It's Not You, It's Them
Available on Amazon Kindle and iPod
By E. B. Alston
Do you wonder where all this stuff comes from, and where it's taking us?
Paperback - 160 pages - $12.00
Our political leaders no longer make hard choices about what to do about the myriad of problems facing us. Our country and our society have lost what Wyatt Earp called its “snap.” If an easy solution can be found for any problem, it is always the first choice. I believe this is the path to certain long term failure, the results of which will destroy American society and the country called the United States.
This Book is available in the United Kingdom through Bertram Books
These essays reflect my ideas about our society and its foibles.
I began my career as a craftsman at the telephone company. I say this realizing that the academic and media community will write me off as an uneducated and unsophisticated commentator. But I am proud that I successfully mastered highly technical skills. I enjoyed the technical aspects of what I did and the physical labor required to complete the tasks assigned to me. These skills were valuable after I was promoted because I understood better than my peers how to make things happen on the ground.
After I was promoted into management, I learned early that it’s nice for everybody to get along, but if the unit was to succeed, it is mandatory for everybody to do their job. In making personnel selections, I favored the ability to perform over a tendency to get along with other people. This characteristic caused some intense discussions during staff meetings, but as a result we got a lot of good work done. Operational decisions were made considering the best option that produced long term success. I believe this is the only way to operate a business, or a country.
Over the last few years, I have written quite a lot about this. These thoughts have been assembled to make up the contents of this book.
January 2006 Was a Mad (cap) Month
I don’t know about you, but around here things got riotously funny in January. This followed last month when we had those goofball movies like Syriana where the CIA is portrayed as competent but sinister and Brokeback Mountain about two gay cowboys. Reminds me of the old Dean Martin gag, “How do you make a fruit cordial?” Ah, those were the days.
The local paper had an article about a consultant telling the city of Durham, North Carolina, how they could save 2.4 million dollars by retiring eighty-two of the oldest vehicles in their fleet. That amounts to $29, 268.29 for every old K car parked among the weeds gathering dust. Then he went on about how they could save another $350K in depreciation costs, implying that reduced value of the fleet was an operating cost item in the city budget. The article didn’t mention it, but I bet after the city fathers swallowed those two zingers, he advised them about a bridge up north that was for sale cheap.
Then I got this catalog put out by a firm that, while its focus is outdoor gear and products, it sells anything that comes under the “overstock” category. This means the products they sell were a sales flop. They got it cheap and they are going to pass those savings on to their friends.
The thing that caught my eye was an item called the “Limbsaver” (?) Barrel De-resonator. You put it on your rifle barrel to increase accuracy. It looks like a miniature toilet plunger and you slip it onto your rifle barrel. By changing its position along the barrel, you can dampen the effect of accuracy inhibiting barrel vibrations. You shoot five shots into a target, move it to a different location on your barrel, shoot five more shots and by a process of elimination, you can find the “sweet spot” on your barrel where this thing ought to go.
I wonder if the Pentagon knows about this. By the way, they sell surplus ammunition.
The Limbsaver Barrel De-resonator is cheap. Just $14.97 plus shipping and if you’re a “Buyers Club” member, you can save another buck-fifty. If you want to know more about it, just email me for the firm’s web page. You can buy it online. Then you can make all of your redneck friends envious when you show up at the hunting club with a toilet plunger stuck on your rifle barrel and they won’t have one.
We knew it had to come, although I expected Jesse Jackson would have thought of it first. I read where a black man in England won thirty thousand pounds in an out of court settlement for a racial discrimination lawsuit for being “over promoted because he was black.”
Sergeant Leslie Turner was promoted to royal bodyguard for the Duchess of Cornwall. He complained that, as a black man, he was placed in a position where he could not perform in order to “diversify” the Duchess’s guard detail. If he had been white, he said, he would not have been promoted because his performance didn’t warrant his advancement. I guess this is an example of getting it coming and going.
I know you heard about the discount furniture store called “Sofa King” and their ad saying “Our prices are Sofa King cheap.” Well, here’s one better. A Chinese immigrant in Illinois had to get his name changed. He said he didn’t have a problem with his name until he came to the United States but after he got here, every time he told an American his name, they cracked up. The first hint of how serious it was came when he gave his name to a clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles and he about shut the place down. His name was, before he changed it, Fuk King Kwok.
I didn’t make any of this up.
Church and State
Most Americans don’t realize how marvelously unique the United States’ concept of separation of church and state is. We view it today as a protection from interference by the government in the freedom to practice our religious observances and beliefs. But the idea originated not from protection of religion but from protection of individuals from a government imposed religion, or the compelling of religious observances by your friends and neighbors. Early Colonial American settlements were sectarian and different Christian groups settled different colonies. The most rigid were the Puritans in the Northeast area centered around Massachusetts Bay.
When the rebellious colonies started to organize, a way had to be found that allowed Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Calvinists, Quakers, Catholics, Episcopalians and heathen non-believers to work together to avoid hanging together on a British gallows. As Sir Winston Churchill said early in World War II, “The prospect of being hanged in a fortnight concentrates one’s thinking remarkably,” hence the resolve of the new country to try to keep religion out of the Government.
Thomas Jefferson had a few apt, but pungent, comments to make on the issue. I quote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” In the preamble to his famous statute for religious freedom in Virginia that passed in 1786, he stated, “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”
We owe a debt of gratitude to those great men because they gave us two wonderful benefits. The first was that they did not give any religion permission to enforce orthodoxy by methods more stringent than ostracizing. They wisely made sure that the legal monopoly on killing humans remained with the government.
One, possibly unintended, side effect of this generosity has been a proliferation of religious sects when those ostracized members of the faithful started their own brand of orthodoxy. You see the results of this everywhere in the United States. But the founding fathers didn’t anticipate the growth of evangelical Christianity and the effect that it has on the culture today.
The second cherished benefit was the freedom NOT to participate in politics. Fellow citizens, this is a gift that keeps on giving. Can you imagine how horrible it was in Russia during the Stalinist years when nobody could just say to heck with it and drink vodka instead of attending the party meeting? And if you were the first to stop applauding after the speaker finished his scintillating description of the latest five-year plan, the secret police arrested you and hauled you off to Siberia.
Ukrainian farmers, poor people, just couldn’t get it right. One year they didn’t plant their spring crops on the prescribed date, in spite of a government directive to do so, because the fields were covered with snow. Their leaders were executed for not obeying orders. The next year they planted on the dates prescribed by regulations. But the snow was on the ground this time too and no crops came up. Not to be put off by that, their leaders were executed for excessive zeal in obeying orders in a way that was detrimental to the state.
I hate to say it, but a lot of our legislators think like that today and quite a few federal bureaucrats do too. Especially the ones in FEMA. Can’t you just hear them in New Orleans after Katrina? “Here, take this cash card. If you don’t, I’ll have you arrested.” And to the truckers trying to deliver all that ice, “If you bring that ice into New Orleans, I’ll have you arrested and cancel your company’s contract.” Thank God for our founding fathers.
I know you’ll find this remarkable but I think Napoleon Bonaparte is the only ruler in history who actually figured out what to do about church and state. The church in France had suffered along with the monarchy during the French Revolution. Over time, the children of the revolution grew up to be undisciplined ruffians who were amoral and did not respect their elders. Such men do not make good soldiers. Nor do they make productive citizens. Napoleon was not an advocate of any religion except in his own imperial importance but, seeing the condition of French youth he invited the Catholic Church back into France and ordered them to begin teaching the nations’ youth how to behave.
Napoleon did it because it aided the state, not because he had become a believer, but the Church fathers chose to accept his decision in the best light. Napoleon never allowed the church to affect government policies.
Our government, the media and the courts are wrong in pressing their anti-Christian themes because it inflames over eighty percent of the electorate. Things are stirred up enough already. Why pick that fight? They ought to be neutral. But I think we play with fire when we get too excited about attempting to impose any religious orthodoxy on everybody else in the United States. Besides, even our Christian orthodoxies are all over the map and not even Napoleon’s famous diplomat, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, could come up with anything like consensus. When you add Hindus, Moslems, Animalists, Environmentalists, Jews, Scientologists, PETA, Buddhists, Atheists, Mormons, generic non-believers and those who subscribe to no moral code, I want it to stay like the constitutional framers planned it. The government’s job is to protect us from all the other believers. That is good enough for me.