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Ripped Off Again
I really thought I was onto something the other day. I imagined that I had stumbled upon an insight that could heal the divisions in our country and set us on a track toward the trust and understanding we will need to face the challenges of our time. It might, I dared to think, even save humanity.

Before setting out on my quest, however, I decided to look up the term “Libertarian Socialism.” That is the transcendently ironic name I had decided to give to my movement. I was certain that the conceptual tension between those two words would be the crowbar needed to pry people loose from their staid convictions and open the way to my rescue of planet Earth.

As I so often find when I google one of my bright ideas, however, someone else had it before I did. There is already something called Libertarian Socialism. What’s worse, its advocates actually believe it’s a workable governing philosophy. That, in my view, completely misses the point of Libertarian Socialism.

These people believe, among other things, that there shouldn’t be any state at all. Society under their flag would probably have no flag at all. The people would have all the power, and civil order would be kept by…well, I’m not certain how. I’m not necessarily pro-flag, but I have found that at least 25% of my fellow citizens are irredeemable boneheads. They are the reason we need a state, dudes. We just have to make it as fair and open as we can…and socialist, obviously.

That’s just one man’s opinion, of course. These people are also entitled to their opinions, and I’m right there with them in their distaste for authoritarians and unbridled capitalists. I guess my main complaint is that they stole the name of my movement — even though they thought of it first.

The beauty of my Libertarian Socialism is that the two words are mutually exclusive. The conceptual impossibility of this philosophical connection is the very source of LS’s power to unite. Think of it as a dynamic paradox. Libertarian Socialism, if its name had not been usurped by these misguided utopians, could have allowed the coexistence of our natural desire to help others with our equally natural desire not to be told what to do. More and more, I am convinced that the clash of these two motivations is at the root of all political discord. LS is not so much a philosophy of governance as a touchstone for meditation.

I don’t know, maybe it’s hopeless. Maybe I should just stick with Democratic Socialism and hope the right-wing populists finally wise up. Trouble is, that would require them to move toward me. They can’t be expected to like that any more than I would like moving toward them. Under Libertarian Socialism, we’d already be under the same tent — brothers and sisters living lives of paradoxical dynamism together.

So I am not going to give up on my mission. The door is still open to all you Anarcho-Syndicalists (my preferred name for the original LS’ers). Join me, and together we can rescue planet Earth from the corporatists, the fascists, and all the other control freaks who have been busting our chops for so long.

Power to the people! Especially me!
Bee Wars
Once you get past any anti-insect prejudice you might have, it’s not hard to like bees. They are hard-working, loyal, and brave. You might even come to think of them as cute. Maybe not ladybug cute, but pretty darn lovable.

They will sting, of course, but unless you’re dealing with the Africanized variety, they’re not really looking for trouble. Stinging, after all, is a weapon they can only use once. They’re not likely to use it out of pettiness or pique. Only when they feel that the hive is threatened or their own safety is on the line will they go there. And even if they do, there’s no real danger beyond a small pain and an insignificant bump that might need to be scratched (unless you’re allergic, of course, in which case you could die — along with your attacker).

Practically everything else a bee does is good for us. The honey, the wax, the propolis, the pollinating — does any other animal provide as much benefit without having to die? Bees might be the most peaceful, productive, law-abiding citizens of planet earth. Who could imagine them doing anything bad?

Mass murder, for instance. Surely these adorable little creatures would never involved in anything like that. And they’re way too busy for terrorism or genocide or war. Right?

Well I used to feel the same way. That was before I saw them with my own eyes, plundering our own hive — the robber bees! They came in great numbers, stealing honey and anything else they could carry off. And there was killing, lots of it. No blood, of course, but but the ground below the main entrance was littered with legs, wings, antennae, and unattached thoraxes.

I can understand an invasion by ants or wasps or raccoons, but the idea of luftwaffes of bees raining death and destruction on their own kind just seems wrong. How does a community built on conscientious hard work and team play transform itself into a murderous, thieving horde? Certainly there is an alternate explanation.

One possibility, I suppose, is a queen gone mad. I could imagine all that power changing someone, even a bug. Or perhaps the pressure got to her, and she lost her grip. In either case, on a whim or as part of some demented design, she might have commanded her workers to wreak havoc on their neighbors. They’d have to do it, of course, because she is the goddam queen.

I can also envision a cabal of drones seizing control of the hive. You can guess how these guys must feel about their lives. Sure, they’re waited on hand and foot. Sure, they don’t have to work. And the sex is great. But it can’t be a very fulfilling existence. For one thing, you only have sex that one time, and when you’re done you die. Not working sounds great, but a man needs to step up and meet the world. Make his mark, count for something. I figure that must go for male bees as well.

And drones are big buzzers, too. Bigger than the queen, even. They could swing a coup if they worked together. And once they were in, you know the first thing these dudes would want to do is invade somebody. Cause that other hive has really been asking for it anyway.

So that could be it. Maybe. But honestly neither of these scenarios strikes me as very likely. Impossible as it may seem, honeybees are no less warlike than any other species. Their hive, with all its intricacy and organization, represents no more than a veneer of law and order. Given the opportunity, they’d conquer the world and rule with an iron stinger.

If only they weren’t so damn busy.
Waiting for Elon
Elon, dear Elon
When will it arrive?
Will you please tell me
When is my test drive?

You sent me a text
There’s been a delay
My Tesla is coming
But just not today

I longed for the X
I pined for the S
The 3 is more my speed
It costs a lot less

I believe in the future
(You wouldn’t have lied)
But it never gets here
Nor does my new ride

And where is that hyperloop?
I want flying cars!
Teleportation
And a mission to Mars!

Monorails, jetpacks
Androids and robots!
Love the computer, but
Is that all that you gots?

Elon, please hear me
How long must I wait?
My patience is fizzling
The future is late!
Better Than Human
There was a time when cars had nothing to say. In those days they just sat there until needed, quietly and without complaint, leaking oil onto your driveway. My 2007 Civic is of a different breed.

Among other things, it is deeply concerned about whether I have fastened my seatbelt. When I have not, it lets me know with an unpleasant noise: seven too-loud beeps, followed by fifteen seconds of silence, then the beeps again. The sequence continues until I comply with its wishes or until the car is turned off. It has other, different warning sounds as well — about headlights left on, emergency brakes unreleased, and doors ajar. Those noises are equally insistent and annoying.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful that my vehicle cares so much about me. After all, any one of my oversights might result in a severe inconvenience…or even my death. I am not yet ready to say that I can no longer take care of myself, but these conveniences spare me the need to try. That’s a good thing, right?

My only complaint about the Civic is the harsh, slightly judgmental tenor of its reminders. I don’t like being crabbed at, even if it’s for my own good. I suppose the unpleasantness is meant to make me act, if only to end the pain. I can honestly say that I would respond anyway. Even without the crabbing. Probably.

My kitchen appliances are also full of helpful hints and reminders. They are more considerate of my feelings, though. My microwave, which is about the same age as the Civic, can be a bit abrupt, but my new washing machine is a model of politeness. It signals that my wash is done with a lovely chimed rendition of “Clock Town Day.” Hearing it, I find myself looking forward to the rewards of a properly folded basket of laundry.

Come to think of it, the younger generation of machines (unlike their human counterparts) are noticeably better mannered than their elders. Some of them — the ones endowed with a capacity for spoken language — are disarmingly gracious. My Waze app (I’ve chosen the voice of a British woman named Natalie) is unfailingly positive. There are never any recriminations for a wrong turn or a piece of advice unheeded. She simply moves on to the next turn.

Natalie isn’t a nice person in the normal sense, of course. Neither are Siri, Alexa, Watson, or any of their ilk. They act nice (albeit a tad robotically), and I like that. Someday, with the proper programming, they might be able to simulate genuine niceness. I can even imagine them becoming likable, especially when if they lose their stiffness. Newer versions may come to possess an enhanced sensitivity to my needs, my desires, even my moods. In fact, they could someday be preferable to actual human beings.

You heard me. Better than human beings. Better conversationalists, better confidantes, better companions. And the drawbacks of actual humans would be absent. There would be no fights, no falling outs, no estrangements. And they would do exactly as they are told, always and without question.

Come to think of it, though, that might be a problem — that there would be no problems. No eccentricities to put up with, no flaws to forgive. Real friendship carries with it the willingness to accept the other in spite of the warts. Even if we could program our robot buddies to have a few flaws, I don’t think we would put up with them that way. We couldn’t resist the temptation to remove the warts and save ourselves the trouble.

I think I would tire of a perfect companion. Even if the likeness to a sensitive, interesting friend were seamless, it would be hollow. I would be entertained, perhaps, but essentially alone. In that world, I might even find myself longing for the company of my old Civic. It's crabby, annoying, and a terrible conversationalist, but loyal and thoughtful. To a fault, is all.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee