Travel Security

This article was inspired by a multi-pronged adventure I recently took. I flew out to Chicago, took a train ride to Seattle, and then flew back to Houston. I was shocked at the varying levels of security I had to go through for each leg of my journey, and I pondered the other journeys I’ve taken in the past. In essence, the security protocols and requirements are different for the various modes of transportation either by: plane, train, bus, ship… and car.

Plane

Air-travel requires the most extensive security out of all modes of travel. My first encounter with airport security was with a not-so-nice TSA agent who acted like I was a waste of his time for not knowing every single post-Covid security protocol.

Before Covid took over the planet, I considered myself a veteran traveler and was shocked when this agent chastised me for wearing my facemask in a crowded line. 

Can you believe that?!  

Actually, he needed to see my face to verify my identity and chastised me for not using a 3rd hand to take off my mask fast enough for him to keep his part of the line moving efficiently. Unfortunately, my first hand was giving him my ID and my second hand was placing my barcode on the reader. Naturally, I should have evolved that 3rd hand to pull my mask down to reveal my true identity. 

After you get through the ID guy, you need to get your luggage scanned. Not only that, but you need to take your shoes off to be scanned… thanks to Richard Reid (aka the “Shoe Bomber”). But that’s not all you need to put into a tray to get scanned, you must also take every electronic device out of your bags. That means: phone, Bluetooth keyboard, tablet/Kindle, Switch or other mobile devices[1].

While your stuff is getting scanned, you need to get scanned too. You now need to step into a booth and place your feet onto yellow foot prints, while trying not to think about catching a foot fungus as you raise your hands above your head.

You somehow manage to get through the security checkpoint and are putting your shoes on, when you see an armored officer walk a drug/bomb-sniffing dog. That dog is the last part of ground-based airport security, but there’s a couple more layers of security to keep in mind while you’re up in the air. While you’re in the plane and flying over the country, the pilot is safely locked behind a bulletproof bulkhead, and there’s a possibility a Sky Marshal may be flying with you to thwart any pesky touristic-terrorist. 

That’s 6 layers of security at our airports. Airports must truly be the safest and most secure locations on the planet.

Let’s see how other modes of transportation match up.

Train

The last couple times I took the train, there was literally NO security at the train major stations I’ve boarded the train on. Your luggage does not get scanned at all. Amtrak reserves the right to randomly search your bags, but I’ve never seen it happen. 

Most often there’s no security either. Some of the major stations will have a drug-sniffing dog run through randomly. Other than that, it’s up to the maintenance people to kick out homeless or violent people[2]

So basically, you may get a K-9 unit and a janitor as your security guard… and the janitor is definitely not getting paid enough to double-duty as security (so be thankful). 

Do you truly need more security while traveling on a train? Meh… I guess not because you can’t fly a train into a building. But consider how anyone can easily sneak a weapon on a train. I mean, the worst that can happen is a mass gunman kills a bunch of people while the train moves 65 MPH on the track, out in the middle of nowhere.

Nice knowing you, Grandma.

Bus

Traveling by bus is no different than by train. If there’s security present at the station, it’s at the stations where crime is high and homeless are swarming the streets around it (like the walking dead). 

Greyhound is the largest passenger bus service provider in the country. They do not inspect your luggage unless asked to do so by another passenger, and sometimes not even then. 

You are more likely to get your luggage “inspected” if the employee thinks there’s something of value in there. If there are valuables in your luggage, and you don’t keep your eyes on your bags at all times, expect those valuables to be confiscated for security purposes… or maybe a homeless person managed to sneak in and steal your stuff. 

Ship

Going on a cruise is the only other method of travel which requires passengers to go through pre-boarding security. While boarding, passengers must show an ID or passport, and walk through a metal detector while your bag gets x-rayed.

That’s surprisingly robust security for something which is limited to water and that barely travels 20 MPH, but there’s a reason for this, because security is responsible for managing the safety of about 2,000-3,000 passengers[3], [4]… unarmed.

That’s the size of a village or small town!

It’s in the cruise line’s best interest to remove lethal weapons from the equation before all those people set sail and become drunken sailors.

Too bad security can’t keep passengers from getting each other sick.

Car

Can you truly trust yourself… or your family? Perhaps you should pat down that baby carrier for something other than a stink-bomb. 

When you drive, you are your own security and everyone else’s worst nightmare. 

If you’re not careful, you can be the cause of one of the average 18,500 crashes each day. If you’re a terrible driver, or are criminal enough to drive drunk, or are so old you should have been medically barred from driving years ago… you may contribute to the 3,700 fatal crashes that happen each day[5]

Needless to say, this last part is mostly a joke.

***

In closing, there’s a dramatic difference between security at the airport and every other method of travel in the country. The country’s leaders are so worried about being held accountable by the next jet-powered civilian missile, they don’t care if your poor ol’ granny gets mugged or killed on a train or bus. 


[1] Electronics: And is the TSA going to replace any of this equipment if it’s damaged or stolen while in their custody (on the conveyor belt)? 

Nope! Most claims are denied.

[2] Train Stations: Most tourists get on stations at major cities, but I’m not mentioning the various rural stations trains service daily, which have absolutely no security beyond the ticket checker. Rural areas are where most of the domestic religious fanatics live, so we should be very concerned about this… but, we aren’t.

[3] Security: Shipboard security not owned by the government. The staff is privately owned by either the cruise-line or a third-party contractor

[4] Passenger Size: 2,000-3,000 passengers is the average guest population of cruise ships before Covid-19.

[5] Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (2019). Motor Vehicle Safety Data. Retrieved from U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: https://www.bts.gov/content/motor-vehicle-safety-data

An Ally Against China?

Who do you think would be a great ally in a future war against China?

England? Sure.

France? Ha! They’ve been more of a burden than a true ally in almost every modern war.

Germany? They’ve been a great ally for decades, but they need to focus on Europe right now.

Japan? With their Self-Defense Force? Maybe if they’re hiding the SDF-1[1] under the ocean.

India. Yes.

Aust- Wait what?

India?! Really? How can a 3rd world country famous for spices, tea, outsourcing, and telemarketers help us in a modern war?!

Here me out.

The population of China is about 1.4 billion, and the US has about 330 million people[2]. That means the Chinese horde outnumbers us by at least 4 times in population alone. They can easily overwhelm us by attacking in swarms. We need a human swarm of our own… India.

India has a population which almost matches China, and we can use that uncontrolled population growth to our advantage. There already are several points of contention between the two nations, some are cultural and ancient. But more importantly, is the fact their militaries have had deadly border clashes in recent years. 

Yes, the US and India have very different cultures. Yes, most Americans despise Indians because we can’t understand them over the phone, and all our administrative service jobs are being outsourced there.

But, despite those minor annoyances, both nations are democracies with elected officials. Neither of our nations has had conflict in the past. The United States was quick to recognize India when they broke from the United Kingdom (aka Britain). And we both have concerns about an increasingly aggressive totalitarian nation.

This is the perfect recipe for a military alliance.

While we’re fighting a sea battle to defend the Pacific nations, the Indians can take advantage of the situation by invading from the west. The Chinese will be fighting a war on 2 fronts and when the tide turns, the allied nations will be in a better situation to bottle up the dragon of the orient.

Unless the Chinese cheat and go nuclear…


[1] SDF-1: Super Dimensional Fortress, from the 1985 Robotech anime series.

[2] The World Bank. (2020). Population, total. Retrieved from The World Bank: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL

Why is France mad about AUKUS?

Author’s Note: This article is meant to be a unique description of the AUKUS pact by addressing the reaction, and by describing the reasons why the USA is a better partner than France. I’m a US citizen, and this article may be a bit biased for the pact, and against France’s reaction to it. Because of this, I claim “author’s prerogative.”

Someone is throwing a fit over the new AUKUS security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The name, AUKUS, is an acronym of the spliced abbreviations for each signatory to the treaty. It involves the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia, increased collaboration with cybertechnology, and possibly includes stationing US subs to the country as part of the strategic defense of the area.

Australia warned France about concerns they had with the contract and the quality of the submarines months in advance to AUKUS. Instead of proactively negotiating to ensure they can provide a better deal, France did nothing. They claim the loss was a complete surprise to them and AUKUS is a stab in the back. In a fit of rage, the country recalled their ambassadors to Australia and the United States. They threw such a tantrum, the US President had to have a phone call with his French counterpart. Late last week, we were shocked to hear the breaking news that we “normalized” our relations with France.

How could our relationship have deteriorated so badly over a simple agreement? It’s not like one of our warships attacked France, so why do our relations need normalizing?

I wasn’t aware that France had a “Nouvelle Révolution”, reinstating their monarchy and placing a queen on the throne… a Drama Queen.

Let’s evaluate the merits of the pact.

Sale of Nuclear Submarines

Australia cancelled their 90-billion-dollar contract with France to build 12 French subs[1]. That’s about 7.5 billion dollars per sub. Compare that to the average cost of 3.4 billion dollars to build a Virginia-class nuclear submarine[2].

That’s less than half the price!

It makes perfect sense to buy a state-of-the-art submarine at half the cost. I don’t know what the final price for each unit will be, but it’s still a great deal even if we apply a 50% retail markup! So, who in their right mind willingly buys over-priced products?!

US Deployment to Australia

I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to have a strategic defense alliance with a nation, France would be the last “major” country I’d consider. France has historically performed poorly in most of its wars during the 20th century. Germany conquered a lot of French territory in World War I, but lost it to the coalition. During World War II, France got conquered outright and had to be liberated by the Allies.

After the Second World War, most of the wars France emerged as the victor include: coalition efforts, and/or conflicts against non-national opponents (uprisings, insurgents, terrorists). Since World War II, France has participated in about 30 conflicts, and individually was the victor of 3 conflicts[3]. Of the 2 conflicts the country fought 1-on-1 with another nation (excluding revolts) France barely has a 50% win-rate.

That’s not a good track-record.

Technological

The pact allows for closer collaboration with technological development. France doesn’t have a related agreement in place, and likely won’t have one since they lack the necessary infrastructure necessary to provide meaningful contributions to cyber-related technological developments. The AUKUS agreement is a good decision to enter into with the US, because we have the infrastructure and know-how. Another inherent benefit is the common language the three nations share which will make the relationship run a lot smoother.

Plus, when most people think of France, we tend to think of: wine, tourism, the language of love, beautiful sprawling cities, art, overpaid and underutilized labor, and riots over pretty much anything including: labor, immigration, violence or killings, labor again, news from the middle-east, wealth disparity, labor (yet again)…

Information technology and Cybernetics are the last things I’d associate with that country.

***

Why is France so upset over the AUKUS pact? Is it truly because they lost out on selling overpriced submarines to Australia? Yes. Losing 90 billion USD means they’re missing out on almost a fifth (20%) of their annual trade[4], [5], [6]. I’d be pretty pissed if I was their leader.

I too would have thrown a tantrum if:

  • It means that businesses in my country are going to miss out on that large amount of money.
  • It means my people are going to suffer job cuts.
  • It means my country will be on international news because of the next inevitable labor riot.
  • It means my chances of getting re-elected are going to plummet since I couldn’t prevent this terrible loss.

Yes, they have reason to be upset. However, the pact includes services they cannot reliably provide. Nor did they do their due-diligence to ensure they were competitive enough to keep the submarine contract, especially when warned their customer was dissatisfied with the price and quality of the product.

It’s business, not romance.


[1] Shields, Bevan et al. (2021, September 18). France recalls its ambassadors to Australia and United States amid submarine fury. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/france-recalls-its-ambassadors-to-australia-and-united-states-amid-submarine-fury-20210918-p58srt.html

[2] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Virginia-class submarine. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia-class_submarine

[3] Wikipedia. (n.d.). List of wars involving France. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_France

[4] The United States export value is about 3 times that of France, meaning the subs account for about 5% of our outgoing trade.

[5] NationMaster. (n.d.). Economy Stats: Compare Key Data on France & United States. Retrieved from NationMaster: https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/France/United-States/Economy#

[6] WITS. (2019). France Trade Statistics: Exports, Imports, Products, Tariffs, GDP and related Development Indicator. Retrieved from World Integrated Trade Solution: https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/FRA

Post-Apocalypse Markets

How will we operate businesses and trade after World War III, or if a catastrophic attack or disaster befalls our country? The local economy is going to have to focus on producing or trading products needed for survival. That means the most important products and services are going to be things that can immediately be used for everyday household needs, and probably won’t stray too far from that. 

Where will you find a market to trade goods? The surviving malls of the old civilization have been turned into palaces for highway barons and their minions[1]. Most supermarkets have been looted and damaged so extensively that it’d be impossible to secure your inventory. So, what does that leave us with?

Flea markets!

After everyone abandons the major cities and metroplexes, after the initial chaos settles, and when communities start coming together, the once forgotten flea market is going to become the new mall or trading hub. Why?

  1. They exist out in rural areas, which aren’t going to be targeted by a foreign enemy.

I mean, come on! Who’s going to waste a nuke on Woodville, Texas, or a small village called Swartout?!

  • There won’t be any reliable electricity, and these places with outdoor pavilions are going to be perfect to serve as the malls of the post-apocalyptic future. Some of the more upscale flea markets are wired for electricity, and a generator can be hooked up allowing the market to operate at night. 
  • Most flea markets are structured in a way that makes them easily defendable. The rent and protection fees vendors will be forced to pay landlords will help fund the market’s security.
  • Plus, it shouldn’t be too hard to convert some of the stall-pavilions into make-shift housing for vendors and security personnel. 

The only problem I can see is getting products to that market. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 21 million horses in the United States[2]. Nowadays, horses, donkeys, and other draft animals are endangered here in the USA. According to Pete Gibbs[3], a Texas A&M University animal science professor, the Houston area has one of the highest concentrations of horses in the country, with a population between 150,000 and 200,000. We’ve become so dependent on the almighty car, we don’t have the draft animals to produce the “horsepower” needed for agriculture or transportation.

There’s a reason why automobiles are advertised as having varying amounts of horsepower.

I always liked a scene in Things to Come[4] when the Airman lands and the community leader arrives on a convertible car being pulled by horses. I thought it was funny the first time I saw the movie, but that odd sight may very well be the stagecoach of the future. We will need to return to using animals to power our new agrarian society and to bring those products to market. 

Dollars will be worthless.

The new economy will be based on barter. If you want a certain product, you’ll need to trade something of equal or greater value… and more often than not, you’ll need to trade with greater value.

Inequitable trading is to be expected. Recall that a centralized economy doesn’t exist anymore. There is no reliable currency, so it makes sense people will want to trade their products for greater value because of this unreliability.

Whatever you do, do not accept any immaterial currency as trade. Currency only works in an insulated environment controlled by someone who has power to enforce the stated value. It also needs the faith of people who believe in the inherent value of that currency. None of that exists any more.

You may be able to trade currency with one person, only to find out it’s worthless to another. It’s also easy for that same person you originally traded with to turn around and say they aren’t accepting cash or currency as legal tender anymore. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who’s as gullible as you to accept that currency in turn when that happens. 

Recall that I previously mentioned currency only works in an insulated environment? In this new world, you may encounter specialized currency at a sealed market. In this situation, you trade goods the community needs for a posted amount upon entry and receive a locally accepted form of currency, which can only be used inside the borders of the market. Expect the person issuing you the new currency to take a cut of your trade as a fee. (The local government has to make money too.)

If you encounter this type of system, you need to make sure you spend all of this new money immediately. If you have any cash left over, use it to buy something that has a stable value, like non-perishable food.

Nothing is certain anymore. A change of leadership could happen, or counterfeiters could flood the market. Whatever the cause, the accepted form of payment can change overnight and you’ll be left with nothing of value to trade the next day.

I’m pretty sure food will become the new unit of account for currency, akin to what the “gold standard” used to be. If the new markets are smart, they will base the currency on the common knowledge of caloric count. and may give special dispensation, or increase in price, to foods which provide a boost to certain vitamins and minerals. An example would be bananas, which are high in potassium. If you’re operating a distillery in the post-apocalyptic future, it’d be beneficial to grow bananas as well as distill alcohol. You could resell the bananas as a hangover remedy[5]

What’s going to be sold at these markets?

Food will be the most important products being sold at the market, and you might not find much else until the local economy gets stronger.

Eggs and live chickens are light and easy to transport, and will be the first proteins or meat to be traded. I emphasize that chickens will be traded alive, because there won’t be power to refrigerate and preserve butchered meat. The best way for the new markets to cheaply “preserve” meat for days is by selling it live.

I don’t think many hens capable of laying eggs will be sold at the market. It doesn’t make sense for the farmer to sell something that’s making money or ensuring the survival of his or her family.

Livestock will be another early addition to the market. Horses and donkeys will cost a fortune because they can provide transportation and power to work the land. You may be able to find goats at the market too. Demand for goats milk and cheese will plummet. Most Americans don’t have a taste for either, and storing the dairy products will be next to impossible without electricity. Farmers will need to sell off or cull their stock when it becomes apparent they can’t feed all the animals on the farm. You can buy them for the meat, or if you can get a male and female, purchase to start your own farm.

You may find the same situation with pigs. There will be too many mouths to feed and no way to quickly preserve the meat. Both pigs and goats can eat pretty much anything, so feeding a small number of these animals won’t be much of a problem for a survivalist farmer. If it does get too hard to feed them, then it may be time to host a meat-lover’s party.

Fuel may show up at the market at some point. I’m not sure when it will appear though. Most people with petroleum gas or propane may try to hold onto it to power farming machinery or generators. Barring hoarding for personal use, I’m pretty sure fuel will get confiscated by local governments to power emergency vehicles, or possibly provide a dramatically scaled down form of public transportation.

A Word of Caution

What if you want to start a business and open a shop? That’s very enterprising of you, but drill this into your head now:

Don’t set up shop at home!

You’re basically inviting people to come to your house and look at what you’ve got. The majority of your shoppers are probably honest, but you need to expect that with every 10 customers, there’s probably 1 thief scoping out your home to rob later. If the “business” gets burglarized, so does your family.

It’s much safer to sell things at a market. Yes, you’ll have to pay rent on your stall and you may have to pay a security surcharge on top of that, but it’s worth it in the long-run.

***

Money as we know it will be worthless after a catastrophic attack or disaster befalls our country. So, how will we conduct business and trade? Our redefined economy will be based on barter and locally defined currency exchanges. Flea markets will be the perfect foundations to establish markets to buy, sell, and trade goods.

Check my blog later for the next part of this post-apocalyptic series. I plan to describe what you might do for a living after the collapse.


[1] A wise slum-lord will take over a mall with a jewelry store, and use the gold, diamonds, and other precious metals as a form of currency to pay an army of desperate soldiers.

[2] ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance. (2007, September). The Educational Programming Guide for Going Places. Retrieved from Park City Museum: https://parkcityhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Teacher-Background-Information.pdf

[3] Crowe, R. (2006, January 18). Riders rearing up over new horse restrictions. Retrieved from Chron: https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Riders-rearing-up-over-new-horse-restrictions-1889342.php

[4] Menzies, W. C. (Director). (1936). Things to Come [Motion Picture].

[5] I’m sure there’s a Ferengi Rule of Acquisition related to this.

What do we call space travelers?

The SpaceX Inspiration4 all-civilian flight landed this past weekend and there’s been a lot of speculation as to what we should be calling these space tourists now and in the future. We can’t call civilian space travelers “tourists” forever, because tourism will not be the only reason why civilians travel to space. If we’re lucky, these early space flights will be the start of even more civilian trips into space for science, exploration, and general business.

But what do we call these civilian space travelers?

A couple names have come to the forefront of this debate, including: Amateur Space Traveler and Astronaut/Cosmonaut.

I heard someone propose “Amateur Space Traveler” in the news last week as a potential name for civilian space travelers. Those who support this name use the first definition of the noun, amateur, which is: one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession. However, the second definition is truly what most people associate with that term: one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science[1].

Some people want to call them “Astronauts”, same as the few people who earned the lofty title in NASA. As you can imagine, there’s push-back against this because NASA already uses the title for the few Astronauts they send up to space. There’s a fear that as more people go into space and become “Astronauts”, it will diminish the historic achievements made in the past by the early pioneers of space.

Arguments for Astronaut or Cosmonaut

I’ve already made my opinion clear about that terrible idea of calling future space travelers amateurs. So, for the moment, let’s focus on why “Astronaut” and “Cosmonaut” are appropriate names.

Purely based on the definition and origin of the names, both are appropriate. Astronaut is the combination of 2 Greek words: Astron, meaning star, and -naut[es] meaning sailor or traveler. Similarly, Cosmonaut is a combination of 2 Greek words: kosmos, meaning world or universe, and -naut[es] meaning sailor or traveler.

Just because NASA and the Soviet Union invented the words and used them for over 60 years doesn’t give them a monopoly on the word or title. For starters, you can’t patent a word. This has been the case for decades and everyone knows it, but let’s give this idea the benefit of the doubt… and then shoot it down.

Patent law gives the inventor a 20-year monopoly, which has long-sense passed. It could be argued that the word can be trademarked, but that can only happen if it identifies with the organization or product. Fortunately, there are certain words which cannot be registered like: names & titles, or generic terms (like astronaut)[2].

We should also consider the likelihood we’re going to see classically employed astronauts achieve historic goals in the future. Let’s not kid ourselves here, there’s no future in manned space exploration and exploitation with the existing government-controlled space agencies.

Yes, I just pointed out the increasingly obsolete elephant in the room. Come fight me NASA!

Better yet, prove me wrong[3].

Anyways, the fact remains that the only publicly announced manned project NASA has in its sights is a vague goal to land humans on Mars by the 2030s. Aside from NASA’s pie-in-the-sky goal, no other space agency has anything planned. Although, does anyone outside of China know what the Chinese are planning[4]?

Which should we use: Astronaut or Cosmonaut?

While both Astronaut and Cosmonaut are correct terms to use, we can’t use both names. That’ll cause more confusion in the long run. So, what do most people think of when they think about space travelers or people in space? To answer this question, I asked the greatest tool to find connected indexed information… Google.

  • What are travelers in space called?
  • What is a space worker called?
  • What is a space tourist called?

I ran several Google searches asking variations of the above questions, and the results all point to the same answer: Astronaut.

Other Names for Space Travelers

I think Astronaut sounds appropriate, but I’d like to propose a few potential names for future space travelers: Spacers, Private Astronauts, Citizen Space Travelers, or Space Citizens. I have 2 preferences out of these names, and will describe the reasons why I think they’re good.

I like the term “Space Citizen” because space is so vast, people will need to live in space no matter what their profession is. The minimum amount of time it takes to get anywhere is counted in days, and that’s just to reach a destination near Earth’s orbit. It will take months, maybe even a year, to reach destinations further out in the Sol system. These space workers probably won’t have close associations weighing them down to the planet. Nor does it make sense for these citizens to maintain homes on Earth either, unless they left behind family[5].

If we’re lucky, people will eventually be born in space, and probably to multi-national parents. Think of the citizenship complications that will cause.

I have a strong preference for the term “Spacer”, and think it has a greater likelihood of being used in the future, even over “Astronaut”.

  1. It’s simple. The word can be said in 2 syllables and is easier to use in a sentence, and it can’t be acronymized all by itself.
  2. It has universality (pun sort-of intended). People are Spacers if they live and work in space, no matter what they do. They can be a: space miner, engineer on a spaceship, doctor in a medbay, security officer on a ship or station, and even a child whose family lives in space. “Spacer” has the quality of being appropriate for all those roles.
  3. I think people who live in space will be called “Spacers” collectively. Their identities may be further defined by their profession, but not likely as a citizen of the nation they were born to.
  4. It sounds cool! I love science fiction and can’t deny the appeal the term “Spacer” has when I think of people living and working in space.

***

What should we call future space travelers? “Astronaut” and “Cosmonaut” are technically correct, but may be outdated. “Private Astronaut” seems like applying a band-aid to answer the question. I think “Spacer”, or some other designation inspired by science fiction, may be the best option now and in the future.

I don’t know what we’ll end up calling them, but I do know it won’t matter if we don’t get our act together.

In the 1960s, we were making rapid advances in space technology and engineering. We were making so many new innovations, it seemed like anything was possible. One of the most realistic science fiction books published around that time, 2001: A Space Odyssey, predicted that we’d have several things by the new millennium. We should have had a massive space station in orbit, an outpost on the Moon, and the ability to travel between the planets.

Those developments in that science fiction novel were very achievable and should have been realized by the 21st century, but history or politics had different plans. We can’t let that happen again.

Since the established space programs are at the mercy of fickle governments, which lack the will needed to reliably follow through with large-scale projects, we need private enterprises to take the reins.

I’m willing to accept the risk of letting private enterprises take the lead into space, if it results in greater technological developments and exploration into space. Especially, since such advances can only help ensure the overall survival of our species.


[1] Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Amateur. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amateur

[2] There are other phrases or words that cannot be trademarked, but I only focused on those relevant to this subject.

[3] Space fight: Russia, please stay out of this fight. I prefer my tea to be free of radioactive ingredients.

[4] I fear that only a national embarrassment or a “Sputnik moment”, like China establishing a permanent outpost on the Moon, will motivate the United States government to invest the time, money, and resources toward projects in space.

[5] Earth-based families: For the purpose of this article, let’s not consider the statistical fact that most long-distance relationships fail. Let’s assume that all partners will remain true to their loved ones and ignore all other sexual and emotional prospects that physically manifest, both on Earth and in space.

Why are we giving “unskilled” laborers as much pay as “skilled” workers who earned their wage?

UPDATE 08/25/2021: OnlyFans backpedaled on their decision to ban porn 1 day after I published this article.

We’ve seen the news talk about a labor shortage for months, and some of us have joked on socialist[1] media that: “there isn’t a labor shortage, people just don’t want to work for you.”

In response to this labor shortage, many major employers are offering absurdly high hourly wages to attract more employees. Most of the people who benefit from these absurdly high hourly wages didn’t earn a degree in college. Most didn’t spend 4-6 years to acquire a bachelor’s degree to land a high paying job. (Nor are they in debt to pay for that education.) Most of these people didn’t spend years of networking and ladder-climbing to build up a career either.

How did this happen, and what will come?

This is happening because of a new lower-class movement focused on improving their livelihoods. This is nice and all, but we’re just handing these laborers wages they really don’t truly deserve. And it’s the participation trophy generation (my generation), who are fanning the flames to push this absurdity into reality. We are so focused on making everything equal, that we are forgetting that most people make the salary they deserve because of their hard work.

So why are laborers getting paid equally or more, than people who put in the time, energy, and effort to get where they are in their careers? Why are they getting a free pass to higher wages when the rest of us had to work for it?

But, at what expense to we hand these unskilled laborers a virtually free lunch? Do we alienate and impoverish those who served their time in the college system just so they can get good jobs? 

I’m okay with increasing the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour. I may even approve of it getting bumped to $15 if I get at least a 20% increase to my own pay. But $22 or almost $50 for unskilled labor?

Hell no! 

To misuse a Star Wars: Mandalorian quote: “This is not the way!”

Paying undereducated and unskilled laborers wages they haven’t earned is going to cause several things to happen in our country.

  1. Skilled professionals are going to quit because they’ll start asking: “What’s the point of doing this job when I’m getting paid less than that laborer who’s mindlessly moving products? If I can get the job, I’ll get paid more and get more exercise as a bonus.”
  2. Housing is going to spiral out of control when landlords figure out tenants can afford to pay more rent. Which will eat into that newly acquired salary.
  3. Employers are going to be forced to move jobs overseas, compounding unemployment. This has been going on for nearly a century for raw materials and consumer goods, but the practice will increase very shortly.
  4. Employers are going to be forced to spend capital on automation, further compounding unemployment. We already see this in many fast-food restaurants. You can walk into most Taco Bells, and nobody will be at the counter to take your order. You have to use a kiosk to place an order[2]. This was tried at Jack in the Box about 10 years ago successfully, but they dropped the concept. I’m pretty sure they’re reconsidering kiosks right about now and we’ll see them in stores very soon.
  5. It’s going to drive prices for basic products through the roof, because the labor costs more to make the goods.

Rinse and repeat the above, and you’ll see it’s an endless spiral.

Even if we give the unskilled laborers everything they want, they still won’t be happy. There will always be a very loud minority of unemployed and unemployable[3] who are going to rattle the cage and rile minimum wage workers in perpetuity. They can and will do this because they have the free time on their hands to lament how unfair their condition is instead of working to improve themselves. 

Please notice that I said, “a very loud minority”. Most unskilled laborers are hard workers, but many cannot (or will not) spend the extra time, energy, and money to improve themselves. I understand it’s hard to raise a family on minimum wage, but the reason most people get where they are is a consequence of their own actions.

Yes. You can argue the various unique circumstances (rape, poor upbringing, family obligations, moral obligations, etc.) until the sun goes nova. But the bottom line is, that everyone makes the wage they deserve based on their own actions and life choices. Unless the person has a genetic disease, suffered an accident or assault, or had any other physical hardship forced upon them.

I myself am a product of my past actions:

  • I don’t have a job at any of the major oil or energy companies because I refuse to play the patronage beauty contest. Meaning, I can’t make nearly as much money doing the same work as my peers in my profession.
  • I chose not to adopt any children and probably won’t in the future because I enjoy having my fun lifestyle and a healthy savings account. And now I live with the small lingering fact that I won’t have anyone to depend on when I become elderly.
  • I chose not to invest that extra cash, which means my extra savings will not grow as quickly as it could in the market.
  • I choose to run up credit card debt, even though I have the money to pay for my needs. Now, I have to spend several hundred dollars a month to pay interest and pay off debt.
  • I chose to stare at a practically naked runner while riding my bicycle instead of watching the road. I got a busted lip and a broken tooth, which were expensive to fix (even with good health and dental insurance).

Most of the minimum wage laborers are in the positions they are because of their own life choices, and we shouldn’t cheapen the accomplishments of those who earned their positions and rates of pay by giving higher wages to those who didn’t earn it. I applaud the single mothers and fathers who work all day and commit to night schooling. I applaud those young adults who spent several years earning a bachelor’s degree with no support from their families (it took me a decade to get a “4-year” degree). These are examples of people who decided to work to improve their lives and earn a better paying job. These aren’t people who were given more pay in response to an emergency. These aren’t people who’re taking advantage of a hopefully temporary pay hike in a temporary labor shortage.

To wrap up on a humorous note, I’m glad OnlyFans is banning porn. Because, hopefully, when the (sexy) laborers lose that source of income they’ll return to conventional jobs. This will cause the labor shortage to subside and drive wages back to reasonable rates. Then we’ll start seeing the higher paid laborers who benefitted from what will then be called an emergency rate, get laid off because they cost too much when compared to the rest of the market.

I bet you didn’t think of that long-term possibility. Did you?


[1] Yes, you read that right. I called it socialist media.

[2] I personally prefer ordering using a kiosk, solely because I dislike having to yell at someone so they can hear me to place an order. 

[3] Unemployable is defined as unskilled, potential, workers who cannot get past the interview process because of: no address, no SSN, no valid ID, no cleanliness, and no positive demeanor. 

Swine Flu vs. Covid-19

This is an old sociopolitical commentary I recently found tucked away in a safe from about 12 years ago, when Swine Flu[1] was a thing. 

I think Americans need to be terrified of Swine Flu, because, Americans are pigs.

  • Americans are pigs because we eat and eat till our glutenous bodies expand. We are such pigs, that over half of the population is overweight or obese. 
  • Some men are pigs because of the way they chase after sexual partners.
  • Politicians… oh there’s a lot of swine there. Pork-barrel spending is evidence they are feeding their piglet constituents.
  • I really don’t like calling the police pigs, but the old nickname has been around for decades, so I must include it. 

Most Americans are swine, and should be terrified of the Swine Flu.

It turns out the Swine Flu didn’t amount to much back then, but now we have Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus. Us freedom-loving Americans really know how to manage a pandemic. Enough so, that people have gone out of their way to help our society as we fight the Coronavirus. 

  • People have shared video on social media of them pouring Corona beers down the drain.
  • People wore lingerie on their faces when told to wear face coverings.  
  • Common people have tried a psychosomatic approach to treating the disease by providing their expert analysis to convince people Covid-19 is a hoax. How can you get sick from a disease that only exists in the minds of others? Many of these experts shared “evidence” from their conspiracy-theorist uncle whose brain is so powerful, he has to hide from the government in a basement, at an undisclosed location. 
  • As a show of support, many people assembled, unmasked, in large groups for parties. Similarly, many others assembled for protests or riots (depending on who you ask). Both had the gall to blame the inevitable surge of cases on 2020’s Memorial Day Weekend when there was little evidence to support their claims. 
  • When a vaccine became available, many Americans graciously allowed others to take the vaccine before them. Many people think these are the real reason why they don’t want to get vaccinated.
    • Some thought it would impinge on their civil liberties. 
    • Some theorized about a massive tracking program to keep tabs on them. (If you’re that worried, stop using your phone. The number 1 way to track you and your activities is through your phone. Also, what criminal activities are you involved with that makes you so scared of being tracked?) 
    • Some stated they were worried the vaccine was a massive medical experiment and they were being targeted because of their ethnicity. While, on the same breath, the same people bemoaned that other communities had higher vaccination rates. 
    • Some said the vaccine was rushed and were worried about side effects (cue the memes ending with: “… you may be entitled for compensation”). 
    • All want the vaccine when it’s too late. All ask for the vaccine when they are carted into an ICU for contracting the hoax disease.

I was wrong back in 2009. It wasn’t the swine flu Americans needed to worry about. It’s not Covid-19 we should be worried about either…

It’s our own stupidity.


[1] Swine Flu is also known as H1N1.

Russia is still the Soviet Union

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I sometimes refer to Russia as the Soviet Union if the subject of a conversation changes to that country or to regional politics related to Russia. I’ve been asked a couple times why, or if I knew that the Soviet Union collapsed 3 decades ago. In response, I tell the person that I may be more aware of the political situation and history of that country than they are. I then recite an amended version of the duck test:

  1. The military’s field uniforms (not pictured above) haven’t changed much when compared to the former Soviet uniforms.
  2. The national anthem sounds pretty much the same and shares the same melody, but has different wording in some places.
  3. They have a “President” who has been in power for 2 decades (that puppet, Medvedev, doesn’t count).

Think about it:

  • If it looks like a soviet-duck…
  • If it sounds like a soviet-duck…
  • If it acts like a soviet-duck…

That may just be a soviet-duck, comrade.

Most often than not, people find my observation to be a funny (yet accurate) representation of the country and the actions of their leader.