Government Dependency Breeds Stupidity

Many of my readers may be aware of the fact that, though I live in Florida, I’m pretty well-traveled. My father was in the military, and as a military brat I’ve lived in many different parts of the country, and been to almost all the lower 48 states at some point or another. We spent a couple years in Oregon when I was a teenager, and even back then the law prohibiting citizens from pumping their own gas was in effect. It was one of the stranger features of Oregon.

Now the partial repeal of this law, which only applies to rural areas, has some Oregon residents in a panic. Why, people may just have to get out and pump their own gas! The terror! The horror! I have to wonder if Democrats will get up on podium and tell us that people will die! This is another feature of that parallel (or is it orthagonal?) universe libs live in. Poe’s law may apply to the comments below, but it’s very hard to tell these days.

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Either way, this is a very interesting case to dissect. Pumping gas is hardly rocket science, and yet somehow Oregon felt compelled to pass this law, and its partial repeal is engendering resistance. It boggles the mind. How can a people become so dependent as to be unable to pump gas? Never mind the fact that this merely allows for self-service gas stations, it doesn’t mandate them.

Every place I’ve lived has had at least a few bizarre, retarded laws like this one, though. My own Florida has a strange law where liquor cannot be sold between 3AM and 7AM, which is extended in Tampa to 3AM to 11AM on Sundays. On top of that, there used to be a law whereby you could buy a 32Oz and 128oz beer growler, but not a 40oz or 64oz. I am told there is a small town in Texas which has, for reasons I cannot fathom, banned the presence of inflatable gorillas. The specificity of such laws is amusing. You have to imagine there is some kind of story full of human idiocy, corruption, and bureaucratic overreach as to how they came about in the first place.

But Oregon’s law on pumping gas strikes me as one of the most egregious and bizarre of them all. That it has defenders is mystifying to me. I try to think of it in terms of Chesterton’s Fence, but all the reasons I can think of for its existence are ludicrous. Was it another simple make-work scam by the government? Was it a demand for safety that went haywire (the other states get along just fine without such a law). It’s hard to get a clear answer. Probably both, and then some. Either way, the people who erected this particular fence were out of their damned gourds.

It also demonstrates the difficulty of repealing idiotic laws once they’ve taken root. “It will take away jobs,” is the reason the above article cites for where the resistance really comes from, but that is an idiotic assertion. It is the sort of answer that takes into account only first-order effects, avoiding consideration for the fact that these jobs are artificial in nature, sucking productivity from someplace else. It’s a variation of the broken window fallacy. People have “jobs” but aren’t really doing or contributing anything. And they suck down money that could be going somewhere else, someplace actually productive. But now there is a class of people who directly benefit from the law regardless of its lack of utility, and pulling them away from the benefit is like pulling teeth.

It has a similar effect on the citizenry at large. Unaccustomed to pumping gas, you have Oregonians who don’t even know how to do it, and are literally afraid to do it. In some of my earlier writings, I made fun of a guy I saw on the side of the road getting his tire changed by a woman. He’s nothing next to people who say they can’t even pump their own gas. Government dependency is an ugly thing. If the trajectory toward increasing micromanagement of human affairs continues, I wonder if we’ll see a day when wiping your ass requires a special, qualified ass-wiper to do the job. You know, so as to ensure there are no filthy butt cracks in the country, and to provide make-work jobs to some (probably not well-liked) demographic.

Either way, Leftists have lately told us that the recent tax cuts were going to kill people by the thousands, if not millions, and that the Net Neutrality repeal would bring about the digital apocalypse. I guess we’ll see what 2018 brings. Maybe millions of Oregonians will die trying to pump their own gas, right? I mean, who knows?

Wednesday Randoms II

Today there is a new weekly column up on Dangerous: THALES: Turning Empathy Into a Weapon, How Social Justice Fights Dirty. This is a summary of a concept that’s been central to my posts here at The Declination.

Weaponized Empathy is a chief weapon of the Left, and we need to deprive them of it. To do so will impose a cost. Namely, many Leftists will hate you, and say the worst about you. But its a cost that must be lived with if the truth is to prevail. Indeed, the longer the cost is deferred, the worse it is likely to be.

On Monday, Francis penned an interesting post which touches upon the idea delayed gratification, something most Americans do not practice. By pushing instant gratification, and kicking the cost can down the road, our civilization has incurred an enormous amount of debt, and not merely financial debt (though that too).

The perverse incentives of our political figures has made this possible. But the citizenry itself cannot avoid responsibility either. After all, Americans have been voting en masse for short-sighted, destructive policies as long as I’ve been alive. The money quote:

We the People have earned a certain suffering-debt for our previous sociopolitical sins – never mind that we were set upon our sinful courses by an earlier We the People, who passed their accumulated suffering-debt down to us – then our choice is simple:

 

We could accept the penalty, endure it, and come out healed;
We could reject the penalty, which would compound the ultimate suffering.

 

Since World War II at least, the public has preferred politicians who will “kick the can down the road.” In consequence, government has gone ever further astray and our accumulated debt of ultimate suffering has compounded year by year. At some point, though the moment is difficult to predict, the debt will be paid. If it’s grown large enough, it will destroy our society completely.

 

But a payable sociopolitical suffering-debt is like a prison term: it’s finite. It will end. It can and should be endured, especially if the alternative is to raise it to an unpayable level. Our unwillingness to accept and endure the penalties that have already accrued is propelling such debts toward the threshold of sociopolitical bankruptcy.

Note, when Francis speaks of sociopolitical bankruptcy, is essentially discussing the fall of the United States as a functional, intact nation. And the longer we kick the can down the road, the more likely that outcome becomes. Indeed, I’m not even sure we can still avoid it.

On a positive note, Trump managed to push tax cuts through. They are not anywhere near as extensive as I would have liked, and I am sorely disappointed with the behavior of the GOP (more with the Senate than the House), but this is something.

Tax cuts used to be a sort of bread-and-butter of GOP politics, alongside strong foreign policy. The various factions within the party would jockey and argue over everything else, but low taxes and strong military were generally always agreed upon. That this much infighting was required to get the GOP to push through a tax cut – any tax cut at all – is disturbing. It demonstrates the slow evolution of the GOP Establishment away from the base, and toward a more Fabian Socialist agenda, agreeing with the Democrats in principle if not in time frame.

Still, this was why many folks chose Trump over Hillary. We knew we weren’t getting what we wanted, but a tax cut is better than a tax hike. Still, some Dems are going off the deep end telling us the tax cuts will literally kill people. They’ve clearly left sanity behind.

State Tyranny Exposed

There is little I can say on this matter that my friend Nicki hasn’t said better. Folks, consider this required reading, insofar as I am able to convince you to read something.

On Charlie Gard

This case sickened me beyond belief, because Nicki is right. The bureaucracy decided that the parents had no rights in this case. They had raised the money to seek experimental treatment in the United States, and the British courts decided that, even though there was no cost to the British taxpayer, the parents had no rights. They couldn’t even take their child home to die in peace with his family. I’m sure the experimental treatment was a long shot. It probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. But God knows, if this were my child, I’d fight to the last, to the most extreme chance possible. The public largely agreed with them, that’s how they were able to raise the donation money in the first place.

But the primacy of the State cannot be questioned by us mere peasants.

It’s disgusting. It’s sick and twisted. And from now on, whenever some Leftist insinuates that I am immoral for opposing state-run healthcare, I’m going to point to this incident and tell them that their sacred moral high ground is complete bullshit. Giving the State the power over medical treatment decisions is not morally superior in any way whatsoever.

I feel terrible for these parents. Not just because their child is going to die, but because they aren’t even permitted to fight for him.

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Freedom & Fear

Perusing the usual suspects today, I came across an excellent piece by the esteemed Sarah Hoyt. In it, she discusses just why so many people turn against the notion of freedom and liberty. Why does Orwell tell us that Freedom = Slavery, and how can such a notion enter in man’s head? Observe:

A Libertarian friend of mine thinks this is because people like being slaves; they like servitude.

 

He is wrong.  It’s not that people love being slaves.  It’s that freedom is scary, because if you’re free you can fail AND YOU ONLY HAVE YOURSELF TO BLAME.

Bingo. As I’ve been saying for quite some time now, what these people truly desire is freedom from consequence. That is what power is ultimately all about. Why are some people attracted to the idea of Fatalism? The notion that everything is fated to be and you can’t change anything? Because it absolves them of responsibility.

If, for instance, millions had to die to bring about the Marxist Revolution, there is an easy out: it was inevitable, says the historical dialectic. Capitalism, they say, must give way to Communism. Thus the heaps of bodies necessary to get there are not really your fault… they were an inevitable result of Fate.

Of course, that’s a rather extreme example. Lesser examples can be found in current notions of racism/sexism/etc… America is probably one of the least discriminatory places on Earth. It was founded on the notion of meritocracy, and where it was imperfect in this (see: slavery, Jim Crow, etc…) it endeavored to fix the problems.

Does anyone really believe that, say, Saudi Arabia is more tolerant than the United States?

Yet so many shout “racism, sexism, homophobia” from the rooftops. Why? Because it absolves them of responsibility. If a person screws up, he might blame the racist white people, or the misogynistic men, or the glass ceiling. The actual target doesn’t matter. The fact that it’s not his fault does.

These people are willingly throwing away their own agency, the idea that they might possess free will, in order to escape feeling bad for failure. When you see it from that angle, suddenly Sarah’s observation is made clear. These people are afraid, not of you or I, but of themselves, of their own failings and insecurities. These are then projected upon us. We become the scapegoats for their own inadequacies.

Sarah explains further:

It’s no coincidence that America, arguably the freest country in the world, when it comes to pursuing the avocation you want to pursue and being successful (or not) is also the birth place of SJWs and Micro aggressions.  It’s no coincidence that it’s in America, a country that prizes women so much it’s almost a matriarchy, that women keep insisting they live in a patriarchy and grossly oppressed.  (All without realizing how much more oppressive even other western countries are. Let alone places where your genitals will be mutilated for the crime of being a girl.)

 

These things are done, and eternal oppression forever claimed, because humans don’t want to be slaves.  Oh, no.  They want to be free.  Completely free to do whatever they want.  They also want someone to blame as they fail.

In order for us to be blamed for their failures, we must be visibly punished for the sins of those failures. When Zoe Quinn “codes” a crappy word document and tries to pass it off as a video game, it’s not her utter failure as a game dev that is to blame, it is the sexist patriarchal establishment. When she had sex with video game journalists to get coverage for said game, and got caught, that wasn’t her fault, it was the fault of her woman-hating ex-boyfriend.

Nothing is ever Zoe Quinn’s fault. Nothing whatsoever.

In this, they are slaves to their animalistic instincts. They have lost the capacity for reason, insofar as a normal man might make a mistake, learn from the mistake, and resolve not to repeat it. Since the mistake is always someone else’s fault, SJWs never learn from them.

But they do become exceptionally good at spin, lies, rationalizations, politics, and blaming others. Practice makes perfect, after all, and few have as much practice in these arts as a militant SJW and/or Marxist.

You’re going to have to take your freedom, your failure, and your guilt about your failure, as one single deal.  This is called being an adult.

 

At one time there used to be much psycho-babble about fear of success.  Frankly I thought — and still think — this is bullsh*t.  Everyone i know who claims a fear of success aren’t terrified of being acclaimed, rich and famous.  No, what they fear is that they’ll succeed just enough for everyone to realize how they failed.  Say, they’ll have a bestselling book, but the websphere will be on fire with word of their horrendous typos, or their ignorance of chemistry or something.

I’ve even been guilty of this once in a while. I’ve flubbed more than a few things on The Declination in my time, and on occasion a reader will call me out on the mistake. And I must admit a brief moment of unpleasantness. Worse than that is when it happens when I am performing. I’m a club DJ in my other life, which is to say I mix and remix live, on the fly. This leaves me open to occasional screw ups (in the DJ business, we call these trainwrecks). It sucks to have made a mistake in full view of the world, and to have hundreds or thousands of people staring at you, knowing you screwed up.

But the unpleasantness is just a reminder to pay better attention the next time around and to learn from the mistake, not to pass it off or ignore it. To the SJW, the unpleasantness, rather than being something of a teacher, is instead an emotion to be suppressed by rationalization. It’s not really my fault, thinks the SJW. And upon thinking this, he must find a scapegoat to offload the blame on to.

Sarah closes with this:

Adulting sucks.  But it is what you must be, if  you want to have your freedom and eat it too.

 

Shut up about it, take the bitter with the sweet, shoulder the awesome burden of your freedom and carry on.

And this is the rub of it all. SJWs and militant Marxists refuse to grow up. They are afraid of growing up. Because the age-old excuse of the toddler “it’s not fair” will no longer hold sway. When the adult hears that line, his response is bewilderment: “who told you life was fair, bub?”

And it isn’t, nor will it ever be. It’s not the purpose in life. So what is? Well, I suppose that depends on the individual take on it, but in this blogger’s opinion, the purpose is to leave this world a better, wiser soul than when you entered it. SJWs, it would seem, have a long way to go.

Smart Homes. Dumb People.

Even though I work in technology, I often find it hard to understand the push to involve technology in everything. Recently, our refrigerator failed, for about the third time in a year. That means, of course, perusing for a replacement. These days, they have fridges with screens embedded in them, that connect to wifi and allow you to do things with the refrigerator. They come with embedded cameras, food management software telling you when you need to throw things out, or when things are approaching expiration dates.

Whatever.

Maybe some folks like that stuff, or feel the need to pay more for it. More than likely, it’s a keepin’ up with the Joneses thing. You go into a house, and it has all the latest fancy gadgets and whatzits, all covered in stainless steel. Or, perhaps, the new rage “black stainless” or “dark slate” stainless. It all seems rather silly.

However, with recent revelations surrounding the Alphabet Agencies and the strong possibility that they’ve been spying on American citizens, it is no longer merely silly.

It’s utterly stupid.

Even if the Alphabet Agencies are ultimately absolved of this charge, it is clear that backdoors have been built into devices for quite some time now. And you will find that it is not merely manufacturers, software companies, and the government that are using them.

Take a gander at this: Smart TV hack embeds attack code into broadcast signal—no access required

So-called Smart TVs are becoming a problem as well, as hackers can brick them, or turn microphones and cameras (should your smart TV come equipped with them) against you. The “Internet-of-Things” is proving to be a sieve.

The hacks underscore the risks of so-called “Internet of Things” devices, the vast majority of which are given network access and computing functionalities without being adequately secured. TVs and other Internet-connected appliances almost universally lack application sandboxing and other exploit mitigations that are a standard part of computer and mobile operating systems. Even worse, most devices run old versions of Linux and open source browsers that contain critical vulnerabilities. While patches are generally available on the Internet for the individual components, manufacturers rarely give customers a way to install them on the devices in a timely way.

Think about it. When is the last time most folks even bothered to update the apps on their phone? Now consider that there are refrigerators that would now need to be considered in security terms. Your average John Doe does not think to update his fridge, or worry overmuch about whether or not it is secure.

Take the Samsung Smartcam, which recently suffered a major security vulnerability. A casual buyer is likely to trust the Samsung brand.

Consider, also, The Fappening, when various celebrity cloud accounts were hacked, and the nudes distributed across the Internet.

Now we have the proliferation of devices like Alexa and Echo which are designed to listen to your commands and do things with that data. Are people going to be fastidious about checking on the security of their smart speakers?

Some of these devices, of course, automatically update themselves, and remain reasonably secure from casual hacking. But then you have to consider a different threat for those devices which are secure: the company selling you the device, or providing you the service.

Right now, there is a bill that passed Congress which supposedly allows ISPs to sell your data to the highest bidder. Here’s the catch, though, according to the EFF: these companies were already doing it.

The GOP tells us that this is a case of regulatory overreach, and they may actually be correct about this, because the existence of the regulatory regime has done little to nothing to stop this behavior from occurring. Although, I will say right away that the optics of this bill are very worrisome.

But whether or not the bill will have an effect, positive or negative, the fact remains that your service providers have already been caught selling this data, or using it in ways you didn’t expect. You can’t trust them.

Now, imagine they have your browsing history, they know how much food is in your fridge, what you watch on TV, who you call, and who you text… Go buy some more Pepsi, says the ad on your fridge, because we know you’re out.

This is a gold mine, for companies, for government, for Alphabet Agencies within the government (who may very well be at odds with the elected government), foreign governments (the Left likes to blabber about Russia, but I’d be more concerned about the Chinese), and for black hat hackers looking to screw you over.

Is all of that risk really worth your fridge telling you that 3-week old leftover Chinese takeout should go in the garbage? I’d argue not. Do a simple risk/reward calculation on this. It’s not worth it.

So what do you do? Here are few ideas:

1. Buy “Dumb” hardware. Dumb fridges, dumb TVs (or buy Smart TVs where the “smart” portion can be disabled – at the very least, don’t connect it to wifi).

2. If you must have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Kodi, Plex, or anything similar on your TV, consider getting a separate device like a Fire Stick, or a Roku, or a “Compute Stick” from Intel. They are cheap, and if a hacker bricks it, at least you aren’t out a whole TV. Power it off when not in use. Occasionally clear it, reset it back to factory specs and reload your apps.

3. Clear your phones of pretty much everything extra installed by the manufacturer. If you’ve some technical skill, consider wiping the OS and installing from scratch. Cynogen used to be my preferred choice in the Android ecosytem. It’s gone, now, but Lineage was forked from it in the dim mists of Android history. Consider that. If you don’t have the skill (don’t even try it if you question this), just clear everything optional you can from the phone.

4. Use proxies for your Internet browsing. Tor is reasonably easy to use these days.

5. Make sure you carefully screen new applications and software for possible hidden monitoring. Companies like to bury this in their disclaimers. Usually you can find information on the software you want to use on the Internet.

6. Don’t buy any of those smart home systems and “smart speakers” like Echo or Alexa. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

7. If you don’t have a very compelling reason to buy any “smart” device, don’t do it.

8. Make sure you use strong passwords, both on your accounts and on your wifi router.

This won’t stop every possible way someone with malicious intent could screw with you, but it will severely limit the damage, and, in the same way a car with a few anti-theft devices will deter casual thieves, so will this eliminate casual data theft, spying, and hacking.

The Internet of Things is a spaghetti strainer when it comes to security. It’s a mess. Best not to dive too deep into it, if you can avoid it. After all, three week-old Chinese food is generally pretty good about notifying you it’s gone bad all on its own.

Media is Now Part of the Government

In a de facto sense, mainstream media and government have merged into a singular entity. They have become both the fourth branch and the fifth column, selling America on Marxism from within.

They are the enemy.

And it’s not just the latest character assassination that shows this, it’s the media themselves. They admit their role is to control the public, to tell them how to think and what to believe, not merely to report on the facts.

Francis at Liberty’s Torch explains:

Mika Brzezinski has committed a Kinsleyesque “gaffe.” Michael Kinsley defined that as an occasion on which a politician unwittingly tells the truth. I submit that the definition applies with equal accuracy to mask slippages among media figures.

 

The luminaries of the media really would like to control what you think, Gentle Reader. They aspire to the authority of Orwell’s Ministry of Love. That President Trump has denied them the homage they expect from the White House has evoked their counterfire. Not that that’s likely to have the effect they seek.

The Presidency is suppose to obey the press, to operate solely within the narrow Overton window constructed by manufactured public opinion. Not only is the press the fourth branch of government, at this point, it is supposed to be preeminent over the other three. Media consensus is supposed to turn legislation, check the President’s veto pen, and steer court rulings.

This is their job, as stated:

This is not surprising, except to note that it was admitted openly, which is usually taboo for them. The thing to note about the media is how inaccurate and disingenuous they can be. Pick a topic you are an expert in, any topic. Choose mechanical engineering, or Byzantine history, or theology. The subject doesn’t matter, so long as you are well qualified to speak on it.

Now, go look up media articles, hit pieces, videos, and otherwise on that particular subject. Note the level of inconsistency, the many lies, the spin, the incompetence and blatant, obvious errors.

Now, extrapolate that across the entire media and everything they do. Are you beginning to see it?

There used to be a detractor of mine that would comment here. And he’d often ask why, if I didn’t trust the media, I would post links to media articles here. Aside from the obvious answer, which is I often post the links to point out the lies, there’s a deeper reason.

For some bizarre reason, many Leftists actually trust the media. Perhaps this is because the media tells them what they want to hear, or perhaps they don’t really believe it, but merely use it as a cynical weapon. Whatever the reason, unless it’s sourced from AP, CNN, or some other such outlet, they don’t believe it. So when even one of those outlets is forced by the obviousness of the truth to report on something, it can be a fearsome weapon against them.

For example, even CNN admits the riots in Sweden are a thing. We all know they’d rather not.

If there was no Internet, no way for the hoi polloi to get the word out, I’ve no doubt that CNN would have buried it, or even outright denied it was happening. But even there, they will cast doubt, spin to the maximum of their ability, and try to manipulate public opinion in their favored direction as much as possible.

Sometimes they just lie, other times they tell the truth because they are forced to, but try to spin it as much as they feel they can get away with. Oftentimes, it’s a combination of both.

Either way, however, they cannot be trusted. They are the enemy, and Donald Trump is right to treat them thusly. He is reasserting the primacy of the elected government over the unelected bureaucracy and the de facto media branch, which has long been accustomed to unchallenged dominance.

For the court of manipulated public opinion needs no judge, nor jury of peers. Such a court needs neither evidence, nor witness, and, indeed, generally disdains both. Only the journalists seething hatred, the reporter’s smug sense of self-righteous superiority, is needed. “Believe me,” says the journalist, “for if you do not, I shall destroy you too.”

Character assassination has replaced the more literal variety. But the damage done to our country is much the same either way. Fortunately the weapon they wield cuts both ways, as it appears CNN shall soon discover.

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