My Reaction to GOP’s Health Care Reform Proposal (UPDATED)

  • by Gitabushi

Bottom Line Up Front: It isn’t good. But it isn’t as bad as many people are saying. Reforming health care is harder than anyone is admitting.

So is the GOP Congress saying this is the final version of their health care goals? Or is it a transitory law to tide over until final law?

Because while I do, of course, want more market-based reforms, not sure we can get there in one single jump.

There is so much wrong with our current health care system.  It really is just Pre-Paid Health Maintenance Plans. This separates price from cost, which makes things more expensive. Moreover, it punishes those who are cautious with their health, and reward those who are reckless and consume more health care.  Imagine how much it would cost if vehicle fuel were sold under and “insurance” plan where you paid a monthly fee and could use as much as you wanted.  The person who commutes 5 miles a day in a Mazda Miata would be subsidizing the person who drives a Hummer 90 miles every day, takes long trips every weekend, and is a leadfoot.

So the first order of business is to wean the nation away from the current Pre-Paid Health Maintenance plans referred to as “insurance.”  But that’s only the beginning. We need:

  • insurance to pretty much be only catastrophic.
  • retail clinics where RNs triage for need to be seen by PA, who then triages for need for specialist. Basic check an illness isn’t serious for out-of-pocket money.
  • hospitals and doctors to publish prices and full fees for all treatment.
  • a system to allow people to be guinea pigs for new treatments *if they want*, i.e., the rich and the terminal, w/o lawsuit threat.
  • a total reform pharma laws so there aren’t perverse incentives in development, especially patent rules.
  • effort to get bulk of medical care shifted to out-of-pocket, to reduce paperwork overhead, increase competition, and increase choice.
  • plan resolve exploitation of “free” medical care to illegal aliens. At the very least, that means new, robust collection laws. Could also mean ensuring all illegal aliens leave. Can’t reform healthcare w/o it.
  • A cap to end-of-life costs. The tricky part is if you heal the problem, it won’t be the end of life. But when people pay for insurance (even catastrophic), they don’t want to be told a cost restriction prevented them (or their loved one) from getting treatment. We need to get people used to the idea that there is a reasonable amount that others will be willing/able to pay to save a life, but beyond that, the costs should be borne by the family and friends that love them most. Because as in most things in life, there are few easy choices, and with each choice comes drawbacks and other unpleasant consequences.  Part of being an adult is deciding which unpleasant consequence is the easiest for you to accept.

It takes time to get massive, cumbersome health care system to shift to the free market-based solutions. This can’t be done in just a few weeks.  Particularly since there are powerful lobbies that want to prevent market based-solutions from taking away their golden parachutes.

Even worse, the public itself is a huge part of the problem.  We are never going to improve health care until we get people to grasp Medicaid doesn’t improve health outcomes. Of course, this also needs to be understood by people who have enough money to never be on Medicare. We need everyone to understand that just having medical coverage is not health. Health insurance is an illusionary security blanket that people want, and will give up rights and money to the government to get it. That illusion is part of what is making it so politically difficult to repeal Obamacare & reform healthcare system.

Imagine they repealed Obamacare completely yesterday.  The first thing that would happen is the news organizations would be screaming about all the people who are no longer covered. They would be doing their best to stir up panic.  Repealing Obamacare wholesale would push most of the population to consider (and perhaps embrace) Single Payer, just to have that illusion of security.  It would be a political disaster.

The most likely outcome is Democrats would take back Congress in 2018. I do not have confidence that President Trump would veto Single Payer with such an obvious mandate; he doesn’t have any history of commitment to free market principles, and pretty clearly seems to want to be remembered as a President that served his people. Giving them Single Payer when they seem to want it would satisfy his ego.

So we can’t just throw 10s of millions of citizens into a free market system. That would be a political disaster that would most likely lead to Single Payer.

What if we go back to the previous system?

Was anyone happy with the previous system?  It was still a Pre-Paid Health Maintenance system. We still had spiraling costs because price and cost were not obviously linked. Democrats would demagogue the crap out of it.  It seems like it would end up in the same place as no plan at all: Democrats take Congress, and we get Single Payer.

So I’m okay with some incremental changes for now, or a transition plan. But yeah: I’m not happy at all if this is their final plan.

The Good Points:

Right now, I think there is no personal mandate. The mandate is to insurance companies to provide to anyone. They had to keep a penalty in so that people wouldn’t wait until sick before buying insurance (which destroys the benefit of risk pools). But the penalty is from the insurance company for letting your insurance lapse, not from the federal government for not buying insurance.  That’s slightly better.

Still, I agree with Ben Shapiro’s conclusion: “you’ve actually created a gradual cementing of key elements of Obamacare.”  They just made Obamacare into GOPCare. But how do we *get* to market-based health care system with *real* reform w/o losing Congress and getting Single Payer?

My best suggestion is to spend the next three years in preparation: write legislation that encourages Retail Clinics.  Pass Tort Reform.  Deport enough illegal aliens that the rest self-deport, lowering the stress to the ER system and the cost to the hospital system.  Pass laws requiring hospitals to post prices, so competition can begin.  Then right after the 2020, then drop the big law that gets rid of any health insurance except catastrophic, caps heroic efforts, establishes tax-free health savings accounts, and pushes all the previous preparatory market-based reforms to 11.

Then sit back and demagogue to the hilt all the successes and improved health & cost outcomes.  This is one area the GOP always fails: they seem to not have a plan to sidestep the Democrats’ ally in the mainstream news media industry.  Trump has shown them how to use social media to get directly to the people; the GOP Congress needs to spend the next three years before they drop the big Reform Law preparing their PR blitz.

One other thing: Perhaps grandfather in anyone over 50?  It is easier to wean the young from government health care, since they are mostly healthy, by and large.

Side Note:

I had little confidence in Ryan since the Omnibus last year. I had little confidence in him. He’s like meh to accidentally good. And yet, he’s *still* better than Boehner, and Boehner was *still* better than Pelosi.

I think this stinky turd of a reform bill is more due to the House than the Senate.  So we need to focus on finding ways to express our displeasure to the House. The best way is to get them out of office.  But we need to primary them with strong GOP candidates. NOT give Congress to the Democrats.

Final thought:

I maybe skipped over too many steps. What I’m trying to do is figure out how to make free market solution politically viable.  I don’t see how to get there from here, right now. And I’m willing to give the GOP more time to prep the battlespace to make it easier to pass a successful (and thus, lasting) free market solution to our health care system.


My Reaction to GOP’s Health Care Reform Proposal (UPDATED)

Untitled Novel, Teaser

  • by Gitabushi

The McCoy’s Story, Chapter 1: Beverly

Beverly woke, feeling groggy, not sure where she was for a moment.  Her bleary eyes blinked the world into focus.  Metal, glass, tile.  People hurrying past.  Voices over an intercom: “Flight 262 to Washington Dulles International, now boarding Zone 3.”

Beverly pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes.  Zone 3?  That was her boarding group.  She stretched, picked up her backpack and purse, stifled a yawn and stood up.  She shuffled over to the line, then fished her boarding pass out of her purse.  Another yawn rose, and this one would not be denied.  She covered her mouth, but despite her best efforts, this one was audible.

The man in front of him turned around at the sound.  “Tired, huh?  Well, you’ll get some sleep on this red-eye, as long as there are no infants near you.”

“Yeah, I just flew in from China.  I’ve already been traveling for 22 hours.  I couldn’t sleep on the plane earlier, but I just caught a nap there in the waiting area.  I think it made me feel worse.”  The line moved forward a step.

“Wow, long trip!  Where are you headed?”

“DC is my last stop.  Good thing.  I feel like a zombie or something.”  A few more steps forward.

“You’re not sick, are you?”  The man looked like he wanted to sidle away.

“No, I loaded up on vitamin C before the trip.  I’m just tired.”

They reached the flight attendant, and the conversation died.  As he was looking at Beverly’s boarding pass, she heard some yelling down the foyer, maybe 10 Gates away.  The flight attendant glanced past her shoulder, a puzzled look on his face.  The sound of commotion increased, and Beverly turned to look.  She couldn’t see anything at this angle, and she wasn’t willing to step out of line to see better.  The attendant motioned her to go on, and she smiled faintly at him as she walked past.  Just as she entered the jetwalk, she heard what sounded like a scream, and a loud report like a firecracker.

A gunshot?

No way.  Beverly shook her head.  Guns aren’t allowed in airports.

20 minutes later they were in the air, and Beverly was fast asleep.


She woke again as they were making the final approach into Dulles, then dozed until they pulled up to the gate.  Lack of sleep and disruptions to all the normal biological cycles made her feel groggy even after she gathered her purse (no carry-on, for the win!) and staggered off the plane and up the walkway.

Her luggage would be arriving at the very last turnstile.  Before walking down there, she stopped off in the Ladies Restroom.  She sat in the stall, staring at nothing, trying to will herself fully awake.

She heard someone stagger in, then stumble over and push at her door.

“Taken!  Try the next one.”

More pushing at the door.  The groans sounded a little urgent.

“Hey!  Taken!”

Whoever it was seemed to take the message, and stumbled into the stall next to hers.  She could see the woman’s feet, rather large in tennis shoes, in the 12-inch gap.  She saw a hand reach through and paw in her direction.

“Out of toilet paper?  Okay, hold on a second.”  Beverly unwound a big wad, reached down and held it out.  The other person knocked it from her hand.  Fine, I don’t care, Beverly thought.  Some people just have no gratitude.

She closed her eyes and put her head in her hands, took several deep breaths.  She pulled out her cellphone and held the button until it began to turn on.  She stood up and had just gotten the door open when she felt her foot grabbed.  She looked down in time to see a man’s head stuck through the gap between the floor and the stall divider, and saw him sink his teeth into her ankle.

blinding pain–

“SON OF A BITCH!” Beverly yelled, and dropped her phone as she yanked her foot free.  She aimed a kick directly at the side of his face, heard his head bounce off the base of the toilet.  She opened the door and ran out with her purse.  She heard the man struggling to get out of the stall behind her.

Out of the restroom, she picked out a security guard a few dozen yards away.  She ran up to him.

“A man just assaulted me in the ladies restroom!”  She pointed back the way she had come.  She had to repeat it again before he understood.  He looked grim and began to walk in that direction, lifting his radio to his mouth as he went.

Beverly hesitated a moment.  She didn’t really want to wait around and see the guy.  Just thinking of him gave her the creeps.  There was something funny about his eyes.

She also didn’t want to wait around to repeat her story a dozen times to the police.  She knew that she should do her part to get a jerk like that off the streets…but she was exhausted, and just wanted to go home.  At least she could pick up her luggage first.  That would also give her more distance from the bathroom.

She walked another couple hundred yards to the luggage turnstile, which was already turning with a few pieces forlornly waiting for owners.  Hers was already there, too.  She grabbed her suitcase, then heard a scream and turned to look back at the bathroom entrance.

A struggle was ensuing between two security guards and the guy.  It looked like one of the security guards was down with the guy on top of him, and the second security guard trying to pull him off.  As she watched, the second guard pulled the assailant off of his buddy.  The guard on the floor wasn’t moving at all.  The creep turned in the second guard’s grasp.  It was hard to tell from the distance, but it looked like the guy was winning!

Beverly felt a bolt of terror in her heart.  She turned and hurried toward the exit.  She looked back as she reached the door, saw the guard fall to the ground and saw the man stagger in her direction.  She pushed out the doors as fast as she could, scrambled out onto the sidewalk.

She looked for the economy parking lot bus stop.  There!  And her lot color was already there.  As she ran toward it, dragging her suitcase, it started to pull away.

Then the driver must have seen her, because it stopped and the doors opened.  She clambered on board, yelled, “Go!” and collapsed into a chair.  She looked back at the baggage claim door but didn’t see her assailant emerge.

Her ankle throbbed.  She pulled her foot up to the seat, looked her ankle over.  She winced as she pressed and explored the bite area.  Was the skin broken?  No blood, at least.  That seemed impossible with as bad as the bite hurt, but maybe her jeans got in the way?  The way it hurt, she was going to have one hell of a bruise.

When the bus reached her stop, Beverly raced to her car, jumped in, and locked all the doors. She sat, shivering with reaction, for about 15 minutes.  She transitioned directly from panic to exhaustion, however, and woke herself when her head lolled forward.
She shook her head to clear it, glanced at her watch, and estimated she had lost only about 20 minutes dozing.
“Better I get back home as soon as possible and crawl into bed for some good sleep,” she said out loud, trying to wake herself up.  “I just hope I don’t nod off on the road home.”
Not many cars were on the road.

At one point, she saw someone walking across the freeway ahead of her.  She slowed slightly, until she saw that he would pass safely across before she reached him.

Within about 40 minutes, she was turning the key of her Eckington neighborhood townhome.  Three levels, 4 bedrooms, all hers.  Well, after another 27 or so years of mortgage payments, as she liked to say to friends.

She stripped her clothes and showered as rapidly as she could.  She checked out her ankle, rubbed some soap on it, but no sting of an open would.  Sure enough, though, it was already turning purple. The sky was just beginning to lighten as she stumbled into her bedroom and slipped into bed.  And then out of bed again to close the heavier curtains, to make sure sunlight drifting in between the slats of the blinds after daybreak didn’t wake her.

She set the alarm for a little over 6 hours later, pulled the covers up to her chin, and waited to fall asleep immediately.

35 minutes later (as confirmed by the bedside clock), she was still waiting.  She started the self-hypnosis technique she had learned back in college, and before the second set (backwards from fifty), felt that curious falling sensation that accompanied entering sleep when completely exhausted.


Untitled Novel, Teaser

Overwrought Think-Piece O’ the Day

  • by Gitabushi

Progressive ideology. Political power shifts. Societal pendulums. Global Warming. Defeating Evil.

What do these things have in common, besides the letter “l”?

All these different issues cannot be discussed rationally without accurately identifying and applying feedback loops.

For instance, in the case of Global Warming Climate Change, the theory is that the increase in carbon dioxide from human activity is driving the Earth’s temperature spiraling upward. However, the only way this can be true is if factors influencing or controlling the earth’s temperature are, in total, a positive feedback loop. Meaning, the various elements snowball, so the more carbon gets into the atmosphere, the easier it is for carbon to get into the atmosphere in the future.

However, to make this argument, one has to be aware of several negative feedback loops, such as the logarithmic nature of carbon’s impact (the more carbon is in the atmosphere, the smaller effect any given unit of carbon has) and the likelihood that increased carbon in the atmosphere encourages plant growth that has a cooling effect.  Meaning, there are certainly elements that tend to resist change, that absorb changes into a cycle that brings temperature back to equilibrium.  The fact that the world has had both extreme temperatures during different ages, yet keeps within a relatively small, stable range, indicates that negative feedback loops are more powerful than the positive feedback loops in our global climate system.

Regarding defeating evil, the one thing I remember from the 1st Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever is that evil can never be fully defeated. Individual incarnations of evil can be defeated, but since some measure of evil exists in every single human being, evil will always return.


Setting aside the notion of evil, that’s why it is so difficult for there to be a permanent one-party rule in the United States.  One significant negative feedback loop is the election interests of individual politicians.  If one party succeeded in complete domination of the political scene, the powerless party would dissolve and the in-power party would split in order for individual politicians to seek power by championing the interests of a minority.  Party overreach usually means that it never even gets to that point.  The Democrats were hailing their permanent majority just 8 years ago.  Now they almost lack the power to stop Constitutional Amendments.

Progressive Ideology assumes a social Positive Feedback Loop, in which human society inevitably progresses toward their assumed and preferred utopia of human enlightenment.

As a fan of science fiction, I have imagined what an Individual Rights Society might look like (call it Conservative, or Libertarian, if you with…neither seem to be fully appropriate terms), but even in my imagination, it is impossible to sustain.  Human nature is too obvious: there will always be people who see their advantage in claiming group rights over individual rights, and there will always be people eager to dictate groups rights to the exclusion of individual rights.

But is the reverse true?

Consider this tweet:

I think she’s 100% correct. However, the problem is that even after the precedent is set, it isn’t a precedent the GOP can use in retaliation against the Democrats.  This is because there simply is no GOP-leaning senior bureaucrat population.  The federal bureaucracy mostly embraces the Progressive mindset.  Where it doesn’t, it correctly sees the Democrat Party as more supportive of the unelected bureaucracy’s power.

As a result, where there should be a negative feedback loop that acts as a check on Progressive overreach, I fear that Democrats (and/or Progressives, and/or Leftists…there’s a huge overlap, but not complete) have metastasized in government to the point that they can enforce a positive feedback loop for their preferred policies.

Maybe not.  The Deep State’s attack on the US Constitution is out in the open now, and the GOP does have an unprecedented advantageous position to begin dismantling it, just like Walker is doing in Wisconsin.

However, let me clarify what I mean by the Left enforcing a positive feedback loop.

Normally, overreach results in the pendulum swinging back, as individuals exercise their political and social rights to disagree and oppose.  But the nature of Leftist ideology is to embrace and empower group rights, not individual rights.  They control education, so they can teach you the history and values they want you to have.  They control entertainment, so they can craft narratives in which the Progressive ideology always turns out to be correct. They control the news, so they can make it seem like the GOP following Democrat precedents is an outrageous, unprecedented scandal.  They control the federal bureaucracy, so they can pick and choose which of the millions of pages of regulations to enforce to punish individuals for opposing their agenda.  They can make the process be the punishment so that you can’t even fight back against things like EPA overreach without bankrupting yourself.  They control the judiciary (mostly), so they can re-legislate and nullify laws they don’t like (up to and including declaring a Constitutional Amendment to be Unconstitutional).  They can allow non-citizens to flood the nation to outnumber citizens and get representation and federal funding based on illegal aliens.  They can channel taxpayer money to Progressive organizations like Planned Parenthood, and get money back from Planned Parenthood to fund Democrat politicians.  And they can use all these various institutions to move the Overton Window to make it impossible to even talk about alternatives to their vision.

If Hillary Clinton had been elected, there would have been significant erosion of 1A and 2A rights.  So we dodged a bullet there.

But even with Donald Trump duly winning the election, even with the GOP controlling Congress, controlling approximately 2/3 of the governorships, controlling a majority of state legislatures, and conservatives about to control the Supreme Court, we find ourselves on the defense from the Deep State attempting to sabotage the Trump Administration.

The battle is in the open now, but despite it being open, I’m not at all certain the GOP can win.  Too many people would rather be right about Trump than protect the normal order of Constitutional governance.

If we lose this, we won’t lose our rights immediately.  But it will be a slow erosion.  Some negative feedback elements do still exist to slow, and sometimes even turn back, the growth of the Leviathan State.  But if the Deep State wins, expect to see more and more of the negative feedback loop mechanisms dismantled.

My bottom line: sure, a Trump administration is going to be a shit-show. It will be clumsy. It will make mistakes. But the more conservatives pile on, the easier it will be for the Deep State to win in their battle against the POTUS, and we’ll all be the worse off for it.

The Deep State has declared war on the rightfully-elected President of the United States.  By choosing to go to war against the President of the United States, the Deep State has declared war on the US Constitution.  You have to choose a side. There’s gotta be away you can defend the Office of the Presidency without defending Trump the man himself. Find it.


Overwrought Think-Piece O’ the Day


  • by Gitabushi

If you think about the spread of intelligence in society, or among your classmates/co-workers, you probably imagine something like this:


And I suppose that’s okay.

But lately, it seems like everyone has gotten stupid.

In high school, I don’t remember being all that much smarter than everyone around me.  We had great talks, stimulating ideas, everything.  I was smart, of course, but I could converse easily with everyone around me.

But now, it seems like finding people that can keep up is difficult.  I eat lunch every day with a bunch of Chinese linguists, and it is wonderful!  It seems like almost everyone is capable of quirky, weird, funny, and insightful contributions.

But then there is my friend from high school.  He was 88th percentile in the nation on standardized testing, so he wasn’t stupid by any means.  But now, 30 years later, his ideas are adolescent, he speaks in slogans, he can’t seem to think things through.

Now, everyone slows down eventually.  My dad was brilliant, but at age 84, he needs more time to figure things out, and isn’t quite as sharp as he used to be.

But it didn’t happen to him until he was in his 80s, whereas my mom’s mental functioning and practical intelligence started noticeably dropping in her late 60s.

So I’d like to propose a new way of visualizing intelligence.  The ballistic vector:


In this model, you can see that early in the flight path (early in life), you are all on virtually the same path.  People of all intelligences are roughly equal, because education gives us all pretty much the same information mass to assimilate, and all ideas are new.  Sure, the intelligent might learn it a little quicker, but you are all working with pretty much the same material.

But as you get older, the intelligent people continue to learn, continue to seek out new mental challenges, continue to synthesize existing information into new understandings. And as such, the more intelligent people fly higher, see further due to their higher reach, and retain that knowledge height for a much longer time.

Side note that sort of supports this paradigm, but also muddies it:

About 10 years ago, a researcher nearly bankrupted the tofu industry in Hawaii by saying that soy products aged the brain.  He later pointed out the difference was small, less than that of the difference between a high school-educated brain and a college-educated brain.

Now, does that mean that what I’m really noticing isn’t an intelligence disparity, but a self-education, continual-learning disparity?  Or is it just that the individuals with high intelligence find it easier to continue learning because they have the higher intelligence capacity to assimilate knew knowledge?

Or is my line of thinking wrong to begin with?

What are your thoughts?


Walking Dead, Season 7: Far-Right Tutorial

  • by Gitabushi

There are plenty of spoilers in the following piece.  If you aren’t caught up on the story, well, at some point you have to take responsibility for being weeks behind.  There has been plenty of time for everyone to catch up on the storyline, so I’m not even going to try to avoid spoilers.  I’ll put it below the jump, however.  And the spoilers will be minor, I think.

Continue reading “Walking Dead, Season 7: Far-Right Tutorial”

Walking Dead, Season 7: Far-Right Tutorial

Stoicism: A Rambling Think-Piece

  • by Gitabushi

A friend emailed me and mentioned that he’d encountered the term Stoicism several times lately.  That stimulated some online research and thought, and here is the result.

I stopped to think about it, and realized that when I think of Stoicism, I usually think of Asceticism; just 3 seconds’ thought makes it clear that isn’t correct, so I googled Stoicism quickly, and figured out where that misapprehension came from:

Stoics face their fears by deliberately trying to experience what they fear.  Since fear of poverty (starving, freezing, etc) is a fear most people have, the Stoics recommended periodic stretches of deprivation to help one realize material things aren’t that important. So asceticism is a Stoic exercise, but not necessarily a tenet of the philosophy.

Here’s a definition of Stoicism:

[Stoicism] asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment be based on behavior, rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.

The other impact of googling it was realizing that even though I never overtly studied Stoicism, over time I have separately arrived at many of the same views as Stoics.  I often say I am a philosophical Buddhist, because although I don’t embrace the religion at all, I do think one significant source of unhappiness in life is wanting more than you have, especially when those goals are not achievable.

(Aside: which puts me in the curious position of my guitar angst coming from wanting to want less…so I have more than I want and should be happy, but I manage to make myself unhappy but wanting to want even less, so to want less than I have in this case would be to accept that I have more guitars than I want to have.  Okay, now I’m dizzy)

Anyway, one core touchstone of my personal philosophy is that you can’t control what you feel, but you can control what you do about what you feel.  That grew out of the realization that I can’t control other people, I can control only myself.

I found a long time ago that I was much happier when I was “centered”, a term I borrowed from New Age or some crap, but what I meant by it was “within myself”, i.e., worrying only about what I can control, i.e., my own actions, and letting everything else go.

My wife is very capable of pulling me off-center, of course, although over the last year I’ve gotten much better at remaining centered even despite her influence and impact on me.

And I’ve also dealt with the frustrations and disappointments of being a Chiefs fan by inadvertently developing a Stoic attitude toward their game results.

“It is what it is” is Stoicism, right?

Here’s a picture of  a bust of a Stoic:


Back in my Army days, when I got frustrated because we were not only spending the day doing boring training, but we had finished all the standards and they still held us there because we finished too early, I thought up the idea that, “Everyone has to be somewhere.  I have to be somewhere, too, sometimes, and right now, this is where I have to be. So I might as well accept it.”

Later, starting a few years ago, I started thinking: This is life.  This is all there is.  I can’t know there is an afterlife or that anything I do matters.  Okay, fine.  I should enjoy every moment, while it lasts; when I’m stuck doing something not so fun, don’t waste my mental energy fretting about what I’d rather be doing, but make the most of it.

That seems Stoic, too.

It makes me wonder if I could somehow make it through actual torture by trying to analyze and experience the pain, to change it into something else.  Probably not, and I hope I don’t have to find out.

I’ve also analyzed, learned, and tried to teach my kids: there are perhaps three sensations in life: stimulation, peace, and sating of appetites.

Stimulation is infatuation, sex, drunkenness, flavor, excitement, etc.  Those are enjoyable because they are strong.  But you need ever more input to feel the same level of stimulation…besides the body developing a tolerance, the Primacy/Recency principle means that you can only have one first time, and repeated applications of a stimulation will inevitably have a lesser mental effect. Stimulation is always a relative sensation, and is measured in degrees.

On the other hand, peace is an absolute sensation: you either have it or you don’t.  You can never have too much peace.  So I seek peace, satisfaction with myself and with life, acceptance, sufficiency, etc, and have tried to teach my kids to seek the same things.

Sating of appetites is a basic urge that constantly renews.  You will always return to hunger, and you can reduce your the tolerance you build up for certain appetite satisfactions via abstinence.  I’ve tried to control my appetites, and also tried to teach my kids that, too.

To restate, the point of this interminable musing is that I now think I have been living a life based on many Stoic tenets without realizing it.  But looking at this, I can see I could do more to deliberately follow the philosophy.  Not that I (or anyone) have to fulfill a Stoic ideal, but even after just a quick scan of the list, I think I would be happier and more satisfied with myself and my life if I did work harder on achieving Principles 6-9, particularly in relation to my aspirations to be a professional writer.

In my highly-subjective opinion, Stoicism is very closely related to Right-wing ideology, and incompatible with Left-wing ideology. However, apparently the New Yorker ran an article very recently on How to be a Stoic.

I cannot imagine a philosophy less compatible with modern Progressivism than Stoicism.  The cornerstone of Progressive ideology is victimization gives power, i.e., the more outraged you are about things outside your control, the more consideration and benefits you deserve.  Progressives don’t actually want the power to fix the problems they think they have, they just want to have power in other areas to compensate.  If they were ever given the power to fix the problems, they would then be responsible and no longer be victims.

To me, it seems like Progressives could use a healthy dose of Stoicism.  Moreover, the stereotypical Millennial could also benefit greatly from embracing Stoicism, recognizing that all emotions come from within rather than being compelled from external events, accepting that living often means failing, and that growth comes from overcoming failure.

If this article has stimulated interest in Stoicism, here is another good article that puts the philosophy into context with competing philosophies, so you can grasp a better understanding through the comparison and contrast.

Finally, here’s a picture of a guitar:



Stoicism: A Rambling Think-Piece

Leadership, A Scenario

  • by Gitabushi

When I was in Officer Training School for the United States Air Force, I encountered a difficult leadership test.  I’d like to share this anecdote with you, for your edification, but also to get feedback.  I still think I did the right thing, but I still don’t know if I did.

The training system divided students into upperclassmen and lowerclassmen.  As in many similar situations, the upperclassmen engaged in activities, ostensibly intended to train their inferiors, that were often indistinguishable from harassment, although not outright hazing.

A new commander took charge at about the same time I advanced to upperclassman.  Along with the advancement in seniority, I also was nominated to be the assistant Student Squadron Leader.  That means I was second-in-“command” of three flights, or about 45 students.  I followed the orders of the Student Squadron Leader, of course, and we both followed orders, guidance, and instruction from the Instructors (who were active duty officers, mostly Captains).

One of the tasks assigned to me was the testing and board process by which the lowerclassmen leaders were selected.  In effect, I was tasked with handling the search for our replacements.

The event was scheduled for a Wednesday night.  The nominations were due to the cadre Thursday morning.

However, Tuesday evening, the new Commander disseminated new orders.  We were told, verbatim: “Upperclassmen shall not mess with the lowerclassmen during their study time, from 8pm to 9pm.”  This was because many loweclassmen were complaining they were doing poorly on tests because upperclassmen had found it entertaining to give them assignments or orders during their study time.

In order to make sure we finished the board process in time, we started at 6pm.

Unfortunately, it rapidly (by 6:45pm or so) became clear we were not going to finish by 8pm.  I called the Student Squadron Commander and asked her what I should do, if I should continue with the board process or stop prior to 8pm.  She told me to do what I felt was right.  To be fair, I asked her what she would do and she said she wouldn’t continue.  But she wouldn’t order me to stop, she merely repeated, “Do what you feel is correct.”  I asked what would happen if we didn’t have the nominations for the cadre tomorrow. She had no answer.

So I went back and tried to speed up the process.  When it again became clear we were not going to finish (by 7:30pm), I called the Squadron Commander again, and again she refused to give me a direct order, but told me to use my judgment.

So I called all the candidates together for a quick meeting. There were approximately 12, vying for 4 positions. I pointed out that we would not finish before study time began, and asked them if they wanted to stop or continue.  They all said they wanted to continue.  I asked them if they felt behind on their studies.  They said no. I asked them if they felt their academic scores would suffer if we continued. They said no. I asked them if they thought continuing the process would be “messing with them.”  They all said no.  So I decided to continue.  I called the Squad Leader to inform her of my decision, and the input of the candidates.

The next day I was called in to the office of the actual Squadron Commander, a Major (which is one level higher than most of the Instructors).  He yelled at me for half an hour.  He asked me what I was thinking.  I explained that I wasn’t messing with the students, I was trying to finish the task I was assigned.

He told me that he was extremely disappointed in me.  He pointed out that I was from the Army, and asked me if the Army allowed its soldiers to ignore orders like I did.

Sitting here right now, I don’t remember explaining my position to him. If I recall correctly, I felt that attempting to explain would be seen as either giving excuses or talking back, so I just told him I was sorry for misunderstanding the orders and would never do anything like that again.  My position was that I had been given conflicting orders and put into a no-win situation: Finish the board process, but don’t “mess with” study time. The time alloted to finish the board process was insufficient. I was not allowed to use two evenings to complete it.  I did not have any authorization to select nominees by any other process.  I went to my superior for orders on how to resolve the conflict, and received no guidance whatsoever.  So I made the decision to try to split the conflict: I analyzed the orders and felt that I could follow the spirit of the order (not messing with the lowerclassmen) while violating the letter of it (preventing the lowerclassmen from starting their study period on time), but I could not do the same with the mission of completing the board process.  There was no way to accomplish that mission without fully accomplishing that mission. I did what I could to mitigate the issues (checking with the candidates to ensure continuing wouldn’t negatively impact them), but in the end, I understood that I was the one who needed to make the call, and I did.

He told me he very nearly kicked me out of the training program.  To this day, I don’t know why he didn’t.  I suspect that my instructors all put in a good word for me. I had several instructors who thought I was one of the better students and better officer candidates, deserving of recognition and a higher student-leadership position than I had been given. I can only assume they stood up for me and explained that I wasn’t stubborn or stupid and wasn’t a risk to disregard direct orders in the future.  I had gotten excellent evaluations from the instructor I reported to every day as the assistant Student Squad Leader (the Student Squad Leader reported to a different instructor every morning).

Looking back, however, I still feel frustrated.  I am angry at Squadron Commander for questioning my integrity.  I am angry that he couldn’t see that this was not the time to install fear into me, but a perfect time to teach me how to deal with situations where I feel my orders are in conflict.  He could have taken the time to show me what I did wrong in how I phrased my request for guidance to the Student Squadron Leader.  He could have given me a better framework of how to resolve conflicts like that in the future.  His best response would have been to suggest incorporating my dilemma into the training program, because these are the sorts of conflicts that result in death and tragedy.

Yes, the military cannot function if subordinates decide to ignore orders, just as the Squad Leader said.  But the military also fails if subordinates blindly follow orders.  Commanders cannot know the circumstances their subordinates face. Subordinates must be able to think on their feet to resolve conflicts in their orders, or to recognize when a superior’s orders do not comport with the local circumstances. The subordinate must then do everything they can to minimize negative impacts, and still adhere to the spirit of the orders to the best of their ability.

I would like to speak to the Squad Leader again, based on the experience I gained as an Officer in the 15 years since graduating Officer Training School.  I think he was wrong to give me that verbal warning. I think he was wrong to consider kicking me out.  In retrospect, I think the sort of independence and evaluation/analytic ability I displayed is exactly what the United States Air Force and the United States military need.  At most, he should have taught me how to do it better.

What are your thoughts?  It’s okay to say I’m wrong, as long as you explain why.


Leadership, A Scenario