Caveat: Secular Humanists may want to skip this post.
A strip from Schlock Mercenary brought me up short. One doesn’t usually hear people extol the virtues of dictatorship in public, at least not if they’re worried about their political future.
While the country could use people in office with the acumen and common sense that Howard Tayler displays, tragically he seems occupied with being a cartoonist and is thus subject to the scorn of nations on a regular basis. One more batch of scathing, vitriolic emails from disgruntled readers shouldn’t make much difference.
Fortunately, to balance the equation, there are those whose understanding surpasses that of the unwashed masses:
But back to my thesis: It would be good to live under a just, enlightened and moral ruler who afforded his subjects their agency. This sounds only like a contradiction in terms because there have been so few examples of this kind of leadership in human history.
Monday’s strip immediately put me in mind of the words of an ancient American prophet-king named Mosiah:
“Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.” (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 29:13)
In the secular environment, this model fails on all levels, because the concepts of justice and morality are relative, and impossible to pin down with any certainty. In the regular (i.e. the opposite of secular) environment, the most obvious parallel is the millennial rule of Christ as Theocrat/King. Outside of that, a just and moral dictator would have to be following an absolute standard of justice and morality, based on absolute fairness – which could only happen if the ruler were in regular contact with Divinity, hence, a prophet as well as a king. No ordinary mortal could pull it off.
From “Fiddler on the Roof”:
What’s wrong with being rich? It’s no reason to marry. Money’s the world’s curse. May the Lord smite me with it, and may I never recover!
I’m with that. May God smite the nations of the world with such rulers.
You know, those things that everyone is doing or everyone has to have. My wife and I were talking about this the other day, and it got me thinking about those fads or trends that had touched my life since the 1950s. I can’t think of anything that I ever went crazy for in terms of “gotta catch em’ all,” but I know there were many that I crossed paths with over time. There are far more than these listed in various places, but these are some of the ones that crossed my path in some way or other.
The Coonskin Cap
We lived in a 5-floor walkup in New York City. I loved sending one of these down the stairs. The problem was, when I was 7, I foolishly attended a double-feature horror show with my cousins, and for longer than I’m proud to admit I was terrified that this lady lurked in the shadows under the stairwells. It sort of dampened the enthusiasm for spending more time than I had to on the stairs.
In 1959, I learned the Chipmunks’ Christmas song by heart, and of course I had to have a hula hoop. It was fun for a day or two. But they’re still a thing, apparently.
I got one of the early ones, and the Super Ball really did bounce, but mine started flaking apart after a while. I guess they got the kinks worked out eventually. These were very hot when they came out; peak production reached over 170,000 Super Balls per day, but the maker knew it was a passing fad. “Each Super Ball bounce is 92% as high as the last,” said Wham-O VP Richard P. Knerr. “If our sales don’t come down any faster than that, we’ve got it made.”
The Duncan Imperial Yo-Yo
Yoyos are a very old toy, but Duncan really hit the nail on the head when they came up with these shiny, premium units with a metal spindle that allowed the toy to spin freely. I remember mine was red, and I had one of the butterfly versions as well. These are still pretty hot in some sectors; watch the absolute masters go at it.
These were probably the bane of parents and K-12 teachers when they came out. When you really got them going, they made a racket that sounded like a machine gun. Apparently they were prone to shattering, which I never experienced, but they should have come with wrist guards because when you did it wrong, you’d get whacked and it hurt. These were taken off the market in the 1970s. Wikipedia has some interesting history behind these.
These were created in 1970, during the Vietnam War. Those who wore one pledged to continue doing so until the person they represented came home. They were very popular on the campus of the University of Utah; I wore mine for years until it was almost devoid of chrome plating, and it ultimately fell apart from metal fatigue. There are still many military personnel missing, and they deserve to be remembered.
In the 1970s I had a couple of these (in the most hideous polyester faux-tartan imaginable) just because they were cheap, if I recall correctly.
Cabbage Patch Kids
These toys, still available, are the first ones that really became a nationwide madness, as far as I can recollect. They were so hot they spawned the Cabbage Patch Riots, a precursor of later Black Friday rampages. I only know of them because I had a young daughter at the time, and of course she wanted one. Fortunately, the madness had subsided (mostly) by the time she was old enough to appreciate one.
Pogs, or milk caps, used to be found sealing returnable glass bottles of milk, often delivered from the dairy. When the paper or foil cap was removed, the “pog” was taken out to unseal the bottle.
In the 1990s, the game of Pogs was commercialized, but it had become an entertainment for the young before that. Not unlike marbles, pogs were placed face down and the player would toss a heavy disk at the stack, causing them to scatter. Any pogs that landed face up belonged to the player.
My oldest son was very good at the game and had quite a collection.
I had one. The object was to feed and care for your little blob until it grew into an adult. You’d give it food, clean up its poop, and basically take care of it with needs and attention. It would beep at you when it wanted something. Mine “died.” Enough said.
Imagine playing horseshoes with deadly weapons. That’s what lawn darts were.
These things were lethal. In 1987, a young girl was killed, and between 1980 and 1988, 6,100 people had been sent to the emergency room. They were banned in 1988.
Ty made a lot of money on these little understuffed animals, but almost nobody else did. People collected them like crazy, hoping that the “discontinued” ones would increase in value and make them rich. Only a very few actually became worth anything, and only to die-hard collectors (although during the height of the craze, people were flipping Beanies for ten times their purchase price, and at one point almost 10% of sales on eBay were linked to Beanie Babies. Like anything else, an item is worth only what some s̶u̶c̶k̶e̶r̶ collector will pay for it. Like most others, the fad crashed, and today, surviving Beanie Babies are worth about 50 cents apiece. A few of these ended up in our kid’s stockings at Christmas time because they were cute.
Nehru Jackets, Beatle Boots, and Madras clothing.
These were items that were popular when I was at a prep school in New England in the ’60s. A lot of kids had them.
The interactive toy that scared the pee out of the NSA. These little critters came with an infrared port that allowed them to recognize the presence of another Furby; they would, at that point, hold conversations in “Furbish,” a language of agglomerated nonsense syllables. As time went on, however, Furbies began to start speaking English, and as time went on, the amount of English increased. Authorities in certain government agencies decided that these little critters could act as spies, but Tiger Electronics, the maker, said,
Furbies didn’t have recording devices at all. Rather, the manufacturer had pre-programmed some English into the toy’s memory, and as the Furby “aged,” it began to use those words more and more — but there was no way for it to add new, “heard” words to its vocabulary. A Tiger executive told the media that “the NSA did not do their homework” and exclaimed that “Furby is not a spy!” (Now I Know)
We had a few of these scattered around the house. They could be quite startling if they began to talk without provocation.
I could go on. Invisible dogs, pet rocks, psychedelic posters, lava lamps, you name it. If you’re interested in a long walk down memory lane, here is a pretty comprehensive list of fads and trends from the 1830s to present. And it’s a given that in the very near future, there will be another “hot new thing.”
Edit: How could I have forgotten Care Bears? Here’s my little buddy with his Weighted Companion Cube (don’t talk to me about mixed metaphors), wishing all my friends and family a wonderful 2019. We had a lot of Care Bears over time, and most of them came back to me as my children grew up. (Fortunately, I never did.) The vast majority were sold to collectors on eBay, but Tenderheart, a 1986 original, is mine forever.
This was not a fad, really, but it was a fairly intriguing item for propellerheads in the mid ’60s. I wanted one, but at the time $25.00 seemed a bit too much for something that would die in a year.
I don’t get much spam these days with Gmail, their filters are pretty good at sifting out the chaff. But I still have an account with another provider that lets a few things through.
The first one I saw this week was the old “Nigerian Prince” ploy, it amazes me that people are still trying this one.
I am contacting you to see if we can make a business together, My names are Suvo sarkar the Chief Executive Director of Emirates NBD in United Arab Emirate U.A.E. I discovered a dormant account with a holding balance of US$63M in the bank where I am working in United Arab Emirate U.A.E, Actually I do not have to involve myself officially because of my job and position in the bank, but I know what will be required to release the fund to you as I will present you as next of kin to the inheritance. I know all about the depositor who has passed away leaving no beneficiary to the account he deposited the funds.
Please get back to indicate your interest so I can give you the full details of the transaction for us to commence immediately.
Best regards, Suvo Sarka
By now, everyone should know about this kind of thing – but just in case, this is 100% pure bull manure – there’s no money, you’re not next of kin, and if you respond, there will be “taxes,” “fees,” “bribes,” “administrative stamps,” and other things to be paid until you run out of money, time, or patience.
These people are criminals, thieves, bad actors with no conscience and no morals. Many of them justify their theft by saying to themselves, “The White Man plundered our country, it’s only fair to take their money.” Others are just evil men with no conscience. Do not interact with them.
The second scam, commonly known as “sextortion,” was more interesting, I had not seen one of these before.
From: nightmarе <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: <redacted> Subject: You are my viсtim.
Hi, my prey.
THIS IS MY LAST WARNING!
I write you because I put a virus on the web page with pornography which you have viewed. My trоjan caрtured аll your рrivate dаta аnd switсhed on yоur сamеrа whiсh rеcordеd thе act оf yоur solitаry sex. Just аfter thаt thе trоjаn saved your contact list. I will erаsе thе cоmрrоmising videо rесords аnd informаtiоn if you send me 750 USD in bitcoin. This is address fоr pаymеnt : 1PLtH8HPHQLboeFvrBN2XJPJz99TxayGCo I give you 30 hours after yоu opеn my mеssаgе fоr making thе payment. Аs sоon аs you reаd thе mеssаgе I’ll sеe it right аwаy. It is nоt nесessаry to tell me that yоu hаvе sеnt mоney to mе. This аddress is connectеd to yоu, my systеm will еrased autоmаticаlly after transfer соnfirmatiоn. If you nеed 48h just Opеn thе calculatоr on yоur desktор and press +++ If yоu don’t раy, I’ll send dirt tо all your contасts. Let me remind you-I sеe what you’re dоing! Yоu cаn visit thе policе officе but anybody cаn’t help you. If yоu try to dеceivе me , I’ll know it immediately! I dоn’t live in your cоuntry. So аnyоnе cаn not trаck my lосаtion еvеn fоr 9 mоnths. byе. Don’t fоrgеt аbоut the shame and tо ignorе, Your lifе сan be ruined.
This is sheer nonsense, blasted out to all and sundry with harvested or leaked emails in the hopes of catching a scared victim. Because some people do visit adult sites, and some people do have webcams, and it is possible for hackers to access these cameras remotely if people are foolish enough to download the appropriate malware.
I don’t have a webcam, I don’t visit adult sites, and my computer is well-protected against malware, so all his noise about trojans and “compromising video records” are nothing but lies.
Opening a calculator app and pressing “+++” could not possibly interact with an email program to let a scammer know that I needed 48 hours instead of 30 to send him his blackmail money.
You can go to https://bitcoinwhoswho.com/ and look up bitcoin addresses like the one the scammer lists above. According to the report generated, this particular address has been reported multiple times for fraudulent activity, always the same sextortion scam but often with varying messages
You have the last chance to save your social life – I am not kidding!! I give you the last 72 hours to make the payment before I send the video with your [indecent activity] to all your friends and associates. The last time you visited a erotic website with young Teens, you downloaded and installed the software I developed. My program has turned on your camera and recorded your [indecent activity] and the video you were watching. My software also downloaded all your email contact lists and a list of your Facebook friends. I have both the ‘Info.mp4’ with your [indecent activity] and a file with all your contacts on my hard drive. You are very perverted! If you want me to delete both files and keep your secret,you must send me Bitcoin payment. I give you the last 72 hours. If you don’t know how to send Bitcoins, visit Google. Send 2000 USD to this Bitcoin address immediately: 32u7BDdEb48LXNTDDTe9q9Nce5Z9QAJG1g (copy and paste) 1 BTC = 3470 USD right now, so send exactly 0.588241 BTC to the address above. Do not try to cheat me! As soon as you open this Email I will know you opened it. This Bitcoin address is linked to you only, so I will know if you sent the correct amount. When you pay in full, I will remove both files and deactivate my software. If you don’t send the payment, I will send your [perverted] video to ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES from your contact list I hacked. Here are the payment details again: Send 0.588241 BTC to this Bitcoin address: 32u7BDdEb48LXNTDDTe9q9Nce5Z9QAJG1g You can visit the police but nobody will help you. I know what I am doing. I don’t live in your country and I know how to stay anonymous. Don’t try to deceive me – I will know it immediately – my spy ware is recording all the websites you visit and all keys you press. If you do – I will send this ugly recording to everyone you know, including your family. Don’t cheat me! Don’t forget the shame and if you ignore this message your life will be ruined. I am waiting for your Bitcoin payment. Ma Anonymous Hacker
P.S. If you need more time to buy and send 0.588241 BTC, open your notepad and write ’48h plz’. I will consider giving you another 48 hours before I release the vid, but only when I really see you are struggling to buy bitcoin.
And one more:
From: nightmarе To: [redacted] Subject: You are my victim.
Dо nоt mind оn my illitеrасy, I am frоm China.
I uрlоаdеd thе mаliciоus рrоgram on your systеm. Sinсе thаt mоment I рilfеrеd аll рrivy bасkgrоund frоm yоur systеm. Аdditiоnally I have somе morе соmрromising evidеnсе. The mоst intеrеsting еvidenсе thаt I stоlе- its а videоtаpе with your [indecent activity]. I аdjustеd virus оn а роrn web sitе аnd аftеr yоu lоadеd it. Whеn yоu dесidеd with thе vidеo аnd tарpеd on a рlаy buttоn, my dеlеtеriоus sоft at оncе sеt up on your systеm. Аfter adjusting, yоur саmerа shoоt thе vidеоtаpе with your [indecent activity], in аdditiоn it saved рreсisеly thе рorn vidеo yоu were watching. In nеxt fеw dаys my mаlwаre cоllесtеd аll your sociаl and wоrk сontaсts. If yоu wаnt tо dеlеtе thе recоrds- pay mе 340 еuro in BTC(сryрtосurrenсy). I provide you my Btc number – 1JRMsH8xnm2Uk3XZQfS63woi4uFyM2gBLC Yоu hаvе 24 hours after rеаding. Whеn I gеt trаnsfer I will dеstrоy the videotaрe еvermоrе. If you need 50 hours just Open the calculator on your desktop and press +++ Оther way I will send thе tаpе to аll yоur cоlleaguеs and friеnds.
Again, these messages are sheer nonsense, but might well frighten some people into paying. The criminals who are perpetrating these scams are very evil. Never respond to them, never send any money to them.
Ransomware that encrypts your data is a different kind of beast, and it is more prevalent, and easier to be affected by even if you don’t visit infected websites. Don’t open attachments from unknown senders, regardless of how innocent or official they may look. Verify first.
This is an example of a ransomware scam:
From: “Troy Almaguer” <email@example.com> Subject: Wire Transfer To: <redacted>
Did you authorize a wire transfer to our accounts? We have acquired a sum of USD $2000,00 from your bank account and we do not understand what the funds are for. We do not have any purchases with your firm that we know about. So why are you generating settlements to us? Please see the attached remittance files and double check with your corporation and bank. Password is 1234
[Attached Document with clickable link]
It looks really official, and an administrator, or assistant, or secretary might be easily fooled into clicking on that innocent-looking attachment. Don’t ever do it, you’ll likely end up with all your data encrypted and no way to get it back unless you have robust backups.
There are a lot of scumbags out there. Be careful, practice safe computing, and don’t let the criminals win.
This image from the AP shows smoke rising over an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Far better minds than mine have wrestled with the ongoing violence in the Middle East for lifetimes, so I’m not really qualified to make pronouncements as a political pundit. That said, a comment I saw over at reddit resonated loudly with me:
Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.
Father Mulcahy: How do you figure, Hawkeye?
Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?
Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.
Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.
This conversation from M*A*S*H was probably contrived by a scriptwriter, but I’ve quoted Alan Alda before and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had come up with it himself or at least had input.
Gaza is home to 1.7 million people, living in ghetto-like conditions that are difficult to comprehend for anyone not living in a war zone.
Without any cognitive dissonance or hypocrisy, one can be completely in favor of Israel’s existence and security but still believe that the campaign of Palestinian suppression, ongoing settlement building in the West Bank, and the rejection of a two-state solution in the Middle East on the part of the Israeli government is inhuman and wrong. Sadly, voicing such an opinion almost always results in accusations of anti-semitism, but that can’t be helped.
Bibi Netanyahu has said:
“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel’”
I think that’s completely accurate, but I also think that what is being perpetrated on the Palestinian people rises to the level of crimes against humanity, and somehow it has to stop.
Cross-posted from Livejournal and updated 11-8-2018
☞ The executive summary is, “Because it doesn’t go far enough.” ☜
A photo gallery at Time Magazine brought this issue to the front of my mind again, where it has been many times. Swirling around in the mass of insignificant facts and rabid squirrels that inhabit my brain are thoughts that keep coming back to me over and over again, many of which have to do with the overwhelming societal cost that we are paying for a failing war on drugs.
If recent statistics (CDC, 2009) are to be believed, 6.6% of people over 12 were using marijuana at least once a month – a total of 23.1 million people (minus the ones under 12). That’s us. We’re the ones who are funding the carnage in Mexico as drug cartels battle for turf and slaughter countless people in their quest for American drug dollars.
Prohibition is Ineffective
We saw how well Prohibition worked… all it did was put the country’s alcohol revenue into the hands of the criminal element. Whenever money is to be made, the bad guys will be there in force, because they don’t care how they get it.
“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became “organized”; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.”Cato Institute Policy Analysis
The Social Costs are considerably less than those associated with tobacco and alcohol
The societal costs of alcohol are enormous, whereas the social impact of cannabis use is significantly less.
“In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.”(Cannabis, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Canada)
I can’t recall the last time I heard of some high-flying husband beating his wife and children; it’s hard to be aggressive when you’re giggling. That’s said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but in all my life I have never encountered an angry pot user, whereas the number of bar fights that go on in cities and towns all around America, followed by nights in the slammer and subsequent taking out of infantile anger on innocent domestic partners and children is beyond anyone’s ability to count. The same holds true for violent crime, sexual assault and date rape.
Ask any emergency-room doc, nurse, or EMT: alcohol use contributes to reckless behavior and serious injuries, and it is highly associated with emergency room visits; such visits directly associated with cannabis would hardly make a blip on the radar.
Take the Money Away From the Criminal Element
Drug tunnels like these, as well as illegal farms in national forests and elsewhere, with all their associated risks to innocent citizenry, would become a thing of the past if cannabis were freely available, regulated and taxed in the same way tobacco is.
“The libertarian Cato Institute just issued a detailed statistical analysis on how ending prohibition – a favored term for supporters of pot reform – could help America’s budget woes. According to the much-discussed study, legalizing all illicit drugs would save the government $41.3 billion a year in law-enforcement costs and generate some $46.7 billion in tax revenue; marijuana would account for $8.7 billion of the savings, and another $8.7 billion in taxes. Legalized marijuana would certainly help fatten state coffers in debt-crippled California, where pot is the biggest agricultural crop, with $14 billion a year in sales that never appear on tax returns.” (Newsweek, “The Conservative Case for Legalizing Pot”).
Further thoughts on the tax advantages appeared in the LA Times on 8/27/10.
Prosecution of recreational THC users and those who require it for valid medical reasons is wasting billions of tax dollars directly and indirectly, and taking valuable law enforcement hours away from issues that are significantly more important. Based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, legalization will have a negligible impact on usage which is already there, and will have societal benefits far greater than any potential increase in disadvantages.
I’m by no means for blanket legalization of all illicit drugs, but at this point marijuana appears to be a no-brainer in terms of cost-benefit analysis. The usage is already there. In a sense, not legalizing it is an immoral act, given how much blood and carnage is resulting from the activity of the Mexican cartels which we are directly funding.
If people could walk down to their local package store for some quality-controlled, legal cannabis, who in their right mind would risk buying it from illegal sources? The illegal marijuana market would simply dry up.
There will be those who question why I’m taking such a position, especially in light of my own religion’s stance on the use of things as mild as tea and coffee, let alone alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. Make no mistake: I’m convinced that if people would give up the use of all harmful and/or addictive substances, the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our nation would rise dramatically, and countless billions of dollars would be saved. That said, I am simply looking at the numbers. Legalization would save lives, free up law-enforcement resources, and redirect funds from the criminal element to other critical social needs. I can’t look at it any other way.
Progress is being made. Canada has legalized marijuana, and just this week they experienced a severe legal problem: there isn’t enough of it.
In the United States, the non-medical use of cannabis is decriminalized in 13 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), and legalized in another 10 states (plus the District of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands), as of November 2018. (Wikipedia)
It’s time to get cannabis out of the hands of criminals, and good people – who have committed an offense no worse than a three-martini lunch – out of prison.
I’ve written about the auto dealer “You’ve Won a Prize” scam before. Today I happened to be driving past Rockland Ford in Thomaston, Maine with one of their flyers in my hand, and since a $5.00 WalMart gift card is better than a sharp stick in the eye if I’m in the area anyway, I dropped in.
(Click image for a larger view)
The flyer states pretty plainly that I’ve won a “car, hotel and gas card.” But as usual, the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away:
“The number that you matched does not give you a choice, but an opportunity to win a prize.“
If you’re not sure, this means “the number you scratched off means nothing at all.” The only number that means anything is the one after “official registered #”, which in my case is 129,280. Odds of winning the WalMart gift card are 499,994:499,999, meaning that’s what you’ll get. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the $500.00 one. It isn’t.
The salesman I spoke to insisted that the advert wasn’t deceptive at all, and I should just read the fine print. Well, I’ve lived long enough to know that bait-and-switch is a scummy tactic, and is usually covered up with the most barely-legal douchebaggery the attorneys can dig up.
Yes, as long as the “final deal” is spelled out somewhere, they can claim that customers had access to all aspects of the promotion and it’s legal. But I ask you: how many people walk away from the encounter disappointed and with a sour taste in their mouth about the dealership? How likely are they to want to buy a car from a dealer that uses such tactics to get people in the door? People who run these enterprises ought to give that a thought.