Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts, omphaloskepsis, and other random musings.

Rule Five Tenth Annual Commencement Speech Friday

It’s that time of year again when high school and college graduates all over the country are trying on caps and gowns and making post-graduation plans. Today, for the tenth year, (holy crap, I’ve been doing this for ten years?) I will present here my own carefully prepared commencement speech to those grads – presented here because there’s damn little chance of my being asked to deliver it in person to a group of impressionable yutes.

So, here it is. Enjoy.

“Graduates of the Class of 2023, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.

For the last four years, you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, plan how to achieve those goals, and see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.

Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up. Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.

Despite what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds, or outright charlatans.

Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you with the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.

You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:

One.

Damn.

Thing.

More.

If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Nobody else is responsible. You are.

Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.

But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.

So, where do you go from here?

Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction. In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.

Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:

  • Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
  • Work a little harder than the other guy,
  • Never pass up a chance to learn something new.

Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned. You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors. You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do. Suck it up. There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people. Any work that produces value is worth doing. How do you know if your work is producing value? The answer to that is trivially easy: If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value. Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.

How do you meet those expectations? Better yet, how do you exceed them? When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:

Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.

Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.

Be known for your responsibility. If you take on a task, finish it. If you commit to a timeline, meet it. If you accept responsibility for something, own it. It’s yours. Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.

Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.

Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:

Work.

Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work. Follow your dreams on your own time.

Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:

All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.

There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.

Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.

In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle. These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:

‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’

Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.

Go out and do it.

Thank you and good luck.”

If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.

Rule Five Goodbye 2023 Friday

Folks, it’s been a hell of a year.

2023 came in with a bang and is leaving us with several. I started the year as a guy with a consulting business, an independent self-employed guy who had been in the industry for over thirty years and working as a consultant for over half that time.  But for reasons unknown, the bottom dropped out of that, not only for me but for everyone I know in the industry; and after thirty years, I know a hell of a lot of people in the industry.  Mind you I haven’t surrendered the idea of digging into my consulting career again, but… well, it’s been a while, and things are still looking really slow in that line.

Sometimes, though, when one door closes, another opens.  After twenty years of blogging for free, writing about whatever amused me at any given moment, last summer I had an offer to go pro.  So I did, and it’s been fun.  And on that, stay tuned, because there may be more news along those lines soon.

As for all of us here at Animal Magnetism:

First, let me just say thanks to all of you for sticking with me, for my ranting and roaring, my occasional flashes of insight, and for my oddball way of looking at the world – although I suspect a lot of you drop by mostly for the pretty girls, and that’s good, too.

(A few years back a reader asked me what my wife thought of my totty posts.  I honestly replied, “Hell, she helps me pick ’em out.”)

For 2024, given all that’s going on, there will be some changes here.  I’m not changing the layout of the site; I’ve been using this WordPress theme and this layout for about ten years now (boy, do I ever get stuck in my ways) and I like it.  The Rule Five Friday and Saturday Gingermageddon/totty posts will continue as before, as will the Blue Monday pieces.

Later in the week, though, I’m changing up a few things.  While I’m keeping the Wednesday links posts, when I’ve looked at them the last few weeks, they’ve been… well, huge.  So instead of combining my RedState links with the Hump Day links compendiums, I’ll be breaking them up.  We will keep the Wednesday/Hump Day as the usual links posts it has been for a long time now, but instead of a random news post on Thursday, I’ll move my RedState links to that day, every week.  So things most weeks will look like this:

Monday: “Goodbye, Blue Monday,” news and totty.

Tuesday:  News post, whatever hits me as worth discussion, with usually a link to my Monday Glibertarians fiction piece that’s in play that week.

Wednesday:  Hump Day posts as before:  The usual totty and my big weekly links compendium, opening with comments, weekly idiots, and cultural edification.

Thursday:  RedState links, and maybe a few other comments, and so on.

Friday:  Rule Five Friday, exactly as we’ve had it; usually a little more involved discussion about news/thoughts/things that piss me off.

Saturday:  The Gingermageddon, of course, with the occasional celebration of diversity with blondes, brunettes, or whatever.

But wait!  There’s more!

Starting in January, you’ll occasionally not only be reading my stuff but also occasionally have the chance to see my battered old mug and hear me talk, as I’m going to be starting a Rumble channel, Animal Magnetism Live.  To begin with, I’ll have some short (5-10 minute) blurbs with some commentary, but if things go well, I’ll be posting videos of some Alaska outdoor adventures, maybe some interviews, and fun stuff like that.

So stick around!  My second, late-life career as a journalist is taking off, but trust me, Animal Magnetism isn’t going anywhere.  I intend to keep this going until I just can’t anymore.  And I reckon I have a good thirty years left in me to continue doing what I’ve been doing, that being precisely what pleases me.

As Robert Frost wrote:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Boy howdy, hasn’t it just.

Animal’s Daily Christmas Deconstruction News

Before we start, check out the next installment of Bear at Fortymile over at Glibertarians.

Now then: Did you know Christmas was “colonialist” and “discriminatory?” Yeah, neither did I – probably because that’s utter bullshit.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is funded by the federal government, said that the public celebration of major Christian festivals is rooted in religious intolerance.

“Discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is grounded in Canada’s history of colonialism,” the group said. “An obvious example is statutory holidays in Canada.”

In a report entitled “Discussion Paper on Religious Intolerance,” the group said that Christmas and Easter are the only statutory holidays linked to religion. “As a result, non-Christians may need to request special accommodations to observe their holy days and other times of the year where their religion requires them to abstain from work.”

Oh, crap. Look, these holidays, or various versions of them, existed long before Christianity.  Christmas traces back to the Teutonic/Celtic winter solstice celebrations of Yule, and Easter is based on any number of spring festivals; the equivalent in the Teutonic world was known as Ostara, after Ēostre, the goddess of the dawn.

Christmas and Easter are not just religious holidays. They are also cultural holidays.  A talk-radio guy I used to listen to a lot maintained that there are two Christmases, the “Jesus Christmas” and the “Santa Claus Christmas.”  As a self-described non-observant Jew, he celebrated the latter; as an atheist, so do I.  I also wish people “Merry Christmas,” because religion or lack of it notwithstanding, it’s the name of the holiday.  Christmas and New Year’s are some of my favorite times of the year and I won’t allow sanctimonious assholes to interfere with that – and neither should anyone else.

These jackasses on the Canadian Human Rights Commission clearly have too much time on their taxpayer-funded hands.

Want to know more about the history of these holidays? I’d recommend my own favorite book on comparative religions, that being Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough.  Thomas Bulfinch’s The Age of Fable is a good read, too; both books have a prominent spot on the religious books shelf in our library, along with several different versions of the Bible, a Qu’Ran, and a few others.  And, yes, I’ve read them all.  For an atheist, I’ve done a lot of reading about religion.

Merry Christmas, True Believers!

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

No extra notes this morning. A red-eye to Denver and then an early flight to Des Moines beckons, and I’ve other work to get to before heading to the airport.  So stand ready!  Here comes the Wednesday usual.

Now then…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News

Rule Five Most Important Election Friday

Is the 2024 election the most important one in our history?

Well, maybe recent history.  There certainly have been important elections in the past, and some of those really only became apparent in hindsight.  Just off the top of my head, I can think of two Presidential elections that, had they gone the other way, would have led the nation down a distinctly different path, those being the elections of 1860 and 1864.

But, yeah, 2024 is going to be an interesting one.  In The Claremont Review of Books, scribe Jeffrey H. Anderson has some thoughts on the matter that I found interesting.

So far, this has been the “briar patch” election. Democrats, desperate to run against Donald Trump because he’s the one candidate they think Joe Biden can beat, have cheered on Democratic prosecutors who have issued myriad indictments against the former president. They are effectively saying, “Please, Republicans, whatever you do, please don’t nominate Donald Trump!” Republican voters, angered by these politically motivated indictments, are responding, “We’ll show you, Democrats. We’ll nominate Donald Trump!”

Disclaimer: I can find someone’s remarks interesting without necessarily agreeing with them.  I’m not convinced, at this early stage of the game (and I remind you all, not one primary vote has yet been cast) that Donald Trump is the sure loser the Left makes him out to be, especially after some recently-released swing state polls. And Mr. Anderson throws in a cautionary note on that score as well:

The result, however, might not work out as well for the Democrats as Br’er Rabbit’s trickery did against Br’er Fox. Biden is such a weak candidate—with a vice president who’s even weaker—that Trump just might win. Then again, maybe the Democrats are secretly fine with that result, too. Rather than giving voters four more years to sour on Biden as he moves into his mid-80s, they might figure that a Trump win would bring them a more satisfying victory in the long run—four more years to stoke and cultivate the faculty-lounge Left, while still remaining confident that independents’ inevitable backlash against Trump would yield a big Democratic victory in 2028.

Remember what I said only moments ago?  About not one primary vote having yet been cast?  It’s not impossible that the whole applecart may yet be upset, and that upset might just begin on November 30th.

On November 30, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and California Governor Gavin Newsom are scheduled to compete in a nationally televised, 90-minute, one-on-one Fox News debate moderated by Sean Hannity. This debate—between the governors of two of the nation’s three largest states, one a presidential candidate, the other supposedly not—is itself a sign of the campaign’s peculiarity. The very fact that it is slated to occur represents a serious anomaly. Yet it has the potential to alter the race. Featuring two men in their prime (DeSantis is 45, Newsom 56), the showdown will contrast DeSantis’s pro-Main Street, “we’re open for business” governance in the Sunshine State with Newsom’s fondness for authoritarian lockdowns and mandates in the Golden State. If either (or both) of their performances generates a great deal of buzz—a sense of “I wish these two guys (or one of them) would be on the ballot in November”—then it could help reshuffle the race on the Republican side or, on the Democratic side, focus the pressure on Biden to exit the stage.

There will be a sharp contrast here, not only between Republican DeSantis, who oversees one of the brightest economies in the nation and Gavin Newsom, who ruined San Francisco before going on to ruin California; no, the real contrast will be between these two younger men vs. a befuddled, confused, dementia-addled octogenarian President and a former President who, while still active and pretty sharp, is nevertheless in his late seventies.

That’s a pretty interesting contrast, and the news and punditry cycles in the days following that debate should be interesting.

And, of course, we can add President Trump’s legal problems into the mix.  The Constitution lays out the qualifications for President, and there’s nothing in there about legal charges pending or convicted; he could, arguably, be elected while sitting in a jail cell, then pardon himself after his inauguration, although the Supreme Court may have to rule on that last part; there is sure as hell no precedent.

Mr. Anderson concludes:

So, if this presidential campaign hasn’t been interesting enough for you thus far, stay tuned—a lot of twists and turns could well be ahead. While this race may prove to be dismaying for the republic, the last thing it should be is boring.

That much is certain.

Animal’s Daily Chimp Warfare News

Before we start, check out the latest installment of Riding the String over at Glibertarians.

Chimps, our closest genetic relatives, are mean critters. They conduct inter-tribal warfare, they kill members of enemy tribes -even the infants – and they indulge in cannibalism. I’m not sure what that says about us, but now we find out that chimpanzee warfare tactics are more complex than we thought – they actually conduct reconnaissance.

Researchers said on Thursday they have documented the tactical use of elevated terrain in warfare situations while observing on a daily basis two neighboring communities of wild western chimpanzees in Tai National Park for three years.

Information obtained during hilltop reconnaissance shaped whether the chimpanzees made forays into enemy territory, the study found, with these apes appearing more apt to do so when the risk of confrontation was lower. The study, the researchers said, records for the first time the use of this age-old human military strategy by our species’ closest living relatives.

“It shows sophisticated cognitive and cooperative skills to anticipate where and when to go, and to act upon gathered information in a safe way,” said University of Cambridge biological anthropologist Sylvain Lemoine, lead author of the study published in the journal PLOS Biology.

I’ve sat face to face with an adult male chimp at the Honolulu Zoo (there was a thick sheet of plexiglass between us) and have also had occasion to interact with a young female orangutan close up.  Both experiences were interesting in the extreme.  Looking into the eyes of an ape isn’t like looking at a dog or cat, but neither is it like looking into another humans’ eyes.  There is more behind an ape’s eyes than just a “dumb animal,” but not quite up to the human level.  It’s a weird kind of uncanny valley effect.

And chimps, especially, are disturbingly like us, from their gestures to their facial expressions to their social interactions. Chimps laugh, they hold hands, they hug – and they kill each other.

As I said, they are our closest genetic relatives.  And maybe they are more like us than we’d like to admit – or, in some cases, (I could point out recent events in the Middle East) it may be that we are more like them than should make us comfortable.

Rule Five Code Duello Friday

I’m going to expand on some deep thoughts I presented a few years back, thoughts that I just had occasion to recall during a discussion with a buddy the other day.  To put it simply: Should dueling be legal?

I’m not talking about sparring on Twitter or in the comments section of some news story.  I’m talking honest to gosh, 18th century-style, pistols at ten paces dueling.

Dueling has been illegal everywhere in the United States, indeed in most of the Western world since the early 19th century at least.  But let’s set aside our ingrained prejudices for a moment and ask ourselves, in a society that honestly and completely exists under the concept of liberty – should it be?

Let’s say two men (or women, or one of each, whatever) have a serious disagreement, one which cannot be reconciled by any normal means.  Courts have been unable to arrive at a settlement acceptable to both.  Counsel has failed.  They are well and truly at loggerheads.

So, both of them, as capable, competent, consenting adults, in full possession of their faculties, agree to pistols at sunrise to settle the dispute.  They meet in a field with their seconds, who oversee the loading of the pistols; they take their places, step away from each other on the count and, when indicated, turn and fire.  One is killed, the other emerges the victor.

I’d use these, just for the sake of tradition.

Now – answer me this – what crime has been committed?

Oh, yes, I know there is a statutory crime committed.  But has there been a moral crime?  Both parties went into the affair knowing that death was a likely outcome.  I’ve read that back when the code duello was more commonly practiced, it was considered the gentlemanly thing to do to just pink your opponent in the arm or leg and claim victory without fatality, but fatal injuries were a normal outcome; it even happened to one of the more famous of our Founding Fathers.

But even in the event of a fatality – what qualifies this as a crime?  Both parties agreed to the duel.  Both parties know the likely outcome.  Both parties are, presumably, competent to make the decision.  If we are truly to be a society that values personal liberty, we must also be a society that allows people to face the likely consequences of that liberty.  Dueling may be an extreme example of that, but it’s no less a valid one.

So.  Should dueling be legalized?  If, in a society based first and foremost on the principle of individual liberty, two parties agree to settle their differences in one-on-one mortal combat, knowing the outcome is likely to be at least one of them shuffling off the mortal coil, then what role does government play in preventing them from so doing?

Obviously there would have to be some limits.  You could scarcely allow a duel between two people using nuclear weapons as the weapon of choice, for example.  I’d be willing to consider the following restrictions:

  • Weaponry limited to personal, individual weapons only. Pistols, swords, or even a sniper duel with rifles, but no explosives, machine guns or flamethrowers, entertaining as that last one would be.  Why?  Because of the possibility of the battle spilling over onto observers or bystanders.  That would be… bad.
  • Both parties obviously to be competent, consenting adults, willing to sign legal documents waiving any damages or legal penalty from any death or disability resulting from the duel.
  • I suppose I’d entertain the idea of a cooling-down period between filing of the legal paperwork and the event itself, since death is a likely (and final) outcome.
  • It seems to me that seconds would be a reasonable requirement. The seconds’ role is to act as a dispassionate advocate for the duelist.  The seconds act in concert, presumably without the inflamed passions that led to the duel, to ensure that the duel is fair, that neither duelist takes an unfair advantage.
  • Some kind of time limit to the combat itself seems like a good idea. Say the parties agree to a duel by sword; if they hack away for, say, two hours, until both are on the brink of collapse, there ought to be a way for the seconds to call a draw.

The trouble here is as with so many things; the limits here would have to be legislated, and as it is the nature of government to grow ever larger and more intrusive, eventually the code duello would be so full of requirements and conditions as to be useless, kind of like the tax code.  Really, it would be better to have the government as completely divorced as possible from the process.  The only law that applies would be contract law.

“But Animal,” some might ask, “wouldn’t a duel have the possibility of setting off a vendetta, say between two families?”

“Sure,” I’d reply, “…and as long as all parties agree to the code duello and the likely consequences, and follow the guidelines and rules applying, then, fine.  I really have very little problem with families who are so prickly that they can’t settle their differences by non-legal means thinning themselves out thusly, and besides, you can only have the duel if both parties agree; this makes it pretty easy to break the chain.”

“Even so,” the questioners go on, “wouldn’t you have the possibility of a revenge killing outside the code duello system?”

“Again, sure,” I’d reply, “…and that would be a crime, to be dealt with by the legal system just like any other premeditated murder.”

“But… wouldn’t this disproportionately affect (insert name of particular aggrieved community/ethnicity/religion/whatever here)?”

“Probably.  So what?”

“What about the families they leave behind?  Their children!  Think of their children!”

“It’s not my place to think about their children; it’s their damn place to think of their children.  So, they leave behind some orphans?  Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

“But wait,” comes one final question, “…what about the Non-Aggression Principle?”

“That’s an interesting one.  It seems to me that both parties are initiating aggression in unison, by prior agreement under conditions also agreed to.  So, yes, both parties are violating the NAP – and neither are.  As the initiation is simultaneous – say, five paces, turn and fire – then both are initiating, and both are responding.  You can make an argument here that the NAP doesn’t apply.”

It’s a pretty problem.

Of course, this is just an intellectual exercise, and it’s unlikely in the extreme that dueling will ever be legalized, anywhere, in our modern era and, honestly, one would hope that civilized people have better ways to resolve their differences.

But the veneer of civilization is pretty damn thin.  If things ever got to the point where trial by arms was again an acceptable way to settle differences, it would be best to have some kind of guidelines around how to conduct those trials.

More to the point, I find the moral question interesting.  It seems to me that a duel is morally acceptable if both parties are competent adults, fully informed, and willing to sign on to a legally binding agreement to enter into mortal combat.

So.  Thoughts?

Animal’s Daily Back In The Saddle News

Boy howdy, was it ever cold in Colorado’s high country this week.

Loyal sidekick Rat had a tag for, and was seeking out, a fat cow elk for the freezer, while I just hung out with only a sidearm, soaking up the scenery.  Rat was unsuccessful in bringing in a freezer-filler, and the weather turned on us Friday night; Grand County went from warm and sunny to snowy and cold.

This isn’t unusual in the Colorado Rockies in late October. Saturday morning, opening morning in fact, we woke up to snow, which continued through that day and into Sunday morning.

Camp.

It was a pleasant outing nonetheless. My grandfather always used to say, “it’s not about whether you bring anything home. It’s about being outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine.”

As usual, Grandpa was right.

The road in to camp.

Interesting to note that the weather in our Susitna Valley home were more clement than the Gore Range during this time.

At any rate, a good time was had by all involved. Regular posts will resume tomorrow.

Rule Five Irrational Fear Friday

A recent piece I stumbled across, combined with the fire-hose stream of news out of the Middle East, has me thinking about fear, the nature of fear, and the fear that the Hamas assholes kicking up their heels in Gaza and Israel, or someone like them, might hurt or kill us or those we love.  I don’t think it’s an irrational fear completely; I don’t waste a lot of brain run-time worrying about it myself, as I doubt any fundamentalist Islamic shitbirds are going to go poking around in the rural Alaska woods looking for trouble and, even if they did, they wouldn’t last long against a bunch of heavily armed Alaskans.

But some folks worry more.  And turns out that it might be a rational fear (or, at least, not completely irrational), statistics aside.

In the U.S., about one in three people are worried about being the victim of a terrorist attack. In Europe, terrorism consistently makes it onto lists of people’s biggest concerns, and it was Europeans’ #1 concern in 2016 and 2017. Even if people aren’t in “terror,” they are anxious about it, and their behaviors have adapted to this anxiety. Most people believe life has permanently changed since 9/11. For Israelis, life may have permanently changed following the events of October 7, 2023.

How justified is this fear of terrorism? One line of argument is that it’s not justified at all.

It claims there are bigger and far more dangerous threats to our everyday lives. For example, in Europe, you are 50 times more likely to die in a bike accident, 85 times more likely to die in a heat wave, and over 4,000 times more likely to die in a car crash than die from an act of terrorism. According to this line of reasoning, our fear of terrorism is engineered by a sensationalist media and psychological biases. A sober risk assessment shows us that fear of terrorism is irrational.

But, according to a new paper by philosopher Eran Fish, the fear of terrorism is not unreasonable at all. There are perfectly justifiable reasons for why we should fear terrorists more than car crashes.

Here are those three reasons, abridged a little so as not to blow up the post; do go to the article linked above and read it all.

The first line of Fish’s argument stems from the idea that we are justified in fearing things that have an element of danger that is random and non-discriminate.

Terrorism can be that (it can also be directed against specific military or, more often, political targets) but it can also be purely random; like Hamas targeting various Israeli kibbutzim for no reason other than they were within paraglider range of Gaza.

Fish’s second line of argument is that terrorism is an intentional act that can be prevented. Car crashes are accidents. While heart disease and cancer make up more than 50% of all deaths worldwide (which is far, far more than the deaths caused by terrorism), these aren’t entirely preventable. Someday, you’re going to die of something — might as well be cancer. Natural deaths are a natural part of life.

But terror attacks aren’t.  They can be prevented – mostly by killing terrorists – but the tactic will probably never go away completely.  Islamist nutbars aren’t the first people to use terror as a tactic, and they won’t be the last.

Fish’s third line of argument is that it is reasonable to fear insecurity, particularly when the people you put in charge of protecting you (namely, the government) fail to do so.

That’s certainly a fair point – if you are one of those people who relies on government to keep you safe.  In America, we have a different way to maintain our own security.  Remember when I said I wasn’t too concerned about Islamist nutbars trying to shoot up our Alaskan woods?  Because these people are essentially cowards, and won’t go anywhere where they may feel threatened themselves.

But it’s still, even so, a fair point.  One of the few legitimate roles of government is to keep other people from hurting us or taking our stuff.  Terrorists operate in those thin areas where government, for one reason or another, is unwilling, unable or simply unprepared to provide that protection.  That, whether it be in Israel or Chicago, is unsettling to lots of people, and no, that’s not an irrational viewpoint.

Especially in these ever-more-uncertain times.  Buy ammo, folks. And get out of the cities.