Travelogue: Airports and Stuff

Travel challenges your assumptions about many things. People who have traveled a lot tend not to hold provincial ideas, for example. It’s hard to think your town is unique once you see that every other town is pretty much the same. It also gives you time to think and maybe look at things with a fresh set of eyes.

For instance, I was in the airports on Friday and I now think the greatest American alive is the guy who invented yoga pants. My goodness. I looked him up. His name is Ryan McLatchy and he is credited with the spread of this wonderful trend. May his descendants multiply and become many nations! It makes being a dirty old man so much better…

Anyway, the thing I was puzzling over was why terrorists target airlines and airplanes. In America, the place with the maximum amount of government and the least amount of freedom is the airport. Everyone is watched and filmed everywhere except the bathrooms. Even there, they film you on the way in and out.

Security people are constantly watching for anything out of the ordinary. They now have K-9 units sniffing passengers in the terminal. They also have security people randomly stopping people and asking them questions. I was stopped at Logan by a nice young fellow who politely asked me a series of questions about my life. This is a tactic used by El Al Airlines and others.

It seems to me that there are much better targets than airports, but for some reason the Muslims keep attacking them.

I think part of it could simply be habit. Back when the Muslims started making trouble in the 60’s and 70’s, airports were great targets. You had lots of people in small areas and the chance to make it on the world news. There were loads of strangers at the airport, so being out of place was not a big deal. A  Muslim wandering around with bad intentions was just another guy at the airport.

Obviously, security was not what it is today. If you wanted to do something big, an airport job was a great choice. That’s no longer true. In fact, it is the exact opposite. I’m a smart guy and I can do the security math. Getting passed the initial security check is not that hard, but all the random checks is where you leave things to chance and those odds are not great.

The other motivation, I suspect, is stupidity. A thousand generations of cousin marriage have not done the Mohammedan any favors. The regions where we see the bulk of the Muslim terrorists have mean IQ’s in the mid-80’s, which is at the bottom of the human family. Throw in the cultural and religious issues and you have some uncommonly stupid terrorists….

Airports are why libertarians and central planners should never be trusted. Five minutes at an airport shows you that people do not naturally self-organize. Left to our own devices, the mob gets out of control until someone imposes some discipline. People like order and expect it, which is why no one ever complains about signs telling you where to stand or where to go.

That’s obvious. What’s not always obvious is the general awfulness of central planners. Our airports should look nothing like they do and they should not be giant money pits, but they are and there’s nothing to be done about it. In the 1950’s the people who knew best designed the American airport system and we have to live with it.

That said, it is a miracle that we can live with it and do so quite easily. The reason air travel works so well in Europe and America, despite the volume and inefficiency, is the smart fraction. A dozen times I saw some low level types struggle to make something work, only to have a smart person come over and help them through it. Our world may be a house of cards, but we have a lot of people good at keeping it going…

That’s the difference. In places like sub-Saharan Africa, the smart fraction is tiny. There’s not enough of them to supervise the rest so the result is the wacky keystone cops quality to their public services. Socialism works only where you have enough smart people around to make it work, despite the infinite number of internal contradictions.

Reading about Greece while I was waiting around for planes, I kept hoping to see someone note that Greece is the way it is because it is full of Greeks. German-style socialism is simply never going to work in Greece, even at gunpoint. Western-style democracy will never work in Arab lands. Central planning results in horror when applied to big man cultures in Africa.

In the future, something historians and possibly archeologists will puzzle over is the strange mania for homogeneity that has swept western elites.  The demand that everything and everyone be the same in all places, in the name of diversity no less, is as close to mass insanity as you get and still remain functioning as societies.

Greece has no place in the Euro. For that matter, the Spanish and Italians have no place in the Frankish economic system either. Liberal trade, open borders with the rest of Europe and economic help when necessary should be enough to keep everyone happy. Instead, the European keep making war on their own history by demanding everyone be European….

Travelogue: New England

I was traveling over the long weekend. It is always good to see old friends, even when it is not so good to see old friends. As you get older, some of your friends get weird for periods and some get really boring for a while. Kids tend to make people boring, but when the kids grow up it makes some people get weird. Women often go bonkers when their kids outgrow them. Men get weird when the gray hair begins to arrive. Still, it is always good to catch up with old friends.

Travel, of course, has its own rewards. America has not been completely homogenized so there’s plenty of weirdness still left in her. New England, for example, retains its quirky Yankee flavor. Even within New England, there is a lot of diversity still. Boston is not Connecticut. Rhode Island is different from New Hampshire and Maine. Mass media has driven a lot of old weird America into extinction, but a lot of it is still around.

Anyway, when you travel to see friends you have not seen in a while it can bring some odd surprises. I’ve let my beard grow over the last month. I just felt like it. If extreme beard growing is the new trend, then I figure I can let my beard grow if I want. Over the weekend, I had at least four people ask me what I use to dye my beard. I don’t dye anything and I have a little grey so that should be obvious. Come to find out, men are now dying their beards and even their whole head. One of my friends is now getting his head dyed on a regular basis.

I asked him about it and he said it bugged him so he figured he would give it a shot. I’m guessing his wife talked him into it. Women have been getting dye jobs forever. The guys getting the beards done are doing it for the same reason and they were casual about it. Maybe it is a Boston thing or just a trend I am just learning about now. Out of curiosity I walked through the hair care section of the local market today and they had a lot of various treatments for gray hair. That suggests I’m the last guy to hear about it.

Now that I have, I can’t imagine ever dying anything. It seems like a lot of work. On the other hand, if it really bugs you I guess it is worth the effort. I’m very conscious of my weight so I torture myself daily to keep the scale happy. Vanity works on all of us differently. I see a lot of old guys huffing and puffing just like me so maybe there are lots of guys at the hair salon getting their beard dyed. It does mean I can no longer mock the young for getting beard transplants and shaving their chests…

Also on the travel agenda was the Tom Petty show at Fenway Park. I have been to Fenway Park for Sox games more times than I can count. I never saw Petty in concert and I did not know what I was missing. He does a great show and Fenway is a great venue for a concert, if you have field seats. I’m not a huge Tom Petty fan, but I highly recommend his show. These old touring pros really know how to do these things.

I wonder if the rock concert is going to be a thing of the past once these old guys finally die off. Starting in the 80’s and 90’s, bands that can play instruments in public have given way to dance shows with lip-syncing and piped in music. A few years ago I saw Madonna on TV doing a show for something and she looked ridiculous. Tom Petty can still play and sing and not look foolish. A fifty year old woman in a cat suit dancing around to her old club tunes is not something you want to see.

One of the things I never get over about New England is the provincialism. Everywhere has some of it, but New England is unique in this regard. I was talking to a woman at the show who wondered where in the south I lived. I was a puzzled and she said she could detect a southern accent. As far as I know, I have no accent, but to the locals, that is an accent. She has a brother living in Tennessee or Kentucky and wanted to talk about the south for what she thought was an authentic southerner.

That’s something you don’t run into elsewhere. Outside of New England, people have a decent understanding of New England. Most of it is gleaned from pop culture. Boston is a trendy place. On the other hand, the typical Yankee still thinks the south is dotted with plantations and fighting the civil rights movement. They think California is a version of Beach Blanket Bingo and the Midwest is just a vase unpopulated zone. The woman I was speaking with was incredulous when I told her life is better for black people in the Old Confederacy than in the north

On the way home, I passed a group of bikers, members of the Wheels of Soul MC. I’ve always had an interest in gangs and motorcycle gangs in particular. There’s a lot to learn about the human animal from studying criminals. WOSMC is a unique group in the 1%’er world because they are multi-racial. I thought the Feds had put most of them in jail so I looked them up when I got home. The fact that they have a website is pretty funny, when you think about it.

The show Sons of Anarchy has popularized the motorcycle gang again. Hollywood glamorizes crime and criminals, but that’s to be expected. The reality of life in one of these groups is not good TV. The typical biker is an low-IQ, randomly violent and completely unpredictable. They live hand to mouth because they usually can’t hold regular jobs. That means they make money in drugs, hookers, strippers, stolen goods and so on. Selling crank retail in the parking lot of a strip club is not going to result in a lot of income. It also makes bad TV.

The message on the membership page of the WOS site reads:

If you are 18 years of age or older, male and own a motorcycle with a minimum displacement of 750cc, you may have what it takes to begin the journey to becoming a Wheels Of Soul Nation, MC member. We have chapters in every region of the United States and representatives who will be happy to discuss your options with you. The Wheels Of Soul Nation, MC is not structured to facilitate all applicant’s success in becoming a member. Our lifestyle is not recommended for everyone. Though it has it’s rewards, The Wheels Of Soul Nation, MC is not about being rewarded….it’s about brotherhood.

That’s the weird thing about bikers. They are the rare criminal organization that is honest with itself. Mobsters think they were doing good for the community. Heroin dealers in the 70’s carried on like they were local chieftains. Modern street gangs have no sense of self. Bikers know they are bad people and criminals. They put a lot of effort into making sure new members get this fact and they work hard to screen out people who can’t cope with being outside society.

Bikers are the people who put the lie to much of libertarianism. Organized barbarians are always a threat to civilization. A group of 500 bikers can hold a city hostage unless the cops get to do things the libertarians hate. RICO has been the main weapon to bring down biker gangs and the Mafia. Surveillance and deal making has been most effective with bikers. Getting them on video doing crimes is then used to get them to roll on their associates, often using the information to extort confessions from other members.

Sometimes civilized people have to do bad things to protect civilization. Too bad we have never figured out how to do the same against fanatics

Sight Seeing

I have been traveling the last few days so no blogging and no internet. I brought a number of laptops so I could have if I wanted, but I wanted to take a break. Like everyone else, being on-line is such a big part of my daily life, it is a strange experience to unplug for a few days. For me at least, the strangeness comes mostly from the realization that I could easily unplug for good and never miss it. What we regard as the civic life of the republic is mostly nonsense. There really is no reason to pay attention to any of it.

When I was a kid, I worked for a congressman as a part-time job. An article of faith among the political class was that the typical American was not paying attention. That was regarded as a good thing by old timers. They saw it as a sign that American was psychologically healthy. The new breed of political animal saw it as a defect that needed to be remedied. I suspect the old hands had it right. The quality of the state is inversely proportional to its desires to gain the attention of the citizens…

I used to think libertarians were just nutty ideologues, but I’ve come around to the idea that most are just cowardly conservatives. Politics in America has always been about morality, not ideology. That cold civil war, as John Derbyshire calls it, is just a fight over what is going to be the prevailing morality. Moral arguments are messy and not about right answers, but about what people want. The morality of a people is simply what they people want to be true about themselves and the world around them.

As a practical matter, it means telling the Left you don’t want gay Boy Scout masters because you don’t like homosexuality. Defending normalcy is hard because it requires saying tough things and using tough language. Instead, you can avoid it all and claim to be a libertarian. You’re not for or against gay marriage or against abortion. You’re not for or against religious liberty. The libertarian avoids the culture war entirely and instead does battle with straw men on issues like legalizing weed and tax policy…

Even if you take libertarians seriously, it’s clear they suffer from the same problem you see on the Left. They assume things about people that are not true. For example, walk through an airport. Government does a terrible job running airports. It is as if they are trying to make air travel as inefficient as possible. The TSA people I encountered were universally surly and unpleasant. Airport staff acts like they are doing you a favor if they recognize you. The main reason for this is they deal with the public.

Some fraction of the traveling public is simply ignorant of the rules, written and unwritten, and need firm direction. Another fraction thinks they are special little snowflakes and try to prove it by bucking the rules. On one of the plane rides, I watched a women tell people the middle seat was taken. She just wanted extra room. Eventually, the staff had to threaten the old women so that the seat could be used. It’s a good reminder that order has to be imposed on some portion of the public. Libertarians can’t grasp this…

My first year at college, they had some sort of carnival, so all the campus freaks could perform in public. The student groups got to setup tables and recruit to their organization, sell food to raise money and so forth. One of the weirder tables was one by a group extolling the glories of Albania. I knew nothing of Albania, so I took their literature. The national symbol was a fascist looking black eagle on a red background. The women pitching me on Albania seemed so earnest about the place.

This was before the internet so I had to go to the library to learn about Albania. I learned that the leader, Enver Hoxha was a brutal dictator and the intellectual father of anti-revisionist Marxism–Leninism, which basically meant he rejected the deviationists that followed Stalin. Hoxha was not very influential in left-wing circles, but there was a sub-culture that was deeply loyal to his ideas. His ideology was Stalinism with an extreme form isolationism. Albania was a hermit kingdom during the Cold War.

Anyway, I was reminded of that when talking with some liberal friends. The gluten thing is the food fad of the Left. They all have it. One person believes this stuff so deeply she is starving herself. She beliefs she has suddenly developed an allergy to all food. I’ve known this person for thirty years. I have cooked for her dozens of times and I know she ate all sorts of things. Yet she suddenly thinks she has had this malady that makes her allergic to food. She reminded me of that woman handing out Albanian literature…

The New England Yankee has many ways to signal their righteousness. That is an inheritance from colonial times. In a world of communal salvation, showing you are on the side of the righteous is very important. Today that means signally good whiteness versus bad whiteness. They will mock Larry the Cable Guy, but claim to love Louis CK. They love Whole Foods, but think Walmart is evil. Males think it important to follow the English Premiere League, despite never having been to England.

This is not all them. NASCAR has a big track in New Hampshire. It’s not there because no one in New England follows car racing. It falls along a spectrum, where some people, the hard Left, make a big deal of signaling their good whiteness. At the other end are townies and regular people who just like the same stuff as everyone else. Most people fall in between, but it is the Left that sets the tone. It is a good reminder that the left in America grew out of a spiritual movement and retains that quality today…