Avoid Short-Term Thinking

 

Avoid Short-Term Thinking

A few years ago I got in trouble for refusing to buy a candy bar at a convenience store. I stuck to my guns though, and nobody starved to death.

A friend of mine once said that needing immediate gratification is a sign of an uncivilized society. That idea is expressed in the story of the ant and the grasshopper, where the ant stores food for the winter and the grasshopper sings all summer instead. The grasshopper starves and the ant survives the winter.

Short-term thinking is pervasive in our society. We leave home where the fridge is full of pop purchased at the grocery store and end up buying a bottle of pop at a convenience store for triple the cost.

If that wasteful behavior is limited to the people who practice it, fine. Unfortunately the stupidity spills over into the lives of others. Availability of food stamps is not limited to people who only make wise choices and plan for the future. People who plan ahead and spend wisely pay for the food stamps that pay the inflated prices they wouldn’t choose themselves.

Dope addicts and shopaholics impact the lifestyle of their loved ones. In satisfying their immediate urges, they reduce the ability of the family to provide basic necessities.

We cannot legally refuse to fund a wasteful food stamp program. But we can disassociate with dope addicts and foolish spenders. It might hurt, short-term, to leave those we love to their own devices as a means of self-preservation. But continuing to allow ourselves to be used as enablers does not cure the offenders, it perpetuates their problem.

I’m a taxpayer and am pro-life. I’m an enabler too. When I look around at this big world through whatever truth might leak through the media complex, I see our lives being impacted by people we never chose to be associated with. Lindsey Graham and John McCain are two of those people. The world is their convenience store.

Their meddlesome war culture affects all of us. The September eleventh attacks were a result of their view that the whole world is theirs to own. Let us not forget that our military presence in Saudi Arabia caused the attack. Even the CIA has admitted this was a factor. If you can’t understand that, imagine if Hamas had a military base in Hampton.

Proponents of the war culture do not think long-term. They flail about mindlessly because the shock they feel makes them lose sight of reality. It is disturbing to see the carnage in the Middle East. It is terrifying to have a huge icon burst into flames with innocent people jumping to their deaths. But we have a republic (did?). Elected representatives are supposed to act in a manner that is well thought out, as opposed to the reactive stupidity evidenced by our so-called leaders. Attacking Iraq as a reaction to an act perpetrated by Saudi Arabians has had long-term negative consequences.

After all of these terrible mistakes in foreign policy it is time we learned from them. Saddam Hussein was a cruel man who ran a secular and somewhat stable country where Christians and Jews were relatively safe. We put an end to that. Bashar al-Assad had similar secular leanings in Syria. So what do our esteemed leaders do? They funnel weapons and cash to the Syrian Rebels. Those Syrian Rebels include ISIS.

Going back to the days when the Soviet Union was squandering resources invading Afghanistan, we were arming the opposition there, the same people who are our enemies now.

What we should be learning from all of this is that national defense needs to be part of a long-term plan. We need to look at the resources we have and plan on defending only that and doing it well. We have an economy built on capitalism, which makes us much stronger than the failed state of Soviet socialism. But there is still an end in sight to the wealth of our republic.

Will we avoid that Middle Eastern convenience store? Will we let those factions fight it out amongst themselves and return to our role as an example of prosperity through freedom? Or will we be led around by the nose by pro-death big spenders like Lindsey Graham and John McCain?

Looked at a camper

We looked at a camper for the pickup last week. It was not this one. I think this thing would do the same thing to a bug that the 52 horse motor did to my ’59. It didn’t take long until the transmission whined, “sell me!” The bug was a pretty perfect combination of parts. Not to be messed with.

Looking at the camper reminded me of this amazing thing that deals with an old man’s difficulty in turning around to back a vehicle. I mentioned it to our precious daughter in law and so now it is here. I hope she looks at it but doesn’t buy one.

Letter to War Street Journal on unintended consequences

Dear Editor,

Bret Stephens does not go back far enough to properly place blame regarding Ferguson and Fallujah. (Wall Street Journal, August 19)

He expects us, the taxpayers, to repair the damage done by the meddling he supported that destroyed order in Iraq. And he blames a decrepit culture in the black community of Ferguson on lack of a police state when welfare and the war on drugs were to blame for that culture.

He is correct in blaming a “broken window” mentality for the disorder in both places today, but that broken window didn’t just materialize out of thin air.

A lot more “do nothing” government over the years would have prevented a need to correct the damage done by a do-something government. The question now is, “Do we continue with our destructive unlimited government or do we suffer the withdrawals as we try to limit it?”

Here is Bret Stephens’ article:

 

GLOBAL VIEW

Of Ferguson and Fallujah

Obama’s foreign policy is disastrously reactive—like the police response in Ferguson, Mo.

 
 Aug. 18, 2014 7:31 p.m. ET

Bill Bratton has no doubt as to what went wrong with policing in the U.S. in the bad old days of the 1970s and ’80s. “The biggest mistake,” he insists, was too much “focus onresponse to crime and not enough focus on trying to prevent it.”

In a lengthy Monday morning interview with The Wall Street Journal, New York’s top cop refuses to be drawn into second-guessing his colleagues in Ferguson, Mo. When I ask about the seeming militarization of police forces in the U.S., he replies that each community “equips its police based on the needs for its city.” If people can lawfully own Kalashnikov-style weapons, the cops inevitably are going to go one better.

What Mr. Bratton mainly wants to underscore is that crime in the Big Apple continues to plumb historic lows, never mind recent tabloid headlines. He wants to underscore, also, the reason for it: broken-windows policing methods. Such is his belief in broken windows that he comes to the meeting flanked by the man who helped come up with the idea: George Kelling, the legendary criminologist.

Broken windows stresses that endemic criminality is not primarily a function of the usual “root causes”—poverty, racism, bad schools, broken families and so on. The real problem is disorder itself.

Business owners protect their grocery store in Ferguson, Mo. Getty Images

“Disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence,” Mr. Kelling observed in a seminal 1982 Atlantic article, co-written with the late James Q. Wilson. The mere appearance of disorder—graffiti, broken windows, an abandoned car, drug dealers or prostitutes openly plying their trades—creates a sense that nobody’s looking, nobody cares, nobody is in charge. Bad guys respond to these environmental cues by acting badly. Good people stay off the street, bolt their doors, move out.

Ferguson is hardly the most dangerous neighborhood in St. Louis County; rates of violent crime are just below the national median, and far below those of East St. Louis, probably the most violent neighborhood in America.

But there is disorder in Ferguson. The city has 190 crimes per square mile, compared with a national median of 39.3. If you live in Ferguson, you are nearly twice as likely to have your car stolen, get mugged, or have your house broken into, than if you live in Averageville, U.S.A. Before last week, the biggest story out of Ferguson was the case of a woman who had opened a strip club/brothel in the basement of her home. Her 16-year-old son had the job of tending bar.

This was the environment in which police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed teenager Michael Brown. Whatever the exact circumstances of Brown’s death, everything else about the case suggests a town where broken-windows policing was not being done, or at least not done well. A sense of insecurity and disorder. A police force badly out of step with the community it ostensibly serves. Reactive law enforcement.

At the Journal, Mr. Bratton made a point of emphasizing the nine principles of policing laid down in the 19th century by Sir Robert Peel, founder of London’s Metropolitan Police. Principle No. 9: “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.” By this standard, policing in Ferguson has been a total failure.

Which brings me to Fallujah.

Last October I wrote a column with the headline “Iraq Tips Toward the Abyss.” It was prompted by the news that 7,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed over the previous 10 months alone.

“Americans may think they’ve changed the channel on Iraq, but the grisly show goes on,” I wrote. “Pay attention before it gets worse.” The world yawned and the Obama administration did nothing.

In January came the news that a group called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham had retaken Fallujah, just 40 or so miles west of Baghdad, a city that U.S. Marines had liberated a decade earlier at a major cost in lives. The media ran a few stories about the heartache of the battle’s veterans. President Obama said nothing.

In July, ISIS took Mosul and seized six divisions worth of U.S. supplied Iraqi military equipment. For once, President Obama took public notice but waited another month before doing anything, ostensibly because he disapproved of the leadership in Baghdad. That was around the time Kurdistan nearly fell to ISIS and the Yazidis were nearly wiped out.

This is a case study of allowing neighborhoods to decay and disorder to fester; of doing things reactively, not preventively. Where would we be in Iraq today if Mr. Obama hadn’t simply walked and looked away for the past three years?

The answer to disorder is to provide order. To engage community leaders. To enforce norms. To reassure good citizens that their security is being looked after and it’s not every man for himself. To maintain a visible presence that deters would-be lawbreakers from committing criminal acts. To prevent bad people from acting badly, and to punish them swiftly when they do.

This is how a successful police force like the NYPD works. And it’s how a competent foreign policy should operate. Bill Bratton knows his job—which is more than can be said of the Keystone cops in Ferguson, or at the White House.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com

Everyday Heroes

There seems to be a flood of good friends flowing to heaven lately.

When I moved to Dumont from Noxon, Montana in 1977 no one close to me had died. I was twenty-six. Grandpa Barlow had written to say Grandma was in the nursing home dying of lung cancer, even though I doubt Minnie had ever even smelled a smoke filled room.

As Grandpa and I walked the aisle on the way to Grandma’s room we passed some friends who said, “She didn’t even know us.” I leaned over her and she said (after not seeing me for a year), “ Fritz, I don’t like those whiskers.” Never assume anything.

It is strange being a new guy in a town of 700 people. They all know your name and you don’t know any, so you often say “Hi, uh,” and smile and nod. Some strangers took the time to make it a point to welcome the new guy. Those people make the world a beautiful place for a stranger in a strange land.

Although I’m a firm believer that we make a place what it is, with all the trouble in the world, we are truly blessed living here, just like the people in other caring communities. What makes this a community is the fine line between caring for others and gossip.

Gossip can be destructive when it interferes with relationships. We happened to watch the very first movie Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis did together last week (a compliment to the memory of Robin Williams). There would have been no point in making it if not for gossip. The story was based on falsehood and assumption.

But gossip can also act as a positive force. In avoiding gossip we restrict our behavior in a way that is more civil than simply obeying the law. We might play a game of catch with the kids out in the yard, instead of yelling at them and telling them to go play in the street. We can’t deny some of this comes from caring what the neighbors think of us. We might pull weeds around the house and put some stuff away to avoid being the object of gossip about how lazy or sloppy we are, not because the nuisance enforcement officer will visit. That’s not a bad thing. It is part of a sense of community.

I’ve often thought, when I go to town or meet people on the road out here in the country, what joy our neighbors bring to our lives. Part of that joy is pride in the discipline they inspire. Something as simple as a firm handshake or a greeting with your name can make a day full of trials into a challenge to meet those trials with positive solutions.

It is easy to imagine our community as being an exclusive example of this caring, yet disciplined society. But I’ve traveled all over this country and a healthy suspicion of strangers was always ready to make way for acceptance everywhere I went. An air of self reliance and attitude of generosity invited that acceptance.

As I think of the wonderful friends and family that we’ve lost recently they become almost super-human, kinda like when sports announcers proclaim every athlete who’s having a good game to be the best of our time. But that’s the thing; they are that exceptional, at that time.

This is going on all over the world, these tiny relationships that keep us going on. The people in these relationships are the real heroes. The people who manipulate these individuals into groups so the disconnect can be used to defeat that natural sense of community are the anti-heroes. We see it today in the Middle East, Ukraine and Ferguson, Missouri.

The challenge to us who our heroes have left behind, is to resist groupthink and be civil individuals to honor their memory.

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