Thoughts

Once again, on the problem of noise

I’ve written repeatedly about noise issues in distant and recent past. Noise is something that affects me deeply and not in pleasant ways, so it’s an issue that’s always boiling beneath the surface, so to speak. Particularly during the quarantine, I was able to enjoy such quiet times, that I found the contrast between that period and these once-again too-busy times extremely jarring. I’m writing about it this time because I may have come up with a better way to word the noise laws, for those that are interested. There are two parts to it, as detailed below.

First, here are three posts I’d like to point out:

I was prompted to think about this by a recent incident, where the noise violator took advantage of a loophole in the Romanian laws against noise violations. It’s an optional loophole that the police can choose to apply in cases where the violator has relations on the police force or the local government, namely to require the use of a special device that measures the decibel level of the noise, which in Romania involves scheduling a visit from a special police team from another city, instead of relying on the complaints of a person or persons, or the observations made by the police officers who’ve responded to the call. In short, if you’re bribing someone at the mayor’s office or on the police force, you can get away with some serious noise violations. I hope you can also see how not solving a noise violation on the spot and requiring a scheduled site visit from a police team with special equipment is clearly a loophole that’s meant to be misused. In this particular recent case, I’m talking about a habitual noise violator with a history of more than 8 years of disturbing the peace of the historic city center.

Part 1

My proposed wording for noise violations is this: if the noise can be heard outside the perimeter of the noise violator’s property, it must be fined; by the same principle, if the noise can be heard outside of the noise violator’s car, it must be fined. This would force these callous, incredibly insensitive people to adjust the volume of their music, events and/or arguments so that their neighbors cannot hear the noise. If it can be heard, it can and should be fined. The only loophole I would put in is for construction or other work noises, which I find to be the only noises that are justifiable. Construction must occur, whether it’s new construction, renovation or restoration, and work such as mowing the lawn or doing various house repairs must also go on and is, I would say, necessary, so it must be tolerated and understood, within reason. But any of the non-work stuff must and should adhere to the simple principle of not disturbing the neighbors, whether they’re in the house next door or the car in the next lane, or passersby trying to enjoy a quiet walk through town. I think the current schedule of “quiet hours” that exist on the books in most countries, such as 10 pm – 8 am and a “siesta” from 1 pm – 2 pm in the afternoon, is a good schedule and should be kept, but it should be literally enforced by the book, not left up to the interpretation of corruptible policemen and local governments. And I think that even if a noise violation occurs outside of those quiet hours, as long as it meets the very simple criteria described above, it still qualifies as a noise violation and it must be fined. Someone else’s loud music or screaming is still extremely bothersome, no matter if it happens at 3 pm or 3 am. Should they want to blow out their eardrums, let them do so with the aid of headphones, not loudspeakers.

Enforcing the new wording should also be very simple: using the guidelines above, first-time noise violators must get a written warning. Any time after that, no matter what, they get fined, by the book. In other words, noise violators with a long history of breaking the law should never get a break. They should always get fined. The time for warning them has long since passed.

Part 2

I would also suggest a restriction on the use of amplifiers and speakers for public events organized by local governments to only those venues that are specifically equipped for noise abatement and/or are physically distanced from residential areas, such as concert venues. This would do away with loud events that are heard throughout entire neighborhoods or towns. I’m not saying public concerts shouldn’t happen in town squares, or that musicians shouldn’t be allowed to play on the streets, but the noise they generate must not be amplified artificially. It must be generated solely by analog musical instruments or their voice. No microphones, no speakers. That way, it simply wouldn’t travel as far and as artificially as the deafening stuff blared through loudspeakers, and would become a more natural sound that can be enjoyed within its physical context.

I think those governments that are so inclined to apply these rules would quickly see a much-needed improvement in the noise levels in their cities, and I know for a fact that most working people would appreciate having more quiet time to focus on their tasks.

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Thoughts

On current overreactions and pent-up frustrations

Rather than expound on these subjects in detail, because there’s a tremendous amount that can be said, I’d like to point out a few things and let you think about them.

The current demonstrations against police brutality in the US are laudable in principle, but they should’ve happened years ago. The fact that they’re happening now shows they’re more of a vent for pent-up frustrations against the coronavirus quarantine and against social distancing than against acts of police brutality. Let’s face it, the global quarantine was an unprecedented event that generated a lot of fear, stress and financial difficulties for people, and going out into the streets right now is an act of reassurance for them, more than anything else. Who could protest against a public health emergency? No one (well, almost no one). But who can get behind a commendable protest against race inequality? Everyone, even if that’s not really what motivates them to protest.

The coming together of these enormous numbers of people, even if some are wearing masks (most aren’t), is quite likely going to increase, not decrease, the numbers of infections and casualties from the virus, leading to its possible mutations into more lethal forms and another possible quarantine, which is exactly what those people don’t need. There is a high degree of irresponsibility in the behavior of these people in the streets, but just try telling them that…

Countries where police violence isn’t an issue in modern times, such as Germany, are overreacting with both mass demonstrations and legislative changes. Then again, Germany is still feeling very guilty for its past, so overreaction motivated by feelings of guilt is a predictable reaction for them. It’s also ridiculous, particularly for a country where there is so much disrespect, violence and hatred directed toward its law-abiding citizens from incoming immigrants.

The onus for the current situation can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the current political leadership of both parties in the US, because they’ve engaged in divisive, polarizing strategies for quite some time. The problematic behavior of police forces can be traced directly up the chain of command to the tone set by the president and other top political figures in their speeches and other communications. Even so, I’d encourage you to not be so naive to think that a simple switch of the presidency from one party to another can dramatically change the situation. This divisive rhetoric has existed at the top levels of politics even during president Obama’s two terms (not that he engaged in that sort of thing, but plenty of people on both sides of the isle in Congress and elsewhere did). And I believe that no matter what political party is in charge, that party can appoint good people to positions of leadership and ensure that the proper tone is set and publicly communicated at all levels of government, right down to the policemen patrolling the streets.

Whether you want to admit it or not, and whether you think it’s right or not, the brutality seen nowadays on the streets is the result of the frustration and anger of many conservative people in the US who’ve felt disenfranchised, under-represented and pushed aside by overtly liberal policies and laws passed in recent decades. I’ve written about this on my site before and I would point you to the exact post, but I can’t find it now. Certain societal changes must happen slowly, because they involve re-defining important concepts that have been in place for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Yet in the last two decades, we’ve seen huge pushes to over-liberalize views on so many subjects, and even more so, it became a crime (punished by law, censure or ostracization) to speak against these changes. This was bound to polarize and anger a lot of people, and what’s happening now is a long-overdue reaction that’s been building up to a boiling point. What you’re really seeing now is a clash between ways of thinking. Don’t think for a moment that just by condemning police brutality you’re going to make this long-standing anger go away. This kind of a complex situation can only be calmed down by at least a decade of completely open dialogue between all sides, where you have to let people say exactly what they think, on all sides. If that means a series of televised debates between community representatives in every major city, so be it, but the air needs to be cleared, over and over and over, until all concerns have been aired, all frustrations vented, on all sides of the issues. You have to let everyone voice their opinions without repercussions, without judgment, without categorizing them as racists, as discriminators, as “behind the times”, etc. But this isn’t happening. Instead, liberal agendas are being pushed through everywhere as fast and as forcibly as possible, so this deep-felt anger is going to continue to bubble up and reach boiling points.

If you look at videos of the demonstrators being aggressed by the police, you can see in a lot of cases how they’re either getting right up into these policemen’s faces and screaming at them, or they’re keeping some distance but still screaming at the policemen. If you’re going out to protest, do your protesting toward the cameras, toward government officials (if they’re present), but keep your distance and leave the policemen alone. They’re not there to act as a “screaming wall” for you or to judge your causes. They’re under tremendous pressure to do their jobs. Why do those people think it’s okay to scream at someone for hours on end, to call them names, to even bait them, and then expect them not to retaliate when they get the chance? Go out, have your say if you must, scream your heart out at the world, but keep your distance from the authorities, don’t be physically or verbally threatening, don’t throw things, and you’ll likely go home unharmed. But in a lot of these cases where demonstrators got hurt, the police were provoked in one way or another, probably not by the people who got hurt, but by people in and around that area. I’m not saying what happened was right or was justified, but it was in some way provoked, and when tensions run high, you don’t need to do too much before violence kicks in on both sides.

There is talk of defunding and disbanding police forces, and putting that money into social workers, community organizers, etc. Other than a few urban areas in the US, the truth of the matter is that police forces are typically underfunded and understaffed. And most policemen are good people with good intentions. But let’s let those cities that want to engage in police defunding experiments do it, and we’ll see what happens when social workers and community organizers are confronted with violent gang members, looters, muggers, rapists and various nefarious individuals who don’t respond to logic and reasoning.

On the other hand, and I speak from my experience of living in the US and in Romania, quite a few policemen (not the majority, but enough of them) can be described by at least one of these adjectives: lazy, incompetent, rude, corrupt, bullies. Those who qualify deserve whatever’s coming their way. While that sort of behavior might be marginally tolerated in civilian jobs, it cannot be tolerated from policemen, who ought to be held to a higher standard, exactly because it’s their job to uphold the law.

An inescapable truth that can be seen quite clearly in these demonstrations is that while people are out in the streets, “demonstrating”, they aren’t working. Worse than that, they’re not letting others work. Businesses who would now be working and contributing to a sorely abused economy cannot work because they’re disrupted by the demonstrations or they’ve been looted, especially where they were needed the most, such as in poorer neighborhoods. All this comes on top of a quarantine and countless missed payments on mortgages, car loans and other promissory notes. The very people shouting for justice right now are going to get a big dose of injustice as looming foreclosures and evictions finally occur. It isn’t going to be pretty if this situation drags on. People need to get back to work, businesses need to reopen, mortgages and other loans need to get paid, etc., or the economy is going to get even worse.

Should things get worse and should police forces get defunded in key urban areas in the US, those people are setting themselves up for severe problems in the near future. Those who haven’t witnessed what late 1970s and early 1980s New York was like, are about to experience it in their own cities and neighborhoods, if things continue along the same path.

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Thoughts

On governmental stimuli for child-rearing

As the rate of population growth in developed or developing countries decreases, governments interested in managing their financial risk for social programs quite often offer one short-sighted solution: financial stimuli for making more children. The idea is to increase the future tax base and cover the costs of running a country’s social programs. It’s what just happened in Romania earlier this year, as the monthly allocation for each child was increased. This is the wrong approach.

Contrary to unfortunately popular beliefs and populist politicians, a nation’s decreasing population is a good thing. It’s an educated, informed, working population’s natural response to overpopulation, to the state of the world and the world’s resources, and its preference for quality over quantity. They prefer to have less children, often just one, and to ensure that that child gets the best education and upbringing that each family’s money can buy. Gone are the days when a family would have several children, knowing that a few would be lost during childhood and also knowing the ones who’d reach teenhood and adulthood would be good help on the homestead. Also gone are the days when a country’s population growth was seen as a nationally strategic decision and encouraged against reason and odds.

Still, financial stimuly for child-rearing are a popular topic with voters. What are a country’s leaders to do as they try to shift their country’s focus from quantity to quality, on all levels of life? Here’s a thought: do what the educated parents do. Lavish proper financial stimuli on a family’s first child. I would increase the amount of aid offered by the government by quite a bit, but only for the first child. After that first child, the aid would stop. Each family should be completely on its own if they want to have additional children.

This could be taken one step further in order to fully address a country’s population growth: governments could institute a higher income tax on those families who choose to have more than one child. Whatever name gets attached to it, in those countries where population growth must be curbed, there should be a tax — perhaps even a tax that grows exponentially — for each additional child.

In a world that is well past the mark of overpopulation, each family that chooses to have additional children should ensure they have the proper resources to take care of them instead of being a burden on society. The making of children purely for the purpose of obtaining financial aid from the government (which is a thing in Romania among certain people) would no longer be a problem. The problem of uncontrolled population growth would be fully addressed.

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Thoughts

The answer to a great many questions of today

This post will seem to fall right out of nowhere for you, mainly because you haven’t been privy to my thoughts in recent years — how could you be, after all? It may also strike you as highly inconsiderate and you may even become angry with me. Let it be so. You will inevitably calm down and you may also agree with me in a few months or years. 

The pompous title may lead you to think I’m going to philosophize. Nope, it’s just a little bait meant to entice you to read on. I’m going to speak plainly, because this must be said plainly and repeated loudly, for all to hear and understand: the answer to a great many questions of today is “too many people”

Go ahead, ask a question about the state of the world or the state of the planet. Any question at all. The answer, if you dig right down to the core, is inevitably overpopulation

Shall we have a go right now? Here are a few examples; keep in mind you already know the answer: 

  • Scarcity of clean drinking water?
  • Disappearing forests?
  • Disappearing fish? 
  • Disappearing animals?
  • Garbage piling up everywhere?
  • Pollution?
  • Overconsumption?
  • Poor quality of manufactured goods?
  • Poor quality of foods? 
  • Traffic jams?
  • Growing numbers of lonely and depressed people in large cities? 
  • Filled up cemeteries that are now contaminating water tables and surrounding land?
  • Crowded schools?
  • Crowded hospitals?
  • Crowded nursing homes?
  • Crowded mass transport? 
  • Crowded buildings/smaller apartments/taller buildings/feeling like a sardine in a tin can?
  • Natural beauty ruined by poorly planned and poorly made modern development?

I could go on and on, I suppose, but I would also get sadder and sadder as this list grew bigger. It’s daunting to face up to the problems we’ve created for ourselves, simply because we collectively thought there should be more of us. “Sure,” we thought, “let’s go on f*****g, it feels good and we’re making babies. The world needs babies…” 

It turns out, the world doesn’t need that many babies. Babies of all species are absolutely adorable and they melt your heart with their cuteness, but the overpopulation of any species is a real threat to the species itself and to the planet as a whole. 

In the past, people thought the answer to many questions were more people. How do you solve a labor shortage? How do you fund social security? How do you gather enough revenues as a government in order to build and maintain a modern infrastructure and have enough employees to take care of it all? How do you grow the economy? We thought “more people” was the answer. Well, it turned out not to be so. 

Paradoxically, at over 7.2 billion people, we still have massive labor shortages, social security and other social safety nets are in the dumps, it turns out that governments can never have enough revenues, and most puzzling of all, that economies and companies do and must stop growing. As a matter of fact, the very economic model that drives every economy in the world is based on constant growth. We can talk about “boom/bust cycles” and “contagion” and “recovery” all we want, but in the end, it’s about growth. And you can’t have growth forever. At some point it stops. It has to stop. You either run out of people or you run out of resources. To pick an example out of recent memory, there are only so many smartphones that people will buy. Given the limited resources available on Earth, there are only so many TVs/cars/houses/pieces of furniture you can make before you turn the whole Earth into a dug-up wasteland. 

This is a huge topic: an immense “minefield” that we’ve built and that we’ve got to wade through and “disarm” if we want to have a sustainable future. It’s filled with “hot potatoes” that no one wants to touch or step on, because there’s a real price to pay in the real world if you are a person of any clout and you dare talk about these things publicly. But these things must be said and someone must make the hard decisions, or else… 

Shall I tell you what you’re thinking? If you’re a parent, the basic question swirling through your mind right now is: “How dare YOU tell ME whether or not I should have MY children?” How dare I even bring up the question of procreation, which most people, at some level or another, conscious or subconscious, believe is their God-given right and even more so, God-given blessing? 

I wonder though, should God ever truly speak to us — if He or She or It would even deign to speak to an arrogant, dirty, criminal and avaricious species like ours — would would be said? We don’t know. God isn’t speaking to us, in spite of what some deranged “religious leaders” seem to think on the topic. We are left to figure this out on our own. 

I think it boils down to egotism. We are all so caught up in ourselves, most of us much more so than we realize, that we believe the world would be deprived of something if we didn’t have children, as if our exact chromosomes will combine to create a super-child that will solve the problems of the world. Let me assure you, right here and now, that collectively, the world won’t miss a beat if any one of us stops having children. It might even breathe a sigh of relief, as in “Thank God, I’ve been spared another mouth to feed!” And no, your “super-child” won’t solve the problems of the world. YOU need to work on solving them RIGHT NOW, so STOP procrastinating and passing the buck to future generations! 

What about the other egotistical question, “But who will take care of me when I’m old?” Does it always have to be about you? Must you be a burden to your children in old age? How about you figure out some other way, such as taking care of yourself and your money, so that you reach old age in relatively good shape? That way you can be independent and function well, living from your own resources. Why, you might even be able to give back to society, through volunteering and donations, instead of being a feeble shell of your old self, depending on social security and being carted around by a nurse. 

Is it any wonder that the rate of birth among well-read, well-educated folks all around the world is declining rapidly? As people better themselves and start to think beyond their bellies and their willies, they begin to see that all is not well with the world, and they choose to have less or no children. 

When I think of the people who are having more children, it is unfortunately those who shouldn’t be having them. Let me make it CLEAR here that I am NOT talking about RACE. What I am talking about is: livelihood, education, household resources, strength of the couple’s relationship, geographical location, available opportunities and so on. Let me make it plainer: a child born to a couple who abuse each other physically and verbally, living on government aid or in poverty, or in a country roiling in upheaval and conflict, will have limited or no opportunities and will have a poor quality of life. That child will likely be abused by its parents, perhaps even sexually — certainly and at the very least emotionally — and will grow up just like them, stunted, tortured, a stump of a human being that will likely continue to hurt others, just as it was hurt, knowing no better way in life, unable to do better in life even when shown and helped. That mother and father should give serious thought as to whether they should be having children at all, because they cannot provide for them, but unfortunately they give no thought to this at all and typically have them in droves. Is that the right thing to do? 

The solution is simple in theory but near-impossible to implement: we must each of us choose to have but one child or no child. It must not be forced upon us, or else it’ll feel horrible. We must make that choice. If all the families in the world would choose to make this decision, for the sake of our world as a whole, the world population would enter a steady and unforced decline, a very welcome decline that would allow us to slowly plan and become accustomed to an ever-decreasing population and re-work our economic and government models in order to account for it. 

I cannot state how dire the situation truly is. In developed countries, it’s easy to get lost in the abundance of it all, even if you’re poor. You can still dream about “having it all” and you think it’s going to be like this all the time. But we are on the precipice. We have been for some time, our end postponed for a little longer and a little longer. Mind you, I’m not talking about Biblical stuff here. I’m talking about the planet shaking and scratching us off like a bad case of fleas, but it’ll certainly feel Biblical to us. I’m talking about us doing it to ourselves, because as a species, we are all of the stuff I said we are in the paragraphs above. And it’s so easy to solve this peacefully, slowly, without the use of force and fear and horror, if we act now and we act collectively. 

I am sorry to dump this on you so near to Christmas. I’ve been mulling over this stuff for years and I’ve alluded to it here and there, but I haven’t come out and said it outright so far. Since most of us will have some downtime and our bellies full this year-end, it might be a very good time to think on these things. 

I remain hopeful. Who knows, in the near future, instead of bugging newlyweds for grandchildren, parents might ask them instead, “Have you thought about not having kids?” or “Isn’t one child enough, honey?” Wishful thinking, I know… 

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Thoughts

Enough with aiding society’s trash

I am fed up with all of the aid that the world’s various governments give to society’s trash. How long have we been doing it? In some form or another, governments have been handing money out to people, with surprisingly little control over who gets it, for almost 100 years now. The way these programs are currently run, they’re not really helping those who truly deserve help, and they’re providing too much help to those who don’t deserve it. If anything, I see societies slowly declining and I see more and more goldbricks and welfare swindlers around every day. I have had it with these parasites who are walking about and poisoning our societies on our own money!

I want to make myself clear so you don’t get the wrong idea. When I talk about societal parasites, I’m talking about trash of any color and breed. I mean those who won’t work because they know they can wiggle their way through the welfare system without doing it. I mean the ones who can work, are offered jobs but won’t take them, the ones who have no problems turning down an honest day’s work but have no problem selling their children into sex, the ones begging in the streets even though they’re perfectly healthy, the ones who’d rather commit crimes instead of getting a job. Those are the shitheads I’m talking about.

I am not talking about people who have lost their jobs, who need a temporary helping hand, a leg up, who can’t get by even though they’re working, because their jobs don’t pay enough for them to support their families, the widowed, the elderly, the disabled and any other honest folks I might have not mentioned here. By all means, let’s help these people! As a matter of fact, if we stopped helping the shitheads I named in the previous paragraph, I bet we’d have a lot of money that we could use to help these people, who are truly deserving of our help.

It’s fiscally irresponsible to just hand money out without thoroughly checking who gets it and what they do with it but then, when have we known politicians in general to be fiscally responsible? It’s very easy to spend someone else’s money, especially when it means you can be a populist and earn cheap votes from all the scumbags who never do an honest day’s work, simply by promising to keep their aid flowing.

This sort of thing does nothing but encourage the same kind of disgusting behavior we now see in most developed countries of the world: shitty people being shitty, all day long, all over the place. Think about your own community for example: you know exactly who these shitty people are, the ones who live on welfare and multiply like fleas because they get more government aid that way. They’re filthy drunkards and/or drug addicts, horrible parents and as humans, they’re not only subpar, I doubt they even qualify for the title. In countries where it’s allowed, they are out begging on the streets, teaching their children to do the same, sometimes even mutilating them (yes, you read that right) in order to make them into better beggars.

In Romania for example, these assholes get free government-subsidized housing, which they shit on, literally. They get new housing and in a few years, it’s unrecognizable, in part because they shit around it and in it. Yes, in it, you read that right. They have toilets but don’t use them. They shit and piss outside the buildings, in the hallways and in their apartments. They get free TVs, free furniture, subsidized utility bills (they can spend all the energy they want, they only pay 5-15 lei per month). In return, they do nothing but evil. The law says they’re supposed to do some community work per month, but no one holds them to it. They go out and they beg on the streets. They steal. They have more children in order to have more benefits. They break the law more often than you can keep track. They pollute the city with their garbage, which they throw everywhere, including right out the window, so it piles up next to their free housing. They pollute the cities with their noise because they play their TVs and stereos loud all the time. They have fights on the streets. The list goes on and on. It’s utterly disgusting to watch them and no one wants to see them around. Come voting day, they pile up at the booths to vote for whatever politician bribed them off (the going rate is about 50-75 lei per vote). And they continue to get welfare from the government. Why in hell does that happen?

Why do we aid them? Why do we, the tax-paying citizens who support our governments and who work hard, some of us seven days a week, not just five, allow populist politicians to give our tax money to this societal detritus, to these walking piles of filth who pollute our cities and our lives? Why? That is a question for which I have yet to receive an adequate answer.

Some say it’s because the crime rate would go up, that these societal parasites would resort to crime of all sort in order to get some cash, and that we need to placate them with a monthly stipend. To that I reply that they (the parasites) are already engaging in illegal and criminal behavior. And besides, that’s we have we have police forces. I’d much rather know that my tax money goes to pay the salary of honest policemen who won’t hesitate to shoot down a parasite who is committing a crime, rather than have it go to helping that same parasite get drunk or drugged or sit in his or her own filth all day, watching TV.

Are you winching at the idea of cleaning up the filth of the world? Why? Are you more content to see it polluting your world, day in and day out, while you support it with your own money?

Some say that we need to work on rehabilitating the scumbags. To that I say they’re welcome to do it on their own dime and time. I have yet to see these efforts succeed even marginally. Some people are born to be shit and they’re going to be shit for as long as you allow them to be around.

Some say that out of the parasites we sometimes get people who rise up and become good citizens. To that I say I’ve heard enough about the exceptions to the rule. We need to stop worrying about the 0,001% of societal parasites who might at some unknown time become worthwhile people and deal with them as a class right now, the way they deserve to be dealt with.

So why are we spending so much of our money (it’s still our money even if we give it to the government in the form of taxes, I hope you realize that) to support those who don’t deserve any support whatsoever? Why?! Why don’t we cut them loose and help those who truly deserve it?

In case you’re wondering what we can do with the societal detritus, I have a plan and it’s this: mandatory community service. If they want government aid, they need to be out there on the streets, every single day, cleaning up our towns, everywhere. Whatever work to be done in our communities, they report for work every morning and they they get it done properly, under close supervision, otherwise they get nothing. They sweep the streets. They clean the garbage cans. They scrub grafitti off the walls. They scoop the poop leftover from wayward pets and the gum off the sidewalk. They clean our city parks and pull out the weeds. Etc… this list can go on and on. And it should also be mandatory for them to keep their places of living clean, to do everything by the letter of the law, or they stop getting aid. They get caught doing anything illegal, in jail they go, where they do mandatory work assigned to them.

As for the people who deserve help, I bet we can all think of hundreds of ways to help them, besides those currently available in our various countries.

Come on, let’s put a stop to the filth of society already!

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Thoughts

The lure of the West and its subsequent disappointment (for some)

Here’s a thought: the very people who rail the most against the restrictions imposed by the state in autocratic countries, the most vocal opponents of such regimes, the ones who crave an escape to the West, are the ones who fare the worst after emigrating to free, democratic societies such as those in the Western world. You can think of it as an inversely proportional relationship between one’s dislike for a government or a regime and their likelihood of doing well in a freer, Western country that runs on capitalist principles.

They, unlike those who make their own little worlds at home in spite of the surrounding conditions, those who make the best of the situation, these vocal dissidents have let themselves be defined by what they perceive to be the restrictions of those societies. In other worlds, their lives have become dominated by what they criticize; they themselves have become the voice of those restrictions. Their very purpose of being is now defined by those societies: they live to criticize them. Because of this, their transplantation into a Western society would be fruitless. I don’t say this triflingly; I saw this happen first-hand.

These particular people would quickly find the faults in such a society (because they have become wired to do this) and would become dissidents of the West, criticizing the overt commercialism (for example) of such a society. They would find no solace in the freedom offered there and would instead resort to vocal criticism of the faults of that society. They would make poor use of the facilities of that society, they would contribute little or nothing to its betterment, but would instead fill their days with discontented moans. They’d likely pen editorials about the shackles of the West, etc.

If you want immigration success stories, you should look for those who can find the good in any situation, those who in spite of the conditions imposed on them, managed with what they had, provided good lives for themselves and those in their families, and were bright points of light in those autocratic societies. Get those people in the West and they’ll likely do the same, if not more, with the opportunities provided to them in those free societies.

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Places

Washington DC as seen from the top of the Washington Monument

Here’s how our nation’s capital looks if you climb to the top of the Washington Monument. It’s… monumental. I love the architecture and the way it’s been laid out. It is a pity that the ranks of the public servants have grown so much in recent times that certain government organizations no longer fit into the buildings originally designed for them. While some growth is understandable, there’s real, lasting value in the idea of a lean, simple government and a republic, not a democracy, as the US of A was originally created.

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Thoughts

The pillaging of Romania’s natural resources

The following are a couple of examples of what’s going on in Romania right now.

Romania’s largest petroleum reserves (famous since WWII) were recently sold to OMV (Österreichischen Mineralölverwaltung Aktiengesellschaft).

Petrom, Romania’s state-owned petroleum company, now belongs to OMV, and every time I fill up my car at Petrom, the receipt says OMV Petrom. I talked to someone today who told me OMV sells roughly 4 Billion Euros of Romanian petroleum every year. And they’ve also got a contract to sell Romanian natural gas, of which they move roughly 2 Billion Euros’ worth every year.

That’s about 6 Billion Euros of sales from Romania alone (they have holdings in other countries and their total annual sales are around 23 Billion Euros per year).

Do you know how much Romania makes from these sales of its own natural reserves, per year, according to the contract drawn up by its own government? 100 Million Euros. That’s an incredibly paltry sum compared to the money OMV makes.

Could Romania have made more? Absolutely. Would OMV have paid more for the right to sell Romania’s oil and gas reserves? Absolutely. I think half and half would have been equitable. Did Romania even need to make a deal with OMV? No.

But when the political environment is such that you can pay a few million Euros to a few corrupt politicians and get the contract drafted with much more favorable terms, of course a corporation will take the easier way. Corporations are out to make money, not to watch out for the common good. Governments are supposed to watch out for the common good. In Romania, the government doesn’t do that.

Here’s another case.

You may have heard about a little region in Romania called Rosia Montana. It’s been famous since Roman times (two thousand years ago) for its gold reserves. It still is.

For several years, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, a gold mining corporation with investors like George Soros, has been trying to get its claws on it. They’ve been promising all sorts of things to the Romanian government and to the local people in Rosia Montana, but they’ve met with unexpected and forceful grassroots resistance against the deal, and rightfully so.

When you look at the facts, the deal they want the Romanian government to sign is this: they get 96% of the finds and Romania gets 4% of the finds.

Someone’s getting thoroughly shafted and I bet it’s Romania itself. The Romanian government is ready to sign on the deal, because they’re thoroughly corrupt and select politicians stand to make millions, but lots of Romanians (and foreigners concerned with the environmental impact of the project) are saying no, so for now, the deal’s hotly debated.

Romania’s own president, Basescu, wants the deal to go through, because the gold found there will supposedly “replenish Romania’s gold reserves”. He’s either a moron or he stands to make a personal fortune if the deal goes through. If there’s “gold in them thar hills”, then for goodness’ sake, get some unemployed Romanian miners in those mines, take 100% (not 4%) of that gold and get it into the state vaults, pronto. What do you need Rosia Montana Gold Corporation for? Say you do need a foreign investor to help you mine the gold? Then make the revenue sharing more equitable! Again, half and half would be the right choice.

Naturally, the Romanian government would disagree, and TV pundits are talking the issue to death on all the news channels. Talk solves nothing. Ever since 1989, Romanian newspapers and independent TV and radio stations have been uncovering corruption after corruption in Romania’s political dealings, and oftentimes, they’ve given clearcut financial proof of the wrongdoings. Have any of the truly guilty gone to jail? No, some of their cronies went to jail, while the real bastards have gotten richer and re-elected. The judicial branch has never been able to convict and send to jail powerful Romanian politicians, in spite of all their corruption, theft of government money, manipulation of government contracts and… the list of crimes goes on and on.

On the other hand, and this is the saddest part, if these contracts with foreign corporations were equitable, do you think all that money would benefit the Romanian people? Do you think it would be used to rebuild Romania’s infrastructure and to spur innovation and small business growth? You’d be a fool to think so. After all, this is Romania, not Sweden, Norway, Iceland or New Zealand. Logic and rational thinking have no place here, nor does equitable behavior. All that extra money, all those gobs and gobs of extra money would likely line the pockets of the same bastards who are screwing the country right now.

I don’t know what’s to be done. Well, I do know, but my solution involves legal superpowers and weapons and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in the EU and most of the countries in this world…

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Thoughts

Modern lawn care: a lot of hot air

One of the things I strongly believe in is the need for manual labor, especially during these highly industrialized times. I believe such work yields better results and it keeps us grounded, in touch with the earth from which we ultimately draw our living. I dislike the “modern” methods of lawn care, where one uses hedge trimmers and leaf blowers to do a job which can be done much more adequately by simpler, manual tools such as a broom and a pair of hedge scissors.

Don’t mistake me for a luddite. I use lawnmowers when they’re justified, like when a lawn requires it, because of its size, or because it can’t be cut by a push-mower or a scythe. The scythe in particular is a great way to cut grass, and it’s also a great workout for one’s back and abdomen. It’s been around for millennia. It’s only been replaced by machinery during the last couple of centuries.

If you live in the suburbs, then this next picture should be familiar to you.

That, of course, would be landscaping day, or if you happen to live within a larger community that has a lot of lawns, this would be part of landscaping week, which would happen every month, or worse, during frequent rainfall, every couple of weeks. Every day of that period, the maddening roar of the leaf blowers would be heard all over the compound, gnawing away at your brain, making it impossible to take a nice afternoon nap, or to concentrate on a project.

I find it so inefficient to blow leaves around all day, for hours on end, when a pair of men with a couple of good brooms and some rakes would make short work of those leaves, with no noise at all, no pollution from two-cycle engines, and much less dust. I’ve often seen landscaping teams use tractors to mow little patches of grass where a push mower would have done just fine, or use hedge trimmers to walk for entire yards and trim little weeds here and there, when a man could have simply pulled them up by the roots.

I associated this sort of inefficiency, expense of petrol, noise and air pollution with the US, because so much gets wasted there these days, by people who feel entitled to everything the country has to offer, even though they offer little to nothing in return. So I was surprised to find the same waste had arrived in Romania, where my wife and I currently reside.

Here people still use scythes to cut the grass in the countryside. It’s a wonder to behold a good scythe-handler. A single man can make short work of an entire hillside in an afternoon. And it’s even more beautiful to hear the noise a sharpened scythe makes as it cuts through long grass: a metallic whoosh, coupled with a slight singing of the blade at the apex of its swing. Every other noise of nature is perfectly audible: the birds, the bees, the distant bleating of sheep, the breeze blowing through the grass and the edge of a forest nearby… It’s wonderful!

And yet, the noxious use of leaf blowers and hedge trimmers has found its way into Romanian cities, probably brought here through the export of popular American culture. Here, too, we can see workers parading through our street and through the city center with leaf blowers and hedge trimmers, making a huge noise of it all, for days on end. It’s such a pathetic (and polluting) spectacle. The noise is unbearable. Here we have tall brick buildings, built by the Saxons. These cities seem made for echoes. The wall of noise obliterates everything around. It bounces off the walls and can be heard hundreds of yards or kilometers away. It’s such a waste.

It was but a few short years ago that the city would hire scythe-men to come and cut the grass. In a few short hours, with a few swoops of the scythe, they’d be done, and someone would come after them to gather up the cut grass. It was peaceful and quiet. Now, we’re polluted with noise, and the blasted filthy smoke from the blowers and trimmers.

The sad part is that here, the public lawns found on streets and in city parks are not of the scale found in the States. They’re small. And Eastern European grass is soft. If one must use more modern machinery, they could easily switch to push mowers and be done in the same amount of time, without all the ridiculous noise and smoke.

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Thoughts

Save the data!

Some of the most important technology programs that keep Washington accountable are in danger of being eliminated. Data.gov, USASpending.gov, the IT Dashboard and other federal data transparency and government accountability programs are facing a massive budget cut, despite only being a tiny fraction of the national budget.

Help save the data and make sure that Congress doesn’t leave the American people in the dark.

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