We Have Plenty of Evidence

As I watch the news and listen to politicians discuss the ongoing investigation into the treasonous actions of the people who stormed the Nation's Capital, they begin to repeat the same old story that they have told many times in the past: "we have plenty of evidence, but we won't prosecute."

Like many of you, I've grown weary of this same "we have plenty of evidence, but we won't prosecute" excuse. For the people who want to see someone (like Trump) go down in flames, such a statement is vindication of their existing hatred even though nothing actually happens. But when no one is ever prosecuted, Washington's "we have plenty of evidence" statements mean nothing. As someone I know pointed out: either you prosecute because you have evidence, or you exonerate because you don't.

This continued tendency of politicians to say whatever they want about someone's presumptive guilt without demonstrable evidence to support their claims borders on slander and/or libel from a legal perspective, while from a personal perspective I disregard the entire fetid mass of political anal fissures currently in office as useless appendages of society. In a related matter, I distrust news sources that will print or broadcast anything as publicly and loudly as possible without verifying the facts when it suits their agenda, and then quietly print a retraction when their duplicitousness is discovered, while at the same time demonstrating their hypocrisy when they demand ridiculous levels of authentication for stories that do not fit the message they want to promote. (But I digress...)

This current situation with Trump isn't the first time we've heard Washington troglodytes claim they have plenty of evidence. We heard the same thing about Hillary Clinton's destruction of government equipment that had been subpoenaed; you might recall the FBI saying, "we have enough evidence, but we won't prosecute," so the AG dismissed the investigation. So was she actually guilty of crimes or not? We'll never know. There was "plenty of evidence" that the Obama administration used the IRS to punish political rivals, but no one was prosecuted. On more than one occasion we heard that someone had plenty of evidence on Bill Clinton for one crime or other; but he was never prosecuted and nothing was ever brought to light. Apart from being a serial predator, was Slick Willie guilty of actual crimes? Once again, we'll never know.

Jumping forward to today, the Washington Post presented ample evidence, and the New York Times has begrudgingly verified, that the Bidens appear to be guilty of some truly nefarious money changing prior to Joe's election to office, which isn't surprising given the fact that Joe and his son built both of their careers upon a steaming pile of dishonesty and lies (see Politics, Plagiarism and the Press and Laptop from Hell, among others). But will these undisputed facts ever see the light of day in a court room? I think not, and it will probably be the same situation with Trump and whomever serves in office after the Bidens leave town.

Despite their mutual loathing and hatred for each other, both sides of the political aisle know this to be true: once Washington finally gets around to prosecuting someone who truly deserves it, the gloves will come off, everyone will be fair game for prosecution, and the entire house of cards will come tumbling down. In other words, the Dems and GOP have détente right now... and neither side wants to cause Mutually Assured Political Destruction.

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."

The Unfortunate Demise of the Basic Training Shark Attack

Earlier today, one of my fellow veterans shared the following video from Business Insider about the United States Army Infantry School’s decision to no longer conduct the unofficial ritual known as the Shark Attack during basic training. By way of definition, the Shark Attack has traditionally been the first experience that new recruits have in Basic Training, when Drill Sergeants descend on raw recruits and scream at them until they begin to understand who’s in charge.

 

Despite CSM Fortenberry’s comments in that video, the Shark Attack totally has it's place in today's Army, and the idiots who don't think so are... well, IDIOTS. The purpose of the Shark Attack is to mentally separate recruits from civilian life, and nothing does that better than having a Drill Sergeant screaming in your face. The Shark Attack also instills a sense of fear at the outset of training, which is absolutely necessary for some new recruits to create a foundation for discipline where they'll listen to their Drill Sergeant’s orders for the rest of their training. If you take away the Shark Attack, you take away one of the best tools for teaching recruits that their lives – as they knew them – are over. (For the next few weeks, anyway.)

Personally, I hate, hate, HATE the "kindler, gentler Army" approach that today's military leaders are trying to create. Combat is neither "kind" nor "gentle," and taking away the rough edges from military training creates soldiers who are ill-equipped to deal with the mental pressures that soldiers will experience after they leave training. It doesn’t matter if new recruits are volunteers or draftees – soldiers need to be tough enough to endure the rigors of combat life, and the Army is doing their soldiers a great injustice if they fail to prepare recruits for their new lives.

Quite frankly, this entire discussion is just one of many ways where the people who are "in charge" of the Army simply do not "get it" with regard to how the actual day-to-day business of the military is conducted.

I'm so glad I got out before this toxic cancer of stupidity infected the Army.

Facebook Community Standards Suck, Part 2

Just when I start to think that the collective level of ignorance that is shared by those who enforce Facebook’s “Community Standards” cannot sink any lower, Facebook manages to surprise me yet again. And with that in mind, here’s my story of the latest entry in Facebook’s never-ending stream of social stupidity.

One of the anti-mask / COVID-deniers that I know posted the following the following disinformation image about vaccines to Facebook:

Vaccine-Disinformation

This image was another in a long series of paranoid posts from a person who believes that wearing a mask is somehow a violation of his constitutional rights, and COVID19 vaccines are part of a multi-national conspiracy involving the governments and scientific communities from every nation on the planet to inject him with microscopic mind-control robots. His point of view is, of course, nothing but nonsensical drivel.

With that in mind, here is what I posted in response:

The vaccines are safe, and here are the actual figures as of two days ago, broken down by country, population segment and vaccine: https://bit.ly/2Wp6BuH. So really, this is the image that you should be posting.

Vaccines-Are-Effective

However, imagine my surprise when I logged into Facebook today and was rudely informed that my post has been taken down, while the original disinformation post was left.

facebook-community-standard-stupidity

Note: the reason for three comments was that Facebook refused to show
my response when I posted it, so I reposted thinking that was in error.

In other words, my attempt to stop misinformation about vaccines by citing actual facts from the CDC was blocked by Facebook’s “Community Standards,” and yet the misinformed, paranoid drivel that prompted my response was given a free pass by Facebook.

So if anyone from Facebook should happen to read this blog, I say this with all sincerity: your “Community Standards” people are rock-stupid, brain-dead, imbecilic morons.

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.

Imagine there's no Lennon

I often see people quoting John Lennon's song "Imagine," but I have often wondered - have any of these people really listened to the lyrics to that song? Because it probably represents a worldview that they do not agree with.

Let me explain...

VERSE 1 LYRICS:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

VERSE 1 MEANING:

When Lennon says, "Imagine there's no heaven," he is pushing for the abolition of religion because he was an outspoken atheist and HATED the church. He was infamous for pelting nuns in NYC with water balloons fashioned from condoms and preaching that he was more popular than Jesus.

When Lennon says, "No hell below us," he is dreaming of a life where he can do whatever he wants with no repercussions; e.g. there is no concept of "sin," which he reinforces by saying, "Imagine all the people living for today." This describes Lennon's life as a drug and alcohol addict who routinely cheated on his wife and ignored his children. The definition of hedonism is living for today, and Lennon lived in that mindset, regardless of who suffered for his selfishness.

VERSE 2 LYRICS:

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

VERSE 2 MEANING:

There are a few things to consider here:

First of all, it's easy for Lennon to imagine what life would be like if all of the borders suddenly ceased to exist because he lived in a life of luxury surrounded by opulent wealth for which he didn't really have to work. Don't get me wrong, the Beatles were amazing songwriters, but still - consult the lyrics to the song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits to see what I mean.

Jumping past that, Lennon reiterates his call for the abolition of religion, which I am sure most of the world would disagree with.

Last, Lennon advocates for peace, but it's probably not your definition of "peace." Throughout his life Lennon shared his views on peace, which isn't just the absence of war, but a continuation of his hedonistic mindset; he wants everyone do lay down their arms and then live for themselves, which is selfish and immature, but that is who Lennon was. (For more on Lennon's warped views of peace, see my "Peace Sells, But Who's Buying?" blog.)

VERSE 3 LYRICS:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

VERSE 3 MEANING:

Once again, this is one of those verses that sounds palatable, until you examine Lennon's personal life. As I said earlier, it's easy for someone surrounded by opulent wealth to wax poetic about what a glorious world it would be if everyone shared everything, because he can afford to buy whatever he wants. If Lennon had set an example of philanthropic endeavors during his lifetime for others to emulate, then perhaps I would give him a little credit here, but he didn't; Lennon was a boorish, womanizing, selfish, drug addict.

That being said, Lennon was a Marxist, and Communism has demonstrated time and again that a society cannot share everything; it just doesn't work, because people are greedy at heart. There is no way that everyone on the planet can share everything because sooner or later someone will want something that someone else has, and then they'll fight. That is inevitable, and Lennon practiced this type of covetousness all the time by sleeping with whomever he pleased - even if it was other people's wives. What's more, Lennon was awful to his own family members; he couldn't even share with them, much less the rest of the world.

CHORUS LYRICS:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

CHORUS MEANING:

So what is Lennon asking you to join? In no uncertain terms, Lennon is asking you to join a cult. His cult. In Lennon's cult of hedonism, everyone lives for themselves, religion is illegal, and he can continue to do whatever he wants and have whatever he wants while everyone else is forced to live by his standards and share everything that they worked hard to earn. While Lennon uses flowery words like "peace" and "brotherhood," make no mistake - Lennon's view of utopia is a heaven on earth for him that would be a living hell on earth for everyone else.

At the end of the day, John Lennon was a deeply flawed and selfish individual who should not be emulated. In his Magnum Opus, "Imagine," Lennon is not really advocating for "peace" or "brotherhood" or any of the other noble ideals that people so often ascribe to him. Instead, Lennon is advocating for everyone on the planet to be just like him; to fill their lives with self-indulgent excesses and to ignore any possible ramifications from their bad lifestyle choices. The people who have followed Lennon's example have helped proliferate decades of drug and alcohol abuse, leaving broken families with emotionally damaged children, and lead to the astronomical rise in STDs and AIDs. All of this is probably why "Imagine" is so popular with Hollywood elites who consistently follow Lennon's example of living for themselves. Nevertheless, neither Lennon nor "Imagine" should be admired; it is a terrible song from a terrible person about a terrible world that was crushed and rebuilt according to Lennon's terrible worldview. I cannot imagine anything worse.

Refusing to Wear a Mask is not Fighting for Freedom

The following image has been making the rounds on social media…

Anti-Mask-Self-Deception

This image has prompted me to ask the anti-maskers who are still promoting this anti-scientific drivel the following series of questions:

First of all - are you for real? Refusing to wear a mask is somehow fighting for freedom? I'm pretty sure that our forefathers and ancestors had an entirely different opinion of what constitutes "fighting for freedom."

Next, just whom are you fighting against? There's no oppressive regime here; there are no dictators, no despots. The CDC - which is an organization that is ACTUALLY fighting for something tangible (your health) - has recommended that people wear masks; but it's largely your peers who would like you to wear a mask, and wash your hands often, and keep your distance as much as possible. All of these simple actions will reduce the spread of disease during this pandemic.

Let's reexamine the original proposition for a moment; this image claims that you're "fighting for freedom," but for which freedoms are you fighting? You still have freedom of speech. You're still free to travel. You're still free to buy the things you need, to pursue the career of your choosing, to marry whom you want, to live where you choose, to own your own home, to start your own business; you have a host of freedoms at your disposal that the downtrodden masses in other areas of the world can't even dream of having. In fact, as I look at the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, I can't seem to find any freedoms that you're actually in danger of losing.

Let's step back a bit further - just how are you "fighting" for the freedom of others? By choosing to not to wear a mask? I'll grant you that abdicating your moral responsibilities in society and endangering the health of others might be a cheap form of protest where there's little chance that any harm will come to you, but I'd hardly count that as "fighting for freedom."

On the contrary, I come from a family with five generations of military service, and I personally served 8 years in the Army. At the end of my tours, I was able to return home, but some of my friends weren't so lucky. I have stood on enemy soil and made hard choices and did things that meant some bad guys didn't go home to their families, but because I did my job some of my comrades were able to make it home, too. In other words, I know exactly what "fighting for freedom" really means, and the fact that someone would somehow equate the genuine sacrifices of others with their illogical and irrational fears through the measly act of refusing to wear a mask is disgusting and insulting.

So let me make this clear to all the anti-maskers out there: you are not fighting - because there is no enemy that you are up against. You are not preserving freedom - because no freedoms are being suppressed. You are simply being asked to adopt a few simple practices in order to safeguard the health of your community. If you cannot manage to set aside your unwarranted paranoia and step up to your responsibilities as a productive member of society, then yes - I kinda think you're acting like a disease spreading, defiant, imbecile.

That being said, stop claiming that you're fighting for freedom - because you're not.

Anti-mask Absurdity Strikes Again

Over the past several months, I've posted a few blogs about the silliness of the anti-maskers who have remained steadfast in their ignorance of basic science. (See Just Shut Up and Wear the Darn Mask and Numbers Never Lie for two examples.) Thankfully, most of these intellectually-challenged, anti-mask simpletons went silent on the topic of mask wearing when the election came to town, because they needed to devote all of their time and efforts to promote one candidate or other. (Although, to be honest - it was generally just one of the candidates; but that's a different discussion for a different day.)

Anyway, the anti-maskers' silence had lulled me into a false sense of complacency, wherein I thought that all of their anti-mask foolishness had finally gone the way of the dodo bird. Alas, that was too much to hope for; and so it was with a sorrowful heart that I read the following article that one of the unwavering anti-maskers that I know posted to Social Media:

CDC Accidentally Admits Masks Won't Protect You From Coronavirus

Really? Are we still having this argument? Have all of the weak-minded anti-maskers learned nothing this year? Apparently not, I'm afraid. And with that in mind, let's examine this latest claim.

First of all, no - the CDC did not "accidentally admit" to anything. The CDC has said many, many times that:

"Masks offer some protection to you and are also meant to protect those around you, in case you are unknowingly infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. A mask is NOT a substitute for social distancing. Masks should still be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart."
(See https://bit.ly/3oeUdGf)

Masks are not 100% effective, and no one ever claimed that they were. Masks are just one of several deterrents that people should be using; e.g. masks, social distancing, washing hands, quarantining people who are infected, etc. In other words, if you're wearing a mask and you let someone with COVID19 lick your face, then you're probably going to catch their disease. However, if you happen to meet someone who was infected and you were wearing a mask, and they were wearing a mask, and you stayed six feet apart, and you washed your hands after you met them, then you probably aren't going to catch their disease. That's the same message that has been circulating for months: masks serve a purpose, but they are not a magic cure.

With that in mind, I have a public service announcement for all of the anti-maskers out there: please, please, please - for the love of God and all that is holy - please stop posting ridiculous anti-mask propaganda. The only thing that you achieve by promoting anti-scientific drivel is that you reduce everyone else's estimation of your grasp on common sense, and you help reinforce the Darwinian theory that pandemics are randomly introduced by nature to thin the herd of its weak-minded members.

The Downside of Kickstarter Part II

A little over two years ago I wrote a blog post titled The Downside of Kickstarter, wherein I described a Kickstarter campaign that was a deliberate ruse to scam investors. I won't go into all the details, because you can read that post in its entirety if you're curious, but here's the summary: it's pretty easy for a swindler to create a Kickstarter campaign for a startup company with no intention of providing any reward for his/her investors. (To this day I fail to realize why these hucksters are not guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, and/or conspiracy to commit fraud.) But there is one thing that I should repeat from my previous post about the way that Kickstarter works for investors:

"Participation on Kickstarter is simple: you pick a project you think looks appealing, and then you choose the level of your pledge to help bring that project to life. Depending on how much you give, you generally get something in return - which is typically the completed product before it is released to market."

Having said that, here are the details for another situation that took place recently. A few years ago I pledged to a campaign that was seeking to create a new type of mirror for bicyclists (see Sehen for the details). As an avid cyclist who has nearly been killed on several occasions by careless motorists, I was intrigued by this company's mirror design. In the interests of full disclosure - I received my "backer reward" a long time ago, and I must admit - the Sehen mirror was a much better design than other mirrors that I had tried. However, I received my reward so long ago that I thought the campaign had ended successfully, and I wasn't aware that I was one of the minority of investors who received a reward.

With that in mind, I was somewhat shocked when I saw the following video on YouTube from Arkady Borys, who founded the startup company that created the cycling mirror.

Despite the fact that Arkady's video was the most-detailed explanation that I have seen for any Kickstarter campaign of where the money went and what went wrong, several of his backers were still screaming for "refunds" and calling this a "scam." With that in mind, I wanted to offer some additional perspectives about what it means to back a Kickstarter campaign.

As I have explained elsewhere, Kickstarter is not a product catalog - it is a business investment. When you are pledging for a campaign, you are not buying a product - you are investing in a startup company that is attempting to bring a new product to market. Each startup offers several rewards to their backers/investors, with the understanding that each backer/investor will receive their rewards ONLY if the company succeeds. When backers submit pledges for a campaign, they agree in the terms and conditions that they might not receive a backer reward if the company fails, and if so - the manufacturer is only required to provide an explanation of what happened.

Think of it this way: let's say that you were walking by a new restaurant that was still being built, and you decided to stop by for a few minutes and give the new owners $50 to help them get started after they promised that they would try to serve you a free lunch some day in the future. However, their business folded before they could make good on their promise, and they sent you a text message to let you know why they wouldn't be able to honor their part of the deal. That sort of situation would essentially be the same thing as backing a Kickstarter campaign for a legitimate startup company that fails to bring their product to market despite their best efforts.

In the specific case of the Sehen campaign, backers weren't buying a product from Arkady; backers were helping Arkady launch a company. He tried, and he failed. Unfortunately, that happens every day with small startups.

For what it's worth, I have invested in several Kickstarter campaigns, and a few haven't come to fruition - that happens from time to time. In a few of those situations, the startup provided some sort of cheesy "We ran out of money" explanation, and that's all that the backers will ever see of their investment. On the contrary, the explanation that Arkady provided in his video was extremely detailed, and he takes full ownership for every bad decision that he made. In addition, he provides a great deal of behind the scenes information about the percentages of funds that were absorbed by Kickstarter and the other companies that were involved with launching in his campaign; that information was extremely useful for me to consider when I am deciding whether to back other campaigns in the future. Arkady's backers should be thankful that he took the time to provide them with as much information as he did, because it was far more information than he was required to give, and his video was a great deal more informative than other failed campaigns.

As I read the comments that were posted to Kickstarter after Arkady posted his video to YouTube, there were a few backers who were demanding that Arkady should refund any pledge funds that weren't used. Those people obviously didn't pay attention to the video; Arkady very clearly explained that 50% of the pledge funds were consumed by companies that were associated with launching the campaign (think of those as startup fees). After Kickstarter and the other campaign-related companies took their cuts, Arkady's company was given the remaining 50%, which was quickly spent on production costs for the product. Once Arkady's company ran out of money, they took a loan to keep going. Then another loan. Then another loan. In the end, there were was no money left to return to investors; all of the pledge money was spent a long time ago. With that in mind, my advice to backers who are still demanding that any unspent funds be returned to investors would be for them to spend 30 minutes of their time to watch Arkady's video and pay close attention to the details that he provides, because he explains everything.

In closing, I truly feel sorry for any backers/investors who did nor receive their rewards; and I don't mean to sound patronizing since I received mine. However, I think Arkady went above and beyond with regard to letting his backers/investors know exactly why they may never receive their rewards. It is unfortunate that this situation happened, but that is one of the risks that backers must be willing to take when investing in a startup business, and the losses that Arkady encountered are part of the risks that entrepreneurs must be willing to take when starting a new business.


POSTSCRIPT:

There is a sad epilogue to the story that that I told in my original Downside of Kickstarter post: after all of the public outcry that took place in the wake of that scam, it appears that the person who was behind the fraud, Brent Morgan, took his life. That news was extremely sad for me to hear. I will admit, I wanted "justice," but only in the sense that I wanted Mr. Morgan to face criminal charges in a court of law for defrauding his investors. However, it appears that his guilt was overwhelming for him, and I truly feel sorry for his family.