Iron Fist: Not terrible

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An interesting battle is raging in the land of binge-TV watching that reflects, to a certain extent, the professional wrestling match that U.S. politics has become. The people are tired of accepting what an elite group of thinkers tells them to think.

Marvel’s Iron Fist is the fourth in a series of 13-episode television series based on some of the comics megacorporation’s second tier of superheroes. The movie blockbusters get Captain America and the Hulk; Netflix gets Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, with Daredevil – who flopped financially with what I thought was a pretty good movie – the most well-known of the bunch.

In the days before the show’s March 17 debut on Netflix, the critics spoke, based on a preview of the first six episodes of Iron Fist: They hated it. Continue reading Iron Fist: Not terrible

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Exorcising the bogeyman

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My experience is that people just want to carve out a niche, to make a living, to enjoy this life, to to seek a better live, to live and let live. Everything goes fine until it doesn’t, and it’s usually the bogeyman’s fault – except it isn’t.

Who is this bogeyman? He comes in different shapes and sizes. Once upon a time he was an evil villain or monster used to scare children into staying in bed where it was safe (more or less – also to be avoided was under the bed!) – and as time went on, we find that politicians and less subtle warlords use bogeymen to create fear and anger. We also use bogeymen of our own making to scare ourselves into not venturing forth into new territory.

Sometimes, though, we take steps despite the fear of the bogeymen. We actually go off to fight the bogeyman and discover he is really a creature much like ourselves, as the fighters in World War I discovered when they had a spontaneous Christmas Truce and interacted in comfort and joy until the holiday ended and they went back to the butchery.

One person’s bogeyman, carefully examined, is usually just some other person trying to carve out their niche – if you look without fear and hate, you find not bogeymen but just folks trying to live and let live.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all looked around and discovered that the bogeyman never existed? Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t blame anyone for our troubles (except maybe ourselves) and instead took those troubles and just worked through them?

Individual freedom and election eve

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“Freedom is not about having the right ruler. Oh, wait, yes it is. Freedom is understanding that I am the boss of me.” – Warren Bluhm (hey, that’s me!)

I turn a large chunk of the time you might usually spend with me to Samuel Smiles, who began his epic book Self-Help with these words:

“Heaven helps those who help themselves” is a well-tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experience.  The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength.  Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates.  Whatever is done for men or classes, to a certain extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves; and where men are subjected to over-guidance and over-government, the inevitable tendency is to render them comparatively helpless.

Even the best institutions can give a man no active help.  Perhaps the most they can do is, to leave him free to develop himself and improve his individual condition.  But in all times men have been prone to believe that their happiness and well-being were to be secured by means of institutions rather than by their own conduct.  Hence the value of legislation as an agent in human advancement has usually been much over-estimated.  To constitute the millionth part of a Legislature, by voting for one or two men once in three or five years, however conscientiously this duty may be performed, can exercise but little active influence upon any man’s life and character.  Moreover, it is every day becoming more clearly understood, that the function of Government is negative and restrictive, rather than positive and active; being resolvable principally into protection — protection of life, liberty, and property.  Laws, wisely administered, will secure men in the enjoyment of the fruits of their labour, whether of mind or body, at a comparatively small personal sacrifice; but no laws, however stringent, can make the idle industrious, the thriftless provident, or the drunken sober.  Such reforms can only be effected by means of individual action, economy, and self-denial; by better habits, rather than by greater rights.

A pastor friend of mine said this week, “Someone or other will be president. And Jesus Christ will still be King.”

A good number of my friends choose not to vote, believing that the very act participates in and gives consent and succor to an illegitimate system. I don’t disagree with these friends.

A Scott Adams cartoon of many years ago showed the boss lecturing Wally that if he doesn’t vote, “Then you have no right to complain about the result.” “I’m pretty sure I do,” Wally replied, recognizing the meaning of free speech better than the pointy-haired guy.

I have no illusions that the winner of Tuesday’s election will win my state by a single vote, and so I always vote for the person on the ballot whose views and qualifications most closely align with my beliefs – if such a person exists. I don’t believe that my choices are limited to two people, this year more than ever. I don’t consider that a wasted vote; to me a wasted vote would be for someone whose views represent me in virtually no way.

While the presidential race offers no acceptable choices this year, I do respect several of the people running for other offices and will be tendering my minuscule chad for those folks. Maybe they’ll win, maybe not. My point is that in a representative republic, people should vote for folks who best represent us – nothing more, nothing less – and that our lives change for the better from within, not from the results of an election.

A cure for the poison that is politics

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My latest for the Door County Advocate

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I accidentally tuned to a political debate on television and actually heard a discussion of the issues.

Sen. Ron Johnson and former Sen. Russ Feingold spent an hour talking about their positions and criticizing the other person’s positions. I didn’t hear either one call the other a liar or a disgrace to humanity; the only negative words were about positions, not persons.

Nor did the panel of journalists from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association try to bait the candidates into saying something stupid or unkind or insulting. It was quite a relief from the professional-wrestling aura of the presidential debates, with due apologies to professional wrestling.

I believe I speak for the majority when I say that this is the worst choice for U.S. president ever produced by the two-party system, a system that has delivered a bundle of disappointing choices over the last quarter-century. It’s indeed disappointing when one of the most legitimate topics of discussion is not freedom, not national security, not health, education or welfare, but who is the greater misogynist – one of the candidates for president or the other candidate’s husband.

This has been a disquieting and dispiriting year in politics, at least at the top. That’s why it was refreshing and comforting over the weekend to read the column “Politics is Poison to the Human Spirit” by Jeffrey A. Tucker of the Foundation for Economic Freedom and the startup site Liberty.me.

“You know what we need right now?” Tucker begins. “A trip to the mall, not even to buy, but to observe and learn. See how people engage with each other.” Also good would be a walk in the park, a concert, anywhere where we are going about our everyday lives in the community.

“In this extremely strange election year, escaping the rolling antagonism and duplicity of politics, and finding instead the evidence all around us that we can get along, however imperfectly, might actually be essential for a healthy outlook on life,” he writes.

Tucker writes about the demoralizing divisiveness of the political realm – “The shrillest voices, the meanest temperaments, and the most amoral plotters are the ones who dominate, while virtues such as wisdom, charity and justice are blotted out. Is it any wonder that this is not exactly uplifting of the human spirit?”

What does uplift our spirits is rediscovering that we live in peace with each other every day, and that the vast majority of us can and do live and let live, without the intervention of the political class or perhaps in spite of that.

“We don’t really want to live amidst anger or revel in the destruction of our enemies,” Tucker writes. “Hate is not a sustainable frame of mind. We intuitively understand that when we use politics to hurt our neighbor, we are also hurting ourselves. We are being dragged down instead of being lifted up.”

There’s much more, and Tucker’s article is currently easy to find online, having been shared by a lot of people, including me, on Facebook and elsewhere.

As someone who made up his mind long ago, I am repulsed and discouraged by the depths politicians will go to attract the remaining undecided voters. It was good to see our candidates for U.S. senator in an intelligent conversation.

Personally, I believe we have lived under the worst U.S. president in history for the last 24 years – every time I believe the White House has hit bottom, the next one sinks deeper – and yet the republic has survived, people grow and prosper, and life goes on. The next four years will continue that dismal trend no matter who wins, but apart from politics we will be OK.

And politics is not everything, despite what the politicians would have you believe. You still have the freedom to live your own life, although with great freedom comes great responsibility. Step one is to overcome the fear.

A little book about freedom

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I’ve just approved the final version of a new print edition of my novel The Imaginary Revolution.

The people of Sirius 4 tried to overcome tyranny the old-fashioned way: by force. It turned out to be an imaginary revolution, replacing one violent regime with another. Raymond Douglas Kaliber suggested another way: that free people living by a spirit of non-aggression could live in peace and prosperity with one another. Before he could launch that bold experiment, however, he had to defeat the greatest tyrant of them all: his best friend.

Yes, it is available on Amazon, but I chose to keep going with the print-on-demand service Lulu, which I have used since I started my publishing adventures, rather than the Amazon-owned service CreateSpace, because the product printed by Lulu is closer to what I want in my books. That puts me in the minority among independent authors, but so be it. Both companies will sell you the book, but I recommend you support the little guy and buy it from Lulu. (Yes, I will get a higher royalty if you pick Lulu, but my main reason for recommending Lulu is that your purchase supports a quality enterprise that puts out a great product.)

Of course, you can forego the costs of printing and mailing by downloading the book directly into your Kindle app. (And you should question any publisher that charges you more for the electrons than for the physical book.)

I wrote this book in 2012, and it seems its themes are more relevant than ever:  No one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor should anyone advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else. Love your neighbor as yourself. Interact with love. Give more than you receive.

As we are besieged daily by the latest pronouncements from the major candidates for New Boss, it seems a good time to re-offer a little book that envisions a world where individual freedom determines the outcome. Thanks for giving it a try.

It’s easy: Vote for who you want.

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The latest from my day job:

As a habitual voter of third parties and an occasional purchaser of lottery tickets, I am always amused by the warnings about the dire consequences of voting third parties.

Those folks have been very active as the major parties careen toward a fall election that will match two of the most disliked politicians of our present era. It’s said that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have disapproval ratings north of 60 percent each.

“If you don’t vote for Trump, it’s a vote for Clinton,” holler alarmed Republicans. “If you don’t support Clinton, it’s a vote for Trump,” scream alarmed Democrats.

Well, no. A vote for Trump is a vote for Trump, period. A vote for Clinton is a vote for Clinton, period. A vote for someone else is a vote for someone else, period.

According to Google The Great and Powerful, if the November 2016 election were to mirror the 2012 turnout, my individual vote will be one of more than 3 million votes cast in Wisconsin that day. The odds that I will win today’s Badger 5 jackpot are twice as good as the odds my single vote will be the deciding factor in determining Wisconsin’s Electoral College votes for president.

Given those odds, for my own peace of mind, I will research and vote for the candidate whose views on the issues most closely mirror my own. Then, over the next four years, I will at least be able to say, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for that (insert the noun of your choice here).”

For the past 240 years, and at least for the time being, this has been a representative republic. What that means is we collectively choose the candidate who represents our beliefs better than any of the other candidates, theoretically at least.

It doesn’t mean we vote for who we consider the most electable candidate. It doesn’t mean we vote for whoever our preferred party puts up. It doesn’t mean we ignore our personal beliefs and choose the lesser of two evils.

It means exactly what the term “representative republic” implies: We should vote for the candidate who represents us.

I know what you’re thinking because I have had this conversation many times before: “OK, Warren, if you want to waste your vote, go ahead. But I’m at least going to vote for someone who has a chance to win.”

Why would you do that, especially in a year like this one? I know, you think only the major-party candidates have a real chance to win the election, so you should ignore all of the small-party candidates, even when you absolutely agree with how they say they would run the U.S. government.

But why? If you dislike or even hate the way the two major parties run the government, why would you vote for the major party candidate who would run it slightly less badly than the other major party candidate?

What happens if you vote instead for the candidate you agree with? Worst case scenario, nothing. Better case scenario, a great many people also vote that way and the numbers will draw attention to worthy candidates from smaller parties. Best case scenario, we actually get a president whose values and beliefs reflect a majority of Americans.

I know I’m spitting into the wind.

I know a lot of people are thinking, “I think Hillary Clinton will make a terrible president, but if I don’t vote for her then Donald Trump will win and that will be worse.”

I know a lot of people are thinking, “I think Donald Trump will make a terrible president, but if I don’t vote for him then Hillary Clinton will win and that will be worse.”

So, OK, if you want to waste your vote, go ahead. But I’m going to vote for someone who would actually represent me.

Creative log:

Friday, May 20, 2016: Krayatura 1 – 0/9,127/60,000; Reviewed existing projects with goal of setting deadlines and release dates; brainstormed new project ideas