RW206 - They Didn't Use the Stick

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John’s dad crashing his plane because it ran out of gas because they converted liters and gallons incorrectly and didn’t use a wooden dowel to check how much fuel they had in the little Cessna airplane.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

John having a student pilot’s license (RW206)

It is touch-and-go with John, but Dan doesn’t use that phrase because it is too loaded, it is a little innuendish. Touch-And-Go is is a phrase that John’s dad used. It had the connotation of doing touch and goes, which is an airplane thing, a landing and a taking off immediately afterward. It is the thing that that airplanes do when they are practicing pilots because the hardest part of flying is landing and you go out at a small airstrip somewhere and do touch and goes, where you land and then you put your flaps back up and you reset your plane while you are hauling ass down the runway and then you power up again and take off and then fly around and come back and land again. You can do that all afternoon! It is both boring and nerve racking, kind of like swimming.

John has been in an airplane all by himself, therefore also landing it, as part of getting a pilot's license. Dan did not know at that point that John had a pilot’s license, which he doesn’t have anymore though, but plenty of listeners do. John’s dad was a pilot and and flying around was one of the things that they did together. He kept his airplane at Merrill Field, which was just about a mile from his house, so they would pop over there on an afternoon or on a weekend, fire it up, and take off and fly around Alaska. It was it was one of their things and they went on some long cross-country trips together. They flew up to Dawson City. He flew John to college when he first went away to college, packed up his plane and flew down to Washington to go to school.

They had several different planes over the years, but they were all in the 172 / 182 Cessna family. For a while there was one with floats. John’s dad liked tricycle gear airplanes, he learned to fly on tail draggers. There are two ways that small planes are situated on their landing gear: Tail draggers have a little tiny wheel on the very far back of the tail and then two tires up in front under the wings, so when you are when you are taxiing, which is the word for driving around on the ground, it is hard to see forward because your plane is sitting all the way back on its little tail wheel and if you are looking up the windshield you are looking up at the sky and you have to look out the side windows to know where you are going. A tricycle gear has three wheels in the front, a nose wheel and two wheels, which makes it sit square on the ground and you can look out the window just like you are looking out of a car.

Even though John’s dad grew up flying tail draggers, he preferred tricycle gears, although most of the Bush pilots use tail draggers. They put big tires on their plane, but you couldn't put the really big bouncy tires on it, that would be ridiculous. Bush pilots have big rubber tires that are like giant bouncy inner tubes, which lets them land their planes on very rough unpaved territory and in stream-beds and stuff, and John’s dad liked to do that, he would happily put a plane down on any kind of patch of grass or pile of gravel, but he preferred the gentility of the 182 to the rough and tumble of the 180. These are all Cessna airplanes.

John learned to fly as a kid. His dad would reach over and tap him on the head with his hand, which was the sign that John had control of the airplane, he taught him the ropes, and John was in the Civil Air Patrol, the civilian Air Force auxiliary that does most of the search and rescue in Alaska. When John was 17 and 18 he spent a lot of time flying and got his student pilot's license and soloed and spent that summer screwing things up in the world with his little plane, but it is expensive to keep a pilot's license because you have to maintain a certain number of hours of flying time every year, gas is expensive, and you have to check out with an instructor and they are expensive.

Every year your plane has to undergo diagnostic, almost like a rebuild, called an annual, and if it doesn't, they won't certify it to fly. Annuals are very expensive, and it is like taking your car to the mechanic and saying: ”Go through everything!” That is why small aircraft are involved in crashes so infrequently. You would think that all these little airplanes flying around would be crashing right and left, but they don't because they are meticulously monitored and kept in the air. You don't get to be some backyard shade tree mechanic who got his little airplane tied together with twine. They don't let you do that. If they did, that would be John, he would be up there in some airplane tied together, and of course it would stop working and that is a bad thing to have happen if you are in an airplane. Flying an airplane is dangerous, but the people that love it, they love it!

Dan flying a Cessna (RW206)

About 15 years ago Dan got to pilot a Cessna. His friend was a flight instructor who was working on getting his commercial airlines pilot license at the time and he did go on to work at one of the small airlines and he is at a big airline somewhere now. His suggestion was that a group of four friends would fly down from Central Florida to the Keys, so they got in this little Cessna. He said: ”Come and help me check how full the tank is!” and Dan thought that they were going to stand on the side of it and pop open a little metal door or something, but he climbed up and used a wooden dowel which he inserted into a hole in the top of the wing and said: ”Yeah, we got enough gas!” - ”What are you doing up there?” - ”This is where the gas is!” - ”Isn't there a gauge that you would use for that?” - ”Yeah, this this stick works!”

That made Dan nervous that there was just a stick between them and running out of gas, but they did make it. While they were in the sky he said: ”Dan, do you want to try flying it?” - ”No, no, no!”, but he insisted and Dan did fly the plane and it was very nerve-racking. Dan is not afraid to fly at all anymore, but back then this was peak fear, and it was a big thing for him to just hold on to the wheel. It looked like a steering wheel, it wasn't a stick like in a fighter plane. He said: ”Start turning a little bit! Do something!” - ”No, no. I want it to just stay perfectly still the way it is right now!” He wanted Dan to make some flight adjustments or something, and Dan was more concerned if the radio went out, if they had a redundant radio and that kind of thing, that was much more interesting to him, not looking around too much.

It felt like a Jeep in the sky and there was just a very thin piece of aluminum between you and the clouds and Dan didn't like that. At another point they were talking about how high the plane could fly and he said a number and it was much lower than a jet flies. Dan asked what the flight ceiling was and how high they were now and they were 100 feet over that, but ”Should we be concerned?” - ”Nah!” and that made Dan a little nervous. The headphones that he gave Dan allowed him to listen to the conversation between him and the towers as they were flying around and at one point the tower said something and immediately he made us descend urgently because there was another flight coming by that was going much faster and it would have hit us, which also made Dan nervous because you shouldn't have to react urgently at any point during flying.

Dan doesn’t know a lot about boats and everything that happens on the water you really get a lot of advance notice what is going to happen. You are looking in the distance and you are thinking: ”I need to start turning now because that is where I am going to want to be when I get to that point!”, you are piloting it in advance, and Dan would have thought the same thing would be true in the sky because you got the whole other 360 degrees Z-vector happening, so they could be coming from above and below. There is a lot to think about up there in the sky.

Small airplanes often being very old and durable (RW206)

John thinks that all sounds exactly right, you do check the gas with a stick. There is a gauge in the inside of the plane, but John’s dad crashed his airplane because it ran out of gas, even though he had recently gotten gas, but someone in Canada did a liters versus gallons conversion improperly and didn't put enough gas in and didn't use the stick, didn't put the stick in there. His dad was flying along out in the middle of the Yukon territories and the motor shut off and he fell out of the sky. A lot of the small plane stuff, if you look at the Cessnas that are flying around in the sky, a lot of them were made in the 1950s.

When they were kids, they used to see 1950s cars all the time driving around, even when John was in High School some of the kids there had 1950s cars, you could still buy them a used car. Most of those cars didn't survive the subsequent 30 years that it has been since John was in High School, but there are 1950s airplanes flying around all the time, which is kind of a miracle that the airframes have withstood the years so well, but the thing that stresses jumbo jets more than anything is that they are pressurized every time they go up in the air and that constant pressurization is the thing that puts wear and tear on all the rivets and that is where they get stress fractures.

John has never heard anybody describe these little Cessnas as Jeeps like Dan just did, but that is exactly what they are. They are super stripped-down, there is no pressurization, there is nothing but a little bit of foil and cardboard with you and the aluminum. John has been in so many airplanes where there were holes that you could look out, like 1950s cars, where you could look out and see the ground or feel the wind.

In John’s dad's airplanes, if you wanted to have some cool air there were two cans up in the two corners up by the windshield, and you would pull them out and they were open to the outside and you would direct the opening in the can toward yourself and it would just blow air at you non-mechanical, air was coming in through a hole somewhere and then coming out the other side through this can, there was certainly no air conditioning and there is no heater either, but if you want it warmer in the airplane you just direct the engine heat toward you.

The one that Dan flew was so basic, it was just a little bit more than a lawnmower engine strapped to some planks, barely more than that, but as a consequence: Because they are aluminum they don't rust and they fly forever. John just put Cessna for sale into the Internet and the first one that comes up is a 1978, there is a 2016, 2004, 1982, but John’s dad's planes were all from the 1950s. As long as the rivets hold, the plane is good forever, and that is what your annual does. The hood on John’s dad's planes was a hood made out of aluminum that had been lifted up and down 500.000 times over the course of a person's lifetime because they all felt like they were made out of hand-hammered tin and they didn't fit properly, these planes were handmade and you could see the things that were broken, and there were a lot of things that were broken, but in the course of doing the annual the mechanic did not feel like they were broken in a significant way or in a way that impeded the ability for the plane to fly.

John fantasizing about being a bush pilot (RW206)

It was a good life growing up around airplanes and John would have easily gone a different route in life if he were a slightly different person. It is one of those key questions and it has to do with with ambition: John used to fantasize when he was a teenager even about living in Alaska and being a pilot and there was always some voice that insisted that he get out of Alaska, and not being in Alaska there would be no point in being a pilot for John because the kind of pilot that he wanted to be was an Alaska pilot.

John lives close to an airport, planes fly around him all the time, and he has a wonderful little app that tells him what the planes are and he is always watching planes fly. The app tells you the flight plan of the airplanes too, so John can see the plane and he can see where it is going and he can see where it has been and he always marvels, like: ”Wow, there are people that do this down here, too!” It feels like such an Alaska thing, but here is a little 172 that took off on San Juan Island and is headed down to Olympia, that is some guy and that is what he is doing. He got that plane and he is doing that today.

John has friends that are Bush pilots and he would have been a great Bush pilot, but it always comes down to that he didn't join the military. Dan definitely didn't want to do that. There was no allure to it at all, he missed the boat on that one, he has a lot of respect for people who are in the military and several of his friends from High School did join the military, one of them got dishonorably discharged, the other one was horribly maimed in an accident, and the other one loved it and had a wonderful career in the military.

Mandatory national service (RW206)

John has been a long time advocate for national service and we should have mandatory national service for people when they turn 18, to do two years, but because of United States national service should not be confined to the military, but there should be uniformed service that is more or less equivalent that fulfills your duty across the whole spectrum of the national purview, like Forest Service and Park Service and even Postal Service. Amtrak should be a thing that would qualify for national service. You should be able to spend two years working for Amtrak. There are endless opportunities, endless places where the nation would benefit from the labor and study of recent high school graduates. They would benefit. If John had the opportunity at 18 to spend two years working on the railroad, he absolutely would have done it, that would have been the version that he would have pursued.

Last summer when John was on his motorcycle trip, he was in Eastern Oregon up in the mountains with his friends riding their dirt bikes, and they came upon a fire watchtower, which used to be all across the west and most of them are gone, but there still are fire watch towers that are manned. This was a really tall and beautiful one and they rode up to it and a kid came out and shouted down: ”Hey! You can come up!” - ”How cool!” and they took their helmets off and they climbed up an endless set of ladders. The whole thing is made out of timber and climbing up there you reach a certain point where you are up in a timber structure and you very definitely feel like this now is too tall to be made out of wood, but it keeps going. This is a thing made out of logs that is 12 stories high! They are huge!

You get to the top and it is creaking and it just feels like there is absolutely nothing holding you on, you could just fly off of it, not a place you want to be in a strong wind, and up there is a college kid at 20 years old who decided that he was going to spend his summer living in a fire watchtower, and he was super grateful that they had come up to his little mountain because he was clearly lonely and going crazy, but he was living in one room with 360 degree view across hundreds of thousands of acres and all he is doing is looking for smoke all day and if he sees any smoke he calls it in. He got a big compass and maps all around and if he sees a plume of smoke he is able to direct people to it directly. John really envied him! Up here all by yourself, all summer, just staring out the windows? You could be working on your novel and he had something he was working on. He was reading books.

Working as a valet at a hotel (RW206)

John should have done something like that, but instead he did his own program, his own version of five years abroad, but looking back… His mom always told him he should go to Hawaii and park cars in a fancy hotel for two years. Dan tried to get a job doing that, he thought that would be fun, and John thought it would have been fun, but only reason that he never would have gotten that job is that he just looked too much like a hippie. By that point he had let his hair grow and he was too much of an iconoclast. You have to maintain pretty tight grooming to be a valet at a nice hotel. They want to instill trust in the customers and the patrons of the place, they don't want the hippie to be parking the car, they want to see a clean cut young man and a pair of navy shorts and a button front shirt running back and forth with keys in his hand and a little slip of paper.

Dan applied for one of those jobs and they weren't very clear on how much Dan would get paid. He had come from hourly wages on all of his jobs prior to that and they just said: ”You make whatever you make!” The guy was a real jerk and you could tell that the turnover at this place was so high that he couldn’t be bothered spending the five minutes that he was wasting interviewing you. It was his way of saying you won't be receiving much hourly compensation, but you will be working for tips and it depends on how many cars you park.

The whole thing, the whole way this was set up, which Dan didn't like, was: You were in competition with all of the other valets, all of the other kids that were working there. Whoever was able to park the car faster and run back faster would get the next one. There was not a system that was in any way, shape or form fair, it was just whoever is faster and does it faster, which would encourage carelessness and Dan didn't like that.

He also didn't like not knowing how much he was going to make because he was living large at $3.65 at his other job. He is not going to walk away from $3.65 an hour to: ”Maybe you will make $50 today!” If you go down to the hotel down at the down at the end of the block, that would suck, but if you move to Honolulu and did the whole ”You make what you make!”, you are just trying to make enough money to to get some plantains and a Grolsch.

John dreaming of getting a cabinet appointment (RW206)

John didn't do that either, but he wished that he could have joined Amtrak. Now that there is a new presidential administration, maybe he is going to get a cabinet appointment somehow. There has got to be someone as part of the Biden team who listens to one of, if not all of John’s shows. They are probably not in a major decision making position, but someone working there with Biden could walk it up the chain. There are definitely people listening to the show who work for Governor Inslee, enough that John wouldn't be surprised if one of them hadn't at some point said: ”Hey governor, listen to this!” and actually played some of the show for the governor. There are people that are close to Governor Inslee who listen to the shows.

John is not sure what kind of case you could make to Biden and to a presidential administration that they needed someone like John working closely with them, somebody like him who really has his finger on the pulse, real boots on the ground Northwest born leader. How is John actually going to connect those dots and actually get all the way to the point that a caravan of black SUVs pulls up out front and someone comes to the door and says: ”We need you to come with us!” That is what John has really been practicing for: ”We need you to come with us!” He has been waiting to hear those words his whole life. John is more than ready!

To get called to Washington, they wouldn't come in a caravan of SUVs because they needed him as an intern, they would need him to do some work there, and if that were the case, it doesn't matter where he had to live, he would live in a studio apartment, he knows the government doesn't have a ton of money. He is not doing it for the money! They are not going to say: ”This job pays $250.000 in benefits!”, but it is a government job and John is going to be lucky to make any money at all, but the key is that it is a GS job and he is going to need it to be in the teens, he is not flying across the country, throwing it all away, for a GS8 (see here).

John is probably not going to get clearance at anything because he doesn’t have a military background, but he would need to be in important meetings. There is the Q rating, which is where Q came from, and that means are read into the nuke stuff.

Dan used to work in an aerospace company that made missiles and stuff like that, and just to work in some of the different parts of the buildings where they had the engineers and other things like that, which was at a different facility, Dan was in the corporate part of the facility, not the engineering part, but most of the people that worked with him had at least A-Level of security clearance just to be able to be in the building. Dan was doing system administration and never had access to anything, they still did big interviews just to make sure.

John would happily serve in the intelligence community, but he doesn't think that it is ever going to happen. Those guys are all real squares, ”If you will, it is no dream!”, but he would work at the Department of the Interior or the Department of State or Education, he would work in any ministerial department.

Being an ambassador (RW206)

One of John’s sister’s close friends has been in the diplomatic service now for a long time. She is the same age and she has been doing this as her career, and she was stationed in St. Petersburg for a long time and they just shut down the consulate there, kicked everybody out, but she is in the diplomatic service on the path to become an ambassador.

There are a couple of different kinds of ambassadors. There are the ambassadors that are appointed because you are the president's buddy, you gave a lot of money to his campaign and he makes you the ambassador to Finland, there are the ambassadors who have worked in embassies and consulates and have done State Department work for decades, and they earn the job, they work their way up and then they become the ambassador class, which is probably the next stage in her career. John is thrilled by her progress and it will be so neat when she finally gets her own country. Ambassador seems like such a great job!

It is exactly the type of thing that you also can step into. You can completely step over all these people who have made this their entire career and just be some dick who gets appointed to be the ambassador to France because the president is a dummy, or maybe you would be an amazing ambassador to France. Al Gore was probably a great ambassador to Japan, but that is probably not going to happen, nobody is going to swoop in… France would be the last ambassadorship Dan would want, while Japan is bad ass. In France there is nothing there he wants, while in Japan they have all the great consoles, cool cars, awesome phones, beautiful mountains and the beautiful trees that drop those petals, the Ginko trees, and they have great food, Sushi.

The thing about being an ambassador is to have cocktail parties and eat food. The danger is that you get a posting in a country where you actually have to do a bunch of hard work, where people are in trouble, where the nation's relationship with that country is fraught. If you are an ambassador and it is hard, it is probably also really gratifying, but in France all have to do is basically run in messages and having an eating petit fours, which seems pretty nice!

Dan interrupts John to read from a website about the different security classifications. You you might have information that is top secret, but that your superior officer does not have the same authorization, and you are required to lie to your superior officer if they demand to tell them. It is the one time in the armed forces that you are allowed to lie to your superior officer, in fact you have to.

John found an article that is talking about the fact that Obama gave the ambassadorships to Britain, France and Tokyo to top donors rather than professional career diplomats. 2/3 of the ambassadorships go to career diplomats and 1/3 go to friends of the president, and during the Trump years that probably was were way more friends of the president and way fewer career diplomats. It seems like Great Britain, Japan, France, Rome, Sweden, are the ones that people want. Norway, Luxembourg. Can you imagine being the American ambassador to Luxembourg? What a cushy job! Nothing to do there! Switzerland. Can you imagine? That would be great!

That is not going to happen for John, but he would like to be put into a decision making capacity. He wants to share the load and the burden. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made, basically in every department of the government, we have a lot of work to do, repairing the damage, and John is absolutely ready to serve as the undersecretary of something, he wouldn’t even need that much preparation, you could throw him into any one of those jobs. There would be a little bit of a learning curve, he would have to walk around and ask people what they did: ”So what is your job? What do you do?”

The importance of status between the East Coast and the West Coast, ski bums (RW206)

That game that is really popular on the East Coast of the United States that always starts with: ”So where did you go to college?” That is not a thing that we do on the West Coast. On the East Coast it is the first question anybody asks, it is really funny. It is how people rank themselves at cocktail parties, while out here in the West it doesn't come up that much.

The East Coast of the United States is very status conscious compared to the West Coast. Status is a funny thing. There are so many status games that people play and a lot of them are obvious, like: ”Where did you go to college?” and a lot of them are slightly less obvious, like: ”Who did you marry? How attractive is your spouse and how big is your car?” are glaringly obvious, but then there is the level of: ”What could you have been, but you sacrificed it in order to be something better?”, a game that a lot of people play: ”I could have been rich, but instead I devoted my life to the whales!” That is status-jockeying in conversation, too, but also in life choices people do make decisions, even altruistic ones, conscious of how that is going to play and how it sounds.

These are middle class problems. A lot of people get the job that they can, and middle class people do, too, and that whole business of: ”I could have been rich, except I went a different route!”, maybe you just took the job that you were offered and that directed the course of your life. We always credit ourselves with more decision making then probably was actually true. That is true for John. Looking back at his life it feels like he made all these choices, but really a lot of the decisions that affected the course of his life he was just standing around and something happened. There are some some big things he actually chased and pursued, but most of the stuff was just: ”Hey, you! Stand over here! Put your finger in this dike!”, which is true for a lot of people.

One of the most boring status games is: ”Have you read this book? Have you read that book?”, but John grew out of a world where that was one of the currencies that people traded in. When he was in his 30s and 20s it was all about that, but when you get to be 50 you don’t play that anymore unless you went into an ever smaller universe where it was really about books. The people that are about books, of course that is what they do, but it is no longer a status game because they are all reading books. That is what they do for a living, but the thing where you are sitting around a party: ”Have you read this book? Oh, it is so amazing!” - ”Oh, really? Well, I was reading this book. What do you think about that?” The dumbest game is the one where people are having that conversation, but they are never talking about the contents of any of those books, which is super annoying.

The East Coast is more status conscious and in the West there are a lot more people whose answer to those questions is just like: ”Well, I am just doing what I want!”, the ski bum vibe, which has also changed in the course of John’s life. The ski bum used to be an honorable position, and they still exist because John sees them all the time in his Instagram feed because he follows a lot of Instagram accounts where the whole point is to just show people’s ski crashes. There was a movie called The Four Seasons from 1981 with Alan Alda about a group of people in their mid 30s who went on a skiing trip together and the one guy went down the mountain and tripped and fell, rolling down the mountain in a skiing accident, and his friend, Alan Alda, went after him and wound up getting hurt more, and that was the joke. He was supposed to be better and got hurt more. It is with Rita Moreno.

Ski bum might not be as honored a profession as it once was. These days there is so much pressure to be a young success. When John was 22 the number of ways that you could be a huge success at 22 were really limited, a lot of them were in the arts. You could be a huge success as a Rock musician or a ballerina or an Olympian, internationally famous and in some cases rich, but there weren't that many places where you could be wunderkind who became a millionaire or a billionaire, there weren't that many billionaires, there weren't any billionaires at first. There weren't those opportunities because we didn't live in an economy that was based so much on intellectual property.

If you were an inventor who came up with something cool when you were 22, you had to find a way to bring that to the market and to manufacture it and get loans and build it into a product that got sold in stores. There wasn't the possibility that you would come up with something in your mind, draw it or type it up in a computer, push a button, it would work, and you would sell that to somebody and become a millionaire or a billionaire. That wasn't a thing! Even Bill Gates and Steve Jobs came up with their ideas back in the 1970s, but they had to do all that work of getting the thing manufactured, basically. Word had to get printed on to some media and sold in stores, it had to be shrink-wrapped and driven out to a computer store (John’s Amazon Echo replies when he said the word ”computer”).

At Dan’s first job in out of college they made software and computer based training stuff, and they had their own little part of the little warehouse where they were shrink wrapping it and boxing up the CDs and disks and shipping them out. They were just involved in the company when they were installing the first network to connect the computers together within the company, not an Internet connection, just so that you could transfer files between one computer and another computer without putting it on the disk and walking it. Before there were real networks, you would have a sneaker net, which meant you would put it on a disc and walk it over to the other person's computer and that is how they would transfer information between computers before there were networks and there were BNC cables and eventually Ethernet cables and Apple talk networks which use a phone cable.

At that time period that is all they had, the same time period that these people who are now multibillionaires were having their ideas, the 1970s, 1980s and into the beginning of the 1990s. There are no ideas anymore, that is the problem. All of the ideas have been used up and any thought that a person has now, someone else has already had that. We are in the era where there are no more ideas. That is certainly true in fashion and style and politics. Even in philosophy it doesn't really feel like there is anything new happening.

How to help the poor, people who want to get rich first and then help with money (RW206)

Young people now are under a tremendous amount of pressure because you don't just become a ski bum, but you make a million dollars and then retire to being a ski bum, like the guy that came up with Friendster or something, some guy that came up with something in college and he sold it for $10 billion and now he just rides a skateboard around Venice Beach. Back in the late 1990s John was talking to somebody who was 10 years younger than he was: ”What do you want to do?” - ”Computers!” It was in the days when a lot of people around Seattle worked at Microsoft and Amazon, and Microsoft was a big company, but Amazon wasn't and they could see the vision: ”I am going to work in computers and get rich and then retire and then I am going to do what I want to do!”

John had this conversation with them where in his Gen-X wisdom he said: ”Well, why don't you just do what you want to do?” John comes from a ski bum culture where if you want to ski there is nobody keeping you from it. Just get a job at a ski resort and half the time you drive the cat and the other half of the time you ski or you work the lift and you get your skiing in every day, but he was going to devote himself to helping the poor, but if you want to help the poor, just go help the poor! You don't have to get rich to do that. You are never going to make enough money where your money is going to help the poor.

Bill Gates has used his money to help the poor, there is no question about it, but he has done it by virtue of spending his money on science. Most people think that they are going to use their money to help the poor because they are going to systematize some inefficiency because the reason that the poor are poor is that there are inefficiencies in the system and all they need to do is use their superior intellect to streamline those inefficiencies and all of a sudden the money is going to flow, and what the poor need to not be poor is money. This is in contrast to the people that think what the poor need is education or what the poor need is nutrition or parenting classes or whatever it is that various people think that the poor need.

It is very interesting right now politically that the consensus seems to be that what the poor need is money. The Universal Basic Income is really fascinating and John supports it. It is such a novel approach to a problem that his whole lifetime people have attempted to solve by all these second and third degree operations. Improving the lot of the poor by improving the schools and their education, that is a complex set of equations and presumes that what is the root cause of poverty is that people aren't smart or don't have enough information, aren't wise, and that whole cornerstone of liberalism is super-patronizing, but also: You could be plenty educated and not have a good job or have a job at all.

It is even another degree of separation when you start talking about nutrition. The poor not having nutrition is certainly why the poor aren't healthy, but to improve nutrition takes a long time to watch that make a difference in people's lives, it takes generations! John is an example: All of his Welsh ancestors in 1890 were 4’11” and it is just nutrition. There weren't any Chinese basketball players until the last 25-30 years when Yao Ming came out and all of a sudden there were these super tall Chinese people. He was born September 12th, 1980.

Universal Basic Income, supporting drug addicts, reducing the suffering (RW206)

The idea that what you would do to help people is just give them a certain amount of money that would allow them to live without want, not enough money to live luxuriously, but enough money to live without want and without fear, and that that would be a cornerstone of your civilization is the basis of some European socialist societies, but it is never really articulated in such a clear and concise way. There are a lot of hoops you have to jump through, there is a lot of moral coloring to it. We have all seen examples of how difficult it is really to be on welfare and how much aspersion is cast on in the United States, but that is true elsewhere also.

There have been very few socialist democracies where everybody gets $22.000 a year and if you want to make more than that: Dive in! They have done the research here in Seattle so many different ways where it is very clear that to take drug addicts and house them in comfortable housing and supply them with drugs is so much more cost effective for the city as a whole than having a system where drug addicts live in a state of perpetual imbalance, they are in emergency rooms, they are in jails, they are in a terrible cycle of law enforcement and emergency services. Just in terms of cost benefit analysis, it would be so much cheaper to just house everybody and feed them.

A city would make money doing that, but it sticks in the craw of something intrinsic to the United States, something that is so key to the way that the USA thinks of itself, that there shouldn't be freeloaders, it sticks in the craw of something fundamental to conservative thinking. There shouldn't be freeloaders! You shouldn't get something for nothing! You are not entitled to anything, you have to work, you have to show, you have to be there, and if you are not, then you should be poor. There is something intrinsic to the way that a lot of Americans think that the poor deserve to be poor. It is something foundational to a lot of the way people think.

A universal income would have to overcome so much to be accepted by the general public, but John is 100% confident that a cost benefit analysis of it will reveal that the nation as a whole would make money on it. It would be so much cheaper to do it that way! You have to wonder what it is going to do to inflation or what it is going to do to money, but the drag on the economy and on the culture at large that is put on it by all of the social services that are there to react to the experience of the poor. We spent so much money dealing with the consequences of the poor that if you just took that money and got ahead of the problem and said: ”Everybody gets enough money to live!” is just intriguing, it is a fascinating thought technology that is exciting.

In a way conservatives love simple premises, at least old school conservatives, they love things that you can make a case for their fiscal expediency. You just have to divorce it from this feeling that the poor deserve it and that there should be poor, because if there aren't… and this is a weirdly reductive philosophy that a lot of people have, that if everybody got $22.000 a year nobody would work and everybody would just sit around. It is based on a Hobbesian view of humankind, that man is basically slothful and lazy and brutish and the only reason people work is because they are driven by a need to survive.

It is the same logic when people ask: ”Without religion, why would you behave morally?” Atheists and agnostics are constantly being confronted by this question and the reply is so convoluted and so basic: ”I am not a moral person because I am scared of God! You can be moral and not be scared of God! John had so many people be confounded by that idea. ”What do you mean? What even is moral if it doesn't come from God, from the possibility of eternal torment? What are your rules based in then?” - ”The Declaration of Universal Human Rights! I don’t know, we all feel the rules, you feel them!” - ”Yes, that is God!” - ”No, it is not! It is justice!”, but to describe where it comes from or to be hung up on where it comes from rather than to be excited to define it and expand it and codify it and cultivate it are two very different approaches.

John really wants to see a world where there is less suffering. It is a basic desire that a lot of people have. ”I want to see a world with less suffering!” seems like a prime directive. We live in a world where there is less suffering than there was. So much of the work we have done as human beings has been to decrease the amount of suffering and we have succeeded. Along with space travel that seems to be one of the major goals.

So many people think there should be more suffering, that people should pay the price, that people who do wrong should suffer, and by suffering they will learn, they will learn to stop doing wrong and that will make the better civilization. The better civilization will be built out of the building blocks of people that are sorry that they did bad and now they are going to do good and we are going to have order then. If you punish people, they will stop being bad, and that is why we have so many prisons and that is why you take this unruly kid out of school and you put them in a special school, a mean school. All of these ideas link up: The public service notion,…

The problem is that the vibe right now sucks. It is angry, it is bitchy, it is bitter, it is entitled, but the core idea that we should reduce suffering is such a positive idea, the core idea of national service is so positive. ”Pitch in! We are going to make it easy for you, we are going to make you do it!” It is not fascism, your freedom isn't being imperiled, we are just going to make you do it in order to make it be easy. Everybody has to do it at 18 to 20 years old has to do it. You have to go put on a uniform somewhere, stand in front of a train station and help people figure out which platform to go to, or be in the military, or work at the post office, whatever. It is just going to be real easy. Everybody has to do it! You are going to come out of that and you are going to understand one of our systems and through that you are going to understand systems in general, you are going to have an appreciation for what the government does, that is going to help you be a better citizen.

It is so positive and the idea that it would be greeted with all this rage or that it would be promoted with rage, that the vibe in the room would be: ”You are going to have to do this and if you are against this, then you are a fucking fascist enemy of the people!” is such a bummer. Universal Public Income should be shrouded in rainbows. It should not be a thing that should be so ugly. Of course everybody calls everybody a fascist now, so it has no meaning anymore. Just in the last five years the word has become absolutely meaningless! Fascist? What the fuck are you talking about? There are plenty of people that are like: ”Fascist, you know, actual literal Nazi fascists!” The guy that runs the corner store that thinks there should be a wall between you and Mexico is a fascist. He thinks you are a fascist. Fascist now means anybody that tells me something I don't agree with?

There are people listening who are really outraged by this, that John is both-sides-ing it because they are very convinced that there are real fascists, millions of them! There are real fascists, that is absolutely right, but the word has become like liberal. It no longer has any meaning because it became a swear word at some point. Right now it is a swear word used by everybody. People on the left, people on the right, nobody wants to be a liberal. Liberals suck! The word used to have meaning, but it has been chipped away at for decades. When John was a kid, it was a great word, it meant a real thing, it was something you said about yourself with pride. It is something John says about himself with pride: Liberal. But he also says it with defiance a little bit: ”Yeah, fuck you! I am a liberal. Fuck you!” John says it with a certain amount of defiant humor, but it is a thing to be proud of, a thing that makes the country better!

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