The Irish Famine               and What it Means to Us

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The Irish Famine

and What it Means to Us

 

Schoolkids are taught that the United States was founded on freedom and Enlightenment ideals. That’s partially true. But at its heart, the American Revolution was a colonial uprising.

The rich guys in the States thought of themselves as respectable Britons. The problem was, actual British people thought of them as mere colonists. Americans thought of their States as equal to Yorkshire or the West Midlands. London thought of America as a cash register to be taxed and exploited.

Schoolkids are also taught that colonialism is based on race. And while it is true that imperialists have sometimes used race as an excuse for colonialism, the motivation has always been money. The color of the exploited colonists doesn’t matter at all. Blind greed doesn’t discriminate.

 

One of the most ghastly episodes in colonial history is the Irish Famine.

During the 17th Century, Great Britain reconquered and brutally pacified Ireland. Naturally, the British began to use their colony for selfish profit.

The British took the most fertile farmland in Ireland and used it for raising animals. Soon, wealthy and noble Englishmen were eating like kings, dining on meat from the fields of Ireland.

Meanwhile, the Irish themselves were eating like…Irish people; dining on potatoes.

The parts of Ireland that weren’t deemed suitable for grazing were left to the local peasants to farm. English landlords – some of whom never stepped foot in Ireland – owned large tracts of land and rented out of parcels of it to Irish families.

To maximize profit, the absentee English landlords split their property into smaller and smaller pieces so that they could have as many Irish families paying them rent as possible. Soon, the average farm size in Ireland was so small that peasants didn’t have room for animals or low-yield grains like wheat or barley.

The highest yield staple food that exists is potatoes. So that’s what most every Irish tenant farmer grew and that’s what most every Irish peasant was forced to eat every meal.

In the whitewashed version of history, a potato blight caused crop yields to plummet between 1845 and 1849, leading to the death of a million Irish people and the emigration of a million others. In just a few horrible years, the island’s population dropped by 25%.

In the history books, the Irish Famine was a natural disaster. In reality, it was a colonialist crime.

The blight only effected potatoes. The fertile grazing fields continued to produce meat at pre-blight levels. During the height of famine, imports of livestock, bacon, and butter into Liverpool actually increased.

There was plenty of food to go around in the 1840s, it’s just that the Irish didn’t have any money and the British didn’t have any desire to share.

 

Colonialism isn’t just an ugly page in history books. Our country is still arbitrarily ruling over territories that we conquered in the 20th Century.

I’m certainly not saying that the American empire is as villainously exploitive as the British. I am saying that colonialism is always wrong and that it is directly repugnant to the spirit of our country’s founding.

I will be especially proud to be an American on the day that our government finally grants Guam, Samoa, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico their freedom and independence.

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The Black Death and the 1%

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The Black Death and the 1%

1351 England was a great place to be. Sure, it was a bummer that nearly 50% of the English had recently died from bubonic plague. But for the half that survived, life was about to get a lot better.

The Black Death put a swift end to Feudalism. For centuries, English peasants had toiled in virtual slavery on small plots of land owned by a powerful nobleman. Suddenly, there was a lot more arable land per person. Peasants immediately started eating better. There was even land left over to raise sheep, which created a profitable wool export industry.

More importantly, fewer peasants per lord meant that noblemen needed to pay farmers more and give them a greater share of the bounty. Otherwise, the fields would go untended. Lords knew that if they didn’t keep their peasants happy, they would leave and work for a more generous employer.

Under Feudalism, the law mandated that noble houses owned the land. In this new competitive environment, industrious commoners began buying farms for themselves and even hiring their neighbors. A new middle class of landed gentry appeared.

The privileged 1% were shameless about trying to rig the game to stay in power. Sumptuary laws were passed that forbade Gentry from dressing in noble attire. All that did was make new middle class clothing fashionable.

The outrageous 1351 Statute of Laborers made it illegal to pay a peasant more than his 1346 wage. Fortunately, the law of supply and demand trumps any man-made rule. The Statute ultimately failed; ambitious peasants flocked to the fields of landowners who were willing to flout the law.
The lesson for us is that we can’t trust politicians to help workers gain more power and a larger piece of the economic pie. We can pretty much assume that any law they pass will exist to impoverish us and hold us down.

However, we do have one trick up our sleeve: we can reduce the population to increase our value and bargaining power.

We don’t have to wait for a plague. Conveniently, Americans are already choosing to die and retire at a faster rate than we reproduce. Now all we need to do is close the border.

We don’t need to kick anyone out or make any tough decisions on Dreamers. We just need to agree that all immigration ceases right now. And that we won’t open the borders again until the power has shifted and every corporate worker has a private sector union, a living wage, and affordable health care.

Ever wonder why absolutely nobody in the Establishment brings up the option of ending all legal immigration? It’s because they know that it’s the only way they can lose their monopoly on power.

 

It is 1350 all over again. We are the oppressed peasants. The 1% are the lords. And the open border is the feudal system. That is why Establishment leaders want you to think that real immigration reform is as terrible as the Black Death.

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond

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Netflix Original

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond

****

 

When I watch something where an actor is playing an insane character, I wonder to myself: is the actor truly crazy? Did he start off sane and lose his mind for the role?

The craziest TV character I can think of is Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison in “Homeland.” When she’s not completely devoted to her dangerous job, she goes home and becomes an immediate danger to herself with booze and pills.

It is possible that Claire Danes is simply a terrific actress who can turn it on and off at will. But I’ll bet no one who watched “Homeland” has ever taken a chance and allowed Ms. Danes to babysit their children.

When it comes to entertainers acting insane, Andy Kaufman is the all-time champion. Kaufman became a celebrity in the late 70s with his goofy appearances on Saturday Night Live and his lovable immigrant character on the sitcom “Taxi.”

For his own artistic vision and amusement, Andy Kaufman decided to take the love America had for him and turn it into hate.

When he would appear on a talk show, Kaufman would come out wearing a one-piece wresting unitard. He would stand in the middle of a makeshift wresting ring and go on a chauvinist rant. Finally, a woman in the audience would become so furious that she was eager to wrestle him.

Andy Kaufman would pin the woman, dance around proudly, hold a golden belt above his head, and gloat that he was the World Intergender Wrestling Champion.

Was he a brave performance artist or was he actually insane? No one knows. But I assure you no one ever allowed Mr. Kaufman to babysit their children.

Most people found Andy Kaufman’s antics weird and troubling. Jim Carrey thought he was amazing.
In 1999, at the height of his popularity, Carrey successfully lobbied to win the role of Andy Kaufman in the biopic “Man in the Moon.”

And Jim Carrey didn’t play Andy Kaufman, he became him. For four months, Carrey remained in character, day and night. Half of the documentary “Jim and Andy” shows us behind the scenes video of Jim Carrey – as Andy Kaufman – causing mischief and making life uncomfortable for everyone around him.

But the star of this film isn’t crazy 1999 Jim Carrey: it’s super crazy 2017 Jim Carrey.

Bearded, haggard, and soft-spoken, Jim Carrey looks and sounds like a homeless New Age poet.

Sometimes he’s smart, sometimes he’s wise, often he’s off in space. It’s as if he’s having a conversation at the psychiatrist’s office but he wrongly thinks he’s the doctor.

Carrey describes the liberating experience of getting to live outside himself and be a jerk for a whole summer. Then he describes the horror and confusion of leaving the character and not remembering who Jim Carrey is.

“Jim and Andy” powerfully underscores the message that becoming a celebrity is a terrible disaster for your identity, self-worth, and happiness.

 

There is no way of knowing whether becoming a Method Actor and being Andy Kaufman broke Jim Carrey’s brain or if he was messed up already.

All I know is, no one is hiring Jim Carrey to babysit their kids. Man, I wouldn’t even trust him to come over and feed my cats for a weekend.

Second Hand Smoke and the Power of Collective Brainwashing

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Second Hand Smoke and the Power of Collective Brainwashing

 

We have an ugly habit of judging people of the past as dumber, simpler, or more gullible than us.

We look, for example, at people of the 17th Century who burned witches and we shake our heads. “How could they be so worked up about a threat that doesn’t even exist?” we ask ourselves.

We are in no position to judge. Humanity has a problem. I call it Collective Brainwashing.

I have seen this happen in my own lifetime.

 

Let me take you back to a simpler time in the United States: 1990.

The war on smoking had been raging for a generation. And the anti-smoking crowd was on a roll. Almost every restaurant in the country had a No Smoking Section. Most airplanes had banned smoking. Even baseball and football stadiums were beginning to go smoke free.

Smokers had become a clear minority. Only half of the American people had ever smoked regularly. And half of them had since quit.

These were huge victories. But the anti-smoking crusaders were not satisfied.

It was right around 1990 that the focus of the anti-smoking movement changed from informing Americans about the real dangers of smoking to demonizing smokers.

But how on earth do you demonize regular, hard-working, law-abiding Americans? You claim that second hand smoke is deadly.

 

Passive smoking kills 600,000 a year, including 165,000 children

Second Hand Smoke Is MORE Dangerous Than Smoking!

Around 1990, quotes like these began appearing in Western newspapers.

Within a generation, Collective Brainwashing had taken hold; propaganda had evolved into accepted truth.

The anti-smoking propagandists were counting on the fact that younger people listen to the television more than their parents. And they were right.

Older folks like us who lived before 1990 know that second hand smoke isn’t deadly. We all knew non-smokers who worked in smoke-filled offices and restaurants in the 70s and 80s. None of them contracted lung cancer. We all knew non-smokers who lived in smoke-filled houses in the 70s and 80s. None of them developed emphysema. Of course they didn’t.

The truth never mattered to the propagandists. Their goal was to demonize and defeat smokers. And they did a splendid job. Smokers went from a cool, hip minority to a dangerous, hated threat.

(For the record, I am not diminishing the suffering of people who are allergic to cigarette smoke. For them, a smoke-filled room is an immediate buzzkill. I am saying, however, that there is a clear line between second hand smoke ruining one’s night and ending one’s life. The anti-smoking crusaders crossed that line in 1990 and never looked back).

 

I am not angry at the anti-smoking crusaders. I internalized their propaganda and I’m a better man for it.

I happily smoked for most of my adult life. I never considered quitting. Then, about five years ago, I just stopped. I’m so glad that I did.

I will never smoke a cigarette again. I used to look at smokers as the cool people living in the moment. Now I look at them as oddities. The Smoking Court outside the bar looks like a sad living museum – with actors performing scenes from the 20th Century.

 

We have been completely brainwashed. We are little different than the gullible fools of the 17th Century.

We have the exact same chance of being killed by second hand smoke as we have of being cursed by a witch. But we are willing to let smokers be treated like criminals, shivering out in the cold while we sip our drinks in comfort.

In the end, the problem isn’t that the propagandists brainwashed us to turn on smokers. The problem is we don’t know which vulnerable minority group they are going to make us turn on next.

 

 

 

 

 

 Oklahoma City

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Oklahoma City

                   ***1/2

          When the media talks about a terrorist, they are supposed to say that he is a brainwashed coward. Yup. According to the talking heads on CNN and Fox, every terrorist is the same: cowardly and crazy.

          I don’t know why it is against the rules of society to be honest about terrorism.

          The truth is that some terrorists are not cowards. They put themselves at risk to be arrested, killed, and/or damned to further a cause that they sincerely believe in.

          The truth is that some terrorists have a well-thought out system of beliefs that they share with a lot of people. It’s just that most people who share those beliefs aren’t willing to kill.

          “Oklahoma City” is a thought-provoking documentary about an American terrorist and gun lover – Timothy McVeigh – who murdered a bunch of people for reasons that are not crazy.

          Director Barak Goodman does an amazing job of showing us the four things that motivated the Oklahoma City bomber.

1.     Operation Desert Shield

What better place for a young gun lover than the US Army? Timothy McVeigh was a proud, happy soldier until he was sent to Middle East.

McVeigh thought that killing enemy soldiers would be thrilling. Instead – he recounts from prison years later – he felt like the Arab men he was murdering were just like him. And it made him sick. McVeigh began to realize that Uncle Sam is a bully.

At least the government wasn’t bullying Americans back home…

2.     Ruby Ridge

In the 80s, Randy Weaver decided to move his family as far away from society as he could. He was living on the top of a mountain in northern Idaho with no electricity or plumbing. It is hard to be less of a menace to society than Mr. Weaver. The Feds had a different idea.

          When Randy Weaver missed a court date in 1992 for weapons charges, the ATF and the FBI moved in. Before the standoff was over, US Marshals had killed Weaver’s wife, his 14 year old son, and his dog.

3.     Waco

Christian minister/cult leader David Koresh and his followers were living apart from society, in an isolated compound outside of Waco, Texas. Their crime was not bothering or hurting any outsiders; it was buying weapons illegally.

Koresh’s followers fought off an ATF raid and killed four federal agents. The government responded by busting in with tanks and tear gas. On April 19, 1993, Koresh’s compound caught fire. 76 people were killed.

4.     The Brady Bill

Looking back, The Brady Bill was little more than a rare, minor legislative loss by the NRA.

To already angry Timothy McVeigh, it was the final straw. First, the government had forced him to murder Arabs for no reason. Then, Uncle Sam had killed a bunch of gun owners who were minding their own business. Now, it seemed , US Marshals were probably going to bust down HIS door and take his guns.

On April 19, 1995 (the anniversary of Waco), Timothy McVeigh detonated a homemade bomb on the bottom floor of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

Timothy McVeigh was proud and unapologetic. He was executed by lethal injection in 2001.

The Oklahoma City bomber’s intentions were as clear as his actions were monstrous. McVeigh was inspired by….White Supremacy!

Wait! What? In the final act, director Barak Goodman throws us an absurd, politically-motivated curve ball. His conclusion is that Timothy McVeigh was a natural culmination of the White Power movement. Never mind that McVeigh never attended a White Power meeting and, based on prison interviews, wasn’t concerned about race at all.

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for Mr. Goodman, he accidentally told the truth for most of his film. The truth is that Timothy McVeigh was furious about Federal overreach and Washington’s willingness to kill whomever it pleases – here and abroad.

I don’t know why the truth about terrorism is so hard to stomach. The truth is that some terrorists are rational people with reasonable anger over legitimate issues. The only difference is: they think it is right to kill for their beliefs while we know it is evil.

American Experience: The Big Burn

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American Experience: The Big Burn

***

 

We need to Save the Trees!

Deforestation has ravaged our once great forests. The dwindling tree population is choking the oxygen-starved atmosphere.

Sorry, environmentalists: I’m being sarcastic. Every word of that last paragraph is false.

First, a solid majority of new atmospheric oxygen is produced by water-dwelling pytoplankton. If you love trees and walks through the forest, that is perfect understandable. Scientifically speaking, however, we don’t need trees to survive.

Second, North America has way more trees than it had at the turn of the 20th Century. Right here in Central Vermont, deer sightings used to make the newspaper. Hubbard Park was a big, treeless field.

What happened? Did Conservationist save the day? Nope: the automobile was invented.

In the 19th Century, millions of acres of arable land were used for fields to feed horses. As horses were replaced by Model Ts, those fields became forests. Tree-Huggers should pause to hug a Ford Focus; it did more to save the trees than the US Forest Service.

Indeed, “The Big Burn” shows that the US Forest Service has been misguided from the very beginning.

In 1905, The US Forest Service was founded by patrician Progressives who valued idealism more than common sense, and trees more than people.

The fledgling Federal agency sent intrepid young men far and wide. US Forest Rangers even found their way to the remote Bitterroot region of Western Montana and Northern Idaho. When Rangers told the hearty locals that they were no longer allowed to use the vast forest for clearcutting and strip-mining, they were furious.

As the PBS documentary “The Big Burn” reluctantly admits, the Forest Service’s rules that chose trees over people ended up being a disaster for both trees and people.

 

The summer of 1910 was bone dry in the Bitterroot. When a heat-lightning storm ignited a dry patch of trees, the largest fire in the history of the Hemisphere began.

Despite its remote location, America quickly recognized the size and the seriousness of the blaze. Women and children were bustled out; Federal Troops rushed in.

Desperate men aboard the last train out of town were forced off their cars at gunpoint. Uncle Sam needed them to fight the fire, the soldiers said.

But those men were just being sent to their deaths. There was no fighting The Big Burn. By the time the blaze burned itself out, a layer of soot coated the ground as far away as Iceland. Ships in the Pacific Ocean couldn’t navigate because the air was so thick with smoke.

The only thing that could have stopped this fire in its tracks was a stretch of barren, treeless land. You know, the kind that you get when you allow people to clear cut a section of forest or build a strip mine.

In the end, the greatest boon to American forests was the invention of the internal combustion engine. And the greatest disaster was made worse by the myopic machinations of the US Forest Service.

We don’t need to Save the Trees. Take a drive down I89 and look around you. They are doing just fine without our help.

 

An Open Letter to the Nitwits at ESPN

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An Open Letter to the Nitwits at ESPN

 

Not so long ago, Sports Center was a clip show. Each morning, a couple of sharp-witted gentleman presented highlights of last night’s games. During the clips, the producers played upbeat music and the hosts told the viewers what happened, tossing in a few well-timed quips and catch-phrases.

It was perfect. To me, Sports Center was The News. I had to watch it once a day or else I would be an ill-informed man.

Last month, ESPN laid off one hundred people.

Hey, Sports Center: are you wondering how you went from the center of the sports world to an embarrassing public blood bath? I’ll tell you.

 

  1. You didn’t focus on the sports that guys care about

I don’t know where the ESPN producers got the impression that sports fans are interested in golf, X-Games, and the WNBA. But, I assure you, we aren’t.

I have had a thousand conversations about sports with guys at work over the years. Exactly zero of them have been about X-Games(, obviously).

 

  1. You didn’t focus on sports at all

When Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe, the sports media covered the story. That made sense. Since then, though, sports journalists should have stayed the heck out of the personal lives of athletes. Leave that trash to the tabloids.

ESPN has a very different philosophy.

Tiger Woods’s wife went after him with a golf club? I don’t care, ESPN, that’s none of my business. LeBron James flirted with a model on Instagram? I don’t care, ESPN, that’s none of my business.

Aaron Hernandez might have had a jailhouse lover. For shame, ESPN. I don’t care. It is none of my business. That has nothing to do with sports. By covering that story, you have diminished your brand. And probably diminished your chance of passing through the Pearly Gates.

 

  1. You went out of your way to offend your core audience

At some point early this century, the bigwigs in your company decided that every Conservative working for ESPN needs to be completely silent about his political beliefs or be fired.

That would be a perfectly sensible business decision if ESPN were a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the Striped West Virginia Ground Sloth from extinction by trying to ban fracking.

But you run a sports network and your core audience is American guys. Newsflash, ESPN: we tend to lean Right. Shaming and censoring Conservatives on your network was a bad idea.

It kind of made sense when you pushed Rush Limbaugh out the door for making comments about race on the air. It made less sense when you fired baseball analyst Curt Schilling for his social media post about transgender bathrooms.

As hard as I try, though, I can’t figure out what you were thinking when you fired long-time Monday Night Football theme-song singer Hank Williams Jr. after he made an offhand remark about Obama on Fox & Friends.

Mr. Williams’s job was simply to put on a cowboy hat and sunglasses and sing “Are You Ready For Some Football?” once a week. Did you expect him to pretend to be a Progressive?

It’s hideous decisions like that that cost you your viewership and led to the 100 high-profile layoffs last month. “But it wasn’t our fault,” you plead, “our lower ratings are the result of new internet technology.” Partially perhaps. But that doesn’t explain why I hate your channel. If you run a sport network and guys loathe you, you have messed up.

I am one of the millions of people who pulled the plug on ESPN last year. And I don’t miss it at all.

     

 

You Don’t Really Have to Move to Canada

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You Don’t Really Have to Move to Canada

 

Okay, the Presidential election is over and your side didn’t win.

I’m sorry. It’s painful. I know how losing feels. I’m a New York Jets fan.

If you want to be sad because our country elected a childish, unqualified sexist who knows less about geography and history than I do, then go ahead. That’s fair.

If you want to be sad because you think President Trump will outlaw abortion, oppress the LGBT community, and put Spanish-speaking people in internment camps, then go ahead. But be aware that you are being ridiculous. The President has neither the power nor the inclination to do those things.

I predict that President Trump will be unable to accomplish anything significant during his four years in the White House.  However, just by winning, I think that Trump has already changed our country in three significant ways.

  1. Trump Has Made the Democratic Party Liberal Again

Millions of primary voters and the entire Democratic Party leadership chose Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. It’s not because they all love globalization and Goldman Sachs. It’s because they assumed that moderate Clinton was more electable than progressive Sanders. Whoops.

For a generation, the Clinton family has ensured that the Democrats are the party of Wall Street, wealth concentration, and war. Principled Progressives are rightly angry. All the rigged primaries and Super Delegates in the world aren’t going to be enough to stop the Democrat electorate from nominating an actual liberal for President in 2020. We may actually have a two-party system again.

  1. Trump Defeated Big Money

“I turned down a meeting with Charles and David Koch. Much better for them to meet with the puppets of politics. They will do much better!”

-Donald Trump on Twitter (july 30th)

Since the beginning of the primary season, Donald Trump has faced one heavily-funded candidate after another and triumphed over them.

Trump wasn’t David defeating Goliath. He was David defeating all of the Goliaths. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz. He annihilated the Bush dynasty. And then he annihilated the Clinton dynasty.

Trump’s campaign war chest was half the size of Clinton’s and it was filled mostly with the small donations of private individuals. Sec. Donald Trump defeated Citizens United with his force of will. He proved that fame, charisma, and passion are more powerful than mountains of dirty corporate money.

  1. Trump Humbled the Media

The happiest thing for me about Trump’s triumph was imagining all of the miserable journalists.

Every journalist who does not, in fact, work for Breitbart.com attacked and defamed Donald Trump. They woke up Wednesday morning in shock. The election of Trump proved that voters do not read their propaganda. Or even better: people still read the propaganda but they see right through it.

For the record, I’m not talking about the Liberal Media; I’m talking about the Establishment Media.

National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the Atlantic were every bit as hard on Trump as CNN and Michael Moore. If not harder.

The Establishment Media can no longer pretend that they are respected and believed. That makes me gleefully happy.

 

I’m not going to convince you to like Donald Trump. And I’m not trying.

I’m just observing that Trump’s election has changed three things, probably for the better.

Candidate Trump was a powerful bringer of change. President Trump is a neophyte moving into a gridlock-paralyzed city where both sides hate him. He’s not going to be able to change anything else. You don’t really have to move to Canada.