Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The Four Greatest Mistakes of America's Twentieth Century
How did we come to live in a world where the United States of America, which should have been the millenial beacon of individual liberty to the world, has, instead, become a vicious police state at the hub of a global military empire? I believe the causes can be traced, mostly,* to a few simple but fundamental mistakes strewn across the twentieth century. Understand what was, or went, wrong with the American people's collective psyche in making these mistakes, and you will understand most of what there is to understand of the cosmic "why" of how such a travesty could have come to be.
#0: Allowing Military Conscription
A brief treatment here, as this mistake was actually made back in the nineteenth century. (Hence, the number "0.") However, as a historical accident, it actually did little damage to American society until the twentieth century. Nevertheless, it lay there all the time between the Civil War and the turn of the century, like the proverbial "ticking time bomb," finally unleashing its full destructive fury on both America and the wider world in the 1960s and 70s. Had mid-nineteenth century Americans and American jurists had the good sense to emulate their early nineteenth century counterparts, when Daniel Webster's eloquent but calm notation that the Constitution contained to authority for conscription was enough to turn the Congress aside from the proposal, tendered at the time, to use such a method to build an army to fight the War of 1812, it is possible that the course of twentieth century would have been very substantially different, and much for the better. But they didn't, and that figured considerably in the carnage, and the destruction of the Constitution, which marked the second half of the twentieth century. But on to the actual twentieth century...
#1 The Income Tax (1916)
This mistake has two different, but related, political parts. First, it is the economic basis for the insane and unlimited expansion of the size and power of the federal government. Without it, it would never have been possible for the federal government to grow anywhere as near as large as it did in the remainder of the twentieth century. The people who engineered its creation knew this full well, and did it for the explicit purpose of enabling just such an expansion of size--and power. In the Sixteenth Amendment,** we see a theme which will be replicated over and over again as the mistakes of the twentieth century accumulated: The spare but trenchant practical wisdom of the Founding Fathers rejected by a large segment of the population in favor of a "practical" argument for some sort of short-term (and short-sighted) gain.
That "gain," of course, was the unabashedly covetous wish of many to bleed money from "the rich" in the hope that this would, somehow, lead to a more equitably structured society. That it did no such thing is now unarguable, but for some reason this never seems to come up in the few discussions that actually occur about whether this was really a wise change to make or not. But, as with most bad "devil's bargains," the negative consequences came to pass (and rather quickly!), while the promised benefits (equity of some sort) never did.
Those negative results can be broken down into two sub-categories, which can be labeled as "mission creep," and "bracket creep." Taking them in reverse order: While the income tax was originally sold to the American public as a "small" tax on "the rich," it only took a couple of decades (not much time, when you think about it) before a huge percentage of the population was required to file income tax "returns," and was paying a significant percentage of their incomes to the federal government. By the end of the century, 99% of the population had been added to this category. As of 2014, one had to have an annual income of less than $3,900 in order not to be required to file a federal income tax return. Does anyone really believe that anyone could survive in modern America on an annual income of $3,900? That's the "bracket creep." So much for "taxing the rich."
Then there's the "mission creep." Flush with the truly unprecedented amount of money that flowed into the federal treasury from the new income tax, the federal government quickly embarked on an expansion of the qualitative nature of its powers and activities unlike anything that had ever been seen before. Again, this was envisioned in advance by its advocates, and profoundly contrary to what the Founding Fathers had intended. The Founding Fathers tried deliberately to keep the federal government on a short fiscal leash for the explicit purpose of severely limited the sorts of activities in which that government could engage. This, too, would not see its real fruition until the second half of the century, but the seeds were well planted in the century's second decade.
Even casting aside all of that (a dubious plan at best), there remains the other horrid consequence of the income tax: the routine collection of detailed information about the affairs of virtually every American by the federal government. It is impossible to overstate the mischief, and the evil, which has proceeded (predictably) from this.
Through the single instrumentality of the income tax, the American people were converted from a truly free people, who could move about, deal with one another, build their personal fortunes and pursue their personal dreams in safety and privacy, into a captive population of government serfs, continually forced to inform on themselves to their own oppressors, and to justify the actions and their possessions to those same oppressors, as a continuing condition of being left alone (for the time being).
#2: Failing to Repeal Alcohol Prohibition (1932)
Yes, you read that right: failing to repeal. One could reasonably argue that the real mistake was enacting prohibition in the first place, but that was actually a more forgivable error than what happened when it was "repealed." It only took the American public a bit over one decade to realize that alcohol prohibition had been, well, a mistake, and to do something definitive about it. But, unfortunately, they did not really repeal it. Instead, weary from a decade of being forcibly "dried," they settled for merely replacing blanket, nationwide prohibition with a crazy quilt of state-by-state regulatory schemes. Even though most people couldn't see it at the time, this was a political mistake of massive proportions, a classic case of putting short-term gain ahead of real long-term interests. The tragic result was that, even though the liquor started flowing again in the 30s (in most places), the states were explicitly empowered by the 21st Amendment to make up whatever statutory and regulatory schemes they liked regarding alcohol--something which had never before happened in America. And some states took the opportunity up with great enthusiasm. Even the states which didn't enact blanket prohibition of their own both allowed smaller jurisdictions to do so if they wished (and quite a few died), and began imposing hefty taxes on every phase of alcohol production, distribution, and consumption. Plus, of course, the federal government continued to collect its own very considerable taxes.
And, as if that weren't enough, the states also launched on a course, which continues to this day, of creating an ever expanding and ever more complicated and Byzantine web of regulations about alcohol. The sad fact is that a much larger percentage of our population is today being harassed, persecuted, prosecuted, fined and imprisoned due to "charges" related to alcohol than was true one hundred years ago, before national prohibition was instituted. Prohibition may have been watered down (pun intended), but it wasn't repealed. And from that massive mistake has proceeded a huge increase of the arbitrary power of government over the lives of private individuals at all levels, from the federal right down to the local.
#3: Failing to demand demobilization after WWII (1945)
At various times, I have considered this the foremost mistake of the century. Maybe yes; maybe no. But a BIG mistake in any case.
During WWII, the federal government launched a whole suite of secret actions aimed at countering the (equally) secretive actions of the Japanese and German governments whose clear and real purpose was to wage war against us. It made sense at the time, or at least it seemed to. But when the war ended, the American people should have demanded immediate and total demobilization from the war-waging status and activities of their government. In particular, they should have demanded the total abolition of all the secret agencies--starting but not ending with the OSS, which quickly became the CIA--which had been cobbled together to fight the enemies' espionage and conduct espionage of our own against them. But they didn't. When those agencies continued to exist, they quickly realized that their very secrecy would enable them to expand their powers and the scope of their operations virtually without limit. And that's exactly what they did. The sad truth is that, perhaps as early as 1950, with the Cold War well underway and the fear of Soviet expansion firmly drummed into the consciousness of most Americans, it may already have been too late to stop these people from completely taking over the federal government.
While most Americans, quite understandably, simply enjoyed the post-war prosperity, the spooks, spies, and control freaks were working diligently, behind the scenes and totally out of view of the public, to construct an entire secret government, over which the processes of democracy would never again have any control. Bottom line: They succeeded. Today, the secret government is the government.
#4: Failing to repeal cannabis prohibition (ca. 1975)
It could, of course, be argued that this is only a reprise of #2, but, while the underlying political issue is actually the same, it is also true that that the cultural/political dynamics of it worked out quite differently, so it deserves to be listed as a separate mistake.
Indeed, a great deal more than the potential end of cannabis prohibition was on the table in the early 70s. This was when the whole "hippie" counterculture movement stood on the threshold of de-militarizing American society, with its opposition to the Vietnam War and the conscription which fed it (see #0), and accomplishing the actual completion of the civil rights movement of the late 50s and the 60s. But again, they simply didn't. Personally, I feel most responsible for this one, because, simply, I was there. What happened? Quite simply, we quit too soon. After most of a decade (remember, this struggle actually went back to the early 60s) of waging cultural war against the Establishment, we, unaccustomed to our new role as political activists and to the whole landscape of political activism, made a crucial mistake. We came to believe that there was such a thing as "momentum," and that that momentum would continue to advance our cause if we relaxed a bit, went back to living our normal lives, and stopped actively pressuring our enemies. We couldn't have been more wrong.
Within just a few years, all the nice-sounding reductions of penalties which we had achieved in various cities, counties and states had been wiped out. Indeed, by about 1980, when the conservative backlash put Ronald Reagan in the White House, the legal landscape for cannabis prohibition (and the massively multi-faceted prohibition of other things engineered by the Controlled Substances Act) was actually much worse than it had been in 1960, when the opposition movement had first surfaced. We lost because we failed to understand the massive cultural staying power of bad ideas. America is still paying the political and cultural price of that loss today.
Indeed, America is still paying the political and cultural price of all of the mistakes listed above today. Taken together, those mistakes, I believe, are the core of how we got to the horrible state in which we are today.
I know, of course, what the stock response of defenders of the status quo to all of this is: It's "just my opinion." And, of course, my personal preference for being free to direct and manage my own life--and you yours--is "just my opinion." You're free to prefer control by someone else if you like. But--and this is a very important "but"--the historical facts I have cited above are most definitely not a matter of opinion. They are facts. Interpret them how you will.
*As with all things, there are many more influences on our current condition than what I detail here. History is a complex web of interlocking causes and effects. All the same, what's laid out here can reasonably be said to constitute the main body of the causes which led us to where we are now. Those with insight into what other events or tendencies contributed to our present problems are quite welcome to respond and contribute.
**In addition to the horrible effects of the income tax, there has long been real uncertainty over whether or not the Sixteenth Amendment was really legally adopted. While no incontrovertible proof exists, it would be perfectly consistent with the known actions of the financial manipulators who foisted the income tax off on the American people if the apparent adoption of this amendment turned out to be one of their first totally illegal actions.
Long life and many peaks!
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Cerro Colorado (6,990 ft,)
Deadman Peaks West (6,987 ft.)
Deadman Peaks East (6,970 ft.)
Deadman Peaks North (6,910 ft,)
Cerros Colorados South (7,051 ft.)
Cerros Colorados North (7,050 ft,)
6 Aug., 2014. OK; don't ask me who comes up with naming schemes like this. But those are the real names given to this cluster of unranked peaks located along the Continental Divide Trail just west of the Rio Puerco basin. (That's the trail, not the actual Continental Divide, but that's yet another story...) Additional crew member: Marjean the adventure dog.I started on the short (1,000 ft. or less) section of BLM road 1102 which is coincident with the CDT, and followed the road north almost to the saddle between Cerro Colorado ("CC") and Deadman Peaks West ("DPW"). I left the road before the saddle because the direct ridge route up CC is rocky, and I found an easier, grassier route angling up the east slope to the long ridge crest. Once there, I turned left (south) and found the highest point to be a touch farther south and farther west than the literature values. Time to top: 25 min.
I more or less re-traced my steps back to the road, then set off free-lancing my way up the west slopes of DPW. I found one small cleft in the small cliff band, after which is was an easy uphill stroll to the small summit. This is the most "mountain-like" of the six peaks on this trip. Time to second summit: 35 min.
The trip across the division between DPW and Deadman Peaks East ("DPE") is unobstructed by cliff bands or rocks, so I quickly traversed east the the third peak of the day. Time to third summit: 17 Min.
Deadman Peaks North ("DPN:) isn't even listed on all lists, and it is the lowest and smallest of the three peaks making up this little group. It looked too easy to pass up, so I descended DPE's northwest ridge, and found an easy way through the one cliff band below DPN's summit. Time to fourth summit: 9 min.
On to the last two. After dropping through the cliff band, I headed more or less directly east and down in the direction of Cerros Colorados North ("CCN"). At the bottom, I encountered the plainly visible and lavishly cairned CDT. I followed it south and east to the saddle between CCN and Cerros Colorados South ("CCS"). At the saddle, I decided it was six of one, half a dozen of the other, as to which peak to scale first. I chose CCS, my high point for the day. Time to fifth summit: 22 min. The view of the Rio Puerco basin from here is well worth the climb.
I returned to the trail at the saddle, then climbed basically north up to the wooded summit of CCN. Time to sixth summit: 12 min.
After that, it was just a return to the saddle, where I again picked up the CDT. Instead of re-climbing anything, I simply followed the trail south past DPE and back to the road near where I had begun. It made a nice little loop, which my GPS recorded at 5.12 miles. Total time: 2 hrs., 50 min.
I got a perfect summer day, and, aside from seeing one truck heading north on BLM 1102, I didn't see a single other human being all morning.
There are a few pictures from this trip, but I haven't published them yet. They're available to anyone really interested.Long life and many peaks!
Friday, October 04, 2013
South Sandia Peak (9,782 ft.)
or: Marjean's First Summit
1 October, 2013: Still whittling away at the many ranked peaks contained within the Sandia Wilderness, I decided that Marjean, my sweet little rescue dog, was finally ready for a major hike/climb. So we headed out to the Embudo trailhead on the east edge of Albuquerque.
I chose this peak and route because the distance given on the description on SummitPost was only 6.4 miles. In retrospect, I think this figure is seriously low. I think it was really more like twice that! Still, we made it, although it taxed poor Marjean to the limit.
We linked four trails for this route: The Embudo Canyon trail, then a left onto the 3 Guns trail, then a right onto the Embudito trail, finally linking up with the Crest trail for the final push to the summit. For the first mile or so, the Embudo trail is a bit hard to follow along the bottom of the drainage. But, if you just keep heading upstream, a clear trail finally emerges. The trail junctions, and the other trails, are all deliciously clear and easy to follow.
The junction with the Crest trail is marked only with a rock cairn, and you have to know (or guess right) to make a sharp left to follow the Crest trail north, on one of the rare sections where it actually traverses below the ridge crest on the west side. Contrary to what most maps show, there is actually a trail right to the summit.
We saw hardly anyone all day, but did meet a hiker named Otis at the summit, who took the photo above.
More photos are at:
RT: 7 hrs., 30 min. (including 20 min. at the top)
Vert.: 3,360 ft.
Long life and many peaks!
Saturday, September 21, 2013
North Sandia Peak (10,447 ft.)
18 September, 2013: This peak, while highly visible from the north, is actually unranked. My real purpose in heading up toward it was to scout out its neighbor to the south, the Needle, which is ranked, and one of the most challenging climbs on the Sandia Crest quad. If I had had more time,I would have made at least a start at climbing the Needle, but I was under time constraints and couldn't do a really long day.
I started from the only trailhead available that doesn't have a parking fee attached: the Tunnel
Springs trailhead far on the north side of the Sandia massif. As it turned out, this didn't matter on this particular trip, as, due to her own schedule constraints, my darling Suzanne had agreed to drop me off at the trailhead in the morning and then pick me up at the end of my hike. But, if you're planning this route without a helpful driver, you'll appreciate the fact that you can leave your car at this trailhead on any schedule that suits you without having to pay a fee.
The Tunnel Springs trail connects to the main Crest Trail in two ways: There's a long, gently sloped loop which takes off to the east from the parking lot, or a much shorter, steep and loose trail up the drainage directly to the south which quickly makes the connection. I had taken the long route the previous summer with my brother, coming down the drainage for a loop. Based on this experience, I knew that the short route was entirely doable, and would suit my needs well on this trip. So, up it I went. I found the route better than I remembered, easy to follow and occasionally cairned, and in about 25 minutes I was on the first of many switchbacks of the Crest Trail.
The trail wanders east and west, up to and away from the actual crest, in long, lazy switchbacks, as it heads generally south and up. Along the way, it meets several other trails coming up from the east (none from the west!). For this reason, the whole gently sloped eastern side of the massif is covered with a network of trails, a potential runner's paradise. Along the way, I found myself signing my song of the day: the love theme from “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (in both English and French). Why? No idea.
Up to 9,200 feet or so, the vegetation is dominated by scrub brush and grasses, but, finally, the trail plunges into a stand of actual trees. From there on, the landscape begins to resemble what I'm more accustomed to seeing in Colorado: Aspen forests, mixed with a bit of evergreen, and a forest floor of leaf litter and wildflowers. Asters in particular were out in abundance.
At the first western overlook where the trail briefly comes out of this forest, I found the junction of the “10K” trail (apparently popular with cross country skiers in the winter), as well as their first view of the summit of North Sandia (see photos). There is also a low wall of stonework, which I assume was built by the WPA some eighty years ago. In fact, most of the overlooks featured some sort of structure of this sort, which provides a convenient place to sit and enjoy the view.
Plunging back into the forest, I got out my GPS and began looking for the best place to leave the trail and head west and up to the summit. I actually backtracked a bit after going farther south than the literature latitude of the summit. In the end, I more or less arbitrarily picked a spot which seemed to be roughly on the ridge and sported a relatively sparse tree cover. It only took a few minutes to get to where I could see that the slope was relenting and the summit could not be far away. I could also see, finally, the Needle, which I stopped to photograph.
Then, as I turned uphill again, I made a discovery. There _is_ a trail leading to the summit, even though it doesn't appear on the topo map. To my surprise, I met a group of three hikers who had come from the south. From them, I learned that the trail comes off of the main Crest Trail somewhere between Sandia and North Sandia. Looking to minimize the bushwhacking, I followed the trail down for a ways, but decided to go back to bushwhacking before reaching the trail. I didn't have to bushwhack much to re-connect with the main trail.
After one slight scare where the trail didn't seem to look familiar—leading me to think I might somehow have missed a turn—I once again spied known landmarks and sped on down. The sun came out and stayed out about 5 hours into my hike. So, I slathered on some sunblock, and considered taking off my pant legs. I considered it, but didn't do it, because I wasn't really hot, and that would have required more sunblock.
On the last leg, I found the gully back to the trailhead to be easier than I remembered. Maybe it was just familiarity, as this was time number three, but the trail is actually easy to follow, cairned here and there, and really no worse than Class 2+. One last summer hike!
Photographs are at:
RT: 13.6 mi., 7 hrs., 40 min.
Vert.: ~4,000 ft.
Long life and many peaks!
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Crestone Peak (14,298 ft.)
East Crestone (14, 260 ft.)
But, we finally got to the lake. Off and on rain had already started when we set up camp just off the trail near the "Crestone Needle, Standard Route" sign. We had already decided that Wednesday was just going to be a rest day, so that we could get a early start on Thursday morning without feeling tired. Sure enough, much of the afternoon was drenched in rain and hiking would have been miserable, which put the kibosh on possible plans to climb something short that afternoon. And so, to bed...
Dim and early Thursday, we hit the trail, well bundled up against the chill, with dawn only just breaking. Broken Hand Pass was work, as always, but we got to the top shortly after 7 am.
As we dropped down toward Cottonwood Lake, on a good trail, we still had partly blue sky, and the day began to warm up. Once at the lake, we shed some clothes and donned helmets while eyeing the Red Gully.
The Gully was much as I remembered it, and didn't seem nearly as intimidating this time. I confidently forged a path through slabs and cliffs, up the left side. As usual, water flowed continuously down the center of the drainage.
We made good progress, but we were climbing into increasing fog and clouds. By the time we hit the top of the gully--the saddle between the two summits--we were effectively in pea soup, with visibility reduced to less than 100 ft. But, we headed left and ascended the great ledges which grant access to the summit ridge. We got there just before 10 am. Unable to see whether or not serious weather was moving in, let alone see our route, we made the final decision to forego the traverse.
It turned out to be clearly the right decision. Just as we passed Cottonwood Lake, light rain began to fall. After a few minutes, a little graupel was mixed into it. After a few more minutes, instead of letting up, the rain intensified and the wind came up. We had been just about on the verge of peeling off some layers, but, instead, we bundled back up, pulled up our hoods, and started what looked to be a long, miserable trudge up the pass.
Not only did the rain (and wind) not let up as we climbed the pass, it continued--with the wind, amazingly, seeming to reverse directions at the top--and made most of the descent of the pass slow and uncomfortable as well. Thus, wet and tired, we arrived back at a wet camp somewhere around 3 pm. After a brief break for hot drinks, we launched into the drudgerous task of packing up our wet gear in the rain. What fun! I don't know how many pounds of extra weight in water we slung on our backs for the trek out, but it sure didn't help. Late, late in the afternoon, we finally stumbled around the last bend and was the welcome sight of James' truck at the trailhead.
After another exercise in wetness to get our gear back into the truck, we could finally get off our feet for the 2½-or-so drive back to the lower trailhead, where Trisha was waiting for me.
photos are at:
RT: 5.2 mi. (without hike out)
Vert.: 3,680 ft.
Long life and many peaks!
Sunday, August 18, 2013
UN 13,828 ("Huerfano Peak")
Iron Nipple (13,500 ft.)
6 August, 2013: After returning from California Peak the previous day, we (James, George, and I) moved James' SUV and thereby moved our camp from the Lower Huerfano TH, about one mile up the road to the Upper Huerfano TH, sometimes known as the Lily Lake TH. This is the end of the vehicle road. We got—for a change—a decent, full night's sleep.
There was rain and noisy wind during much of the night, making us reluctant to crawl out of our bags and poke our heads out in the morning. The result of this was that we once again got a late start by mountaineering standards. We hit the trail around 6:30 am.
Once again, the morning sky was largely clear early on, but we tried to make good time, expecting some clouding over later. After crossing the Huerfano River a mile or so in, we hit the section where the trail is braided and sketchy. It was still hard to follow—despite having been there twice before—untl the trail settled in alongside the river tumbling down the steep section of its drainage.
Clouds were already gathering by the time we broke out above timberline and began the steep climb to the Mt. Lindsey/Iron Nipple saddle. We met a descending climber who had gotten a more sensible alpine start (i.e., before sunrise) and successfully climbed Lindsey. He advised against attempting Lindsey in view of the incoming weather. This was something of a disappointment to James and George, who, up until that time, had harbored hopes of doing just that in conjunction with Huerfano. But, being realistic, we all agreed that the wise thing to do was make directly for Huerfano, and re-evaluate the weather when we got there to see if, just maybe, Lindsey could be done second.
I say “directly” but that's a poor description of our actual route. It turns out that the crux of a climb of Huerfano by this route is getting either over or around the summit of Iron Nipple. To avoid giving up substantial elevation to bypass “the Nipple” entirely on its south side, we had to come very close to its summit. So, the decision was easy to go ahead and climb it. Neither of my co-conspirators had previously climbed Iron Nipple, and it gave us a good view of the start of our ridge traverse to Huerfano. I installed a register for Iron Nipple, and we set off down the ridge.
That descent off the summit was definitely the toughest climbing of the day. We descended on rough—though not particularly loose—talus near the ridge crest, to and actually a little beyond the low point between the two peaks. After that, we were back on gently sloped tundra, only occasionally interspersed with small rocks, until we neared the summit of Huerfano.
There's a small, rocky summit area along a curving ridgeline, which we reached as light rain mixed with graupel began to fall. It wasn't particularly cold or windy, but we could see more clouds moving in from the south and west. It was clear that foregoing Lindsey had been, and still was the right decision. So, after a few minutes' celebration and picture-taking, we began re-tracing our steps.
Of course, we still couldn't get all the way back without, once again, having a couple of small route finding adventures in the braided section of the trail (just before the river crossing), but we did make it down in less time than up. Some pictures are at:
We made it back to the TH well before sunset, loosely packed up, and headed down the road with Westcliffe as our goal. We planned on a good dinner in town, and a comfortable night in a motel before packing into the South Colony Lakes TH the next morning.
RT: 7.9 mi.
Vert.: 3,630 ft.
Long life and many peaks!
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
California Peak (13,849 ft.)
5 August, 2013: After having been picked up in Rio Rancho by new hiking partners James and George the evening before, we drove north to Colorado. We arrived at the Lower Huerfano TH (37.6389° N, 105.4712° W), up the river from the tiny town of Gardner at about 11:30 pm. After deploying the amazing car-top tent (see photos), we set the alarm for a lazy 5 am, and settled in for a half-night's sleep.
We followed the good Zapata Trail through a series of switchbacks in lush forest, up to a saddle on California's long north ridge. From there, it's technically easy going, but this route is a real test of patience. We counted four major false summits, plus numerous smaller ridge bumps, which had to add at least 500 vertical feet to the climb.
Still, it was an enjoyable ridge run in generally pleasant, sunny conditions. We finally hit the summit somewhere around noon. Because this peak doesn't see a lot of traffic, few people get the truly amazing view of the Blanca group fourteeners that one gets from here (again, see photos).
This was a new peak for all of us, and brought me to 62 centennials.
Some pictures are at:
Long life and many peaks!