Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Shocking New Year's Resolution: Prefer being alone with your own thoughts, to an electric shock

As the year 2019 comes to a close, and a new decade begins, ask yourself this: Can you spend fifteen minutes in a room alone with yourself, with no digital devices, TV, music, books or anything else but your own thoughts? According to a study, 67 percent of men, and 25 percent of women, would rather give themselves painful electric shocks, than spend an uninterrupted 15 minutes of being alone with their own thoughts, without any distraction at all. Apparently there's a connection between that, and why “depending on where you get your numbers, somewhere between 81 percent and 92 percent of New Year's Resolutions fail.

Can you face fifteen minutes alone with your own thought?

While I have zero interest in making New Year's Resolutions, that seems like a worthy one to strive for!

This is an interesting article on how most people fail to face themselves without distraction:
"...What is striking, is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.

Wilson and his colleagues summarized their findings this way: “The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself....”
Their 'studies say' that your resolutions to avoid snacking, drinking, surfing online fail, because you need those distractions from yourself, and that,
"...We reach for a donut the same way some study participants reached for the electric shock.

Is it a surprise that we turn to celebrity gossip or Facebook again and again? Anything seems better than an uncomfortable feeling. Coping works for a few minutes, but then we reach for a distraction...."
If you too would rather indulge in any distractions, even to the point of experiencing pain, over the prospect of being alone with your own thoughts, might I suggest that rather than making New Year's Resolutions to break bad habits... which you are 80% to 90% likely to fail at, that you instead begin the novel notion of getting comfortable with your own thoughts, by, wait for it: Thinking upon things worth thinking about?

I've suggested some of this for beginning a New Year before, and for giving thanks within the year as well, but now that 'studies show' that my suggestions might have a 'scientific basis' for them 😎, I'll suggest again that instead of making New Year's Resolutions, I propose some old questions to be newly asked. And while you won't have to return any membership fees if you fail to answer them, if you get in the habit of just asking them, you might also get to the the point of preferring your own company, to that of a painful electric shock!

Start off with some basics:
"...Western Civilization didn't catch on because of its answers... those are still being argued about more than 3,000 years on... but because of its questions, and its method of comparing your answers to reality, and pursuing the questions which those answers lead to. Questions such as:
  • What is real and how do we know it?
  • What is Good? Why should we care?
  • How can we recognize what is not Good?
  • What is a Good life?
  • What is Happiness?
  • Should what is Right and Wrong, guide our actions?
  • What is Beauty?...What is Truth?...What is Justice?
  • What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul?
Ask the right questions, and your listeners [even if that listener is you] will question their own answers, and reality will do the rest...."
Most of all, question what you assume to be true.

There is of course also another very practical, and very important reason, to get comfortable with asking yourself these questions, and for questioning what answers you might first come to, and that is that they are consequential to your life, and to the future of this nation in the year 2020, and for the coming decade of the 20's. The immediate impact of considering such questions is in fact very likely to be far more compelling to our new present, than when I first suggested asking yourself them five years ago:
"...As the old year slips out and the New Year opens up, it's a particularly good time to ask questions that have to do with what is timeless... lest auld acquaintance with them should be forgot. And while it might not seem so, on the surface, these questions we've been asking most definitely involve issues that are timeless - see if you can see how. For instance: Where do you think you fit in, in today's world, are you Pro-Progress, or Pro-Regress? Are you for the Rule of Law, or the Rule of Rules? Are the 'Big Ideas' of Western Civilization something you think much about, or do you mostly shrug them off and just kinda make a snap judgment on various news stories that happen to flit into your view, now and then... and then forget about 'em? Or are you one of the many of us who don't see the point of considering such questions at all, especially not in the midst of the current events raging around us today - ''I'm not getting sucked into THAT mess!'? I hate to cast a pall upon the coming New Year, but I have a sad suspicion that what most people think doesn't matter, isn't going to matter much longer.

Can anyone really think that the precious snowflakes on our college campuses, or the SJW (Social Justice Warriors) brigades in our streets who are openly advocating to eliminate the Freedom of Speech, or 'unbiased' newscasters talking openly of how those they violently disagree with are 'enemies of the state', can anyone really think that these types are going to be tolerant towards those who say 'Oh, I don't pay attention to that stuff' for much longer? How much longer? And when that vocal 'majority' refuses to allow others the choice to either disagree or evade deciding, what do you suppose is going to be the reaction of those who do disagree with them, and what options will they have to do so?

Will the one side have any option left open to them, but to take the other side at their own words, as being their enemies?

No, the time is coming where all will have to decide, one way or the other, where they stand on these issues, because they are what is driving our current events, and your place within them, and brushing them off cannot remain an option much longer. Each person is going to have to choose what they support, and what they will reject. But for those who haven't been paying attention, those - Left, Right, Libertarian and the target rich Moderate center - who've been coasting along on the strength of their snap judgments on this and that - what are they going to base those decisions upon?..."
Again, don't worry so much about whether the answers that come to your mind are correct, just focus on questioning them. Even questioning just one or two of those questions, is likely to carry you through at least fifteen minutes of time. And at the very least, the results are likely to be less shocking than being left alone with nothing to distract you from them.

And remember, as the 'studies show' showed,
"Try to notice: Right before you reach for the habit you want to break, do you experience an uncomfortable feeling that you are trying to distract yourself from?

You won’t break a habit if you are not comfortable with being uncomfortable...."
Break the habit. Prefer the company of your thoughts for fifteen undistracted minutes, to getting an electric shock, for after all, the new year, not to mention the new decade, is going to be very much longer than 15 minutes!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Happy 228th Birthday to our Bill of Rights!

228 years ago today, December 15th, 1791, our states were united in ratifying the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America! Strange, that these same individual rights which we once understood to be so essential to living in liberty as Americans, are what we seem to be the most divided over, and by, today.

With that last in mind, maybe we should all pay especially close attention to the preamble that I've put in bold for you... just in case your eyes are getting as bad as mine (IOW They didn't trust govt led by the Founding Fathers themselves... are you really going to trust it with the bunch we've got today? Pay Attention!).

And although it wasn't planned, I'm very pleased that the first two amendments that were originally proposed, weren't ratified at the time (though one of them was ratified in the 1990's... do you know which one?), because those individual rights, including Freedom of Speech, should be the first set of individual rights protected, followed immediately by the right to keep and base arms in their defense, as the 1st & 2nd Amendments! Providence strikes again.

Proposed Amendments and Ratification
1789 Elliot 1:338--40

Congress of the United States;
Begun and held at the City of New York, on Wednesday, the 4th of March, 1789.

The conventions of a number of the states having, at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added; and as extending the ground of public confidence in the government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution;--

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both houses concurring, that the following articles be proposed to the legislatures of the several states, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said legislatures, to be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution, namely,--

Articles in Addition to, and Amendment of, the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the Fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Art. I. [Not Ratified] After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than one hundred representatives, nor less than one representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred representatives, nor more than one representative for every fifty thousand.

Art. II. [Not ratified... for two centuries] No law varying the compensation for services of the senators and representatives shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

Art. III. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Art. IV. A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Art. V. No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner prescribed by law.

Art. VI. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon principal cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Art. VII. No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia when in actual service, in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject, for the same offence, to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled, in any criminal case, to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Art. VIII. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right of a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.

Art. IX. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reëxamined, in any court of the United States, than according to the rules in common law.

Art. X. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Art. XI. The enumeration, in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Art. XII. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.
JOHN ADAMS, Vice-President of the United States,

and President of the Senate. 
Attest. John Beckley
Clerk of the House of Representatives.
Samuel A. Otis, Secretary of the Senate.
Which, being transmitted to the several state legislatures, were decided upon by them, according to the following returns:--

By the State of New Hampshire.--Agreed to the whole of the said amendments, except the 2d article.
By the State of New York.--Agreed to the whole of the said amendments, except the 2d article.
By the State of Pennsylvania.--Agreed to the 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th articles of the said amendments.
By the State of Delaware.--Agreed to the whole of the said amendments, except the 1st article.
By the State of Maryland.--Agreed to the whole of the said twelve amendments.
By the State of South Carolina.--Agreed to the whole said twelve amendments.
By the State of North Carolina.--Agreed to the whole of the said twelve amendments.
By the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.--Agreed to the whole of the said twelve articles.
By the State of New Jersey.--Agreed to the whole of the said amendments, except the second article.
By the State of Virginia.--Agreed to the whole of the said twelve articles.
No returns were made by the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia, and Kentucky.

The amendments thus proposed became a part of the Constitution, the first and second of them excepted, which were not ratified by a sufficient number of the state legislatures.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 5, Bill of Rights, Document 12
The University of Chicago Press
Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Two Liberties and the Futility of Utility

To hear the proponents of 'Free Trade!' tell it, America's national policy should be guided by economic interests, and government should never interfere with international trade. Odd then, that the power to "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations" is one of the enumerated powers in the constitution, while 'Free Trade!' isn't even mentioned - and not just because the 19th century term 'Economics' wasn't yet a thing (though Adam Smith assuredly was). The then well known issues which Economics now claims to speak for, and which 'Free Trade!''rs claim the sole right to speak for, weren't even hinted at in the Preamble of our Constitution, because other concerns were understood to take precedence in its 'mission statement':
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
To be sure, a robust and prosperous economy was expected to follow from securing the 'Blessings of Liberty', and it did follow, once a Rule of Law had been established to govern upon the framework of our constitution, but that followed as an effect of our form of government and not as either a cause of it, or as a purpose for it.
"... liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty,
as well as by the abuses of power..."
James Madison, Federalist, no. 63

Am I trying to make a case for Govt intervention into business? Absolutely not. The case that I am trying to make, is that a sound Rule of Law is a necessary precondition for liberty and that is the government's primary concern, and from which secondary issues such as a Free Market can and will then follow upon and within that system, because those primary issues were attended to first. Once a government has established the framework for liberty, which includes providing adjudication of contracts and legal consequences for negligence, fraud, injury to persons & property, then that Govt has no further business involving itself in the operations of businesses within that or compatible external frameworks - but neither do businesses, or those 'economic experts' who claim to speak for them, have any business dictating how such secondary concerns should govern how government ought to handle its primary concerns.

The tendency to promote economic matters as a primary driver of national policy (whether that be pro 'Free Trade!' or pro 'Regulatory State' matters little, both are flip sides of the same counterfeit coin), is to adopt, at best, a Utilitarian view of the purpose of a nation's govt (and of its people), a view which is very much contrary to the understanding that our nation was derived from and founded upon. You'll often see this sentiment cheerfully expressed by Libertarians and Conservatives alike, through misleading lines such as this:
"There cannot be political freedom without economic freedom. This argument is not controversial, even on the left"
Each time I hear such statements, I want to grab someone by the lapels and ask: Why in the world would such a statement be controversial on the Left? If taken seriously, or simply accepted on the face of it, it induces you to put the effect (Economics) before its cause (Political Philosophy), in reverse of the requirements of liberty - hello, guess what Karl Marx himself proposed? In making or going along with such statements as that, you've agreed to play their game by their rules, at which point which 'team' you play for in their league is really of very little consequence or controversy for the Pro-Regressives of the Left (or Right). There are no 'economic rights' that aren't but features of the Individual Rights which give rise to them. To produce or purchase or contract to do either, are but a sliver of the actions which derive from the individual right to speak, associate and act, as well as the right to property which serves to anchor them into the laws of that society. To disregard that and fixate upon such abbreviated 'economic rights', severs them from their roots and props up a fragile and superficial facade in their place, which are then easily buffeted about by the winds of policies and popularity, while the roots that gave rise to them wither and become forgotten. Why in the world would that be controversial on the 'Left' - is that not their constant aim and pursuit?!

Secondary economic issues should not be advanced as if they were the highest priority, and especially not in our relations with foreign governments such as Communist China, which engage in widespread fraud & theft in their dealings with us, not to mention subjecting their own people to the rampant and oppressive denial and abuse of individual rights, enslavement and murder. Such issues are and should be the primary concerns of our government and its policies should be driven by them, while secondary concerns such as trade should come in at a distant second place. To prattle on about unrestricted and even unilateral 'Free Trade!' with such nations as Communist China, to demand the 'liberty' to aid & abet and enrich such nations as that in order to 'make a buck', displays such an appallingly disordered set of priorities that it is necessary to ask: What is it that they mean by 'Liberty'?

Taking liberties with Liberty
When people proclaim that they are 'for Liberty!', it is important to ask them what it is that they mean by that word. Case in point, you've probably heard of the book that is much admired by Libertarians and many Conservatives alike, "On Liberty", written in 1859 by John Stuart Mill - have you read it? If not, you should, if only to discover that there are a great many reasons to not be a fan of either the

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Remember, remember, the 7th of December

Remember, remember, the 7th of December, 1941... another morning when a world of change came out of a clear blue sky.

Remember that when you hyperbolically use words to inflate minor incidents into raging crises - that a crisis that is appropriate to those words, can still come about and leave you speechless.

Remember that things can become worse, in an instant.

Remember that the smoke that rose over our ships December 7th, 1941, led to the smoke over Hiroshima and Nagasaki four bloody years later.

Remember, remember, the 7th of December, for if history becomes only about the past, it will lose all meaning, and your children will have to learn its lessons anew.

Remember that on December 7th, 1941, in the midst of negotiations to preserve peace, those we negotiated with, attacked us.

Remember that sometimes negotiations for peace are simply preparations for war.

Remember that those who serve are always at risk of having the ultimate price demanded of them - and they have agreed up front to pay it for you.

Remember that at Pearl Harbor 78 years ago, Americans were reminded that the freedom to be on the left or right, is not free.

Remember to honor them, and to honor that which you share with them, the liberty and freedom of being an American.

These are lessons to learn, and to remember.

Remember... it matters.

Look around you, in time and place, and remember....