we have a problem with that check. You cash it and pay some bills, buy food, hopefully there’s enough left over to put in savings. Well that part is right…but there’s a massive neglect of human potential taking place here when so many think of it as THE bills. THE this-credit-card, THE that-credit-card, THE heating bill. It’s easy to fall into this trap. And I guess, as long as something makes it into savings, it doesn’t really matter…but it seems people forget the bills do not represent injury, they represent activity. The trap of “paycheck happy face, bills sad face” reduces human potential because it makes it untenable to seriously consider taking on a new bill.
Anyway, my new friends passed the test. They weren’t hateful and they didn’t think all the Obama voters were complete idiots and they weren’t skinheads or racists, they were genuinely tired of the bovine-used-food. On the ferry ride back, we exchanged names, the husband offered me a glass of the bubbly in which they were partaking — it was a celebration of their twenty-fourth anniversary — and the wife said something funny. The reason they came to the island was they had this fantasy about expatriating, buying an island, starting their own country. “One rule,” she said: “Anyone can come, bring your own money because there’s no taxes and no welfare, and don’t be a dumbshit.” Heh heh, I like it. But Ayn Rand had thought of it first, of course…they weren’t up on the story, so I found myself struggling to compress the eleven hundred pages into the two or so minutes left before we reached Tiburon.
The cub scouts were no longer on board, so I relaxed the vocabulary constraints to make it all fit. “So this lady who runs a railway company, who’s not a dumbass, finds she can’t get her shit done without relying on a bunch of dumbasses, and she starts to suspect, at first as a joke, that someone’s going around making all the guys vanish who know what they’re doing…leaving behind a whole bunch of dumbasses. And then she finds out that it isn’t a joke, someone is really doing it, meanwhile the dumbasses keep passing their dumbass laws that make a whole bunch of dumbass problems, which being dumbasses they blame on the wrong things, and use the new problems as an excuse to pass even more dumbass laws…”
Yup. A prophecy. For the times in which we’re living right now.
So I got their full names, and they must have liked me because when I checked, I found they really exist. They have my e-mail address, assuming they didn’t forget it. I may hear from them and I may not. At any rate, I have a great tip from them on where to find the best margaritas in town.
But it is sad, isn’t it, when the spiral is so out of control that, it starts to become an appealing wedding anniversary activity to indulge the fantasy about the island. I think the sadness has a lot more to do with what’s going on, than it has to do with them, since they are not alone. Atlas Shrugged, as I pointed out, is really not much more than that fantasy. I’ve talked to others who have such a fantasy. I’ve had it. Way back early on in my career, my duties had a lot to do with showing people how to use computers…Reagan was president, I was young, the government really wasn’t doing anything to tick me off yet. My residence fantasy was about the Arctic, way up where you have a midnight sun during the summer and noon blackness in the winter. My house would be four stories high. Three of them underground, plunged deep into the frozen, rocky soil. And there I’d just sit and write stuff, English words for human consumption, code for computers, on fifteen kilowatts or so from my own diesel generators. Yeah…people. People like the dumbass who was riding my back bumper hours earlier, lacking the common sense needed to quit hovering and pass me already. I got good and tired of dealing with ‘em.
What is interesting to learn from all this is: The people who get tired of people, fantasizing about islands and winter-wonderland fortresses and so forth, do not tire of other people who think the same way. And there’s a good possibility we outnumber the dumbshits, so the fantasies about isolation may very well be entirely unnecessary. There is much stress and despair caused by the tactic used by the dumbshits, which they use and use again because it works, of pretending they are the real “everyone.” Everyone knows the Affordable Care Act is wonderful, everyone knows Obama walks on water, everyone knows you shouldn’t listen to talk radio or “hate radio” as they call it. They pretend to be everyone. But they aren’t. They may not even be a majority. They may not be even close to that.
And from all that, I conclude the following: By pretending to be “everyone” when that isn’t really what they are, they are sowing seeds of disharmony and disunity — where it did not previously exist. The easy thought to have is that the people fantasizing about expatriating and buying their own islands, they must be the problem since they’re the ones with the fantasy. At first blush, that does seem like common sense talking. But is it? And is there something to it? I don’t think so; perhaps I’m personally biased, but I really don’t think so.
And now, to the debate: Yesterday morning I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, and toward the end of his program he had someone comment on His Majesty’s debate performance by way of comparing Him to a drone. As in the military plane. I thought this really nailed it: Some people are very bright but, like the drone, they execute their processes within the confines of pre-defined and pre-learned mission parameters. The drone suffers in its effectiveness and suitability for the mission, when it encounters a situation outside of these parameters. Once that happens it will disengage and start flying in circles overhead.
This, claimed the caller, was what President Obama did: He encountered a situation outside of the established mission parameters, disengaged and flew in circles overhead, waiting to be shot down.
I think that explains part of it, maybe most of it. Probably all of it. But I’ve got this idea lurking in the back of my head that perhaps being disengaged was in the established mission parameters. Someone got it into the practice notes that, if Obama could look down, with a dejected expression on His face while Romney went on about whatever, the viewers would tune in and see poor little Barack Obama absorbing all this abuse from the rich white guy, and a sympathy vote would be triggered. I suspect that might have been the thinking, and I suspect further: the subtlety involved in discerning this is a tip-off, not that it’s a clever idea, but that it has resoundingly failed. Simply put, people just didn’t see that. That might have been the intent, but that isn’t what it looked like.
And, just like in the Fluke situation…even with the feedback that’s come out, I’m sure there is a mindset within their ranks that this was not a fail, but a glorious success. And the people who feel this, feel it sincerely. Obama really kicked some ass in that debate.
See, there is a truism to all this, where it hooks back to the “make sure its covered” people who want to start a whole new economic system without any actual trade and therefore with no savings: The effect of what they are doing, is to make weakness into the coin of the realm. You get something, because you need it…what you’ve done to help other people is irrelevant to this. This is where the real damage takes place, because when an activity is rewarded you’re always going to get more of it. (Coincidentally, or maybe not, in the third part of Atlas Shrugged this is explored in nauseating detail.) Say what you want about “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” the one undeniable virtue of this trade system being replaced, versus the “make sure it’s covered” system that is replacing it, is that the coin of the realm is fastened to the helping of other people…that’s what “work” is supposed to be, not the digging of two holes, but the helping of other people. Remember that? Therefore, it tends to make more of that. As long as people remember what work is supposed to be all about. Yeah, we’ve been slacking off there.
But “make sure it’s covered” makes need into the coin of the realm. It is bound to result in more people needing more stuff — more weakness, less strength. And, ya know what? It doesn’t do an awful lot for our sense of community, our readiness and willingness and ability to live peaceably with each other, when it gives rise to these retirement fantasies about expatriating and buying islands. Nor does it make sense to put the blame on the people having those fantasies. This is nothing more than a natural consequence.
So…two objectives, one is to reduce human suffering, the other is to foster a sense of community. Two things attempted, in both cases the outcome of the exercise is the precise opposite of what’s intended. Double-fail.