Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts, omphaloskepsis, and other random musings.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

This just in from the wonderful world of astro-science – or, perhaps, astro-speculation.  NASA: Humans Will Prove ‘We Are Not Alone In The Universe’ Within 20 Years.  Excerpt:

Speaking at NASA’s Washington headquarters on Monday, the space agency outlined a plan to search for alien life using current telescope technology, and announced the launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017. The NASA administrators and scientists estimate that humans will be able to locate alien life within the next 20 years.

“Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe,” said Matt Mountain, director and Webb telescope scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.

Let’s forget the technical aspects of this for a moment, and let’s also forget the likelihood of NASA actually finding life – in fact, let’s forget about intelligent life altogether, since we’re still looking for that right here on Earth in the Imperial City.  Instead:  Imagine the consequences if NASA (or anyone else) were to find evidence of life somewhere other than Earth.  Some good candidates are present right here in our own solar system, after all – plenty of biologists are just dying to know what might be lurking under Europa’s ice pack.

Space ChicksFirst:  Earth loses it’s one-of-a-kind status.  We’re no longer the special exception.  Life exists elsewhere, and presumably – since in all the vastness of the Universe, we have found it on another world in our tiny little sphere of perception, life exists lots of places.

Second:  Imagine the consequences for the world’s religions.  Not being religious myself it’s probably easier in some ways to imagine the impact, but in other ways it’s doubtlessly harder.  What happens to adherents to mainstream religions when it is proven that Earth’s life-bearing status is not unique?

Finally:  If life is found elsewhere, how long will it be before the not-so-intelligent life in the Imperial City tries to a) tax it and b) regulate it?

Thoughts?

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Our thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links, and we hope you enjoyed the vacation Rule Five posts.  Las Vegas was, as usual, fine in limited doses, and much steam was blown off.  Yr. obdt. is now in much improved state of mind and ready for more work.

Which is a good thing, as I find myself back in northern Indiana this morning for another on-site stint.

But I digress.  Back to Las Vegas for a moment:

Vegas by Night.
Vegas by Night.

Las Vegas is a place that is not quite like any other place in the United States, except perhaps (and only perhaps) Atlantic City, and never having been there I can’t really compare.  But Vegas is a great place for:

  • Shows
  • Food
  • Gambling (if you’re into that)
  • Best of all – people-watching.

On shows, we went and saw , the Cirque Du Soleil show currently running at the MGM Grand.  I recommend this how if you’re ever able to take it in – like most Cirque Du Soleil shows it is magnificent in scope and execution, with amazing acrobatics and a stunning soundtrack.  We took it in on a Tuesday evening and the auditorium was only 2/3 full, making for a comfortable experience.

Food:  Vegas used to be known for cheap, high-quality meals.  The first time I went there the Strip was loaded with “Prime Rib, $3.99″ signs, the objective being to draw you in for your gambling dollars.  No longer.  Eating there is expensive; you can enjoy all manner of food from hot dogs to the ubiquitous massive buffets to elite dining, but you’ll pay for all of it.  If you’re on a budget, take a cooler and sandwich fixings to stretch your food dollar.

Gambling:  I don’t.  Mrs. Animal has a small fondness for penny slot machines, but keeps herself on a tight budget.  This time she came home about $30 ahead, a nice little bonus.

VegasAnd last but far from least:  People-watching.  I don’t just mean girls, although that’s certainly a high point.  Las Vegas is a popular destination for people from all over the world, and you can find yourself in conversation with people from such disparate places as Australia, eastern Europe, China, Japan or (as Mrs. Animal and myself did this trip) Jordan – that last being a young Christian couple from Jordan who (wisely) decided it was time for people of their religious persuasion to GTFO of that area.

Vegas is a place I can take for four or five days, then I’m ready to leave.  But in another two or three years, I’ll be ready to go back.

And now work beckons, so we now return you to your Monday, already in progress.

Animal’s Rule Five America!

2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (1)Happy Fourth of July, True Believers!

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry said to the Virginia House of Burgesses, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Now, two hundred and thirty-nine years later, that liberty has been vastly diminished.   The minions of the Imperial Federal government pry into our financial affairs, they regulate every aspect of our businesses from start to finish; they interfere with us in our very 2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (2)homes.  The Imperial City sits like a Colossus on the Potomac, having proven itself a dangerous servant and a dreadful master, far from the limited and transparent servant of the people our Founders envisioned.

Among those gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence were three ancestors of Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt.  Two are in my father’s lineage, Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania and Delaware and (tenuous connection) Abraham Clark of New Jersey.  Mrs. Animal’s mother’s line can be traced back to Maryland’s Charles Carroll.  Our ancestors fought to establish this country, but that gives us no 2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (3)special privilege or standing, merely a large dose of pride.  America is still, for the most part, a land where we are judged by what we do, not by who our parents were.

What would the Founders think of what their brainchild has become?

Consider the words of another Founder, Samuel Adams:  “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!

2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (4)It is a pretty pass we have come to.

Still, I try to remain cautiously optimistic.  While many in our nation freely accept the chains Mr. Adams warned us about, the chains of government dependency, the over-reaching Presidency of Barack Obama may have rekindled some small appreciation for liberty.  The upcoming Millennial generation of which my younger children are a part show strong sympathies with libertarian principles.  So perhaps it is not too late to bring the Imperial City to heel, to retake the rightful control of our affairs which Washington has usurped.

So today is a holiday for most Americans, and most of us (yr. obdt. and family included) will enjoy a day free from toil, a day to enjoy the company of family and friends.  But we should remember that this is also a day in which a small band of rebels threw off the chains of the greatest empire in the world to bring into being the greatest nation in human history, a nation that for whatever faults it has remains the best and last hope for peace, freedom and civilization in the world.

In a  1961 speech Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

We must guard our liberty with great and overwhelming jealousy.  So much has already been chipped away, but if you look at the rest of the world – the Dark Ages mentality of much of the Middle East, the socialist morass of Europe, the fast-approaching demographic calamities of Russia, China and Japan – we’re still in pretty good shape.

The shining city on a hill has lost some of it’s luster.  But we should not be ready to give up on America yet.

2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (7)

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

What do you carry around in your pockets?  Hung on your belt?

An interesting conversation the other day, centered not only on pocket contents but the Manly Art in general, led to this discussion.  Yr. obdt. routinely carries:

  1. Wallet
  2. Bandanna (in a pocket, not worn; carries out all the functions of a somewhat more robust handkerchief)
  3. Pocket knife
  4. Pocket watch (I detest wristwatches)
  5. Cell phone
  6. Cigar trimmer
  7. Lighter
  8. Money clip
  9. Where jurisdiction permits, a sidearm
  10. And edit – I completely forgot my damn keys.

There’s probably nothing defining about what a person carries about with them, except perhaps armament (see item #9, above.)  But it’s a matter of curiosity.

So, how about it, True Believers?  What do you carry about with you, from day to day?

Animal’s Daily News

Facepalm-bearTrigger warning:  this post may offend the hyper-sensitive.  (Fuck ‘em.)  Parental Guidance Requested.  Excerpt:

Students have demanded trigger warnings at Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan and George Washington University as well as UCSB. The Times reproduces an excerpt from an Oberlin “draft guide,” which reads: “Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma. Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other Issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.” (“Cissexism” refers to prejudice in favor of men and women who identify themselves, respectively, as men and women.)

Seriously?

Kudos, by the way, to article author James Taranto for looking up “cissexism;”  I had not the slightest idea what that was.  You learn something every day, eh?

But I digress.  This story begs several questions, at least three of which are “what the fuck?”  Are college students really so fragile, their poor little minds so insecure, that they are threatened by the fact that someone may disagree with them?  Note that I’m not talking about rape victims or combat veterans who may well be set off by images of graphic violence; I’m talking about the precious little snowflakes who may be butthurt if someone expresses (gasp!) homophobia.

Grizzly-Bear-FaceWhat good is an education – and I use the word in the broadest possible sense – if a student doesn’t learn to handle the fact that someone may not think like they do?  The obvious answer to the rational purpose is “not much,” but apparently some students feel the need to be sheltered from anything that might make them feel a little uncomfortable.

When I was a young fella we had a word for people like that.

We called them pussies.

Animal’s Daily News

Leaping Wet BearNo single issue jumps off the screen at me today, so here are some random tidbits and observations on the passing scene on this fine Thor’s Day.

Harry Reid, utterly predictable:  Every time he opens his mouth, something stupid comes out.  Seriously, Nevada, what the hell?

Putin Backs Off.  He’s up to something.  This guy was a KGB Colonel and would love nothing more than to see the glory days of the Soviet Union come back, and everything he does is calculated to the inch.  He’s figured out some way to get what he wants.

Check Your Usage of “Check Your Privilege.”  Seriously, what is this privilege I keep hearing about?  What did being white get me?  My Old Man was a farmer, later a middle-management type for John Deere – far from a rich guy.  I went to college on the G.I. Bill.  I started several businesses that failed and had a piece of one that sold before I hit on the one I still run today, a one-man consulting operation.  I’m not in the 1% but I sure as hell am in the 10%, and nobody gave me Angry-Bearshit – I worked for every last damn dime of it, and wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for taking some serious risks along the way.  So where did the big advantage of my Scots/Irish/English/German ancestry come in?

Why the hell do people insist on defining folks in groups?  Everyone is an individual, unique in and of themselves, with a host of unique traits and attributes, skills, talents and abilities.  “Race,” to a biologist, is an utterly meaningless construct.  And yet people are goddamn obsessed with it.

Moving on:  Is America’s Air Force Dying?  No – it’s being starved to death.

And, more good news:  Everyone will have armed drones in ten years.  Well, that’s encouraging.

On that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Rule Five Friday

2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (1)A couple of tidbits to accompany some warming totty on this frigid Midwestern Friday; first:  Boulder (CO) Considers Banishing People Who “Make Trouble.” Excerpt:

Taking inspiration from Shakespeare, a Boulder city councilman has suggested “banishing” chronic scofflaws creating a nuisance in parks around the city’s municipal buildings.

Councilman Macon Cowles said in an email to his colleagues that the idea came to him while “my mind wandered” and he wondered what The Bard had to say about crime and social misbehavior.

Quoting extensively from Romeo and Juliet, Cowles makes the argument that banishing people from Boulder for the same amount of time they might be incarcerated for minor crimes would not only save taxpayers money, but might be more effective at preventing future crimes.

2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (2)“It seems a double hit that citizens should have to endure repeated acts of criminal behavior that are peculiarly offenses against the people who live here, and then, adding a financial penalty to the insult that has been afflicted, to pay the high expense of incarceration,” he wrote.

In Colorado, for at least the last 25 years that yr. obdt. has resided in that state, Boulder is commonly referred to as “seven square miles surrounded by reality.”  (Also “the People’s Republik of Boulder,” for 2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (3)different reasons.)  This is a good example of Boulder’s own particular style of wonderful nuttiness; the city never ceases to amuse.

But there’s a darker side to the Councilman’s thinking.  Consider it; Councilman Cowles isn’t terribly worried about solving the problem of society’s chronic misbehaviors; he’s just concerned with exporting them.  It’s the NIMBY attitude taken to an illogical extreme.

Now, while we’re on the subject of nutbars:  Iran:  We’re Ready for ‘Decisive Battle’ with Israel, U.S.  Excerpt:

In the latest in a series of warnings against the US, Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi warned the Islamic republic’s foes that Iran is prepared for a “decisive battle” if attacked.

“We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel),” Fars news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying Wednesday.

2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (4)He also warned neighboring nations not to allow any attack to be launched on Iran from their soil.

“We do not have any hostility toward regional states, but if we are ever attacked from the American bases in the region we will strike that area back,” he said.

Let’s be honest; the only thing decisive about a battle between Iran on the one hand and the United States and Israel on the other would be the decisive speed in which the Iranians get their collective asses handed to them – in thin slices.

2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (5)Even after two rounds of severe military draw-downs from our Cold War height, the United States still has a unilateral dominance on military power not seen on the planet since the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Iran’s leaders are good at making bombastic pronouncements for the benefit of regime loyalists, but they aren’t complete imbeciles – the last thing they’ll do is to engage the U.S. head-on.  They will continue in their role as the leading national sponsor of Islamic terror; they will continue developing nuclear weapons, and odds are better than even that they’ll use those nukes, somewhere, one way or another, at a time of their own choosing.

That’s the scenario that we should be preparing for.

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Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Halfway through an interminable week that will, on Friday, see yr. obdt. departing the frigid environs of the Upper Midwest for the warmer, sunnier home stomping grounds of Denver.  At least for a week.

Over at PJMedia is an article that echoes a concern I’ve had for some time:  Is It Over, and We Just Don’t Know It?  Excerpt:

Historians have a tough time agreeing on many of the turning points in ancient history.

One of them, in light of events during the past several years and the tone of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on January 28, seems particularly relevant. That’s the question of when the Roman Republic ended:

    (The republic) began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, c. 509 BC, and lasted over 450 years.

    * * * * * *

    Towards the end of the period a selection of Roman leaders came to so dominate the political arena that they exceeded the limitations of the Republic as a matter of course. Historians have variously proposed the appointment of Julius Caesar as perpetual dictator in 44 BC, the defeat of Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and the Roman Senate’s grant of extraordinary powers to Octavian (Augustus) under the first settlement in 27 BC, as candidates for the defining pivotal event ending the Republic.

There’s little doubt that the United States of America has reached a point where, relatively unhampered by legislative or judicial barriers, its president and his bureaucracy exceed the limits of the nation’s Constitution “as a matter of course.” They in turn are quietly but effectively under the control of our “independent” central bank.

Sad-BearDecades from now, it’s possible that historians will look back and conclude that the American experiment, which began with its declaration of independence from and defeat of Great Britain, ended sometime between 1999 and 2014. As with Rome, the pivotal event isn’t obvious, and the list which follows isn’t all-inclusive.

For several years now I’ve been saying that the parallels between the dying Roman Republic and the present situation in our own republic are a little too uncanny.

There seems to be one difference; what in Rome was largely done by individuals (Sulla, Caesar, Octavian) is in the United States being done by the governing bodies.  The House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and several Presidents have all had a hand in the consolidation of power in Washington and the overrunning of the governing principles on which the Republic was founded, and which served its citizens for over two hundred years.

Is it too late to turn back?  Republics, when they fall, do not generally give rise to new republics.

Rule Five Friday

2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (1)Let’s talk about marriage.  Not specifically gay marriage, or non-gay marriage, or plural marriage, or interspecies marriage; just…  marriage.

Let’s start with this, an idea I’ve given some thought to myself over the years:  Get The State Out of Marriage.  Relevant excerpt:

In Oklahoma this past Friday, State Representative Mike Turner boldly challenged, “whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all.” He floated a bill that would remove the state’s role of licensing matrimony. This was in response to a recent court order that strikes down Oklahoma’s definition of marriage as traditional one-man-one-woman.

Think about that for a moment.  Take your time, I’ll wait right here.

Ready?  Let’s move on.

Rather than defend the status quo, I’ll take a different tack; what good reasons are there for government to be involved in marriage?  I can think of one; marriage has a legal component to it, in that it is 2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (2)a contract between competent, capable adults.  (Normally a man and a woman, but that perception is somewhat in flux at the moment.)   Now, contracts are written and agreed to between competent parties all the time without government involvement; government generally only becomes involved when one or more parties violates the term of the agreement in some way or another.

How is government involved in marriage?  In one primary way:  the issue of marriage licenses, usually at the county level.  Why do we need a license – in essence, permission from the county government – to get married?

Many, many years ago, when I was a little tad, we lived on a farm near Fairbank, Iowa.  Our neighbors were an older couple, Grace and Brownie, who formed a treasured extra pair of surrogate grandparents for me.  I have a distinct memory of sitting with my mother in Grace and Brownie’s kitchen listening to Brownie, a stubborn, no-nonsense WW1 veteran and lifelong farmer, talk about 2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (3)his pursuit of a building permit to extend one of his farm buildings.  Most of all I remember his lament that “these days you have to get a permit from the county to take a shit.”

That was in the late Sixties.  Things have not improved since that time.

One could make an argument for building codes and the concomitant permits to make sure that those codes are adhered to, especially for commercial buildings.  But marriage?

Removing government from the business of marriage makes a great deal of sense.  It would make no inroads on the religious observation of marriage.  Churches of all sorts could go right on conducting marriages exactly as they do now, with a little less paperwork.  It would make no inroad on the secular observation of marriage.  People who are not religious (like me) could conduct any type of ceremony or observation that suits them.  Would some people forgo marriage altogether?  Probably, yes; some people already do.  The numerator may change some, but the denominator remains the same.2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (4)

Here’s the real rub, though, and this is why advocacy of this could be a winner for the slowly-growing libertarian wing of the GOP:  Removing government from the business of marriage removes the thorny issue of gay marriage from the debate.

“But Animal,” you might ask, “doesn’t that open the door for all sorts of domestic arrangements?  Doesn’t that open the door to polygamy, polyandry, and all sorts of other polys?

My reply:  “Well, sure.  But if government isn’t involved in the licensing of domestic arrangements at all, what changes?  People all over are free to indulge in those kinds of domestic arrangements now, they just can’t get a license from the county to formalize it.  And why should they?”

2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (5)My take on social issues of this sort is based on one simple principle:  I don’t give a damn what people do, as long as they leave me alone.

Now, I’m about as heterosexual as you can get, in case you hadn’t figured that out from my penchant for Rule Five cheesecake.  I like women, and to my very good fortune women have always liked me.  (Mrs. Animal most of all.)  It’s beyond my capacity to understand why a man would be sexually attracted to another man.  But then, it’s beyond my capacity to understand why people like watching football on television.  And that’s OK; the fact that other people do those things doesn’t affect me.  It doesn’t affect my marriage.  It doesn’t affect my life.  It doesn’t affect me if two men, or two women, or three men and five women, or two men and a rosebush want to live together and call it “marriage.”

I know there are religious objections to gay marriage; I’m not religious and I don’t share them, but I acknowledge the depth of conviction of people who do hold those views.  This proposal can easily address that as well.  Churches that object to gay marriage should be free to refuse to conduct them.

Removing the licensing requirement from the equation removes the controversy.  It’s a good idea.  This Oklahoma proposal should be taken on the road.

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