Labels

This is my last post for 2010. At this time of year, other media outlets like to recap the year with some list or whatnot. This is filler made months ago because these guys were going to be on vacation. But I'm writing this today.

My recap for the year are the labels I wear. Everyone has labels. Some they choose to wear. Others they choose to hide. These are the ones I choose to wear.

LOSER

This is top of the list for me. I am a loser. Of course, that is relative. I am better off than a homeless drunk. But I am not rich or famous which is what makes a person a winner. In between those extremes of homelessness and extravagance, you have everyone else jockeying for some spot in the social pile. It is this status seeking that I don't give a shit about. So, I choose to call myself a loser, and it has a magical effect. It frees me up to be me, and it actually pisses all over the status game. I have ambitions, but they are all purely personal. I don't care if I have a nicer car than you, and I really don't care if you have a nicer car than me. I am a loser. I don't have to care.

ATHEIST

I am known for this more than anything else. The irony is that it is the one I care least about. I don't believe in God. I used to believe in God. I believed so much that I even enrolled in seminary. Then, I realized I was an idiot. It was all bullshit. It took awhile for me to figure it out. Looking back, I can't believe how stupid I was. But it taught me humility and to always question things especially authority. That brings me to the next label.

LIBERTARIAN

I believe in freedom. I think government is best that governs least. I don't think freedom is perfect, but it is superior to the alternatives. I believe in social freedom and economic freedom. I think as long as you don't hurt other people you should be free to do as you will. I also think you are entitled to the money you earn and the property you buy.

BLUE COLLAR

I have a college degree, and I know I can bullshit my way into an office job. But the bulk of my working life has been spent doing dirty work. "Blue collar" is a label a lot of people want to escape. It is now one I embrace. Like the loser thing, I find freedom in accepting the humble path instead of the arrogant path. Blue collar work is honest, and I feel good about it. There is no bullshit there. Fuck the status. Fuck the office politics. Just go out and work.

MINIMALIST

I have always lived a simple lifestyle. I'm not big on owning a bunch of stuff or collecting clutter or keeping up with the Joneses. I have one car and live in an apartment. I'd like to trade it in for one small pickup truck and one small house. Otherwise, I'm living the life I have always lived and always will live. I shop at thrift stores. I pack a lunch. I don't own an RV or an ATV. The most extravagant thing I buy is Carhartt apparel because I know it lasts a long time.

WRITER

Finally, I write. I don't paint, play guitar, or golf. I write. All I need is my notebook and a pencil. I have this blog. It doesn't seem like much, but there is an infinite world in that pencil and paper. If I ever shake up the world, it will be with my words. But if I don't, it is great fun anyway. I have never made a cent from my writing, but it has enriched me more than any hobby I have ever had. Reading is the next best thing.

Those are my labels. I could add a few others like "asshole." But I will leave that to my haters. As for 2011, I might add a few new labels like "workaholic" and "runner." This might be possible now that I'm back to being a "bachelor." We will see. But "failure" is the most probable outcome.

Good bye, 2010.

Education, Credentials, and Skills

I talk a lot about college, the higher ed bubble, autodidacticism, blue collar skills, and what have you. In my discussions with others, I notice there is some slippage in the terms we use. I will now try and clarify these terms.

Education
This is what you actually know. It doesn't matter where it came from. Knowing the earth is round is no less true or important because you learned it in high school, from a book, a friend, or Harvard University. This applies to all facts. Thanks to the free market, public libraries, and the internet, education today is virtually unlimited.

Credentials
A credential is merely a document that attests you have education or a skill. A driver's license is a credential. So is a college degree.

Skills
A skill is simply something you are able to do at a certain level of proficiency. This could be laying bricks or playing the guitar. Skills are acquired through practice.

This is where these terms get slippery. When a politician says that he wants everyone to get an education, he isn't talking about a real education. He is talking about a credential. In this case, it is usually the bachelor's degree. But as we know, anyone and everyone has access to education. Right now, if I wanted to learn computer programming, I am only a mouse click away from what I need to know.

I had a friend who was a college dropout. He said he always wanted to go back and complete his education. But no one ever completes their education. Education is constant and forever. He wanted to get his credential.

The credential has value if it means something. You can just establish a government diploma mill and achieve what the politician wants. But no one will recognize the credential. OTOH, I know lots of drop outs who do just fine because they have a skill set. The credential is just like a dollar bill--real or counterfeit.

The market demand is not for education or credentials. It is for skills. They may be required by law to demand a credential like a CDL, a medical license, or what have you. But they want the skill since it is the skill that produces the results and not the credential. Having a credentialed and educated citizenry is fine for politics and civic engagement but is worthless in terms of free market endeavors. If you want to make money, you have to learn some skills.

The reason I stress blue collar occupations and the like is because those are skilled professions. There is a certain amount of knowledge that goes along with those skills. Electricians need to know Ohm's law. But it doesn't take four years of classroom instruction to learn Ohm's law. Most electricians learn it through apprenticeship.

The people being turned out of schools today have virtually no skills. Aside from being able to read, write, and do some math, the skill set is limited. This is why we laugh at liberal arts majors for wasting all that money and four years of their lives. But those same people laugh at someone who enrolls in diesel mechanics school. This is because everything is valued in terms of money and social status. This is why a history degree from Harvard trumps a nursing degree from State U. even though the nurse has more marketable skills and is in greater demand than the Harvard history major. If it all seems like bullshit, you would be correct.

What the world needs is a credentialing authority that is bona fide. We don't need more schools, scholarships, student loans, and all that. We just need the credential that means something and is universally recognized. This would end the divide between the haves and the have-nots. It would end the higher ed bubble. And it would be a boon to private business as they would know what they were getting. Somewhere, some clever entrepreneur is going to figure this out and make it happen.

Isolation



I don't have any friends. Actually, this isn't true. I have over 3000+ friends on Facebook, friends at work, friends from a previous job, and all sorts of others I need to reconnect with as soon as I find the time to do so. And I do have true friends, thank you very much. I am as socially out there as you can get.

What I don't have is a family. I live alone. I just broke up with my girlfriend and her four kids. Basically, she wants me to provide housing to them as they squander my finances and destroy my property. My brother and I just had the last argument we are ever going to have. It is the same one where I tell him something true, and he calls me a deluded fucknut because that particular truth does not square with a decision or viewpoint he has already acquired. My role is to tell him how brilliant he is.

I have a large social circle because I depend on my friends for the most valuable thing they can give me--their unvarnished opinions. And I strive to give them the most honest and accurate information that I can. People have a tendency to gild the lily when they talk about themselves. I overcompensate for this by painting the best picture of others and painting the worst for myself. I always ask the same question of myself--Is there something wrong with me? As someone who has been wrong in the past, I find this to be an important question to ask.

This is a quote from the email my brother sent me:

I get frustrated sometimes when I try to explain something to someone and they aren't understanding what I am trying to say. The fault lies with me in that I need to learn a better way to phrase my questions and sometimes, I snap when I can't get people to understand my questions or my statements. In the scant 15 minutes, though, it appears that you hung up on me (or Skype shitted on me), you de-friended me on Facebook, and pretty much cut me off. I think that is a bit extreme, but I can't change your mind or your methods of dealing with friends and family. I just hope you would re-consider cutting someone off for such a simple argument. People get in arguments all the time, but it does not mean that you should cut them off.


Now, I understood what my brother was saying. What he did not understand was that he was wrong. I've already put his situation to my peer review process, and I don't even have to say my side. They immediately start laughing as soon as I state the facts. Some things are just that obvious. My brother has his typical meltdown and starts screaming and cussing at me. My advice to him? Diversify your investments across different classes of assets. (I know. I'm totally nuts with that shit.)

People like to be told what they want to hear. My brother is no different in this. I am particularly special in that I want to be told something contrary. I want people to tell me that I am wrong. I want to be challenged. One of my bestest buddies in the world plays a constant devil's advocate to me, and he can be damn irritating. But I keep his friendship. He is the pin to any ego bubbles I might have. Similarly, the bulk of my Facebook friends are people of various different political leanings. Then, there is the C-blog here with my virtual open door policy on commenting. As long as it isn't spam, it stays. And, yes, I have felt the sting on a few occasions. But that is the point.

Families exist in a moral/informational bubble. Reality and common sense are not allowed to intrude. Family is essentially a conspiracy. As one lady put it to me ever so bluntly, "Family will fuck you worse than a stranger." That is so true. You will see this element running in families, government, crime syndicates, and organizations. They value secrecy and loyalty over morality and common sense. Needless to say, I don't do conspiracies. The result is that I am always an outsider.

The rift I had with Godless Columbia (now, Freethought Society of the Midlands) followed this similar pattern. The organization opted to become private instead of public (secrecy!) I opposed this. Then, they opted to change the name to appeal to people who weren't atheists. At that point, I had to leave. The group became the appeasement of one person's ego over openness, honesty, transparency, and commitment to purpose. It became a conspiracy.

To conspire means to act together in secret. A conspiracy can be benign like the Freemasons, or it can be illegal like Watergate. I'm not against people wanting to keep secrets. I even keep secrets for others. But there is a limit to that sort of thing. For instance, I oppose the drug war, but I will not hesitate to rat out a dirty cop like the sheriff of Lee County who was also a drug lord. I don't care so much that someone like Willie Nelson likes to toke up.

The thing that worries me is this. Am I antisocial? Am I a loner? Am I an isolated nutcase on the road to becoming like the Unabomber living in the woods and doing really antisocial shit? Or am I someone who merely stops having relationships with people who treat me badly? I think I am firmly in the latter category even if the people I choose not to associate with anymore try to put me in the former. Basically, I'm a loner because I don't want to be a member of their club.

I can be associated with whomever I choose, and if people hurt me or use me, I am done with them. The relationship is over. Period. I just don't give a fuck anymore. I'm not so desperate for people's company that I am going to let them shit all over me. It is the narcissist-altruist thing all over again.

All my social relationships end on the same point. I don't do anything to harm others. They simply want me to give them something they want, and when I don't give it to them, they turn on me. I have encountered this over and over again. I give. They take. When I stop giving, they treat me badly. Relationship ends. I am merely the means to an end.

All of this is a consequence of my libertarian/individualist/silver rule way of doing things. My now ex-girlfriend called me selfish for enjoying things I bought with my own money. Basically, I am supposed to share whatever I earn. Of course, I never applied the same rule to her. The result is that she gets to spend her money and my money, too. Neat trick, eh? Well, that parasite is now gone. Sayonara, babe. You are done. My peer review process backs me up on this as soon as I say "four kids." I'm glad they aren't mine.

I am firmly on the path of self-reliance. I fall into these traps because I feel that I need people in my life. I need people to be there to catch me if I fall, to give me a ride to the airport, or to call 911 when I have my coronary event. But you want to know the truth? You are better off paying for a cab, membership to AAA, and getting one of those medic alert things. (I've fallen, and I can't get my pants back on!) And, yes, paying a prostitute is cheaper than a girlfriend.

So, am I the Unabomber? Nope. I know who I am exactly. I am Dr. House.



The guy surrounds himself with a peer group to challenge him. He does what he thinks is right. I would draw the line at kidnapping and breaking and entering. Otherwise, I am just like House. And House is a good guy. People can call him an asshole all day, but assholes are just people who tell the truth. There is a social cost to that, but it is worth paying. I don't want people to lie to me even if the lie might make me feel good. The blows of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy.

Chris Bream on Libertarians

There’s always tension between freedom and fairness. We want less government regulation, but not when it means firms can hire cheap child labor. We want a free market, but not so bankers can deceive investors. Libertarianism, in promoting freedom above all else, pretends the tension doesn’t exist.

Case in point: A house in Obion County, Tennessee, burned to the ground in September because the owner had not paid the annual $75 fee for opt-in fire protection. As the fire raged, the house owner told the dispatcher that he would pay the cost of putting out the fire. The fire department still refused to come. The house burned down, with four pets inside. Libertarians point out that this is how opt-in services—as opposed to taxpayer-funded public services—works. If you don’t pay, you don’t get coverage. The firefighters can’t make exceptions without creating moral hazard. This makes sense in theory. In practice, not so much. The firefighters showed up to protect a neighboring property. The homeowner offered to pay not just the cost of the fire protection but the full cost of the spray. A court would have enforced that contract. But because the firefighters stuck to a rigid principle of opt-in services, a house was destroyed. Will this serve as a cautionary tale next time a rural resident of Obion County is deciding whether to buy fire insurance? No doubt. But will someone else inevitably not learn his lesson and make the same mistake? No doubt.

And that’s just the government side. Consider the social side of Libertopia. It’s no coincidence that most libertarians discover the philosophy as teenagers. At best, libertarianism means pursuing your own self-interest, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. At worst, as in Ayn Rand’s teachings, it’s an explicit celebration of narcissism. “Man’s first duty is to himself,” says the young architect Howard Roark in his climactic speech in The Fountainhead. “His moral obligation is to do what he wishes.” Roark utters these words after dynamiting his own project, since his vision for the structure had been altered without his permission. The message: Never compromise. If you don’t get your way, blow things up. And there’s the problem. If everyone refused to compromise his vision, there would be no cooperation. There would be no collective responsibility. The result wouldn’t be a city on a hill. It would be a port town in Somalia. In a world of scarce resources, everyone pursuing their own self-interest would yield not Atlas Shrugged but Lord of the Flies. And even if you did somehow achieve Libertopia, you’d be surrounded by assholes.


The Trouble with Liberty

* * *

Bream writes a long essay that is a fairly accurate description of the libertarian movement. But he is a statist at heart, so he must defend the outlandishness of today's government excess because it comports with "reality" while libertarianism is merely a fantasy. I call this the utopia/Somalia argument.

The problem with this argument is that it is not a real argument. You might as well point out that no government exists in Antarctica, and they don't have a McDonald's or a Walmart down there. There are no people down there except a few shivering in remote outposts studying climate and other shit.

Somalia is better off today than it was under dictatorship. It is an anarchy, and out of this anarchy will spring some new dictator at some point. Or maybe not. So far, Somalia has resisted all efforts by the US and the UN to establish a central government. There has to be something good in that.

All libertarians agree that statism is bad and inimical to human freedom and flourishing. Despite the many stripes of libertarians from anarchists to Objectivists, they both take a dim view of the tomfuckery of the Democrats and Republicans in Washington. The arguments Bream makes are within the libertarian movement itself. In the case of Somalia, the argument is between minarchy and anarchy. I can flip Bream's argument around and claim that he supports a military dictatorship in Somalia. I can also toss North Korea in his face as well. I doubt he would champion that level of tyranny. It all comes down to determining where the line is drawn. Libertarians draw the line much further away from the statists.

The fundamental argument is between limited and unlimited government. Statists believe in unlimited government. They are the utopians because they believe they have the answer to all problems and have a blindness in acknowledging the problems they create with their solutions. Medicare is great! Of course, funding it is a problem. But you wouldn't want to turn out old people, would ya? Libertarians hate grandma, so you should support Medicare. Later on, those same statists will be pulling the plug on grandma to plug the deficit in that program. There is no such thing as unlimited compassion.

Bream also throws it the latest fave argument from the statists--the firefighters who let a homeowner's home burn to the ground because he had not paid his $75 fee for fire protection. I hate to say this, but I think the firefighters were in the right. Under the statist scenario, the homeowner would pay the $75 at the point of a gun or been put under some other system of compulsion, taxation, subsidy, etc. The irony is that you never hear these fuckers weep and complain when someone's home is stolen and auctioned off because they couldn't pay their property taxes. That gets swept under the rug because Bream is a statist fucktard who wants to ream your asshole with his gigantic government dick. Yes, in Libertopia, the firefighters will let your house burn if you don't pay the fee. But it will always be your house even if you choose to gamble. The result is that people pay their fees, or they become extra cautious about fire hazards around the home. I'm sorry, but I find this much more preferrable to the current system of pay or become homeless.

And that is the statist trick in a nutshell. Because of the possibility of a thousand imaginary disasters under freedom, statism is to be preferred even if you have a thousand real disasters as a consequence. Here it is applied to marijuana legalization:

Yes, marijuana is illegal and ends up with a lot of people in jail for a nonviolent offense and helps create a black market. But if marijuana was legal, pot crazed marijuana smokers will rape your family members, assassinate political leaders, suffer intense brain damage, and unleash a slow marching army of zombies on us right before the rise of the antichrist on his throne of power.


Yes, this is absurd, but it was just such absurd reasoning that got marijuana outlawed in the first place. If the cure is worse than the disease, then you eschew the cure. The statist argument is that we are champions of the disease. Outlawing foodstamps means libertarians favor hunger. Outlawing TSA groping means libertarians favor terrorism. On and on, it goes. I have heard it for years, and Bream offers nothing new or relevant in the way of argument.

Ultimately, this article is a puff piece to tell people about libertarianism who don't know jackshit about it. What people do get is an intuitive feeling that the statists with their warmongering, their lying, their bailouts, and whatnot are not the answer. This is Bream's pathetic attempt to say, "There's nothing to see here. Move along." But there is something to see here. As government fails, the truth will emerge. This is why we have this libertarian moment. The bills of statism are now coming due, and people are pissed. VERY PISSED.
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NOTES

1. IS SOMALIA A LIBERTARIAN PARADISE?

[SOC]

Maximalism is the belief that you can do it all. I realize that you can't. You have to choose, and people find it painful to choose. Choice involves sacrifice. But a cluttered life is also sacrifice. Either way, something is going to fall out. The difference is whether you make the choice, or the choice gets made for you.

Minimalism is the acceptance of those choices. It is making peace with the sacrifices that you have made. It is deciding that less is better because more is impossible.

Cramming your life is fun. It is easy to cram a life. It is hard to edit a life. I am struggling with that editing. It becomes difficult to say no. The result is that my life has started to accumulate clutter and neglect. I am not doing what matters. I am simply doing. Often, I am just struggling to get by as I try to keep the disaster going.

Simplify.

Half Sigma on the Higher Ed Bubble

A college degree may cost a lot more than it used to, but it’s also worth a lot more than it used to be worth because there are so few decent career tracks open to non-college graduates.

The only way to break the education bubble is to fundamentally change the job market in a manner that opens up more career tracks to people without college degrees, but I don’t forsee that happening. HBD-denialism is at work here. Changing the social structure of who gets into which career tracks opens up uncomfortable doors to the truth about HBD. Liberals don’t like to believe in hereditary intelligence, even within races. Liberals prefer to believe that education makes you smart, and the better the quality of education, the smarter it makes you. If only we could give every young person a Harvard-quality education, everyone would be just as smart as the average Harvard graduate. This is the liberal dream. Liberals want to equalize society. Liberals believe that it’s not fair that such a small number of people graduate from Harvard each year. At the very least, they think everyone should graduate from college. Liberals would like the government to pay for free college education for everyone. The student loan program is a compromise with evil cheapskate Republicans.

People who complain about the education bubble like to imagine a glorious popping of the bubble which causes all those overpaid liberal college professors to be laid off. They forget that we have two liberal parties. The Democratic party is hardcore liberal and the Republican party is moderate liberal. The more likely “solution” to the education bubble is that government will spend more money to fund education so that students don’t have to borrow so much money. The Republicans will probably agree to this in exchange for more tax cuts. (Even though I wrote the previous sentence, I'm not sure if it's sarcasm or a reasonable prediction of the future.)


Education: not a bubble and not going to pop

* * *

This is a contrary viewpoint to my own, but Half Sig gets it wrong. I know this because he undercuts his own arguments. So, I will set the record straight.

Tuition has risen at three times the rate of inflation. College grads are leaving school with more debt and fewer job prospects than ever before. Those degrees are not worth more because they don't result in better job prospects in much the same way that houses were not worth more simply because people were willing to pay more for them. It seems to me that HS is at pains to justify the present system. But from what I read, he is essentially a centrist, and centrists are extremely inconsistent in their viewpoints. He says both that degrees are good, that they are worth it, but there are too many people going to college. Which is it?

I will set the record straight on the issues:

-There are too many college graduates.

We produce more grads than the economy needs. We know this because they can't get jobs while they live at home with their folks competing for jobs at Starbucks to pay their $700 a month student loan payments. Even for those who do get jobs, the debt burden makes their lives worse off than their blue collar counterparts who may make less but have no debt burdens except on their new Camaros and Harleys.

-The major is meaningless.

If I told you that English was a great major because Stephen King is a millionaire, you would laugh. But this is the same logic people employ when they say that computer science is a good major because Sergey Brin is a billionaire, or that business is a good major because Warren Buffett is a billionaire. The fact is that I have met and worked with both computer science majors and business majors, and they don't make much more than I do. On average, those majors might make more than others if you factor in the outliers in much the same way that I can say that English and drama majors make more if I factor in bestselling novelists and movie stars. This is why we use median income instead of mean income. If you account for student loan debt, your average comp sci major doesn't make more than your average electrician. And as Half Sigma points out in What college students major in, 2/3rds of majors are "practical." This bubble has not been created by basket weaving majors. In this economy, majoring in engineering is not going to cut it for you. Majoring in nursing or pharmacy might, but that is because of that anomaly called "Aging Baby Boomers." It goes back to the first point--too many college grads.

-Federally backed student loans are to blame.

Sallie Mae is simply doing what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did for housing. It is destroying the economics of the marketplace with abundant credit. Prior to this, the only people that went to college were smart kids and rich dumb kids who wasted their parents money on Women's Studies or some other soft degree. The government wanted everyone to own their own home, so they tossed out the rulebook and lent to people with bad credit on terms that were certain to fuck the very people they were trying to help. Similarly, the Feds want everyone to have a college degree which is now fucking those who will never be able to repay the debt or discharge the debt in bankruptcy.

What are the options?

I talk to a lot of young people, and I give them the same basic advice:

1. If you can go to college without having to pay for it, this is good. These would be scholarship recipients and military vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. If you can graduate with zero debt, you are going to be much better off than those who chose to borrow.

2. Pursue a healthcare major. It is practical, and the demand is there and growing. Over the last 20 years, I haven't met an RN, a pharmacist, a doctor, a dentist, or even a dental hygienist that was not doing well for themselves. I have worked alongside engineers, comp sci people, business majors, and what have you along with dozens of liberal arts majors. I have yet to work alongside a healthcare worker that couldn't find employment.

3. Pursue a trade. Not everyone was meant to go to college. No one wants to settle for average which is why people eschew trades. The result is that diesel mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and the like are now doing better than their college educated counterparts. And that isn't factoring in debt levels. The reason for this is that the moderately bright but not genius people opted to go to college instead of trade school and apprenticeships. This is why the fastest growing enrollment at tech and vocational schools are from people like me who already have a four year degree but recognize they got punked by their guidance counselors, the government, and the wider culture. This is how you get a book like Shop Class as Soulcraft.

4. Don't do what you love. Love what you do. There is a difference there. I love surfing the internet and watching TV, but no one is going to pay me for that. But I have found that I have loved every job I have ever had except for one--the one that required a degree. I love what I do now, and I can love just about any blue collar job there is. If you doubt this, remember my resume includes many years cleaning out septic tanks and portable toilets. If you can love that, you can love anything. I'd rather do that than play the Machiavellian game that is corporate politics.

5. For those who are under the student debt load now, my best advice is to live at home and pursue a trade. I recently ran into a 24 year old with a master's degree in music. The guy plays the tuba and unloads planes at the airport for UPS. He is carrying $70K in debt which I suspect is just the principal. I told him to become an electrician. He dreams of joining the symphony. I told him I knew a viola player who was also a fabulous singer. He made his living as a hairdresser. If you find yourself on the wrong road, you have to turn around, go back, and get on the right road. Continuing on the wrong road is not going to make it better. It only makes it worse.

Why I Hate Xmas



I hate Christmas. It is my least favorite holiday. I can pull the atheist card and claim religious reasons for this, but that isn't the reason. Christmas is effectively a secular holiday. Its traditions predate Christianity and incorporate pagan elements. Christmas has as much do with Christ as Thursday has with Thor. The reason I hate Christmas is because it is all about buying and selling.

Ever since Thanksgiving, I have had a mailbox deluged by sales circulars trying to get me to part with my cold hard cash. I have my girlfriend's kids clamoring to get shit they will break in a month or two. I learned my lesson last year as they broke their Wii by May probably because they decided an XBox was better. Fuck that.

This year, I bought everyone on my list a book. Why? Because books are deliberately a lame gift. They are unexciting. They are boring. But they don't take batteries, and they promote literacy which everyone on my list sorely needs. (I can be this blunt because none of them bothers to read my blog. They are a dumb bunch. Reading hurts their brains.)

I am seriously considering a total boycott of Christmas in 2011. I am to that point. It isn't because I don't love the people in my life. I just hate having to put a price tag on that love or hoping that my gifts will be received instead of rejected. The whole affair nauseates me. Christmas would be much better without that gift giving tradition.

As for receiving gifts, I hate that about as much as giving gifts. If I hate the materialism and consumerism behind gift giving, I really hate the clutter of gift receiving. I almost always end up with clothing I'm never going to wear or products I am never going to use. One year, I remember chucking a brand new thingamajig in the trash. I never even opened the box. I didn't reveal that to the gift giver because I didn't want to hurt their feelings. But I don't need more shit cluttering my space. When I want something, I usually just go get it, and there is very little that I want. I told my girlfriend this year that all I wanted was a copy of Blood Meridian. You can't go wrong buying me a book from my reading list.

The boycott idea is really starting to appeal to me. I have met people who boycott the holiday completely. These aren't Jewish people either or even atheists. Surprisingly, a lot of Christians hate the holiday because they recognize there isn't anything Christian about it. It's just an excuse for people to waste a lot of money. I already go against the mainstream on a lot of stuff, so boycotting Christmas will just be another item on the list of crazy things that define who I am.

Q & A

Q: Are you a racist?

A: I define a racist as someone who believes in the superiority of one race over all the others. By this definition, I am not a racist because empirical data shows that Asians are really great at math, Jews are really good with money, and Africans are very good at athletics. Of course, pointing these things out will get you slapped with the racist tag immediately which really makes no sense.

When people use the term "racist," they really mean bigotry. There is a difference--a huge difference. Bigotry is merely having stereotypical views of other races. On this basis, everyone on the planet is a bigot. If you equate tacos with Mexicans, you are a bigot.

Bigotry gets slammed when the stereotypes are mean and hurtful such as assuming that all blacks want to drink malt liquor and rape white women or that Jewish people are out to fuck you over. I know how that feels like since as a Southerner I am slammed as some beer swilling illiterate redneck usually by some obnoxious Yankee. But I find the answer to such things is to be true to who you are and not sweat it. If you like to eat fried chicken and watermelon, is this really a bad thing? I know I enjoy those things, too, along with pork rinds and grits.

People are too easily offended, and they need to get over this. Learn self-deprecation like I do. And defy those negative stereotypes. I defy the stereotypes of Southerners by reading extensively and knowing more than the average Yankee. Success is proving your critics wrong.

1000

1000 blog posts in one year is way too fucking ambitious. Plus, my goal was to make all of those quality posts and not just filler. I don't see me pulling that off.

Thc challenge of blogging comes down to two things:

1. Finding time to blog.

2. Finding things to blog about.

I struggle with both of these aspects. My goal this year was to blog at least once a day. I am actually 12 posts away from the magical 365. But I haven't blogged daily. Most of that comes from creative spurts that come and go. You might see three or four posts in a single day and then nothing for awhile.

It is hard to keep a project like this going while also maintaining a job and a relationship and tending to my chores. Plus, I want to write books and do more with my other projects. So, I need to back away from this ambition. To fulfill the 1000 post requirement would mean doing almost 3 posts daily. That is simply insane. I already have plenty on my plate, and as Clint Eastwood put it, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Outside



I have a friend who likes to go rock climbing and mountain biking. I have another friend who is a fisherman and just recently got into hunting deer. Then, there is my girlfriend who enjoys nothing more than getting to the lake and sleeping in a tent. Whether it is surfers, ultrarunners, mountain climbers, hunters, hikers, kayakers, and fishermen, they all have one thing in common. They like being outside.

This love for the outdoors is not a recent fad. It did not begin with North Face wearing and Clif Bar chewing eco-geeks. Mountain men of centuries ago had a zest for the outdoors that is equal or greater than what we see today. It was a place to live and thrive. It filled the spirit.



When you get back to work on Monday, people like to ask what you did with your free time. You can tell them you spent it all on the internet, or you played numerous games of pool or chess. Almost any answer you give will show you to be a Weekend Loser unless of course, you spent that time OUTSIDE.

Being outside is where it is at. Maybe it is getting Vitamin D from the sunshine or what have you. But we feel that life is somehow better outdoors. I believe the reason people engage in the various activities they do is to justify to themselves time spent outside. Sitting in a chair in the woods is kinda dumb unless you have a rifle in your hands. Then, it becomes cool. But if a deer never appears, no hunter will claim it was time wasted. Ultimately, they just like being out there.

The activity that appeals to me the most in terms of the outdoors is running especially trail running. It is cheap and readily available. You can do it everyday since all you need are a pair of shoes. But even a good walk or hike accomplishes the same thing which is getting OUTSIDE. I think being outside has fallen prey to marketing since people believe you need a bunch of fancy gear and equipment to get out there. But I can go drive to various parks in my area and just walk the trails. The gear is just a distraction.

In the new year, one of my resolutions is to spend more time outside. That's it. Of course, that might also conflict with my resolution to write 1000 blog posts. OTOH, being outdoors is something I can write about. We will see.

The Silver Rule



I recently wrote a post called The Golden Rule on Steroids, and the post and the comments got me thinking about the subject of reciprocal ethics and doing research on the topic. Needless to say, my thinking has expanded quite a bit since that initial post. So, I will share those thoughts.

The first rule I would like to deal with is what I will call the Stone Rule. Basically, this is "might makes right." The powerful can do whatever they like since they have the power. Of course, no one is that powerful, and people who follow the Stone Rule find themselves quickly killed off. This is definitely not a winning strategy.

The second rule is what I will call the Iron Rule. It is like the Stone Rule except that it divides the world into allies and enemies with a set of rules directing conduct towards allies and another set of rules directing conduct towards enemies. There is no reciprocity since the enemy is purely a class instead of an individual. This is the sort of ethics behind racism, nationalism, and the like. It is very primitive like the Stone Rule.

The third rule is what I call the Brass Rule which is an "eye for an eye." This is an ethic of revenge that is almost mathematical. You pay back harm with equal harm. It goes beyond the primitive Iron Rule since it bases conduct on actions instead of allegiance and limits payback.

The fourth rule is what we all know as the Golden Rule which is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This is a positive rule since it commands us to do good things for others. But it is problematic as I have come to learn. The first thing is that it makes us debtors to all people. This is why a commenter on the previous post made such pains to promote socialism and taxation as a consequence of the Golden Rule. I was trying to argue that he was wrong, but I understand now that I was wrong. Socialism and the like is a natural consequence of the Golden Rule. If we believe we have positive obligations to others, we must sacrifice for their well being. But the answer to this absurdity is to face the flaw in the Golden Rule.

The fifth rule and the superior to the Golden Rule is the Silver Rule which is "do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you." Rephrased, it means "do no harm." Ironically, it jibes perfectly with my libertarian politics. Basically, it means that I don't go around hurting people. It is negative in orientation but easily abided by. I simply choose not to hurt other people. I respect their rights to life, liberty, and property. But it doesn't mean that I have to feed them or clothe them or feel guilty or whatnot about their misfortunes. I did not cause them, so I am not obligated to fix them.

The Silver Rule is like a breath of fresh air to me. It also settles a vexing philosophical problem that plagues many libertarians. What are we to do about the poor and the needy? The answer is nothing. Just don't hurt them. Leave them alone. There is no obligation to help them. Choosing to help them is another matter, but there is no moral obligation there to give aid nor is there any obligation on their part to take aid. The one thing you will notice about Golden Rule people is how they will walk roughshod over people's liberties and actually cause much harm in the process. This is all justified in the sake of doing some good.

The Silver Rule must also come to grips with those who do wish to do harm. I suppose I could call this the Silver Rule on Steroids which can still be phrased as "I treat people the way they are going to treat me." Basically, I don't harm others unless they try and harm me. This is way more harmonius. Think about it for a bit:

Do not harm others unless they try and harm you.


It is an elegant rule. Now, for the counterargument.

Golden Rule proponents will ask, "What happens if I see a drowning man?" My answer would be to help the man if you can. But above all, don't hurt the man. This means throwing him a life preserver instead of a brick. But you are under no obligation to help the man which is what causes lots of people paroxysms of judgment and guilt. For them, good is done under compulsion not freedom which is why they have no problem forcing other people to do good even if it means harming people. This even goes so far as doing something bad because it is better than doing nothing. This is just stupid and unethical. This explains why socialists cannot abandon their system no matter how much evidence there is showing how harmful it is. Likewise, they will toss the drowning man the brick because no life preserver is available. Something must always be done.

The Silver Rule people temper charity with the dictum to do no harm. This is why they can refuse to give money to winos and drug addicts begging on the street. No money is owed, and it would do them more harm than good. There is a certain benign neglect going on here. For Golden Rule people, the answer is to kidnap the substance abuser and take them to treatment.

The other thing I have noticed is how these various rules apply to the Nolan chart. Here is one I made to illustrate:



People who champion dictatorship are Stone Rule people. Likewise, centrists spend much of their time pulling the victim card without any corresponding need to look out for others. This would be the bulk of the electorate who want to be given stuff but not have to pay for it. We have already discussed leftists with their Golden Rule, and we see right wingers are definitely into the Iron Rule. Politics is simply ethics writ large. This is also why everyone argues with so much moral vituperation. Libertarians have been weak on this because they don't know their own ethics. Many of them hold to the Golden Rule on a personal level, but they hold to the Silver Rule on the political level. This is why they end up losing to some clever leftard who exploits the contradiction.

I believe the Silver Rule is the only correct position to have. I may choose to help someone in a positive sense, but I'm not going to do it out of guilt. I don't owe anyone a damn thing except to do no harm. And I will harm them if they try to harm me. This just makes too much sense.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. ASSANGE/WIKILEAKS

Assange gets out of jail to go to mansion arrest. Freedom for him is having internet access.

This saga has highlighted something very important to me. The American public itself is the cause of tyranny. It does not amaze me that political leaders would hate Assange and want him tortured, tried, incarcerated, castrated, assassinated, etc. What does amaze me is the antipathy of the American public towards this one man and what he has done, and their willingness to treat the First Amendment as merely a suggestion. The fact is that Assange has shown more through his ill treatment than he ever did through his leaks.

It is my belief that our leaders and institutions are not what needs changing but the mindset of the American public. Not all libertarians will agree with me, but I think governments are directly tied to the will of the people and reflect that will. Minority opinions like my own may receive airing and even seem fashionable. But the weight of mass stupidity is what carries the day. Assange tried to educate and enlighten the public, and the public has responded with "no, thanks." They like being in the dark.

2. RON PAUL 2012

Should Ron Paul run for president again? The last run was definitely a good thing because it brought attention to Paul and the things he believes in. I think his run was instrumental in sparking the Tea Party and bringing public attention to the war and the Fed. Running again would definitely be an additional boost. There is only one problem. That is Gary Johnson.

Gary Johnson is also a great libertarian candidate with executive experience. He would make an outstanding president. The problem is that I can't vote for both men. I must pick one. And Gary Johnson is definitely running for president. Ron Paul likes Gary Johnson.

I think Dr. Paul should sit this one out. I know his wife isn't too keen on another run, and Paul is long in the tooth. I think his endorsement of Gary Johnson would be a better way to go. This would be a disappointment to many of Dr. Paul's admirers, but Ron Paul has done more for liberty than any other candidate I can think of. Others are following in his footsteps like his son, Rand.

I am already leaning towards Johnson. It would be great if Paul passed the baton. Johnson has broader appeal and is more electable. Another run for Paul might elevate Paul's stature another notch, but a run for Johnson has the potential of changing the country. I will wait and see what happens.

3. PLATFORMS

I have a blog, a Facebook account, and a Twitter account. I am not alone in this since other writers have the same thing going on. But there is one thing I do differently. I don't cross post. Basically, a blogger will post something to their blog and then post links on their Twitter pages and Facebook pages. This is creative redundancy, and I don't like it. So, I don't cross post. This means, Gentle Reader, that I have more original material in other places. I don't believe in using Facebook and Twitter as marketing tools but as unique platforms and outlets for original material. This means I have to work more on creating content, but this is a good thing.

4. GOLD

I believe gold, precious metals, and other commodities should be a part of any person's investment portfolio. But there needs to be caution here as well. Commodities can be prone to bubbles as well. Housing is essentially a commodity, and we know what happened there. People moved to real estate as a response to the dot-com bubble. It made sense at the time, but what makes sense now often looks incredibly stupid in the future.

My advice remains the same. Diversify your holdings. This is the best and smartest strategy you can take in a world of uncertainty. I value the opinions of people like Peter Schiff and Nassim Taleb who offer their perspectives on hedging risk. Both men offer totally different strategies, and they are both problematic. Taleb finds safety by having 80% of his cash in Treasuries. Now, that strategy is looking stupid as inflation will almost certainly erode his holdings. Likewise, if inflation isn't as high as expected, you can expect gold prices to crater.

It always comes back to the advice that goes back to the Babylonians. Spread your bets. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Negative covariance works as evidenced by the Harry Browne Permanent Portfolio. There are many ways to diversify, so I don't want to say this is the best and only way to go. But I can say that I eschew any investment advice that tells me to concentrate my assets for higher returns. That almost always turns out to be bad advice.

It has been my experience that people with a lot of money acquired it almost completely from taking large risks, and it is their destiny to give it all back. This is the lottery winner who blows it all and ends up broke in three years. This is the doctor who labored mightily for years to end up making stockbrokers rich. This is the billionaire who merges his business with a media empire and then watches as his wealth is cut in half. This is called "reversion to the mean," and lucky fools have no fucking clue what it is. This is why the casino is the ultimate winner while the high stakes player finds himself escorted off the property when his last chip is wagered and lost.

Thoughts on the Suicide of Mark Madoff




Bernie Madoff defrauded investors of millions in a Ponzi scheme and his son Mark committed suicide. It is tragic when the son suffers for the sins of the father. But he did enjoy the success of his father while it was happening.

Mark Madoff liked to spend. He lived a lavish lifestyle, so he was targeted in a civil suit to recover money that his father had bilked out of his investors. Mark declared his innocence, but he shared in the guilt whether he realized it or not.

I see a definite link between dishonesty and high living. The primary reason Mark Madoff was blind to his father's criminal behavior is because he was enjoying the fruits of that criminal behavior. The man had a multimillion dollar estate. He was found hanging in a fashionable NYC apartment. Mark Madoff enjoyed the high life, so it is with karmic irony that he came to such an ignominious end.

I don't know of anyone who was both frugal and dishonest. The whole point of theft and deceit is to attain material ends. Over and over, I see the crooks as people who pursue happiness in expensive toys, property, and what have you. People steal money because they want to buy shit. It is pure and simple. If you want to find the crooks, look for the mansion and the Mercedes.

Despite a modest income and frugal lifestyle, I live a full life. I don't understand why people need such lavish lifestyles to be happy. And I can't imagine hanging from a dog leash in your apartment to be the end of a happy life. Was all that spending really worth it? Is such misery a fair price to pay to live above everyone else?

A simple life is a happy life. Mark Madoff never learned that lesson. I know why he committed suicide. It wasn't public shame or guilt. It was the simple fact that with such a shitty last name and a civil suit he was certain to lose he was destined to be in the poor house. I don't think it was shame that killed him but humility. It was more than he could bear.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N09lXaWGtCE

UPDATE: I have given more thought to the Mark Madoff suicide which only strengthens my POV on the matter. This is an interesting link:

Madoff Family Feeding At The Trough

From this article, we see that Mark Madoff was the biggest spender of the bunch. It is hard to believe he had no knowledge of what was going down. Any decent lawyer would eat his ass alive in a civil suit.

It is fashionable to believe that Mark Madoff was a tragic figure who suffered unfairly for the sins of his father. This isn't true. At any point after his dad's arrest, Mark could have voluntarily forfeited assets and done whatever it took to set matters right. He did not do this. These would have been the actions of a guilt stricken man. The reality is that the gravy train had ended, and Mark Madoff was going to end up living just like you and me. That's why I commented that simple living would have averted this tragedy. If you believe that happiness resides in status and material things, you understand how this person would choose suicide when these things were taken from him. For people on the material trip, simplicity is a fate worse than death.

[SOC]

Something compelled me to put brackets on the SOC posts. I don't know why.

I just got through reading a few links from Instapundit on marriage, the higher ed bubble, etc. These are things I've been considering for awhile. I am fortunate to be college educated without the debt. Gen X was probably the last generation to pull off that trick. Recently, I ran into a tuba player who loads packages for UPS. He has a master's degree in music and $70K in student loan debt. I figure that is just the principal. He says he'd like to play for the symphony. I don't see that happening. I told him to become an electrician. He is fucked.

There are a growing number of educated tradesmen out there. These are people like me with college degrees working blue collar jobs. I call these folks the New Puritans. They are salt-of-the-earth types. They are smart, hard working, honest, thrifty, and humble. This is a group deserving of the full treatment here at the C-blog, but I mention them in passing here. I am really slacking in the writing department.

In the new year, I hope to write more. I'd like to break 1000 posts next year, get a book written, and really crank out the fiction. I want to take the writing more seriously instead of it being just a personal indulgence. I think I will contribute more to other websites that share my interests.

Of course, my girlfriend points out to me that I plan more than I actually do. This is very true. Next year will probably be as slack as this year.

Quotable Quotes

A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.
STEVE PREFONTAINE

I believe in keeping running simple and, in regard to shoes, that would mean no gimmicks, unnecessary cushioning, etc.
BILL RODGERS

You don't run 26 miles at five minutes a mile on good looks and a secret recipe.
FRANK SHORTER

When I first started running, I was so embarrassed I'd walk when cars passed me. I'd pretend I was looking at the flowers.
JOAN BENOIT SAMUELSON

I have been doing 120 miles a week, when normally I would do about 140.
PAULA RADCLIFFE

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. TAXES

There is a lot of horsetrading going on up there on Capitol Hill concerning how much cash the government should filch from the citizenry. The part I find so maddening is how the politicians and their pundit enablers talk as if the government just has an inherent right to our tax dollars. The tax rates are discussed not as a matter of justice or fairness but merely in terms of the effects that it will have on the bottom line of Uncle Sam. Will it provide economic stimulus? Can we afford it?

Imagine this scenario. A gang of thieves breaks into the house of family and holds the family hostage. Then, they argue and dither over what to take and what to leave behind as the family watches helpless. They tolerate this farce because they just want to live. This is what we have happening on a national scale.

2. ASSANGE/WIKILEAKS

I predict Assange will make it to a US courtroom. I predict the ACLU will come to his defense. I predict Assange will win. Of course, the AG probably thinks the same way, so Assange will probably end up in some foreign gulag. So much for democracy.

I am not in favor of the efforts of hacker group Anonymous to bring down websites such as MasterCard because they exercised their right to not to do business with Wikileaks. That activity is simply criminal.

3. ELIZABETH EDWARDS

I did not agree with Elizabeth Edwards on politics, but she had my sympathy as a human being. She had cancer, yet that did not seem as tragic as being married to a narcissistic adulterer. John Edwards did not deserve such a fine woman as his wife, and I hope her tragedy stains his legacy forever. He should do like Madoff's son and go hang himself.

4. TELEVISED SPORTS YET AGAIN

I am back to once again giving up this addiction. Why? Because of the NFL lockout coming next year and Jimmie Johnson winning a fifth championship. Plus, NASCAR wants to put even more contrivance in the Chase. It reminds me that I really need to get a life.

The Golden Rule on Steroids




I treat people the way they are going to treat me.

This the Golden Rule on Steroids. People may not understand it, so I will explain it.

I believe in being a nice guy. I think you should treat others the way you wish to be treated. This is the Golden Rule. It is the basis of all ethics. The problem with this approach is that no one else cares to play by this rule.

Other people attempt to solve this problem by following the Dickhead Rule. Basically, you do unto others before they do unto you. The result of this is that you lose a lot of friends, and everyone wants to fuck you over twice as hard. I don't see this as a winning strategy.

My approach is the middle path. I believe in the Golden Rule. I believe in it so much that I insist that everyone else live by it, too. It isn't enough to do the right thing in regards to others. Others need to do the right thing in regards to you or else suffer the consequences. This is the way it has to be.

I have had a lot of bad people in my life. They wouldn't be bad people except somewhere along the way I taught them that it was OK to take a massive shit on me. I don't recall ever doing the same things to them. In fact, I recall being quite generous and helpful to just about anyone who has known me. But shitheads confuse benevolence with weakness. This is why they take the opportunity to fuck you over. There are no consequences for doing this. Nice guys finish last. I call this asymmetrical morality. It is what happens when a narcissist and a codependent type meet.

I believe you should play nice, but I also believe you should turn mean as hell the moment someone steps all over you. This is very important. People are stupid. They don't understand reason. They do understand having their teeth hitting the concrete in a pool of blood. They understand getting cussed the fuck out. They understand getting a colossal ass beating. Or it may be as mild as ending the pleasantness. I find these methods to have an overwhelmingly instructional effect.

For a long time, I have gone back and forth on the nice/nasty debate, but I have resolved that one for all time. Nice people deserve respect, consideration, praise, and aid. Dickheads deserve the opposite. Treat good people well. Treat bad people like shit. At some point, the bad people get the message and clean up their act.

You must always insist that people follow the Golden Rule. If they don't follow this rule, your obligation to them is over with. If they fuck with you, fuck them back. Don't ever let someone else shit on you.

I have always followed the Golden Rule on Steroids even before I was able to articulate it. This is because it is the only rational way to be. The only difference now is that I have lowered my tolerance for dickheads to absolute zero where in the past I would put up with a ton of shit before deciding I had reached my limit. Now, the moment someone fucks up I act.

This leads to the issue of forgiveness. I don't do forgiveness. This is why people have always shit on me in the past. I forgave them. Fuck that. You are better off tossing these people in the garbage and forgetting about them. Forgiveness is simply your way of telling someone that they get another chance to shit on you. As for losing friends, there is no shortage of friends, and a dickhead is never your friend.

Now, critics will say this is being harsh. Don't people make mistakes? Absolutely. I didn't flip all over the woman who backed into my car. I didn't need to because the lady's husband was already making arrangements to fix my car. He was a decent guy, and there are no transgressions between the decent. But when someone intentionally fucks you over, this is not a decent person. This is a dickhead. Dickheads don't change. Dickheads are forever.

Dickheads are inconsiderate. They are vain, narcissistic, or what have you. They apologize only to put some shit behind them. They really don't give a fuck. People are merely a means to an end. You expect me to forgive these people?

Other people are dickheads temporarily because they lost their way. These are nice people who have gotten tired of getting fucked over, so they start being mean all the time as a defensive reaction. I have encountered these people, had an issue with them, and set them back on the right and true path. The funny thing is that these people seemed grateful for the lesson.

The reason this has become confused is because the Golden Rule--a concept existing in all religions including Satanism--has been bastardized and diminished by the Christian religion which elevated weakness to a virtue with the idea of turning the other cheek. The whole point of that strategy is to make people feel guilty, and it is this guilt mongering that persists to this day in new forms such as political correctness and what have you. I don't do guilt or victimhood. I don't go around feeling sorry for myself or hoping others will pity me or feel some sense of guilt or shame. This is why I can move on from shit that has happened to me in the past. I don't dwell on these things or even think about them. There are no past hurts with me. There are no grudges or any of that.

The actions of people are not so important so much as what they signify. Decent people habitually do the right things because this is who they are. No moral calculus enters the equation for them. It flows from their character. Similarly, dickheads often do good things but only as a purely tit-for-tat affair. To them, morality is a game of musical chairs to be played until the music stops. Then, they fuck you over.

Once I realize someone is a dickhead, I don't ever have to be nice to them again. I don't have to respect them. I don't have to like them. I don't have to care about them. I don't have to do one goddamn thing for them ever again. This is because they are pieces of shit. It is their fault not mine. Often, I have to continue dealing with these people because of other commitments. But my disgust with them never ends. They feel it constantly. They wither and die in my presence. In desperation, they change. They feel remorse and regret, but I don't care. It isn't my problem. It is their problem. And the strange thing is that they start being better people. It is their first taste of what is known as shame. This is quite distinct from guilt. Guilt comes from crimes against others. Shame comes from crimes against yourself. I am just the mirror.

I don't know what shame feels like. This is because I'm not a dickhead. I treat people the way I want them to treat me, and they are going to treat me the same way. I don't allow any other options.

People Don't Change



I saw Carnie Wilson on TV the other day. You will remember her as the fat chick in Wilson Phillips. She lost the weight with gastric bypass, dieting, etc. She ended up looking so good she appeared in Playboy. She's fat again.

I had an ex-girlfriend who was a self-described alcoholic in recovery. She said that drunks were more miserable sober than drunk. I believed her because she was a real bitch. Alcohol is just self-treatment for assholes and cunts.

People don't change. This isn't exactly true since someone will point to some clean and sober person or an ex-smoker or a former fatty like Jillian Michaels who keep the weight off. But these examples only make the argument more compelling because it shows that people can change. They just don't want to change.

I think it is easy to change opinions since I've gone from Christian to atheist and from conservative to libertarian in my life. I think it is harder to change habits, but it can be done. I don't think you can change your personality short of a lobotomy. This goes back to what my ex-girlfriend was talking about. You can cure the addiction, but you can't cure the reason for the addiction.

People don't change. For Carnie Wilson, the problem is with her personality. Her sister isn't fat. Her parents aren't fat. But her dad was an addict, and by her own admission, Carnie turned to drink when she couldn't eat anymore. She is desperately trying to fill a hole in her being.

I'm not judging Carnie. I'm fat. I also know the reason why I am fat. When I eat crap, it makes me feel at peace with the world. I also know why Jillian Michaels isn't fat. She substituted being an exorexic with being a fat ass. But fundamentally she is still that fat chick. Whether it is alcohol, ice cream, or hitting the stairclimber, they all serve to treat those inner demons.

I don't have the cure for those demons. You will find that many successful people are tormented by those demons, and it is that torment that drove them to do the things that they did. They chose workaholism over alcoholism. They chose marathoning over McDonald's. They simply turned to positive addictions in their life.

What are these demons? I don't know. It might have something to do with self-hatred. It might be guilt. Or it could be grief. These are person relative. But I don't know of anyone who ever conquered these demons. And you certainly aren't going to defeat them in other people. Believe me, I have tried.

I ponder my own demons. The truth is that I don't have any. My demons are everyone else's demons. I always want to help people, but I have learned to not give a damn. Ultimately, their problems are not my problems. I feel terrible guilt over some need to help other people, but you can't help people. You have to let them be. Live and let live.

The most important lesson I ever learned in my life was to be selfish. You have to look out for number one. I have to remind myself of that over and over again. I forget it because it is not my natural way. People have used me and abused me, and I let it happen. I am ashamed to admit that, but there it is. I wasted a large portion of my life for the sake of other people, and I ended up worse off as a result. I retain some bitterness over that. Basically, if you try to help people, they hate you for it. If you don't try and help people, they call you selfish. And if you keep your mouth shut, they use you and toss you like garbage.

I care less and less for people. These days are marked by a profound indifference on my part. I truly don't give a fuck anymore. People can call me cold, selfish, and indifferent, but I merely laugh at this. I just don't care. The reason for this is because I know these people don't care. They are pathetic pieces of shit preying on the guilt and goodwill of others. They destroy themselves because they know the truth about themselves. They are worthless and should not even exist. And when you help people, you adopt their mindset. This is what they call codependency. In my case, it comes from having a fucked up family.

I have to choose to believe that people don't change. This is because if I believe otherwise I will try and save them in some way. You can't save other people. I have lived long enough to learn that the best way to help others is to let them find their own way. People are responsible for their own lives just as I am responsible for mine. And when they don't treat me the way I expect them to, they get gone. Pure and simple. The result is that I am happier. As for them, I don't care. It is a choice between my benign indifference and my total indifference.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. WIKILEAKS

There has been a lot of action with Assange and Co. this week. The bottom line is that our government wants to invade our privacy while not letting us see what sorts of shenanigans it is up to. I find it interesting that Assange is now a "criminal" merely because Obama and his fucked up bunch have been embarrassed. Meanwhile, statists on both the Left and the Right lick the shit encrusted asshole of the government by claiming that Wikileaks is bad, unpatriotic, and wants to fuck your grandmother. It is a sickening spectacle to behold. And as if this is not enough, Obama who made a pledge to transparency now considers the First Amendment to now be merely a suggestion.

Wikileaks is a force for good and freedom. People don't see that at the moment because they are incredibly stupid as fuck. The average American citizen is an imbecile which is why we have an imbecile like Obama in charge. Only an imbecile thinks it is a good thing to be in the dark when it concerns government. Such a nation of idiots does not deserve freedom which is why we see our liberties eroding by the day. But for us with some shred of intelligence left, we cheer what Assange is doing.

2. TSA

Under the guise of national security, the TSA has made steps to take the groping and molestation out of the airport to bus stations, train stations, etc. It is the wish of the Department of Homeland Security to enact a total police state with a national ID card, checkpoints, and the like. You will no longer have the freedom to move around the country or to live as you please. People will think I am being kooky for having this outlook, but you already see the precursors with what is happening now. I can't believe we are at this stage of tyranny. What is wrong with this country that we tolerate this kind of shit? The day will come when you will be told to show your papers, and you will either obey or face incarceration or worse.

3. PALIN

I am sick of this stupid silly bitch. She is a dipstick with lipstick. Her fifteen minutes of fame are now past the 25 minute mark. She needs to clear off.

I used to be fascinated by the attention she got, but I now see Sarah Palin as just a useful idiot who has outlived her usefulness. When it comes to concrete issues, clear thinking, and substantive positions, she is a shithead. She would make a horrible president. She is a already a horrible pundit.

The thing I find so irritating about Palin is the same shit that bugs me about Huckabee or Glenn Beck. They start sounding like they are smart until they go batshit bonkers on some conspiracy horseshit or start beating the war drum. With the midterms behind us, it is time to take down these fasctards.

40

Today is my birthday. I am 40 years old.

40 is a milestone. 40 is the time to look back and reassess. When I turned 30, I made a vow to make the next decade the best ever. From 30-35, I was miserable, but the last five years have been the best ever even with a stolen car, broken relationships, and getting fired from a job. I am doing what I want, and I expect that to continue into the future.

I didn't know how to be happy until I was 35. I had been searching my whole life, but I found it in that year. If the purpose of life is happiness, then my life is a successful life because I am very happy. My life is not perfect, but happiness does not depend upon perfection.

When you hit 40, the midlife crisis sets in. What have I done with my life so far? For me, the answer is that I have accomplished very little. I'm not rich or famous, and I'm not interested in either of those things. My goals remain the same which are making reforms to my habits and lifestyle. I haven't changed the world, but few people ever do.

Looking forward, I just want my life to be like it is now except with improvements on the habits and lifestyle. I really enjoy my life. I never reflect on that, but when I do, I realize that I am happy.

The biggest threat to my happiness is other people. Looking back, my miserable times have been the result of my relationships. People don't know how to be happy, so they work to bring you down. I'm not like that. I'm very self-sufficient, and I expect others in my life to be the same way. When they don't do this, they get edited out of my life.

But enough of the rear view mirror. What is ahead for me? Well, one day I will croak. This could happen anytime, so in the meantime, I will get older. As I get older, I reflect that there are certain things old people have that young people can't have. One of those things is wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are the products of time. You need some years under your belt. The other thing is financial stability. You need at least 20 years of work and savings to feel the magic of compounding. Older folks tend to have it together financially. Finally, there is self-acceptance. As I get older, I find myself feeling more comfortable in my own skin. I like being me.

I think the second half of my life will be better than the first. The fact is that when I was young I didn't know how to live. I didn't know what to believe or how to be happy or know truth and reality the way I do know. As they say, youth is wasted on the young. I feel good about being 40. I add old jokes to my self-deprecating bald and fat jokes now.

I don't want to be 20 again. Stupidity is the curse of youth. I don't want to be stupid again. And since I'm happy, I don't waste time giving advice to young people except to learn a trade instead of racking up student loan debt. They don't listen. They never do. When they hit 40, they will be smart like me and know better. Or maybe not.