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Pique Experience
There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Survivors” that pops up to the surface of my brainpan during moments of murderous frustration. I won’t go into the details of the plot; the tidbit I focus on is a simple confession that comes at the very end of the story.

The confessor is a Douwd, an immortal energy being with powers beyond mere human understanding. You know, the usual stuff. Anyway, he cops to Captain Picard that he did this really bad thing to some other aliens, the Husnock, who had killed his human girlfriend. He destroyed them all, he admits; not just the marauders, but every Husnock, everywhere in the universe — with a single thought.

Now, it should be said that the Husnock were bad. For the sake of this writing, let’s call them the worst aliens ever: cruel, violent, remorseless. So they definitely had it coming. Furthermore, no other life forms were harmed, just the Husnock. Still, to use your power to kill all of them in one terrible fit of pique is a sobering thought.

What if I could do that? What if I could respond to my own murderous frustration by killing all terrorists everywhere, or all despots, or all real genocidists? But then I think of that immortal energy being, with all his supersmarts and superethics, lugging around a conscience with 50 billion deaths on it, and I can feel the rage ebbing away. Truly, I am not wise enough to wield such power.

For just the gophers in my yard, though, I think I could handle it.
My Olympics
Later this summer in London, proud Olympic champions will hold up their medals for the world to see. Parents will beam; whole countries will celebrate the achievements of their sons and daughters. People everywhere will rejoice in the fellowship and unity found in the simple purity of sport.

Sadly, I will not be joining them. Not because I begrudge them their pride and feelings of brotherhood, but because the modern Olympic Games have abandoned that purity of sport in favor of a misguided notion of inclusion. Pastimes that have no business being on the same level as, for instance, the hundred-yard dash, have been elevated to that status simply because somebody somewhere likes to play them. Does anyone really believe that the ropes, hoops, and ribbons of rhythmic gymnastics belong on the same podium with javelins and shot puts?

Synchronized swimming, diving, boxing, gymnastics: none of these would be included in My Olympics. Why? Because, to win these competitions, a judge must vote for you. How did voting get to be a part of sport? Give me a measurement, a clocking, a score fairly earned by the athlete; save the secret ballots for Homecoming Queen.

I take my inspiration from the original Greek games. There were very few events then, and for the most part, the scoring was straightforward. Fastest, highest, farthest, strongest: these simple achievements won the day. Let us return to those times, at least for the Olympics.

Any event using complicated equipment of any kind will be looked upon with suspicion at My Olympics. Shooting in any form is banned outright, and I got your Second Amendment right here, pal. Furthermore, fencing, archery, biking, tennis, and croquet will lead the list of sports which will have to prove that their gear doesn’t play too large a part in the outcome. No sport is exempt from scrutiny. The pole vault, for instance, and all ball-related games will be closely examined for compliance. As always, purity of sport will be the standard for all determinations.

And no animals, please. All equestrian events and the modern pentathlon are out. Here, the ancient Greeks were not entirely without fault themselves. In a moment of weakness, they added chariot racing, and it all but killed the original Games. This is supposed to be about humans; Old Paint is welcome to try out for the Kentucky Derby.

There will be no winter games in My Olympics. I’m sorry, but it’s just all too strange: the subjective scoring, the rifles, the puffy clothing, the cold, the high death rate. There has never been skiing in Greece, not even on Mt. Olympus, so let’s save ourselves the anguish of pretending we care about the luge.

Finally, there will be no clothes in My Olympics. All athletes compete in the buff, the way the Greeks did. The Greeks also rubbed themselves down with olive oil, but I will not require that. Canola is fine, and so is corn oil, although most fragrant oils would be banned. They might add an unseemly dimension to some events.

For those athletes who would miss out on a chance to win gold because of these strictures, please find your sports immortality elsewhere. There are other venues for you to prove yourself to your family and your nation. You are certainly welcome to attend as a spectator — just as I would welcome people without any athletic ability at all. But leave your hoops and ribbons at home; your sport just isn’t pure enough for My Olympics.
Not News
Did you hear about the 3.6 earthquake in Barstow? It was in the newspaper.

I confess that I didn’t get past the headline. Any quake under 6.0 is just not worth worrying about, and for Barstow I’d put the minimum at 8.0. Otherwise, it’s not news.

If there is a poll showing that people think global warming is a hoax but that there’s some truth to astrology, please don’t waste my time. The insight this provides into human nature is not news.

The Yankees are in the playoffs? Tell me something I don’t know.

The Dow is up a hundred points? Now it’s down a hundred? Wake me when it swings a thousand or more.

Feel free to edit out all celebrity updates, especially those involving long iterations about struggles with addiction. Thanks; I’m trying to quit.

I guess I do need to know about corporate malfeasance and political corruption. It’s not news, but I do have to keep my outrage fully inflated at all times. You know — just in case I’m presented with an opportunity to do something about it.

I do not need to know about Rush Limbaugh’s latest vile exudation. As a wise man once said, Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot, and that will suffice for me. As to his followers, who proudly proclaim their identity as “dittoheads,” I can only say that I don’t know whether or not they are overweight.

I suppose the end of the world would be a newsworthy event, but what good would it do me to know it was near? Thanks for your concern, but it’s not news.

It is possible that, with all these deletions, my daily newspaper would shrink even more than it already has. Some of my favorite online sources might disappear entirely. I would mourn these losses. I suppose I could subscribe to one of those tailored news feeds, but those services assume that I know what I want. I don’t; all I know is what I don’t want.

If only there was some service that could comb the various news outlets, weed out the useless stuff, then submit the remainder to me for reading.

Oh, wait a minute; that’s me.
Capitalism
I won’t say that capitalism is bad.

It rewards individual enterprise, after all. It also rewards ingenuity, hard work, and the building of long-lasting, beneficial institutions. Unfortunately, capitalism also rewards greed — more handsomely than all those other things put together. I am willing to say that greed is bad.

What’s so bad about greed? Isn’t it just as good at animating the Invisible Hand that Adam Smith assured us would magically guide the economy toward a good result for everyone? No. They made greed a cardinal sin for a very good reason. It kills any positive motivation (enterprise, let’s say) that might exist alongside it and goes straight for the money. It dictates an all-out, all the time, full-on sociopathic pursuit of personal gain. As with all the other cardinal sins, it will lead you to a bad end.

And by “bad end,” I don’t mean hell. I mean human suffering, and the more greed there is at play, the more suffering will result. In fact, of all the cardinal sins, including wrath, it has the most potential to do harm. Slavery is a prime example. Slave traders certainly make plenty of money, but they also create a lot of human misery. My guess is that they don't care. That is because the traders’ greed has overcome their human decency. I would also argue that most war — the ugliest, stupidest, most destructive thing we do — has greed at its motivational core.

So capitalism has a problem. It incentivizes the most poisonous of all vices. It sews the seeds of its own undoing, cripples the invisible hand, and in the end will bring all of us down. Adam Smith himself recognized this danger. He warned against cartels and monopolies, which are antithetical to the idea of consumer sovereignty that is central to his theories. And he wasn’t even aware of the monstrous corporate “persons” we live with today.

Still, I won’t say capitalism is bad. Instead, it’s more like an undisciplined child, potentially good, but in need of structure and guidance. That leaves us to decide how to provide that structure. For this job, there are two options: Church or State.

I’m not really crazy about either one, but I’ll have to go with State. Church is just too unreliable. With State, assuming it’s a democracy, we have the promise of our own authority written into law. It’s not an ironclad guarantee, certainly, but it is something tangible we can use to defend ourselves from the ravages of greed and the excesses of capitalism.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee