“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fate and tempting fate.

I am an outdoorsman. I grew up in the country where walking out the door meant farm, field, and wood. Hunting and fishing began within steps never interrupted by getting into a car. Riding a bike was on gravel roads with unpretentious names. The road names described where you were going or an event of actual occurrence. The seasons and land dictated a natural rhythm of where blackberries, wild plums, black cherries or hickory nuts could be picked in competition with birds and game.

Baseball, football and shooting were dictated by nothing more than walking to meet friends in familiar unfinished fields. Adventure, sport and chores were normal parts of every young life. That gift was the natural expectation and practice.

Young adulthood meant military service, a trade or college. None was exclusive of the other. Love of adventure and the outdoors focused my choice. I was not unique. That life vanished for most young people. Sport became institutional and the need for adventure took bizarre and exotic twists of doing non-sensible and risky things in strange places at odd times. Extreme became a euphemism for stupid and reckless. A young paratrooper maimed or killed in a bad jump suffers a bad fate doing what he loved or was necessary for the practice of his chosen craft. It is not the same as a young man jumping from a bridge with a sports chute and suffering a similar consequences. Not the same thing, fate and tempting fate. One is private and necessary. The other is exhibitionistic narcissism gone wrong and ending badly.

Too often we are dragged into the media drama of foolish people doing foolish and stupid things, suffering the consequences of tempting fate and losing the bet. The latest is of three mountain climbers lost on Mount Hood. This is not the hard luck tale of a young family, lost on a snowy mountain road and the heroic efforts of the young father dying but saving his family. That was fate and bad luck.

The climber story is different but increasingly familiar. The teary interviews of desperate family begging others to risk their lives to save their foolish and endangered love ones are part of the ritual.

In this case three mountain climbers did what no sensible sportsman or outdoorsman would do. They climbed Oregon’s highest peak in terrible winter conditions. They tempted fate for bragging rights. They lost. That is hard luck but not tragic. Decisions in life have consequences. Tragedy belongs to the right thing gone wrong. Stupidity, practiced with lethal consequences is still stupid and sad, but is still only a predictable consequence of tempting fate. It is a lesson for all.


  1. Nothing to see here folks, just some natural selection at work, move along, move along.

  2. Just part of the sequel to "Dumb and Dumber"

  3. Well, when it comes to tempting fate, Mr Pat Buchanan discusses how Nations tempt fate. Knowingly.

    "... Anger has also surfaced over the raids on six meatpacking plants of Swift & Co. Of the 7,250 workers at the plants, 1,271 -- nearly 18 percent -- are suspected illegal aliens.

    According to The Washington Post, 100 have already been charged with various crimes, including identity theft. Both federal and company officials estimate that between 30 percent and 40 percent of all plant workers may have stolen or falsified identity documents.

    In recent weeks, Swift discovered false or stolen documents for some 400 workers, who either quit or were fired. The folks at Swift apparently knew something was coming down. But while there has been a slowdown in production, Swift says it anticipates "no adverse long-term impacts." What does this tell us?

    First, that the Bush propaganda that illegal aliens only take jobs Americans won't do is patently false. There is probably no industry in which illegal aliens are more heavily concentrated than meatpacking. Yet even at Swift, we are told, 60 percent to 70 percent of the workers are neither illegal aliens nor do they have phony IDs. They are legal immigrants or U.S. citizens forced to compete with illegals, and thereby denied the overtime work or higher pay to support their families.

    Stepping back, consider the rampant criminality the feds unearthed by turning over a few rocks at Swift & Co.

    These illegal aliens had to break the law to get into our country. Many were probably assisted by human traffickers who rob the men of money and the women of much else. The illegal aliens then paid for forged or stolen documents provided by organized crime. They then are hired by companies that know they are here in violation of federal law and who wink and accept the phony IDs.

    These companies are triple cheats. They cheat competitors by hiring illegal labor. They cheat the government of taxes. They cheat the community by passing on to citizens the costs in higher taxes of schools and social services for the illegals.

    What we have here is a chain of corruption that contaminates everyone associated with it, including the politicians who refuse to enforce the law and who take the contributions of the corporations that give them these legal bribes for not enforcing the law.

    A society that passes laws its leaders refuse to enforce, the violation of which is condoned by its corporate and media elites, is a society on the way down and on the way out. ..."

    So whether you go up the mountain in the dead of winter, hike the canyons in monsoon season, or let total strangers come stay in your home, you're tempting fate.

    The Blind Sheik is about to die,
    day late, dollar short.

    We should have hung him by the neck until dead, in Times Square.

  4. "Immense damage"

    Another society presents with Dr. Rat and Buchannan's dx.

  5. Given this diagnosis, what is the prognosis?

    Again, what is national power in such societies?

    If the government still has power, it does not use it for national purposes.

    If the government has no power, it arguably governs a nation only nominally.

    One reasonable prognosis is the death of the idea of "national security."

  6. good lord, everytime I post the thread dies :/

  7. To return to FP's natural selection reference, I think we need to look at the variety of "selecting" forces that face us:

    -ascendant radical islam
    -diseases easily spread around the globe
    -uncontrolled immigration

    Just a few things out there, each of them having obvious real world examples we can point to. What bothers me about each of them is how incapable any one state is in dealing with them. Its not that states are powerless, per se - but one state is vulnerable to another state's inability to attack these forms of harm.

    You can attack these forms of harm locally, but that just has the effect of pushing the harm back a ways. You may push it back into a Waziristan, a Chinese chicken farm, Mexico or Russian bot nets.

    In a sense, I think this hammers home that implementing security against these threats is destined to be the province of smaller groups of people - towns, cities or gated communities.

    Of course, if divergent perceptions of threats are able to come back to some consensus on the harm manifest in these threats, a broader cohesion may create yet more security, but under what institutions could such a consensus be generated? National government seems hamstrung. State governments (my IL residency may be coloring this) seem prone to forces inimical to establishing better security against these specific threats.

    I think we need to change, and that change might not be limited to a Theodore Rex or Andrew Jackson.

    ...afterall, as that Rand study argued, a nuke killing several hundred thousand Americans is not a threat to the American nation - its a threat to the American market, which can survive the loss of a few hundred thousand resources.

  8. Well, fine - I thought it amusing.

    Guess there's a time and a place for Yuletide Carter...

  9. Deleted the photo - shouldn't be long trashcans on IE 6.0

    Anyone use 7 and get them?

  10. ppab, get firefox,it's much better.

  11. Your final paragraph is succinct and right on target. I was amazed to read on another blog that "these climbers didn't do anything stupid." Besides the risk of death, I would think the very real risk of serious frost bite would be enough to prevent such attempt. But stupid people don't think rationally, do they?

  12. You know, this thread may be dead, but I'm a blogger beta user - firefox, ie - it doesnt matter. I can't get any trashcans - i do get the spell checking which is fancy.

  13. Prime Time

    Million could spend days in dark after storms

    SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- More than a million people still were without power Friday night after the worst windstorm in more than a decade tore through the Pacific Northwest on Thursday night.

    At least four people died as a result of the howling windstorms and heavy rains.

    Puget Sound Energy, Washington's largest private utility, had 700,000 customers without power on Friday. Some won't have their lights back on for days, spokesman Roger Thompson said.

    In Oregon, about 350,000 customers lost power, and repairs to restore all of them could stretch into next week, utility officials said.

    Winds gusted to a record 69 mph about 1 a.m. at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, breaking the old mark of 65 mph set in 1993. Winds were clocked at 90 mph near Westport on the coast.

    Power was knocked out at one of the airport's concourses until late Friday morning. Dozens of flights were canceled, including all American Airlines service through the morning hours.

    Flights were also canceled at Portland International Airport in Oregon, and Amtrak canceled service between Seattle and Portland after downed trees and mudslides blocked the tracks.

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer went unpublished for the first time since a 1936 labor strike, because electricity was knocked out to its printing presses, managing editor David McCumber said. The Seattle Times, which shares the presses, had only about 13,000 copies available Friday morning.

    Seattle public schools were closed Friday, as were numerous smaller school systems and The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

    A 41-year-old Seattle woman died Thursday after she became trapped in her basement while it flooded. Neighbors had called for help after they heard screaming.

    A 28-year-old man was killed while he slept when the top of a tree snapped off and crashed into his home in a trailer park in McCleary, 18 miles west of Olympia.

    Elsewhere in Washington, two people died in traffic accidents involving windblown trees.

    In Oregon, a family of six was sickened by carbon monoxide from a generator set up in a garage after the storm knocked out power, police said Friday. Four children and two adults were hospitalized, and two of the children were in critical condition, police spokeswoman Teddi Anderson said.

    The Oregon Department of Transportation closed three major highways crossing the Cascade Range because of fallen trees or downed power lines.

    The Evergreen Point floating bridge, which links Seattle and its eastern suburbs, was closed early Friday for minor repairs, but reopened before the evening commute. The Hood Canal floating bridge, which links Washington's Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge were reopened early Friday after being closed Thursday evening because of heavy winds. (Watch how bridges are holding up against the big storm Video)

    It was the most intense storm to hit the region since the Inauguration Day storm of January 20, 1993, which killed five people and caused about $130 million in damage, said Clifford F. Mass, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.