FINAL EXAM

When I have the opportunity to teach a senior seminar – intended to be a capstone to the major, a "big picture" course – I assign a reading list that frames what I believe will be the defining Big Questions of the next half-century or more. One: How will the state respond to the possibility than in the future, improvements in productivity and technology will result in an economy unable to produce enough jobs to sustain our current market-oriented system? In other words, how (if at all) will governments adapt when there is no longer a need for labor as we currently understand it. This is essentially the Player Piano scenario. To undergraduates about to head out into the world in search of employment this question resonates.

The second: How much are individuals willing to change their way of life and the current understanding of individual rights to combat non-state actors? In other words, terrorism is essentially impossible to stop by any conventional means. One man can rent a truck and drive it into a crowd and the Good Guys combating terrorism will never have had the slightest chance to intervene. One person can walk into a crowded place with a gun, no prior planning or terror-networking involved, and fire away. The only way to prevent this type of terrorism is by giving up our concept of privacy on a scale that is currently unimaginable. Theoretically, if The Government read every person's online activity and monitored every phone conversation on Earth in real time it might be possible to intervene against Lone Wolf or decentralized terrorist network attacks. You could in theory find every person who visits an ISIS propaganda website and send the police crashing through their door moments later. You could even have smartphone technology that records and transcribes every conversation in range. You could even, if future technology advances at the rate we have seen in the last 50 years, have the ability to record and transcribe our thoughts. Don't laugh – research on how to replace user interfaces (mice, keyboards, tapping the screen) with technology that reads our thoughts is in progress. Are we there yet? No. Might we get there? Sure.

Whenever I see something like the apparent terror attack in Manchester on Monday evening I become more convinced that this second question is going to make or (probably) break western democracies in the coming decades. With enough of these attacks over a long enough timeframe individuals will gradually grow fearful of everything – flying, public transit, sport events, concerts, malls, any public gathering of more than a handful of people, tourist destinations…you name it. People will find that no amount of resources allocated by the state can stop terrorism of this type because it requires only motivation and the amount of planning a dullard could complete in 20 minutes. The goal of people like Osama bin Laden was and is to bring about the collapse of Western societies by exploiting their weakest points. It is a long game, aimed at making us slowly lose our collective sanity and resort to increasingly undemocratic rule and concentration of power and wealth in the state until it collapses from within. It's working so far. Give the US and France and the UK twenty more years of random, periodic carnage and it is likely to produce some results that seem far-fetched now.

We will have to choose as societies whether we will live with a persistent low level of danger (You're still incredibly unlikely to die from terrorism compared to just about anything else, but the fear it causes is disproportionate) from insidious elements that wish to do us harm or whether we will subvert a handful of the core, defining principles of 20th Century Western democracy in exchange for greater security, real or perceived.

We know which the Boomers choose, but in twenty years none of them will be left. Today's young adults ultimately will be the ones who have to pull the trigger. It will be a historic decision; once the path toward a surveillance state and "clash of civilizations" policies toward Muslims is chosen, the consequences for our nations and the world will reverberate for the next century.

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56 Responses to “FINAL EXAM”

  1. Andrew Laurence Says:

    In 20 years, the boomers born in 1964 will be 73. There will be plenty left.

  2. NickT Says:

    "if The Government read every person's online activity and monitored every phone conversation on Earth in real time it might be possible to intervene against Lone Wolf or decentralized terrorist network attacks."

    It's a very low to zero possibility, especially relative to the scale of resources that would have to be invested. There's a substantial group of nutjobs who go off the grid for exactly this reason. Throw in burner phones, code words and increased awareness of security and they are off to the races before the Children of the Comey can even fire up the magic decoder box. That's why the government relies on infiltrating such groups with actual agents – when it can.

  3. rustonite Says:

    A micro case of this is playing out in St. Louis. There was a semi-accidental shooting on the Metro a few weeks ago (a mugging gone wrong) and the city has completely lost its shit over it. The plan is, as a first phase, to put a cop on every train car and platform at all times. The next phase will be to monitor everyone who gets on and off the system with facial recognition. This despite the fact that riding the Metro is about 1/1000th as dangerous as driving.

  4. Mike Furlan Says:

    "We know which the Boomers choose"

    We know the Boomers (I'm one of them) stupidly and cowardly blew up the Middle East, and proved Bin Laden right.

    We had a chance, but chose evil.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/oct/14/afghanistan.terrorism5

    We should have provided evidence that Bin Laden was guilty, and then let a neutral country try him.

  5. Frank C. Says:

    All compounded by an innumerate populace. Unless you can get people to understand the risk of terrorism versus a bathroom fall you will have a population living in fear. A government could overcome this, but it's interest is served by a terrorized citizenry.

  6. Anubis Bard Says:

    There's some evidence from neuroscience that "mortality salience" – that is, one's immediate awareness of mortality or thoughts of death – makes a person more reactionary, less generous, more tribal and xenophobic, in a word, more conservative – (in the sense it's used today in the US) – regardless of one's original political ideology. Given that, every terrorist act (whether a bomb, White House press conference, or a Fox News discussion panel) is an act meant to jerk us once more to the right. Of course neurology isn't destiny and this hard-wired tendency can be countered with moral and philosophical education, wisdom, perspective and whatnot. So it's no wonder that our Republican leaders are not only collaborating by trumpeting every terrorist act, but also ensuring the conditions that create a fertile stream of perpetrators and victims. And of course, trying to destroy the remaining vestiges of humanistic education, not to say, wisdom. I might put my faith in the younger generation, but it may just be that they are too young to believe in mortality yet, so they seem a little less craven and thus a little less manipulable. We'll see.

  7. Megan Says:

    Curious what you have on that reading list – care to share?

  8. jestbill Says:

    I doubt anyone will make those decisions with enough strength behind them to count.
    Technology oughta make most such questions moot.

    AGW will force us to either do right or to suffer. So we'll have shared electric self-driving vehicles–no terrorists in cars or trucks.

    To protect the public, those self-driving cars will have cameras. There will be cameras everywhere and they will be networked. No undetected crime and no surveillance by humans; everything automatic.

    Jobs? If we do not get single payer health and a BMI soon, there'll be riots when we do. That's single payer with dental and all the trimmings.

    The alternative is a Republican/Libertarian Mad Max world dominated by a paupers' brotherhood.
    Have you seen "A Boy and His Dog?" Great short story/movie.

  9. Joe Jonas Says:

    My heart goes out to anyone impacted by this terrorist attack in England. That said, it's amazing how people tend to overestimate the risk of one activity versus another. We lose 30,000 people each year in America to opiods, but terrorism dominates our collective consciousness. Not that we shouldn't investigate terrorist activity (we absolutely should) but we should also focus our energy on what's more likely to kill our friends and family.

    But we won't. Instead we'll all give up our liberty so long as we can keep our soma.

  10. wetcasements Says:

    Counterpoint: Speaking as an American (albeit one living abroad) we already live with a low-level background noise known as "weekly mass shootings." 20 toddlers were shot in the face by a clinically insane guy with access to assault weaponry and literally nothing changed in terms of gun laws.

    What happened in Manchester is horrible, and I'm guessing there's a huge psychological gulf between England / France / Germany and USians, who simply have accepted they have to pay the NRA Blood Tax so Jethro can shoot milk bottles in his backyard with high-powered rifles when the mood moves him to do so, or carry his arsenal into a church / grocery store / university campus at will.

    tl,dr: In some ways Ed, it's worse in America. We simply don't really give much of a shit when dozens of our fellow citizens are mowed down.

    How's that for a healthy, democratic civic body?

  11. Tareena Says:

    Well, Japan doesn't seem to have any issues. Perhaps there is an example we could look towards? Maybe there is something to be learned from their situation? There's nothing special about the Japanese, they are just people. Yet they seem to free of a lot of problems.

    http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21722216-there-was-just-one-fatal-shooting-whole-2015-crime-dries-up-japans-police-hunt?fsrc=scn%2Ftw%2Fte%2Frfd%2Fpe

  12. democommie Says:

    "Have you seen "A Boy and His Dog?" Great short story/movie.".

    I enjoyed it, several times. First time I saw it on a twin-bill with "Slaughterhouse Five". Since then on the tube, several times. I enjoy it still, but I view it now as not so much sci-fi as a prescient documentary.

    One of the enduring memes is that we are better people, here in the U.S., than are people in other places. It's bullshit but it's still the "go to" for cynical pols who want to excuse the stupidity and bloodthirstiness of our foreign policy by blaming the people whose countries we're bombing.

    When we run out of hi-tech and are reduced to side arms or edge weapons, the billions we didn't kill will be coming for us.

  13. Mo Says:

    Meanwhile, in China, they're pretty much already there?

    [am re-reading Stein Ringen's China in the 21st Century: The Perfect Dictatorship]

  14. Mo Says:

    From China Digital Times:

    The purchases of DNA testing equipment in Xinjiang were confirmed by an official at the regional Public Security Bureau. The official, who gave only her surname, Huang, said a supplier already had been found. In Xinjiang’s Sheche County, suppliers were being sought for voiceprint collection systems and 3-D portrait systems, according to a security official surnamed Yin, who declined to give further details.

  15. Periscope Says:

    The response to the second issue is that there wouldn't be enough cops to bust down the doors…unless…the response to the first question is that the only jobs paying a living wage in the future fully automated robot world are cop jobs; in which case we sort of turn into a North Korea.

    It is really hard to put some logical extension on these trends without ending up in a dystopia. I'm hoping that there will be some bright young people that will question the inevitability of achieving technological efficiency in everything. Maybe they can learn from the city planners of Amsterdam in their embrace bicycling over roads congested with cars, or the organic food movement's embrace of local and less efficiently produced nutritious food versus processed food-like substances made from corn and soy. I see it coming. Young people are eschewing the former ideals of suburban possessions and downsizing to tiny houses and DIY dwellings and more minimalist lifestyles. I think that there will be a 'handmade' movement that may counter the factory/robot produced (mass produced) stuff they probably don't need. The boomers responded to the rigid morality and ideals of their parents, and it erupted in some pretty violent ways (Vietnam war protests, ERA marches, Watts riot, Chicago's Grant Park riot, Kent State shootings, Gay pride marches). Todays youth will find a way to preserve their freedom. It probably won't be pretty.

  16. April Says:

    Wet – "In some ways Ed, it's worse in America. We simply don't really give much of a shit ABOUT OUR FELLOW CITIZENS." (Fixed it for you. Don't know how to do the strike-out thingy)

  17. Major Kong Says:

    I realize that being born in 1962 technically makes me a boomer.

    That being said, I don't feel like I have much in common with the generation.

    I was one year old when JFK was shot.
    I was two when The Beatles played Ed Sullivan.
    I was five during the Summer of Love.
    Six during the Tet Offensive.
    Seven during Woodstock.

    The only memories I have of the Vietnam War are when my uncle came home from it and showed me pictures of dead VC, which I thought was really cool because I was maybe 10 at the time.

    I'm too young to be a true boomer and too old for Gen-X.

  18. April Says:

    Just a baby, MK, just a baby.
    grin

  19. Heather Says:

    As long as the primitive-thinking conservatives bolster their battle-cry of "don't want to get shot by police? Don't do anything illegal," we are absolutely going to surrender freedom. We have a well-funded lobby rallying around the second amendment, but what about the fourth amendment, or the fourteenth? Plenty of Medium bloggers speak up about those, but they don't quite match the presence of the NRA.

    Every time we are exposed to a terrorist attack (carried out by brown people at least), it's used to fuel the gaslight fire. When people are hurting, power-hungry politicians jump in and take away freedoms "for our own good." To recognize this is not to suggest the sky is falling, but to warn of the inevitable if we are not mindful.

  20. democommie Says:

    @ Periscope:

    Well stated. I would only add that we are content to eat things that are made from things that are "grown" in factory farm settings. Organic farming isn't inefficient so much as it is less profitable and doesn't really scale up to agribiz–regardless the package labelling. Otoh, when I hear someone say that the meat on my plate was "humanely managed" I have to bite my tongue. I eat meat, I'm aware of how it's made.

  21. Ohio Mom Says:

    Once again, we white people show our self-centeredness. Black Americans lived (still live, though at a reduced level) under terrorism for a century or two. I mean, knowing you could get lynched a la Emmet Till for looking at another person the "wrong" way?

    Sure, they have higher rates of morbidities like high blood pressure, but the last I looked, they hadn't given up on the idea of basic feedoms and democracy. Can't we see ourselves as equally capable of persevering?

    Well, maybe not…

  22. democommie Says:

    Looks like Ed forgot one item on the "Commencement Address" thread.

    Learn how to live off of the land. It will be a valuable skill.

  23. geoff Says:

    @Megan, I hope Ed will reply with his reading list, but in the meantime I can recommend Martin Ford's "Rise Of The Robots" for a good look at the automation/ jobs problem. We're already damn close to a majority of people not being able to afford the lifestyle sold to them as their "right" on tv.

    Ed, the answer to the two questions is the same. More surveillance (it's pretty damn pervasive now, and obv. the 4th Amendment is DEAD) and more state/ police violence, at least until we run into the far more serious problems caused by climate change and resource collapse. I'm an optimist!!

  24. Dave Dell Says:

    democommie – Salvage a Fresnel lens out of a broken projection TV. Clean water for cooking and drinking will be of the utmost importance for "Living off the Land" and a Fresnel lens will help with that. Learn how to distill alcohol. Once again the Fresnel lens will help. Get the equivalent hand tools for all your power equipment. Get a portable generator and adapt it to burn alcohol. . Get a pre-computer chip auto or better yet a truck. Adapt it to burn alcohol. Get a rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol. Learn how to butcher meat including fowl. Learn how to grow potatoes. Learn to love eating dandelion greens and other edible greens – and learn what to avoid. Learn the care and feeding of milk goats.

    Am I going to do all that? No. Hell no. Tried it for about a year in the 70's. It can be done but if things have come to that I'd rather… Not sure what I'd rather.

  25. Ten Bears Says:

    The flaw in your premise is in the assumption we will continue with the exponentially upward trajectory of the recent several hundred years. The weighting factor overlooked is our exponential population growth: we're flirting with seven billion now, in a generation ten billion. On a planet that can barely sustain one.

  26. Ten Bears Says:

    The flaw in your premise is in the assumption we will continue with the exponentially upward technological trajectory of the recent several hundred years. The weighting factor overlooked is our exponential population growth: we're flirting with seven billion now, in a generation ten billion. On a planet that can barely sustain one.

  27. Townsend Harris Says:

    On 9/11 Osama Bin Laden hoped for — and failed to plan for — the tremendous success he enjoyed. If he'd been more confident, he would have cratered the US economy with the simplest of low-tech attacks: two or three suicide bombers in the food courts of US shopping malls on any anniversary of 9/11.

  28. Robert Walker-Smith Says:

    My oldest sibling was born in '48, youngest in '63. The seven of us are all technically Boomers, but we grew up in very different Americas. To echo the always delightful Major Kong, graduating high school the year of the Tet offensive was a very different thing from doing so the year the Shah was toppled.
    MK, it still boggles me that I'm a year older than you are. Not sure why.

    Regarding the OP, there was an interesting stiry

  29. Robert Walker-Smith Says:

    My oldest sibling was born in '48, youngest in '63. The seven of us are all technically Boomers, but we grew up in very different Americas. To echo the always delightful Major Kong, graduating high school the year of the Tet offensive was a very different thing from doing so the year the Shah was toppled.
    MK, it still boggles me that I'm a year older than you are. Not sure why.

    Regarding the OP, there was an interesting novella in "Dangerous Visions" by Philip Jose Farmer, "Riders of the Purple Wage". It was set in a relatively near future in which the vast majority of people were superfluous to the production and distribution economy, so they were given a subsistence income. It was the first fictional depiction of a post-scarcity economy I had ever read. Didn't occur to me until much later that it was also a utopian fantasy.

  30. Safety Man! Says:

    Option three, which I find the most likely, is that the Western nations will snap and turn the middle-east into occupied Germany. Just look at the resurgence of fascism in the US, UK, France, Greece, etc.

    I have a pet theory that the real purpose of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was/ is to keep radicals suicide bombing, etc. there instead of Europe/ US. Ed pointed out himself the difficulty of stopping terrorism, but you can always have a diversionary target.

  31. Talisker Says:

    @Townsend Harris: Why didn't Bin Laden do this? It wasn't lack of motivation or confidence. It was a lack of people willing and able to do the bombing.

    Mercifully, it's rare for a human being to want to kill themselves, and take as many others as possible with them. It's rare to have the skills to make even a simple bomb without blowing yourself up. And it's rare for would-be terrorists to be able to enter and move around in the USA. Even in the UK, which is closer to the Middle East and has a much larger Muslim minority than the USA, yesterday's horrific attack in Manchester is the first terrorist bombing since 2005.

    For the most part, these factors have kept terrorist attacks relatively few in Western countries.

  32. Dan Says:

    Which way will the Muslims choose?

  33. Major Kong Says:

    At least I'm seeing signs that the administration is pulling away from the "Clash of Civilizations" rhetoric. Instead taking the same stance as previous administrations – that the terrorists are not the majority of all Muslims.

    Mind you a bog-standard Republican administration is still patently awful. I'm just hoping that they've realized declaring war on 1.7 billion people is hardly a winning strategy.

  34. The Pale Scot Says:

    First off, I think that the real definition of a boomer is someone who had a driver’s license before the ’72 oil embargo. Besides the real world inconveniencing them punk, disco and reggae created a divide between my friends and I and their older siblings. It was just a disagreement over music, but signified a schism I think. The tail end “boomers” got out of high school during a recession (1978-1982). We didn’t start with a easy stretch like our older friends did. I think we’re much more Gen X.

    As long as terrorist acts have a much lower death total than the killing we do to each other, it’ll just jack the gun business up. Yahoos in places that will never be on a ISIS list will go nuts buying up guns and being racist, the people in the likely target points will insist on CCC everywhere etc. But the USA is pretty callused about death.

    The other countries who don’t have the daily carnage the USA does are a different story. If something like the latest horror start happening frequently the Brits, the French and the Belgiums will start rounding up Muslims en mass and shipping them out of the country. The Scandinavians would have huge philosophical crisis that I have no idea of how they would resolve.

    The source for ALL of this shit is Saudi Arabia. The Saud family (really, you have a country named after you?) and other obscenely wealthy Sauds have been buying safety from the Wahhabi hillbillies in the SW of the country by assisting them in radicalizing other much more moderate Muslim populations. Much like the Fundies in our country that are obsessed with “spiritual warfare” against the “devil”, the Wahhabis have a philosophy that just isn’t compatible with the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century.

    My unrealistic fantasy is that SA could be embargoed and all the Wahabi nut jobs rounded up and dropped off. And tell them that we’ll exchange food and medicine for oil.

    But ideally, removing oil as the driver of the world economy is the way to do this.

  35. Katydid Says:

    @Pale Scot; while running errands tonight, I found myself behind a brand-new Tesla. I'm not usually one to pay much attention to cars, but that car was beautiful; elegant lines, reasonable size. I remarked as much to my chore-buddy (my elderly father, who I was schlepping around so he wouldn't try driving himself because that never ends well) and we got into a discussion–he was really rude and whiny about how Teslas cost as much as a Hummer. Well, Hummers are ugly, waste gas, and destroy the driving experience of everyone around them (the quintessential "Murikkkun" car, really) because they block sightlines and can't park in a standard parking space. The Tesla is electric, reasonably-sized, and easy on the eyes. If someone's going to splurge on a vanity vehicle, the Tesla is less offensive a choice.

  36. Katydid Says:

    Sorry–hit "submit" before I finished my thought. Vehicles that use little oil are a great start to defunding the Saudi family.

  37. Katydid Says:

    Also @Pale Scot; I remember when gas hit $1 a gallon. I was in early elementary school and my parents watched the evening news (then just 30 minutes a day, can you imagine?). I remember clearly the whining by 20-something guys that it was their god-given right to drive wherever they wanted, and expensive gas was really bumming them OUT, man, and someone needed to fix it. I thought that was so childish…and I was a child at the time!

    I agree with you that the late Boomers are more like Gen X'ers. We weren't the ones doing lines of coke in Studio 54 or backpacking through Europe barefoot.

  38. Craig Says:

    "At least I'm seeing signs that the administration is pulling away from the "Clash of Civilizations" rhetoric. Instead taking the same stance as previous administrations – that the terrorists are not the majority of all Muslims"

    What I'm seeing is that Trump/Bannon/Putin appear to be trying to start a Sunni/Shia sectarian conflict in the Muslim world. Massively boosting the Saudi military, attempting to deflect blame for Daesh etc. away from the Wahhabists and towards the Iranians, and giving unsubtle hints suggesting US backing for Saudi aggression.

    Likely with the intent of conquering the rubble once the Saudis and Iranians exhaust their resources fighting each other.

  39. Ten Bears Says:

    What's wrong with snotting concaine and backpacking barefoot?

  40. The Pale Scot Says:

    @Katydid

    " I remember clearly the whining by 20-something guys that it was their god-given right to drive wherever they wanted, and expensive gas was really bumming them OUT, man,"

    Accounting for inflation gas is cheaper than it was in '68.

    I gauge inflation by this metric, in '71 I could buy a candy bar for 13 cents, the Esso station across the street sold gas for 29 cents.

    Candy bars are 10 times that price today, gas is up 8 times.

  41. Monkey Business Says:

    The answer to the first question has two potential responses. Universal Income provided by the Federal Government, paid for by everyone, but mostly the hyper wealthy. No UI, then you're looking at large parts of the country becoming something akin to the Cursed Earth and Mega Cities of 2000AD and probably revolution.

    As for the second, it depends entirely on renewable energy. Break America's dependence on foreign oil, especially the House of Saud, and we can start dealing with the problem of religious extremism in the Middle East in a way that actually does something to help the people of Saudi Arabia instead of the hyperwealthy retinues of a thousand Crown Princes.

  42. April Says:

    Katy and Pale – the cheapest I bought gas was 23 cents/gallon. I wore shoes when I backpacked through Europe and N. Africa. (They got rocks, you know!) And when I was a kid, candy bars were a nickel each. Then again, my first job detasseling corn paid 1.25/hr. (I did sometimes do that barefoot.)

    But not disagreeing that prices have risen way further than wages. How else you gonna take care of those poor rich people?

  43. mago Says:

    OK. My message to grads and everyone else is learn how to cook, and where your food and water comes from, where you live and get a relationship with the elements and cardinal directions.

    Jesus.

    I've gone barefoot, defied convention, got turned around and have no cogent clue why I'm writing and posting this.

    Except to say, learn basic maintenance.

  44. mago Says:

    Oh, yeah. Now I know what I wanted to say.

    "A Boy and His Dog"

    Saw it back in the day at a Harvard Square venue and it stuck. Haven't seen it since.

    Where can I find it (he said exposing his ignorance).

  45. Wim Says:

    You've tried YouTube, mago? It was there a minute ago.

  46. HoosierPoli Says:

    I want to make this point every time this issue comes up: Osama bin Laden's strategy, and ISIS's strategy now, has been essentially the same as the principle of strategic bombing during WWII – target enough civilians, inflict death on a massive scale against the polity of a country, and they will lose their will to resist.

    Studies immediately after the war and in subsequent years have all demonstrated that this simply doesn't work. After an initial shock, people get used to these sorts of things, and even develop a sort of latent sense of immunity to it. People who lived through the blitz remember it as a kind of thrilling moment of community…survivorship bias to be sure, but no less potent for that.

    The point is, if hundreds of thousands of tons of high explosives and incendiaries levelling entire cities and killing hundreds of thousands of people can't convince a polity to change their mind, then a few jackoffs with a pressure cooker are unlikely to.

  47. democommie Says:

    "the point is, if hundreds of thousands of tons of high explosives and incendiaries levelling entire cities and killing hundreds of thousands of people can't convince a polity to change their mind, then a few jackoffs with a pressure cooker are unlikely to."

    I don't know what Islam has in the way of "end of times" nonsense but what you CAN accomplish by doing shit like Osama Is Rottin' and the rest of those assholes get up to is to ENERGIZE the base to the point where approximately 16% of the population are able to elect a completely insane, gibbering asshat to the highest position in the command structure, who in turn can say, "Nuke 'em" and incinerate civilization.

    Talk about a zero-sum game.

  48. anotherbozo Says:

    "…We will have to choose as societies whether we will live with a persistent low level of danger…"

    This option has my vote, and with plenty of historical precedent to back it up, I think. A century and a half ago it was commonplace to have lost two children in a family of five, say, to childhood diseases, never mind deaths shortly after childbirth. People mourned but women seemed, as a response, to be willing to get pregnant more often. Families adapted.

    Never mind deaths by mastadon, enemy arrows, flu, infection, food poisoning, scurvy…

    Just some observations by a Boomer.

  49. democommie Says:

    @ anotherbozo Says:

    Now that you mention it, it gets me thinking.

    Maybe we've just been "disagreeing" with the right to lifers over a semantics issue.

    It's not that they're opposed to terminating pregnancies. It's just that they want to do it with nukes.

  50. Brian M Says:

    Nothing is new under the sun. Read a little bit of history about the "anarchist" movement in the United States around the turn of the century. Terrorist bombings. A swarthy, "foreign" population (Italians, not Arabs or South Asian, but…). An apocalyptic religion (anarchism, as advocated for back then). Wrenching economic changes. The gruesome blowback of colonialism. Hysterical reaction in the press.

    Wow. Add the Internet to really fan things, and we are repeating 1917!

  51. democommie Says:

    Getting back to the guacaholymoly for a mo.

    There is a Mexicaish restaurant in town that has owners from Central America (not sure where) and a staff of locals, family and (likely) a few undocumented scullery serfs. The food is NOT Mexican, but it's relatively close and quite tasty. And unlike a lot of chains, when they say, "Watch it, the plate is hot."–they mean it is FUCKING BEEN SITTING ON THE FLATTOP HOTTTTTTTTTTT!!!

    The other place in town that sells what purports to be mexican food is called "Fajita Grill". The name is more mexican than the food. They sell burritos, tacos, salads, etc.,.

    I don't think that they cook anything, including the rice. I base that opinion on the contents of their dumpster (which is shared with a function hall where I ocassionally put in a guest appearance as the smartest fucking dishwasher in town). Their garbage is mostly stuff that went into the trash bins in the dining area or the kitchen, virtually all of it from boxes, cans and bags.

    Their burritos are big enough, but there basically filled with white rice and a few slivers of whatever meat you wanted. The first time I ate there I had a burrito with a little of this, a little of that, some of that (basically a Tbsp or less of various things) and then paid something like $9 for a Burrito that was on the menu for $5 or $6. The guac and EVERYTHING else was extra. The burrito was edible but the opposite of exciting.

    The second time I ate there, I was with a friend who wanted to try the place. I humored him. Neither of us has been back. The place makes a ton of money because it's a short walk from the college. I'm convinced that college students eat stuff that they see other hip, young people eating, regardless enjoying it or not.

    I want a meal that's been cooked, not defrosted or nuked.

    BTW, Ed:

    Have you thought about suggesting someone do a thesis or dissertation with a title like:

    "Guacamole–Free or extra. Acculturation and monetization of MesoAmercian Condiments in a post-colonial economy."

  52. Katydid Says:

    @Demo; in my area, there are a number of Peruvian chicken places, some family-owned and some chain, where you can get a combination of chicken parts (wing, leg, breast, half-chicken or whole-chicken) plus assorted sides ranging from traditional rices, salsas and sauces to french fries.

    They might even have guacamole, I never looked.

    I've tried most of the places and have never had a bad meal. In most of them you can see the chickens on the rotisserie. What's popular? Taco Bell (does that even count as food?) and Chipotle (a pound of rice wrapped up in a super-sized tortilla plus a tablespoon of whatever meat you want).

  53. Katydid Says:

    @TenBears, when I was growing up, particularly going through high school, it was common knowlege that my generation was THE WORST EVER and we were always going to be big ole losers because our older siblings went backpacking barefoot through Europe and went to Woodstock.

    @Mago; I've worked very hard to instill in my kids that food doesn't arise fully shrink-wrapped from the grocery store and that people can navigate using their own sense of direction and a map. I live two streets over from a main road and it appalls me that several of my friends have to depend on GPS to get to me.

    @April; some things are impossibly more expensive than in the past, while others are ridiculously cheap. Remember when a long-distance call was carefully done and you winced when you got the bill? Likewise, I recently bought a pair of slacks for work for $19.99 last weekend. In the mid-1980s, I remember being astounded by a once-in-a-lifetime "buy 5 for $100" sale for similiar work-quality slacks.

  54. Barry Says:

    Mike Furlan Says:

    "We know the Boomers (I'm one of them) stupidly and cowardly blew up the Middle East, and proved Bin Laden right."

    This the sort of thinking that gets us Trump in the WH and the GOP running the government. There are Boomers trying to improve things and Boomers trying to trash things; the same for each and ever generation before and after.

    It wasn't 'Boomers' who dismantled large chunks of the New Deal and Great Society – it was right-wingers.

  55. AfghanVet Says:

    Having served in combat and directly fighting against some of those willing to blow themselves up for…whatever…I guess I have achieved a level of fatalism that allows me to see these for what they are: a means of dying that is different only in technology. This is indeed a perception management issue.

    Life expectancy continues to climb, or at least hold, in western and more advanced economies. In fact, we are living longer than the OEM design specification for the most part. Hell, this might be one of the reasons there are so many willing to blow themselves up. Anyway, the point is that 100 years ago people were killed much more indiscriminately or died suddenly in large groups due to disease or some other neglect. 200+ years ago dying suddenly was likely the rule as opposed to the exception. And, as Ed said, we die tragically by a whole host of means not remotely related to terrorism, e.g. guns, cancer, cars, etc.

    The means of death and the ability to communicate globally in seconds has changed, but I still like the odds. We cannot kill them all and let God sort them out. And, the more we try, the more we create. The best we can do is keep them from WMD attacks and try our best to limit the number of these harassing attacks. What we can do is work on managing the perception. Unfortunately, there is money and electoral victory in thumping chests and playing wack-a-mole. But, changing perceptions will also change that equation. Doing that is its own long game.

    Certain sounds still make me react and I tend to be more observant of my surroundings than my friends, but I travel internationally for a living (and have been to many many of the shit holes) and live in THE ground zero city suburbs and I simply don't waste time worrying if the ball game or hockey game or concert I am attending will be the next target. Worrying does no good and life would suck if all I did was stay in my house or hotel room.

    A moment of Zen: There are only two certainties in life – you are going to die and you don't know when. Be in the present and be mindful of the above and when it's your time you will be better prepared than most.

  56. democommie Says:

    @Afghan Vet:

    After the WTC attacks, the high rise I worked in (and every other tall building in Boston) was evacuated. Riding back to my home on an incredibly crowded train, I wsa asked by a fellow sardine if I was "scared" because of the, "out of the blue"* nature of the attacks. I said I had been afraid of dying for over 30 years before I realized that it would happen when it happened. The attacks are (by design) horrific and unnerving; that said, they are a pin prick in the flank of a very large organism.

    I think the Japanese have a saying that goes back centuries. It's something along the lines of honor being a heavy burden, while death is as light as a feather.