Unionism, Socialism, Capitalism, and Communism

A few years ago, Ben Shapiro (like him or hate him) was speaking at a university, and a young Socialist stepped up to the microphone during a Q&A session to promote the related ideas of Unionization, Market Socialism (as opposed to political), and worker-owned businesses. The Socialist kept pressing the point that Capitalism is unfair to workers because workers provide all the labor for lower wages than business owners receive, which is classical Marxism at its best (or worst, as the case may be). The Socialist kept espousing what he thinks is "fair" with regard to wage gaps between the common worker and the CEO. Though to be clear, the young Socialist doesn't use the word "fair." Instead, he obscures that notion through a never-ending barrage of Socialist jargon. Nevertheless, that is his implication: Capitalism is "unfair" because workers do not earn as much as business owners.

However, Shapiro's answer provides one of the best explanations for why there is a logical reason for wage disparity, and I highly suggest that you watch it. There are two versions of this video: a shorter version (≈3:30) with just the highlights at https://youtu.be/3xq-q6a9tCM, and the full version (≈12:50) with the entire conversation at https://youtu.be/NUauABEnTZI. Unions are not a bad thing conceptually; the problem is that they often devolve into a bad thing in reality.

I have seen several situations where unions keep round-tripping back to the negotiating table again and again asking for benefits that are unnecessary (and I can cite examples), and the unions in these situations eventually force their parent businesses to become unprofitable (which is what has led to more robots on factory floors, self-checkout lines in supermarkets, jobs headed overseas, and self-service kiosks at fast-food restaurants). When unions demand higher wages for skills that are easy-to-train and therefore more or less expendable, businesses will do away with expendable laborers. (Either by outsourcing or automation, as I have just mentioned.) In a like manner, when unions demand benefits with significant costs from businesses like paid college tuition for workers' family members, six months of paid maternity leave, etc., these unions may force companies into bankruptcy. Don't get me wrong, paid college tuition and paid maternity leave are wonderful benefits to have, but when labor demands these types of things and profits cannot keep up with the increased expenditures, businesses are doomed to fail and everyone is out of work.

There was a greater need for unions a century ago, when modern labor laws had yet to be written and factories routinely abused their laborers. Times have changed, and everyone in the United States is in the top 1% of the world with regard to health, housing, employment, wages, etc. The quality of life in North America exceeds that of nearly the entire planet, and yet people still find room to complain - because people delude themselves into thinking that life is somehow "unfair" to them, which is typically because someone else has something that they want; either a higher salary, or a better job, a better house, a better car, a better spouse, etc. People want what they don't have, and that's what led to the "99%" riots a few years ago, and also to thousands of misguided Socialists and/or Unionists who decry their elevated global conditions as some form of suffering. Don't get me wrong, nothing is perfect and laborers still need representation to prevent potential abuse, but the irresponsible claims emanating from the mouths of most Unionists sound ludicrous when you take into account just how blessed some of the people doing the complaining really are.

As for Socialism, which typically goes hand in hand with Unionism and eventually devolves into Communism, let me take a moment to briefly editorialize. I have witnessed first-hand the many evils of Communism, which is why I cannot support anyone who is espousing either a Communist or Socialist system of government. While a logical argument can be made for socializing specific programs - such as healthcare - both Communism and Socialism are doomed to failure from their inception, because they seek to forcibly create "equality of outcome" instead of "equality of opportunity."

Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to qualify for the job they desire, and an equal opportunity to seek advancement within their respective places of employment. However, people deserve to be rewarded for their efforts, and if one person chooses to outperform their peers, they should be compensated for their efforts. Likewise, if someone chooses to accept greater responsibility within their company, or to step out as an entrepreneur and found their own company, they should also be compensated for their efforts. In a Capitalist society, they will be. However, in a Communist or Socialist society, everyone is forced into categories - often from which they cannot escape - and the outcome is dictated by the state. If Person A outperforms Person B, that doesn't matter; compensation must be the same for both people, for that is "equality" under Communism and Socialism. Of course, this system is untenable for those who are forced to suffer under it, which is why millions of people have fled Communist or Socialist societies over the past century, and millions more have been put to death or imprisoned when trying to protest their oppressive regimes. This is why most countries that adopt Communism or Socialism are forced to do so at gunpoint.

Most people who deride Capitalism do so because they have a misguided view of "fairness," which is generally an untrustworthy worldview. What is "fair" for Person A seldom seems "fair" to Person B if Person A has more than Person B, and therein lies the problem. In an equality of opportunity scenario, both Person A and Person B have the same chance to make more or less based on their personal participation, which is the ideal way of conducting society. However, in an equality of outcome scenario, if Person A has acquired more than Person B, that is forbidden by the state, and the government must intervene and force both persons to be "equal," which is not an ideal way to conduct a society.

This is what we have seen time and again with Communist or Socialist societies; they actively seek equality of outcome, and millions are forced to suffer as a result. The former Soviet Union, North Korea, China, the Warsaw Pact, and Cuba are just a few examples from the 20th century of what happens in an equality of outcome society. Even though barely a generation has gone by since the demise of the Soviet Union, there are thousands of gullible individuals who would gratefully embrace Communism and Socialism because they think that some part of their lives isn't "fair." These people are - as the Communists called them - "Useful Idiots." Such people hasten their own demise by failing to understand what they are promoting; as the old adage says, "Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it."

I will now step down off my soapbox and back quietly away.

The Cover Song No One Asked For (Or Needed)

I recently came across the following video, which is an "all star" cover of Boston's classic song "Foreplay/Long Time," which I thought I'd review.

I have to be honest - I disliked this video from the opening notes. As a guitar player, I am always highly critical of keyboard players who have spent far too much time trying to create a keyboard patch that approximates a guitar sound... I always think, "There's already guitarist here - why not leave the guitar parts to him and stick to your own instrument?" (e.g. Play in your own sandbox & keep outta mine...) I feel the same way when keyboardists try to steal the basslines from the bassist; further proof that keyboardists have an overinflated sense of importance that almost parallels lead vocalists (who typically think they're gods). In other words, the keyboardist lost me barely one or two seconds into the video, so this odd excursion wasn't a good start for me.

Once past the faux guitar intro, the keyboardist (Lachy Doley) did a good enough job with the organ part, but then - as others have pointed out - the wrong vocalist (Dino Jelusick) began to belt out the verse in his best Heavy Metal stylings. (Ugh.) My dislike for Jelusick's vocals in this cover version weren't simply because Brad Delp's original vocals are inimitable, but because Jelusick's vocals were totally wrong for this song.

As far as the guitarists were concerned, the slide part (from Justin Johnson) was... well... INTERESTING, but I wouldn't call it "good." It sounded like someone down on the bayou was drunk and playing along with the radio. On the other hand, the guitar solo in the bridge (from Joel Hoekstra) was a hastily-slapped-together montage that consisted of an odd set of completely nonsensical choices, which paled by comparison to Tom Scholtz's brilliantly melodic original; my ears are still bleeding from the resulting maelstrom of cacophony. Much like Jelusick's vocals, Hoekstra's guitar parts were completely out of place for this song.

The only decent parts of the song were the rhythm section of Henrik Linder on bass and Mike Portnoy on Drums. Even with little embellishments here and there, Linder and Portnoy laid down a solid groove that respected the original while putting a bit of themselves into their performances.

Despite those few positive elements, in my final opinion - this entire offering gets a big, fat "no" from me.

Painters and Pretenders

I belong to an online support group for people (like me) who suffer from Essential Tremors, and one of the group members posted a link to some modern art from Cy Twombly together with a humorous remark that several of us in the group could probably create similar works of art because our hands shake so much.

TWOMBLY-jumbo

Personally, I thought his observation was hilarious, and several members of the group who understood that this was meant as humor continued to post similar comments. However, before I continue - and in the interests of full transparency - I have written a few blogs over the years in which I describe my personal feeling that a great deal of "modern art" is produced by frauds who are nothing more than conmen posing as "artists" while accusing their critics of being "uncultured." (At the risk of self-aggrandizement, see The Eye of the Beholder, A Fool and His Money, and Modern Art versus the I Could Do That Mentality for a bit more of what I mean.) In one of my blogs I mention my measuring scale for what constitutes "art" in my estimation: "If I Can Do It, It's Not Art." Based on the comments of my fellow group members, it would appear that several of them agreed with my opinion.

However, not everyone can appreciate a good joke at face value. It didn't take long before some humorless simpleton was offended over what was clearly meant as a farce, and he posted the following commentary:

"Here come the misinformed comments about contemporary art! Cy Twombly is a highly regarded contemporary artist. Artists are used to comments from people who haven't put in [the] time to understand contemporary art before breaking into hysterics and assumptions, but as a group, people with tremors are a highly misunderstood bunch and should know better than to laugh at ignorance of an issue or topic."

Setting aside this pompous windbag's inarguable lack of whimsy, I pointed out that not every statement of dislike is borne out of misinformation or ignorance. On the contrary, my personal dislike for the majority of contemporary art is based on a lifetime of exposure. I have visited hundreds of art museums around the planet, attended lectures with the artists themselves, toured museums with their curators, discussed modern art with private guides, and I have taken dozens of art history courses over the past several decades. Currently the walls of my house are adorned with lithographs and originals from a diverse set of artists; from Picasso to Monet to a host of other artists whom many people have likely never heard of, which includes art from family members who were contemporary artists in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1960s/early 1970s. In other words, my opinions on the talents (or lack thereof) that are typically displayed by many contemporary artists are based on more than a half-century of art study.

In every sphere of art - whether oils & canvas, pencil & paper, photography, music, etc., there will be artists who are serious about their craft. However, there will also be charlatans who pass off their lack of talent as creative genius that only the uncultured will fail to appreciate. When this happens, I am continuously amazed at the number of people who defend these charlatans, which I can only assume is a vain attempt by modern art apologists to stave off the discovery that they have been duped. Unfortunately, the category of "modern" art allows a greater number of charlatans to enter the art world, because the very strengths of contemporary art (e.g. the lack of definitive rules) enables these charlatans to submit their crap as artistic creations.

In summary, not every objection to contemporary art can be labeled as "breaking into hysterics;" quite often people's objections to contemporary art is that it holds zero intrinsic value. Much of what is currently en vogue will be largely forgotten as faddish tripe within a few decades, by which time we will have yet another interpretation of what constitutes "modern art" from a new tribe of charlatans. What shall stand the test of time and remain within the art world, however, are those pieces from artists who are truly serious about their craft.

Why I Prefer Tina Setkic over Yngwie Malmsteen

On the one hand, you have Yngwie Malmsteen, who is inarguably the most arrogant SOB in modern rock guitar, playing his "Arpeggios from Hell" in the following video while acting like he's some sort of badass:

While on the other hand, you have the teenage Tina S playing the same solo in the following video, and she's playing it arguably better while looking like she's bored to tears:

It's easy to see why I think Tina is far more talented than Yngwie...

Taxation without Realization

If you've read my blog in the past, then I am sure you're aware that I have no problems speaking my mind about any number of disparate subjects. Although, in the interests of full transparency, I have shown far more restraint than most people would assume. Nevertheless, I am occasionally obliged to say something when I think that a particular issue warrants my unsolicited opinion, which leads me to today's topic of discussion: taxes.

Throughout my life, I have seen hundreds of people display a general ignorance when it comes to paying taxes. To be clear, no one wants to pay taxes, and many people tend to complain incessantly about paying taxes. However, most of their arguments demonstrate a complete failure to understand why taxes are a necessary evil. With that in mind, when I saw the following image turn up in my news feed on social media, I couldn't help but think, "What a stupid thing to say."

Why Am I Paying Taxes

Wage taxes - both state and federal - are collected to pay for police services, fire departments, road construction and repairs, traffic lights, national and state parks, public health, military defense, and thousands of other necessary services that keep our society safe and protected. However, I freely admit that there are thousands of useless projects and salaries for useless public servants what we shouldn't be paying for, but I'll come back to that in a minute.

Nevertheless, the taxes to pay for all these public services and infrastructure costs are withheld from every paycheck in order to avoid forcing taxpayers to pay a lump sum in taxes at the end of every year. With that in mind, think of taxation on wages as a type of payment plan. However, if a taxpayer hasn't set up their withholding correctly, then they might wind up paying additional taxes during tax season to make up the difference between what they should have paid and what was withheld, or taxpayers might receive a refund if they have overpaid in their withholding.

Taxes on purchases are a somewhat ingenious/infamous concept that forces wealthier taxpayers to pay far more than those who earn less, because higher wage earners tend to spend more on unnecessary purchases, which increases the amount of taxes that they pay. Sales tax on property purchases follow suit, though there are additional property taxes that residents are required to pay after they've purchased their property, which are ostensibly used to provide services at the community level (e.g. local police, fire, etc.).

To summarize my feedback thus far: everything that is addressed in that meme illustrates the way that governments work around the globe - there are services that are needed to keep people safe and commerce flowing, and taxes provide for those services. If we briefly set aside the concepts of useless projects and useless public servants for a moment, objecting to the basic concept of taxation is akin to claiming that you can provide your own protection from crime, fire, invasion, disease, etc., while also creating your own means of transportation (e.g. building your own roads). At the end of the day, any notion of doing away with taxes is beyond ludicrous. You might as well wish for anarchy, which leads almost immediately to being conquered by another country that developed its superior military forces through... taxes.

All that being said, there are several things about taxes that I find equally ludicrous.

I have already mentioned thousands of useless projects and salaries for useless public servants what we shouldn't be paying for, and better public transparency from our government would help take care of that. However, better public transparency isn't in the best interests of the useless public servants that are wasting money, so the useless public servants tend to hide their useless expenditures from the public, and our only recourse is to vote those people out of office when they are discovered.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, "It is difficult to free people from the chains they revere," and as we have seen in states like California, some useless public servants continue to spend themselves past bankruptcy by continuously adding unnecessary services and appointing unnecessary people to govern them, and yet their gullible constituents continue to vote these useless public servants into office year after year. Although as we have seen recently, residents of California have slowly awakened to the fact that their useless public servants have created an untenable "tax and spend" society, and hundreds of thousands of California's former residents have fled the state. However, as these California expats have begun to settle in states that have historically been more fiscally sound, these domestic political refugees are demonstrating their continued ignorance by voting in the same sorts of useless public servants that they were fleeing in their home states, and thereby destroying the rest of the country with the same level of apathetic stupidity that destroyed their previous locales.

Having said all of that, another form of taxation that I find morally reprehensible is taxes on Social Security. Wage earners have been forced to pay a lifetime's worth of income that has already been taxed into the Social Security program, on which they earn a pittance of interest for their involuntary participation; then insult is added to injury when their meager returns are taxed yet again. This is grossly insulting to everyone who is required to participate in Social Security.

The last form of taxation that I think is brainless beyond measure is paying taxes on military wages. Taxpayers are paying the costs for national defense, so the requirement for military personnel to pay taxes to themselves is just plain stupid. I think it would be a great incentive for military recruitment if military wages were tax free. Many enlisted personnel are earning far below the federal poverty line anyway, and I think that removing taxes from their wages would be extremely beneficial to them.

In closing, any general objections to paying taxes are ridiculous, and they typically do little more than to illustrate that the person who is complaining about taxes doesn't understand how to govern anything more than themselves. (Although I have known more than my fair share of people who objected to taxes that were incapable of balancing their checkbooks, but I digress.) Taxes are essential for the common good, and someone who fails to understand that simple concept should take a few basic economics courses.

At the end of the day, as the old saying goes, "Only two things in life are certain: death and taxes."

Unsolicited Thoughts about Tim Henson's New Guitar

I like the band Polyphia, and their piece "G.O.A.T" is nothing short of brilliant. I was completely blown away by that song when I first heard it a couple years ago. (And I loved Rick Beato's break down on that piece, but then I'm a huge fan of Rick Beato anyway.)

One of Polyphia's guitarists, Tim Henson, does some amazing things technically and musically that I've never heard before and never personally considered when playing the guitar. I have mentioned in other musings that I rate musicians on the TOAD scale, where TOAD is Talent, Originality, Affect, and Durability. Watching Henson play guitar, it's abundantly clear that he has Talent and Originality oozing out of every pore. While his Affect on other players remains to be seen, I think that Durability within the industry is quite likely.

With that in mind, I was interested when some of the musicians that I know posted a video from Henson that was titled "Playing my new guitar." Several people made comparisons to Jimi Hendrix, which I assumed was due to Henson's arsenal of innovative techniques. Without forcing you to suffer through more of my descriptive rhetoric, here is the video in question.

Regardless of my feelings for Polyphia, my final opinion for Henson's "playing my new guitar" video was... yawn. Don't get me wrong - for the first 30 seconds or so I was amazed, as I was the first time that I heard Polyphia. But let's be honest - after the first minute of Henson's "new guitar" video, you've heard pretty much everything you're going to hear. The rest of it is just the same thing, over and over, ad nauseum.

Yes - Henson's technique is amazing. Yes - his chops are off the map. And yes - I'm a guitar player who can't play what he plays, but to be clear - my comments are not coming from a position of "I can't do that so I'm just lashing out." On the contrary, Henson's "new guitar" video is almost nine minutes of unstructured, semi-repetitive guitar ramblings that wears itself out long before the conclusion of video.

In a way, Henson's video reminded me of why I dislike a lot of Yngwie Malmsteen's playing. Oh sure, Yngwie is one of the fastest guitar players alive, but that's precisely his problem - eventually an overabundance of self-aggrandizing displays of technical wizardry begin to devolve into a murky sludgefest of technically proficient ear slime. In that sense, I don't like some people's comparisons of Henson to Hendrix, because Hendrix wasn't just an innovator - he was a songwriter. (Though Hendrix often descended into his own pools of ear slime, too.) Henson's video, on the other hand, falls far short of "songwriting"; after the first few minutes, it starts to sound like... noise.

While I realize that art is always in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, in my opinion there's more to music than nine chaotic minutes of slapping the crap out of a guitar. To be clear, I listen to a lot of music that's all over the place from a structure point of view, but there should be SOME sense of where a piece going. And if there's no direction, then a piece has to evolve. I've seen Eddie Van Halen perform a 12-minute solo, and it was entertaining for every minute of it - because Eddie moved on from idea to idea.

Think of Jazz for a moment. I've heard some phenomenal Jazz soloists take off on tangents of technical brilliance that filled long passages of time, but those soloists are usually backed by something underneath that gives it meaning - and quite often one soloist passes off to another, but the underlying essence is there, however veiled it may be. As an example, consider Al Di Meola's "Mediterranean Sundance"; there are technical chops to spare, plenty of guitars getting slapped around, and no shortage of chaos when necessary. However, there's far more to see and hear than what you'll see in Henson's video.

Taking this discussion closer to Henson's "new guitar" video, I've gone to see some brilliant fingerstyle guitar players, and Leo Kottke initially comes to mind. I often think there's something wrong with the way Kottke thinks, because his pieces are underscored by a tumultuous maelstrom of mismatched time and key signatures with brilliant displays of technical prowess soaring over top. For that matter, I would find Antoine Dufour's "Déjà Vu" from several years ago or Andy McKee's "Drifting" from 15 years ago far more entertaining than Henson's video; both of those guitarists were using a lot of the same skills and ideas that Henson was manifesting, without managing to get on my nerves or bore me to tears.

So my apologies to my friends who posted the link to Henson's "playing my new guitar video" - I certainly didn't mean to rain on their parade. But Henson's video reminds me of what a music critic once said was wrong with Emerson, Lake and Palmer when they entered the studio: they desperately needed someone else to tell them when enough was enough. If Henson trimmed his "my new guitar" down to 60 seconds and dropped an intro & outro on it, I'd have been far more impressed.


PS - My sincere apologies to Tim Henson. If you ever read this, I still think you're great - even though I didn't like your "new guitar" video.

The Chronic Epidemic of Fake Service Dogs

My brother recently posted the following article: Important Rant About Why Fake Service Dogs Are So Problematic, which contained the following anecdote:

You're sitting at a café with your friend when suddenly a woman walks in with a toy poodle in her purse. The manager at the counter informs her "I'm sorry, but we do not allow dogs." She replies with a heavy sigh and a "She's a service dog. She can come with me." Not knowing much about service dog law, and worrying about getting sued for asking further questions, he sits this woman down at a booth. There, she promptly unzips her purse and places the dog on the booth seat next to her. When the woman's dog comes out, the little dog begs and she feeds her bits off her plate. This dog is not public access trained, and proceeds to bark at those who walk by. This dog is a nuisance and causes many in the restaurant to complain. The manager cannot do anything but inform the unhappy customers that this is a service dog, so he can't ask her to leave. In the end, it's the customers who end up leaving.

Now I walk in with my highly trained service dog pressed against my leg in a perfect heel position, and I'm quickly bombarded by the manager telling me "No dogs! No dogs! We ALL know what happened last time." Confused, I tell him "This is my medical alert and medical response service dog. Her right to accompany me is protected under federal law." With a sigh, he seats me at a table far away from others where my dog promptly tucks under my feet, out of sight. When my food arrives my dog is still tucked tightly under the table because she knows she's not supposed to eat when she's on duty. She stays there ignoring those who walk past for the remainder of my meal. When we leave, a woman by the door exclaims "Woah, I didn't know there was a dog here!"

See the difference?

There's more to the story at the link I shared, but here's the gist of the article: the problem of "fake service animals" has become a chronic epidemic in our country. Far too many people are pretending their dogs are "service animals" when they're not, and they are causing a plethora of problems for actual service dogs.

Look, I get it; dogs are great. I grew up with dogs. I love my dogs. Other people love their dogs. Heck, we all love our dogs. However, some places are acceptable for dogs, and some places are not acceptable. Not every public setting is appropriate for them.

That being said, as evidenced by the anecdote I shared, the way that some people have been abusing "service animals" is eroding public trust, and that's dangerous to society. I have heard people complain that they "need" to have their dog with them, which they don't. Their argument is typically that their dog is really their "emotional support animal." But you know what? EVERY dog is an "emotional support animal." That's pretty much the definition of any pet.

I had a coworker at work who was blind, and he had a real service animal. There is a world of difference between his dog and the dogs that I see running around stores and behaving badly while wearing a "service animal" vest that their immature owner purchased at a local pet store.

Let me explain what a dog has to go through to become a service animal: my Goldendoodle is a certified service dog, who has been trained to visit patients in hospitals. To become certified, she went through two years of training where she learned how to behave in dozens of disparate public situations, followed by several batteries of testing in front of a panel of judges, where something as minor as a single growl would have disqualified her permanently. There are no second chances during the testing; a real service animal must behave perfectly in public from the outset. That is why when someone brings their house pet out in public and lies to everyone by claiming that their dog is a "service animal," and their pet cannot behave in a way that is commendable, they permanently hurt public opinion of service animals.

To put it bluntly for those who are too immature to understand the basics of public behavior: if you do not have an actual medical need for a service animal, and yet you are too emotionally unstable to go to the store for a few minutes without leaving Fido or Fifi at home - then you need therapy. In the meantime, however, you need to leave your dog at home!

It Was the Most Something on Record

Science tells us that planet Earth is approximately 4,568,200,000 years old. Science also tells us that the fossil record shows that Earth goes through massive heat and cold fluctuations, which are often several magnitudes greater than what the doomsday prophets are predicting if CO2 levels skyrocket and everything falls apart. Science also tells us that we've only been making semi-accurate readings of the Earth's temperature and other weather-related information for the past 1½ centuries, which is a mere 0.000003% of the Earth's age. That is why climate alarmists like to use phrases like "This was the coldest/warmest year on record," which is designed to sound scary, but any single year only represents a period that is 0.00000002% of global history. In other words, whenever someone says "This was the coldest/warmest year on record," they are deliberately misleading you with junk science, because the "record" is little more than a statistical blip that is re-interpreted when necessary to back up a pre-existing point of view and to manipulate public opinion. (e.g. "Numbers never lie, but liars always use numbers.")

Science also tells us that it is incapable of predicting weather patterns, which is why scientists here in Arizona couldn't tell us if we would have a Monsoon season last year (which we didn't), or if we would have a Monsoon season this year (which we did), or if we will have a Monsoon season next year (which is anybody's guess). In other words, most scientists - despite their years of study and academic accolades - are admittedly making nothing but educated guesses, and the only solid FACTS that we have are: the Earth is warming, as it has done in the past, and it will do in the future. After which the Earth will cool, as it has done in the past, and it will do in the future.

However, there is one additional point that I would like to make: I do not care whether climate change is real. From my perspective, someone would have to be a card-carrying idiot to disbelieve that humanity is leaving an indelible mark on the planet. There are currently 7 billion people on the planet, and we are consuming the Earth's resources faster than renewables can keep up, and that says nothing about the resources that are not renewable. Every day humanity discards millions of tons of garbage, pours millions of gallons of toxic filth into our water sources, and belches millions of pounds of toxic filth into the atmosphere. In short, we are killing the planet.

Let's say for the sake of argument that man-made climate change is real. In the grander scheme of things, it doesn't matter, because the planet is amazingly resilient and the climate will eventually bounce back from humanity's many transgressions. Our planet has survived asteroid impacts, global ice ages, super volcanoes, and mass extinctions. What we humans do or not do now is going to have little to no impact on where the Earth's temperature will be measured a century from now, and to disagree with that reality is pure folly.

However, there are regions of this planet that have already been rendered so toxic that life will NEVER grow there again, and there are several places where spending more than a few minutes in close proximity is fatal to anything that lives. With that in mind, climate change isn't the problem - pollution is. The earth can sustain a CO2 spike and a few extra degrees on the thermometer, but it CANNOT survive humanity poisoning everything out of existence.

Lester Holt is a Pompous Windbag with Delusions of Grandeur

As the title of this blog should indicate, I am no fan of Lester Holt, who has been the news anchor for NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC for many years. However, recent events have reinforced my low opinion of him, and I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on that subject.

Holt was recently presented with the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication Lifetime Achievement Award, and during the presentation ceremony Hold gave a keynote address that has raised a number of eyebrows across the globe. The reason why so many people took offense to Holt's comments were that he made it clear that he believes fairness in journalism isn't necessary, and how self-important he views himself, and what self-appointed role he believes he holds within our society.

I will include a rather lengthy quote from Holt's self-aggrandizing manifesto at the awards ceremony, but I want you to pay special attention to a few of the things that he is saying.

First of all, under the guise of separating 'truth' from 'misinformation,' Holt is giving himself unrestricted power to determine - by himself - what constitutes a 'fact,' and thereby granting himself the power to be as biased and subjective as he sees fit, instead of simply providing information to the public and letting the people choose for themselves what is newsworthy. Journalism is supposed to be unbiased and objective, which is the definition of 'fairness,' but Holt obviously doesn't see things that way; he believes that he is the arbiter of truth, and he has the power to withhold anything with which he disagrees. However, Holt isn't content with simply providing himself with tendentious superpowers, he takes one step further to insult his journalistic peers, whom Holt clearly views as far beneath him.

In other words, Holt sits in his ivory tower of voluminous wisdom that the ignorant masses and his foolish journalistic competitors do not possess, and he only reports on those things that his vastly superior intellect deems worthy of his merit.

Before I present Holt's comments, I should make one last thing very clear: when Holt refers to journalism as the "Fourth Estate," that is a concept that traces its roots back to the time before the French Revolution, when political power was shared between the "Three Estates" of the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. When Holt uses the term the "Fourth Estate," make no mistake - he is stating unequivocally that he believes that the news media deserves a seat at the table of power to make political decisions; and THAT statement should scare everyone.

And with that, the following excerpt is Lester Holt in all of his raw, unbridled hubris. The text is from https://youtu.be/AWIbAKI9PSA?t=1067, which is several minutes into Holt's speech, but it contains the sections that reveal how he views himself as a journalist. That being said, I will include a link to the full speech below this quote.

"The democratization of journalism, made possible by smartphones and the internet, has opened a whole new hyperspeed network of raw and often unfiltered information.

In the meantime, traditional journalists spent the last four years being labeled 'enemies of the people,' blasted from the world's biggest megaphone. And it didn't come without a price. It's hurt the standing of journalism, and allowed misinformation, some of it dangerous, to gain critical mass. And it forced us down a path towards what at times was a toxic relationship between the executive branch and the fourth estate. That's not a healthy place for any of us.

The media's reliance on truth and facts was turned upside down and weaponized as evidence of lies. The more we try to separate fact from fiction, the easier it became to label us as partisan tools.

'Dog bites man' is not a story. It's common, happens all the time. But 'man bites dog' gets your attention, right? We don't see that, so it's news. Safe to say, we chased a lot of those stories the last several years, things we'd never seen before. Now, whether they were good or bad is irrelevant, but we couldn't look away because they were new and different and had to be reported.

I'm asked a lot now how the news media recovers from the damage. Let me first say the damage only goes so deep, as millions and millions of Americans still turn to news organizations - like mine - for trusted information. The unprecedented attacks on the press in this period I'm sure we'll fill plenty of books and be studied in classrooms, maybe even here. But I have a few early observations I'll share about where this moment brings us and what we can learn.

Number one is: I think it's become clear that 'fairness' is overrated. Whoa, before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit.

The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention. Now I know recent events assure that you won't have to look far to find more current and relevant examples; I think you get my point.

Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of an agenda. In fact, it's just the opposite. Providing an open platform for misinformation, for anyone to come say whatever they want, especially when issues of public health and safety are at stake, can be quite dangerous.

Our duty is to be fair to the truth. Holding those in power accountable is at the core of our function and responsibility. We need to hear our leaders' views, their policies, and reasoning, it's really important. But we have to stand ready to push back and call out falsehoods.

Now I understand what I just said will only reinforce negative sentiments some hold to journalists. And that leads me to my second point. The need to be 'respected' versus the need to be 'liked.'

Let me be frank. Media companies proudly invest in promoting the quality of their journalism, and rightfully so, but they also invest in the faces of their organizations to help weave a relationship and identity with audiences and readers. While we all like to be liked, we don't let that stand in the way of calling out uncomfortable truths. That we have had to be more direct in our language in recent times only speaks to the volume and gravity of particular statements and claims.

Remember this: fact checking is not a vendetta or attack. We all have a stake in us getting it right.

And lastly, on where we go from here. We will need to take a hard look at our respective lanes and how we make sure we stay between the lines. The TV and media landscape can look very, very much the same. People are who are well-dressed sitting at plexiglass desks against giant video screens with lots of words on them. But the content can be very different.

Opinion oriented cable programming, featuring provocative and often partisan voices, is popular, and it has its place. But it should not be confused with mainstream newscasts, which have their place too. Informed, knowledgeable analysis is not the same as opinion. I think all media could benefit from greater transparency as to who we are and what our chosen lanes are."

The irony of Holt's comments is that he is clearly incapable of realizing that the damage that has been done to public opinion of journalism during recent years has not been the result of insults from the Executive Branch of our government; on the contrary, people distrust journalists for precisely the behavior that Holt is advocating. It is not the role of the press to decide what the people should believe; the press should simply report what happened and relegate their opinions to editorial columns.

Nevertheless, I promised to include the awards ceremony in its entirety, and here is that video.

Guns Don't Kill People, Hollywood Kills People

In the wake of yet another tragic and senseless mass shooting, it is not surprising to see that - once again - the anti-gun crowds are up in arms. (Pun intended.) However, I would like to point out that the problem within our society is not guns, but the glorification of their misuse in popular media (e.g. Hollywood movies, video games, and music videos).

no-guns-allowed

The youth of today are constantly bombarded with the premise that guns are cool or a fast means to an end. Consider movie franchises like The Fast and the Furious, The Matrix, John Wick, Jason Bourne, and Die Hard, or video game franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Counter-Strike. All of these franchises have depicted graphic violence throughout each series; and more often than not, violent crimes are portrayed favorably.

The ultimate irony is that this same entertainment industry that consistently portrays guns in the worst possible way is populated by people who are the quickest to proclaim that every legal gun owner must give up their guns whenever something bad happens. But it is not the legal gun owners who have caused these societal problems; it is the entertainment industry.

I was raised around guns, and I was taught to respect them and their proper use. I was a safe and skilled rifle shooter as a teenager, and when I joined the military I continued to fire a variety of weapons safely and securely. Throughout my life I have known hundreds of people who obtained and used their weapons lawfully and respectfully. These people should not be punished for legally owning their guns and committing no crimes.

On the contrary, it is Hollywood and the other glorifiers of brutality who are at fault, and not the millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens who own guns. It is the entertainment industry that has created a climate of senseless violence through its never-ending stream of homicidal and bloodthirsty drivel, and they should be held accountable.