Archive for the ‘General’ Category

The Media Supplied the Kindling

…and most of the fuel for the political phenomenon and conflagration that is Donald Trump. And it all goes back to ratings.

Let me explain. Quite a number of books and articles by reputed scholars and others that point out – despite the troubles in the U.S. and elsewhere – that we still live in the most prosperous time in human history, with the longest average life-spans and best health, and a far lower percentage of people living in extreme poverty or dying from violent causes. That doesn’t mean life is perfect, only that for most people, it’s a whole lot better than at any other time in human history. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence, despite the statistics, a majority of Americans feel that things are getting worse.

While there’s no doubt that this is true for some people, the fact is that in any dynamic society, things are getting better for some people and worse for others, and in the last decade, middle class earnings haven’t increased, or depending on the definition of middle-class, have actually declined a few percentage points, which is significant if it’s your income. But… compared to a generation ago, things are a lot better. And the vast majority of people suffer less from infectious diseases and from sicknesses caused by environmental factors.

Yet there are huge segments of the population who talk and act as if the United States is on the verge of collapse, despite having the largest economy in the world, the most powerful military force the world has ever known, and a high-tech industrial base that no one else can match.


Because every news program, as well as social media, is permeated with problems and disasters, tales of violence and killings, disaster after disaster – and this has become even more prevalent in the last fifteen to twenty years. And this media-blitz does nothing to put this in perspective. Yes, we have terrorist attacks, but so far this year the total casualties in the U.S. are in the low hundreds, if even that high. We kill over 40,000 people on the highways in a single year, and there’s pressure in many states – as in my own state of Utah – to increase the maximum speed limit. Our freedom to “bear arms” results in over 300 million firearms and over 13,000 deaths a year… and we oppose any further gun controls – but the country is going to hell in a handbasket because a handful or two of Islamic or other terrorists kill a few hundred people?

Modern media technology can tell us of bombings and natural disasters anywhere in the world in minutes, when in the past, people didn’t find out for weeks, or even years, if they ever did at all. This contrast makes the past seem so much safer than the present, when in fact, the opposite is true.

Unhappily, this decades-long media diet of gore, violence, and disaster has created a public belief in how bad things are – and Donald Trump has used this to great advantage in stirring up fear, distrust, and anger. What’s most amazing to me is that the fact-checking outfit Politifact has stated that 70% of Trump’s statements are either mostly false, false, or blatantly outrageously false, yet most Americans don’t see matters that way. By comparison, only 28% of Hillary Clinton’s statements fall into the mostly false, false, or blatantly outrageously false category, yet most people think the two are in the same general range of untrustworthiness. And that, I submit, is because of the media slant on the news in general, that is, “bad is good, terrible is better, and the worse it is, the better for our ratings.”

And, one way or another, we’re all going to pay the price for the media’s gorging on disaster and despair in order to fatten their bottom line, not that my observations, or all those of the scholars who’ve studied the matter in far greater depth than the media or Donald Trump, will persuade many people after decades of commercial brain-washing.

A Few “Obvious” Basics

I was recently reminded that sometimes I state the obvious, and that’s true. But there’s a reason why I do, and that’s because even intelligent people who are wrapped up in busy lives often tend to forget the obvious, particularly when that particular obvious isn’t part of those lives in a meaningful way.

Nonetheless, dismissing or disregarding the apparently irrelevant obvious can have great peril, particularly in government. Government is the tool that human societies use to regulate human behavior. In the United States, government laws and regulations and modified economic capitalism set the boundaries because even the Founding Fathers recognized that without order there is no liberty. Setting boundaries always involves trade-offs. Like it or not, there are no perfect absolutes.

As an example, since I do have a background in environmental matters, I’ll state an obvious point. There is no clean perfectly environmentally sound way of generating electrical power. Every single method of generating power has significant environmental downsides. People cite solar power, but while the power itself is clean – at least here on Earth – every system built to use it effectively requires extensive industrial processes involving toxic chemicals on a huge scale. Hydro-power requires dams, and dams have adverse impacts on water flow and wide-spread eco-systems, not to mention the underlying geology, or the pollution involved in building the dams, turbines, and even the electrical distribution network. Nuclear power plants produce virtually no emissions, but leave a significant long-term radioactive disposal problem. Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, but drilling for it releases far more methane than has been recognized until recently and burning it raises atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which, along with the methane, increases global warming. There are similar drawbacks to various other “clean” power sources as well. Burning coal is the cheapest way to generate electrical power, but coal is the most environmentally damaging source of electrical power.

So… if government allows the unrestricted use of coal-fired power plants, electric power is cheaper, but the health and environmental costs are the highest. Thus, our government has attempted to strike a balance between health and cost. People can and do argue about where that balance should be struck, but no matter where it’s struck, there will be costs and health effects.

Free trade agreements result in lower prices for consumer goods, but they also drive higher cost U.S. industries off-shore and reduce U.S jobs in those industries. Raising tariffs against foreign imports in those industries might preserve some of those jobs, but at the cost of raising prices to U.S. consumers, and only for a while, until, as has already happened, those industries replace workers with higher tech machines that lower production costs. All of that is obvious, but U.S. workers who lost jobs don’t care. They’re angry, and they’re going to vote against “the establishment” that “let it happen,” even though the establishment had little choice if those companies wanted to stay in business because, overall, Americans voted with their dollars for lower prices from automated factories or off-shored labor over higher-priced goods produced by more U.S. workers.

Voting against the “obvious” in this case has two possibilities – either restrictive trade barriers that will trigger retaliation, resulting in higher prices and economic deterioration, as happened in the 1930s, which made the Great Depression worse, or lots of rhetoric changing nothing.

Obvious, but not so obvious, trade-offs also occur in non-economic areas. Police “profiling” does reduce crime, but the down-side is that it results in harassment of the poor and of minorities and creates political and civil unrest. Yet not having a more intensive police presence in higher-crime areas actually results in higher death rates from violence in those areas, but that presence results in more arrests and arrests for minor offenses, offenses that often do not result in arrests in more affluent areas, and those arrests have long-standing and negative economic impacts, especially in black communities. There isn’t a good, simple, or easy solution, and any solution here will have costs to some group or another.

In the end, there’s always a reason for the “obvious,” and that reason is seldom a given politician, businessman, or government bureaucrat. But the all too human response, and one that’s coming to the fore in the current election, is to focus anger on the candidate who doesn’t seem to think the way you do.

Politicians, business executives, and bureaucrats are all trying to strike the balance they think is most favorable, and while that balance may not be what you think is the best one, they’re really not out to destroy a “way of life,” unless, of course, your way of life involves crime, discrimination, environmental degradation, or shameless exploitation of the vulnerable.

But then, it’s so much easier to insist that the problem is obvious, that there’s a simple and equally obvious answer, and that all it takes is one person in charge who has THE ANSWER, rather than support leaders who are willing to acknowledge that problems in the highest technology and most complicated society in history require thought and compromise, especially since, in all history, there never been a single simple and workable answer to a complex problem, no matter what the current demagogue insists.

“Toughing It Out”

Over the weekend one political correspondent suggested that Hillary Clinton’s tendency to “tough things out” might cost her the election. I think it’s fair to say, as others have, that Clinton is not a “transformational” candidate and would not attempt to make radical changes to government if she became president. Despite the rhetoric from the far right, Clinton is essentially an “incrementalist improver,” regardless of what her supporters or detractors claim. She wants to make further progress on the issues important to her, as she has outlined in fairly extensive detail. She is not suggesting major changes. Trump would try to make broad, dramatic, and sweeping changes, although it’s highly unlikely that he’d have much success, for reasons I’ve outlined in past blogs.

But the election isn’t coming down to what either candidate can or cannot do. It’s coming down to the commitment of their supporters, and those supporters are going to be moved more and more by emotion in the coming weeks.

Currently, most polls have the two candidates in a virtual deadlock, but there’s one area where Trump has a significant advantage – and that’s in the commitment of supporters. According to a poll cited on CBS news, 90% of those eligible to vote favoring Trump are determined to vote, while slightly less than 80% of those favoring Clinton are determined to vote. Assuming that the current polls are correct, if voter sentiment remains close to even and those commitment levels hold up, Trump will win, and it may not even be close.

Clinton’s problem is that incremental improvement doesn’t motivate people as much as the great and sweeping statements made by Trump. And while I won’t claim to speak for anyone, from my perspective, it seems as though, among those who seem to be key to her election: (1) black voters are getting tired of incrementalism and want more dramatic and effective efforts to remove the remaining discriminatory impediments that disproportionately affect the black community; (2) younger Americans want decisive action on improving education, lowering the costs of education that students and their families bear, and improving job opportunities for younger workers; and (3) a great many women, especially younger women, are tired of the continuing pay and opportunity gap between men and women, unhappy with the continuing number of glass ceilings that are all too infrequently broken, if broken at all, and want more than incremental change that never seems to solve the problems they face.

I’d submit that Clinton’s incrementalism simply isn’t motivating those who should be her supporters to the same degree that Trump’s sweeping and emotional appeals are motivating his supporters. Part of this is because incremental improvement doesn’t lend itself to sound bites, and most people find the recitation of facts boring. Part of it is that people want to see that their candidate is passionate about his or her beliefs. And part of it is that “toughing it out” is a mindset all too foreign to younger voters, who want immediate change, and they want it now.

One of Trump’s “strengths” is that he clearly believes whatever he’s saying at the moment, even if he changes his mind later. He’s very much “in the moment.” Hillary Clinton isn’t nearly that much “in the moment,” and she continues to act as though her long and dedicated effort to what she believes in speaks louder than emotional promises, but most people don’t see the work she’s done and don’t think that the past speaks to the present. They only see the images, and today images speak far more than substance.

“Toughing it out” might work for Clinton, but I have very strong doubts that it’s going to be effective in this election.

The Problem of “Perspective”

I’ve noticed a growing trend in public and private discourse over the past several decades, where people at all levels, but especially at the higher levels of politics, business, and, for lack of a better word, “celebrity,” offer their perspective as if it were factual. And they’re using the term “perspective,” as if to convey greater weight than mere opinion. Now, I know their “perspective” is factual to them, but the selective use of facts converts them from the realm of attempted accuracy to mere opinion. And, as a very old saying goes, “You’re entitled to your opinion, but not [just] your facts.” Or just the facts you find convenient.

We all have the tendency to ignore unpleasant facts, those at variance with what we wish to believe, or at the very least to give them less weight and credence, and to overweight those facts that support what we wish to believe. And none of us is truly objective, nor can we be, because, by nature, we’re subjective. But the mark of the truly thoughtful individual is to attempt to weigh all the facts, to fight against the immediate instant opinion that comes to mind, and to consider those things which he or she would rather not.

There is a practical problem with this, however.

Aristotle classified arguments by type, those rooted in facts and figures (logos), those that rely on the speaker’s expertise and credibility (ethos), and those playing on an audience’s emotions (pathos). Donald Trump clearly relies on his reputation, essentially saying he’s an expert, while playing almost entirely on the emotions of the audience. There are virtually no credible facts and figures, but that apparently makes no difference to the effectiveness of his arguments because his appeals are overwhelmingly gut-level emotional.

Hillary Clinton has also relied on her expertise, but she has attempted to present her case for being president far more on logical basis, and polls have consistently revealed that she is weaker than Trump in appealing to her audience, or any other audience. All too many of her supporters are merely “with Hillary,” and not with as strong an emotional connection as Trump supporters have for him.

The problem is that winning this “argument” and the presidency can clearly be accomplished without accurate facts.

I can certainly understand the concerns of disenfranchised former white male middle class industrial workers. The changes in industrial production methods, especially automation, and world trade patterns have effectively destroyed tens upon tens of thousands of U.S. semi-skilled jobs. But the facts suggest that no amount of political rhetoric is ever going to bring those kinds of jobs back. And anyone’s “perspective” that insists a politician will be able to overturn the impact of massive technological change is mere unfounded opinion. Yes, better skills training will equip workers for the new kinds of jobs, but the old ones are gone forever. The logical basis of this argument doesn’t appeal in the slightest to all too many of those displaced, and when it’s placed in an emotional context, facts lose out in the hearts and minds of all but the most thoughtful individuals.

Global temperatures are rising inexorably; glaciers all over the world are shrinking or vanishing; practically every month in the past year has been hotter than that same month in any previous year, something that as far back as we’ve been able to measure has never happened before. Summer northern polar ice caps are the smallest ever measured, and water temperatures around Antarctica are continuing to rise. Yet there are those whose “perspective” denies this. Do we know the precise reasons for this? Not to decimal point precision, but when global temperatures for centuries having been rising in concert with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and human activity is at present the major source of increased carbon dioxide, the facts strongly suggest that we’re responsible. Trump doesn’t bother with the facts; he makes an emotional argument that global warming is a hoax, suggesting it was perpetrated by China.

In comparison, Hillary comes off as a policy wonk, trying to persuade people, and one thing I’ve learned from twenty years in politics is that facts are never enough to convince anyone who doesn’t believe you in the first place. Lyndon Johnson once observed that you couldn’t change people’s hearts and minds until you “have ‘em by the balls.”

And those differences between Hillary and the Donald are why this election, barring some major surprise, will be very close, and why Donald Trump may well win.

The Misogyny Card

As I noted a good year ago, Donald Trump has made a blatant and multifaceted appeal to the less than college educated white males who feel disenfranchised by industrial automation and by the offshoring of once high-paid semi-skilled jobs. Call that the disenfranchised white male card.

What has been part of this appeal, but largely overlooked, or thought to be merely a by-product of Trump’s boorishness and crudity, is a pervasive attack on and minimization of women, particularly intelligent professional women. I’ve seen too many “Trump the Bitch” bumper stickers to believe that his attack on women is merely macho boorishness, although it’s certainly that. Widespread bumper stickers aren’t the product of lone wolves.

Why else do I think that Trump’s use of the “misogyny card” is deliberate? Because of who happens to be replacing those “disenfranchised” white males. As jobs for semi-skilled white males have dwindled, the numbers of higher paid jobs for women, particularly educated women, have increased (if not enough in my opinion). And in many ways, Hillary Clinton is one of the first of those women to take on directly the last citadels of male privilege… and, sorry to say, all too many men, particularly white men with less than a college education, don’t like powerful women.

The attack on Hillary Clinton for her “lying” and “untrustworthiness” amounts to a proxy attack on women in general. After all, is Trump exactly the paragon of truthfulness and integrity? He’s lied time and time again, and he’s certainly not trustworthy in business deals. Yet there’s almost no furor about Trump’s lying and untrustworthiness.

Why not? Because it’s not newsworthy? Or for some other reason?

Men, again, like it or not, have created an image of women as more deceptive and secretive than men. Yet, for example, more men than women have extra-marital affairs. Interestingly enough, as more and more married women work and have come to earn more money and power, the percentage of married women who cheat has increased. Obviously, this is a form of “power” and is just another movement toward gender equality that grates on at least a certain percentage of men, and not just those who have less education.

Over a career that spans fifty years in the military, in business, and in government, I’ve seen, time after time, the good old boys and their attacks on competent women. For some reason, what men do in government and business is just fine for them, but not for women. Years ago, after I’d just promoted a woman over several male colleagues, one of them cautioned me that she was “ambitious and out for herself,” totally ignoring the fact that all the male candidates were every bit as blatantly ambitious. She did just fine, and in fact, far better than those who succeeded her when she finally moved on. When women are attacked for doing what men do in the same field, same time, and same way, and the “boys” aren’t, it’s misogyny.

And that’s what Trump’s doing, and what the media is doing is letting him get away with it. But then, after the Roger Ailes scandal, why should we expect anything else?

This Electronic World

I’ve just had a taste of what happens when the faults of our wired/beamed world collide with [I suspect] with modern “cost-effective” [mis]management. After four days without internet service, I was forcibly reminded just how difficult it is to conduct normal business without such links. I couldn’t even tell most people with whom I exchange emails that I couldn’t reply.

More to the point, I was also reminded just how poorly managed a particular massive telecommunications system [CenturyLink] happens to be. Internet service vanished. When I called to find out what had happened, I was informed that there was a local outage and that service would be restored within four hours. That didn’t happen. Nor did it happen by the next morning, as promised. Nor by the next afternoon. Nor by the following morning. Nor by that night. I kept calling and getting updates…and promises… but no internet. But after almost three days I was reassured that most of the outages had been fixed – just not in my smaller area – but promised my area would be restored in another 24 hours.

That didn’t happen, either. What did happen was that CenturyLink’s automated system assured me that there were no network problems. When I persisted, the system informed me that there was a problem, but that no repair ticket had been processed. For twenty-four hours, that same message persisted.

After three days, after getting really angry and obnoxious, if politely so, because politeness wasn’t getting any results, or any information. I discovered that they’d sent a technician out, but he didn’t have the right parts, and there weren’t any in Cedar City. Now Cedar City isn’t Denver or Phoenix, but the area does have a university and over 50,000 people – and CenturyLink doesn’t have parts and haven’t been able to get them for three days? We have an airport where FedEx and UPS land and take off daily. So does Delta Airlines. It’s only a three hour drive to Las Vegas.

The actual humans whom I contacted could only say that repairs should have been completed in no more than 36 hours, and, outside of the one who had told me about the parts issue, the others could offer neither a reason nor an estimate of the time when internet service would be restored.

In the meantime, the automated problem response system continued to declare that there was no network problem, and that there was a local problem for which no repair ticket had been yet processed. Then, finally, after four days, I had internet service.

So because of their lack of parts, a number of us were shut down off the internet for four days. I wonder just how much of an annual bonus the logistics manager got last year. And if I can send packages overnight to almost anywhere, why can’t CenturyLink? Or is it that they don’t have enough parts in stock? Either way, it doesn’t speak all that well for the company management.

And, oh yes, this is the same company that advertises how much safer and more secure their service is compared to wireless communications.

Dogs and Cats?

If dogs like you, they wag their tail and trot up and say hello. Shy dogs may only wag their tails. If dogs don’t like you, or your dog, or believe you are threatening them or those they protect, they growl or whine and give off other indications. If they’re “omega” dogs, they may retreat or cower. If they’re well-trained and they don’t like you, they tend to make it obvious that you are surviving only by the will of their mistress or master.

Friendly cats are similar, if more restrained, to friendly dogs. But cats that don’t like someone either vanish or are never seen… and in some cases conduct sneak attacks, often on personal items. Cats are also rather good at walking the tightrope, so to speak. We have a cat named after a queen in English history, and she makes a practice of walking along a two-inch wide balcony railing over a twenty-foot drop. I just wish I were that sure-footed, both physically and socially.

People can behave like “dogs” or “cats,” or even approximate other animals, such as the individual one woman calls, “Sir Hiss.” Unhappily, the people I have the most trouble with are those who outwardly behave like big friendly dogs, while planning ambushes and sneak attacks like cats. I’m especially wary of men who have wide expansive smiles with eyes that smile as well and who radiate warmth when they’re focused on someone. In more cases than not in my life, such individuals have been considerably less than perfectly trustworthy, but I have yet to find a dog showing such friendliness who attacked when someone wasn’t looking. Needless to say, this particular ability/mannerism turns up more than a few times in my books.

One politician I knew seemed to light up whenever a camera was focused in his direction, and his sense of cameras was uncanny. He never lost an election, either. Talk about adaptation. I haven’t the faintest idea if any other animal besides homo sapiens can do that, but he certainly excelled at it.

I’ve also encountered more than a few individuals of the sneaky slimy type usually called snakes, but that’s a problem because few snakes are actually slimy, and that description does a disservice to most snakes. In fact, most descriptions of people as one animal or another usually do a disservice to the animal whose supposedly unfavorable characteristics are being applied to the individual in question, because, in fact, human beings have the capability for greater deceptiveness, murder, and pure evil than any poor animal.

The Even Darker Side

Recently, I’ve seen a number of public service spots pointing out how texting or cell phone use while driving is twice as deadly as driving drunk. Not only do I believe it; I’ve seen it, up close and personal. The strangest time was last Sunday morning while I was doing my morning walk with the sweet-crazy Aussie-Saluki. We were halfway across the street that had a four-way stop when a driver comes up the street…and keeps going, without even stopping. Fortunately, I’m slightly paranoid, and look around when crossing streets, even at stop signs and in crosswalks, and when I suspected what might happen, we sprinted. Even so, the driver barely missed us, but he passed so close that I could see he wasn’t even looking – except at the cell-phone he held in one hand. And he was dressed in coat and tie, apparently heading for church.

Not a day goes by that I don’t see text-impaired driving and walking, and at least where we live it’s getting worse. I see mothers with small children in their cars glued more to their cellphones than either their driving or their children. I even occasionally see parents walking with children – wearing earbuds and ignoring those offspring. I see scores of college students driving one-handed with the other hand holding a cellphone to their ear or texting on it.

What has struck me about all this is that it’s an extreme form of narcissism. All of these individuals are so wrapped up in themselves and whatever pleasure or need the texting or phoning fulfills that they don’t and possibly can’t think of the potential consequences of overuse and careless use of instant communications.

Young people, particularly, seem glued to their devices, as if they are prosthetics that they cannot do without. Increasingly, college students are spending more time on social media and less on their studies, but paradoxically, in general, they’re less socially adept because they interact less with others in direct personal contact and restrict themselves to electronic contacts. It even appears that the majority of college students move across campus, earbuds firmly in place, ignoring the other students around them.

It’s as if all these users are electronic/communications druggies, with all the narcissistic faults of alcohol or drug dependency. And no one seems to recognize this… or the increasingly lethal side-effects.

Alternate Views?

One author’s viewpoint of the future, of society, of technology, of anything, in fact, should not preclude another’s view, or the views of a number of other authors. Nor should authors be condemned for whether they incorporate and impose a new or “better” view of matters such as gender, ethnicity, and social mores on a past society, or whether they fail to do that. What should be questioned is their accuracy in depicting the past as it was, and, if the work is F&SF, whether the society, technology, cultures, etc., they are depicting are workable and believable, and, also, for me, anyway, whether such a culture could actually evolve into what is persented.

Now, that doesn’t mean anyone has to like what an author does. I don’t particularly like the world of Game of Thrones, but as more than a few historians have pointed out, George R. R. Martin’s use of the War of the Roses as a model of sorts for his world certainly does capture the brutality and the almost total lack of morality rampant in that type of culture. I can admire the craft, but I don’t have to like the result.

That would seem obvious, or it should be, but it clearly isn’t to all too many in the F&SF field. Like it or not, in the past, and still in some societies, most positions of power and prestige and most of those in science were and are held by men, regardless of culture or ethnicity. This isn’t good for a great number of reasons, first and foremost being the fact that any society that does this is wasting at least half of its intelligence and abilities, if not a great deal more. But it did happen, and it continues to happen in some places, and likely will for a long time in others.

If an author wants to write in that kind of world, that’s his or her business, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should be required to like what such authors write or grant them awards. Nor does it mean that they should be denied readers or awards, either. Nor should it mean that writers who depict worlds with diverse populations and cultures should automatically expect readers or awards for merely pointing out what hasn’t yet happened in most societies, particularly if their talent in telling the story is submerged by the “message.” I understand this very well, since every so often some reader or reviewer critiques me for being too pedantic, and, in retrospect, at times I may have been. At other times, I suspect the readers and reviewers in question simply didn’t like considering what was behind what I wrote, but that’s a danger all writers face.

Readers largely buy what entertains them, and what entertains the bulk of readers bears less and less resemblance to reality [as I learned more than 20 years ago by publishing a very “real” book that was incredibly unpopular while watching authors who depicted the same milieu most unrealistically rake in millions]. Often what is entertaining not only has little accuracy in depicting human behavior, politics, and technology, etc., but also isn’t even that well-written, but it still sells.

Various literary awards aren’t all that much better in reflecting excellence, either, because they’re either popularity contests, as in the case of the F&SF Hugo awards, or they reflect the tastes of a small panel of judges, as in the World Fantasy Awards or the Pulitzer Prizes or even the Nobel Prize for literature. While such awards may reflect excellence, that view of excellence is highly influenced by the tastes of those doing the judging.

So…all the stone-throwing because authors do or don’t depict something in a given way seems to me irrelevant to how popular a book is or how technically and artistically good it may be.

But then, some people revel in throwing stones, either figuratively or actually.

Another Take on Income Inequality

Sometime around 7500 B.C., people began building clustered mud-brick houses at Catalhoyuk, Turkey. According to detailed archeological studies, for roughly the next thousand years, the same patterns of life persisted, apparently with all families living in the same fashion and with approximately the same level of goods and the same size houses. Analyses of the human remains show that men and women received the same level and type of food as well.

By around 6500 B.C., however, income and status inequality began to develop, and as it did, more violence also began to appear, including a significant number of individuals with healed head injuries, wounds that suggest to the archaeologists who have studied the site for more than forty years that such injuries were inflicted as a means of social control, but that such control was not necessary until pronounced income/resource inequality began to develop. This is, of course, a conclusion drawn by those studying Catalhoyuk, but it does appear without doubt that the society appeared more stable when the income levels were similar and that more violence occurred once income inequality began to develop.

I have to say that this scarcely surprises me. Historically, countries with high levels of income inequality have often had violent uprisings and/or revolutions, such as the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Cuban revolution, the more recent violence in the Sudan, and the troubles in Colombia and Venezuela.

In looking at income inequality by country across the world, I was struck by several facts. First, among industrialized/technological nations, the United States has the greatest income inequality. Among all nations, there is a pronounced tendency for countries with high income inequality also to have high levels of societal violence, and that includes the United States.

All of which suggests that pushing for tax cuts on the wealthy and opposing increases in the minimum wage may well have costs beyond the merely monetary.


This year, the buzzword at the local university is “retention.” What it amounts to for faculty and staff is, essentially, to do anything possible to keep students in school. Act as their friend or their counselor. Give them any way you can to pass courses. Ensure that they get instant positive feedback.

Along with this comes a blizzard of brand-new acronyms, a program to train faculty as emergency counselors and psychologists [because the three new counselors the administration hired are so far behind that they’ll never get through the caseload of students], and the very clear message that university faculty members are responsible for getting students through in five years or less, faculty and no one else.

Since most entering students have never really had to work hard to learn and study, they’re not really prepared for college-level work, and it often seems like they can’t wait to get out of class and return to their smart-phones and ear-buds.

And that doesn’t include the facts that the local university is located in a culture where more than half the students take off two years for a Church mission, where women are pressured to marry and have children young, and where the majority of students feel “crushed,” if they get a grade below an “A” even when they don’t do the work. That doesn’t take into account that roughly half of the students are working part-time or full-time because families averaging five children spaced close together can almost never provide anywhere close to the funds necessary for college.

Then add to that the fact that many classes are taught by underpaid adjuncts who are juggling other jobs and commitments, and that the administrative loads dumped on full-time teaching faculty continue to increase and result in longer and longer hours providing information and reports to administrators that have very little to do with teaching.

And, of course, it’s absolutely taboo for a faculty member to even hint at asking whether some of these students should even be in college or whether the university is doing those students any favors by trying to keep them in classes as long as possible.

The truly miraculous aspect of it all is that so many faculty members struggle to do their best for students who are seldom grateful and an administration that’s preoccupied with numbers and thinks that excellence can be quantified by retention numbers.

Analyzing to the Death

I’ve always wanted to understand, and worked at developing my own abilities to do that whether the subject happened to be technological, historical, political, or otherwise in nature. One of the many things I’ve learned through these exercises is that while I may think I understand something, there’s always more to be learned… but there comes a point where additional knowledge adds little to understanding. Likewise, understanding is only the first step in resolving problems, and far too many individuals seem to believe that if they just “understand” the situation or problem, it can be solved or resolved.

Years and years ago, A.E. van Vogt wrote about non-Aristotlian [Null-A] thinking, presenting it as rejection of “single-valued” or straight-line logic or thinking and suggesting that a multi-valued/perspective logic structure was better for dealing with problems. That kind of approach sounded good on paper – as a good author can often make something sound – but I had a feeling that there was something inherently flawed with the idea.

Recent interactions have brought to mind that feeling, and I realized exactly what van Vogt had missed. While his proposed Null-A thinking may well work better in solving technological and physical problems, it’s limited, and often useless, in dealing with people problems, because the overwhelming majority of people don’t think that way… and don’t want to. Every individual has his or her own value system, in most cases differing slightly from that of others in his or her society, but those systems are essentially based on “either-or” assumptions. Either something is “good” or it’s not, and when something goes wrong, or is not to their liking, their default feeling is that someone else or something else is wrong or the problem.

Sometimes, that may be largely the problem, but usually, from what I’ve observed, most problems, especially human problems, have multiple causes and contributing factors, and most people reject their own contributing factors and insist that the problem is caused by other people or other factors.

Now… you can analyze this to death and come up with and list all the factors. You can point out all the psychological impediments those involved with or concerned with the problem have. But all that analysis does nothing to solve the problem – because those involved have emotional anchors to their point of view, and a number of studies, some of them quite recent, have indicated, those emotional anchors are far more powerful than either facts or logic. Only an emotional impact of some sort will change those views.

And all the analyses and data don’t seem able to change that. Likewise, bashing those who observe that this is in fact an accurate observation of current human nature doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of human beings are governed by emotionally-based, either-or feelings and decision-making.

Caught in the Middle

You might say that I’m an idealistic romantic, tempered by time and experience into a somewhat cynical pragmatist, who’s been caught more times than I can count between extremists on both sides who insist that their view is the only “true” one, and that their interpretation of events and facts is the only accurate one. I’ve also self-classified myself as a moderate, dangerous as that has become in a culture that has become more and more self-oriented and more and more polarized. Why do I say dangerous? Because attempting to point out that there are truths and lies on both sides can subject one to attacks from the true believers on each side. And, unhappily, there are “sides,” whether they’re called that or not, because people do have differing beliefs, based on their environment and their heritage, and, yes, even their genetics. I’ve seen this in my own extended family where, at times, siblings of the same parents have very different views of fundamental issues.

I’ve also observed that today there are fewer and fewer people who want to steer a middle course, and more and more who believe that moderation, or an understanding that one can’t remedy evils just with the enactment of a law or a proclamation, is a sin of the first order and who believe that a simple and extreme “solution” is the answer, ignoring the fact that virtually all such extreme solutions can’t be implemented, either practically or legally.

Both the extreme “Trumpists” and the extreme “Sandernistas” also seem to have the feeling that, if they don’t get all of what they want immediately, the system is rigged. And, in a way, they’re right. The Founding Fathers designed our government so that immediate and radical change in government was close to impossible. That doesn’t mean change can’t occur; it just means that you have to work at it for much longer. But some of these people turn their backs on what has been accomplished because they didn’t get everything they wanted immediately, which is another expression of the current situation, because not only is the electorate polarized, but the extremes on both ends want their polarized goals and ideology implemented instantly.

The current presidential election highlights this cultural disaster, because surveys indicate that the factor motivating most voters is not support FOR a candidate, but opposition to that candidate’s opponent. And how did this all come about?

In a single word – dissatisfaction.

Despite the fact that the United States and a number of other industrialized nations enjoy historically the highest standard of living overall, and certainly the best level of health, all too many people are unhappy. The have-nots are unhappy because they feel that too much of the recent economic gains go to the top one tenth of one percent, a feeling not unjustified by the fact that over eighty percent of American families have seen either flat or falling incomes (in real dollars) over the last ten years and that in the recovery since 2008, 85% of the income gains have gone to the top one percent of earners. Add to that the fact that somewhere between sixty and eighty percent (depending on the study) of new jobs have wages that pay less than $17.00 per hour, and roughly half pay below $13.50 [which amounts to annual wages barely above the poverty line for a family of four.

Much of the middle class and former middle class is unhappy, simply because, at best, their incomes have remained flat while costs of everything, especially education and medical care, have climbed.

Those who make more aren’t exactly happy either, because they’re working longer hours for minimal increases in income, at a time when U.S. non-hourly employees and professionals already work the longest hours in the world.

Only the top one tenth of one percent are doing really well income-wise, and they’re spending billions on the elections because there’s really only one place that there’s a large pool of taxable income necessary to cut the federal deficit or to pay for new programs – and that’s in their bank accounts and securities portfolios.

And that’s just the income dissatisfaction, without getting into education, the struggle over environmental issues, crumbling infrastructure, foreign trade, and a host of other problems.

But the bottom line is, no matter which side you’re on, or even if you have no side, problems that have been building for a generation can’t be solved as the result of one election, or simple one-time solutions, particularly if no one wants to recognize the problems that others have.

Glory and Gruntwork

One of my guilty pleasures is watching certain sports in the Olympics, especially swimming, but also at least a little bit of volleyball, either indoor or beach. What struck me after watching parts of several matches was that what decided the outcome of those matches wasn’t which team had the most powerful serves or the best strikers or blockers, but who had the best diggers and setters, the men or women who got in there and did the hard and dirty and largely unnoticed work that took the edge off the power serves and set up the thundering spikes.

Metaphorically and practically speaking, the same is true in most human endeavors. It’s the effective gruntwork, the unseen set-ups, the unnoticed research, the careful checking and cross-checking that lead to success.

In writing, for the most part, it’s not the brilliant phrases, the basic plot, or the non-stop action that defines a really good book, but rather the expertise in all the other aspects of writing, such as the setting, the characterization, the dialogue, the subplots, and the tiny details that link everything into a seamless unity.

In politics, it’s not the brilliant speech-making or the lofty rhetoric that defines an effective lawmaker, but the skills in crafting a measure so that it will pass all the tests of legality and Constitutionality, of building effective support among both members of one’s own party and of the opposition, of doing enough research to be able to answer every possible objection to the proposal, of knowing the subject well enough to be able to explain the issue and the solution to everyone from grade-schoolers to those with doctorates, and to do so without being condescending or arrogant, and then having the perseverance to do it all again and again in order to get the job done, all the while not alienating the voters and raising enough money for the next campaign.

In business, success isn’t measured just by having the lowest prices, the best profit margin, the most efficient production process or the most productive workers. Long-term success also requires continual innovation; understanding of not only where markets are, but where they will be; an ability to discover and assess outside factors that will affect society and thus industry; and mastery of all the little details behind each of these.

My wife, the opera and voice professor, also has a listing of the details that most young singers either ignore or shortchange, including: improper posture, because that makes effective breathing almost impossible; poor everyday speaking and pronunciation, because that carries over into singing; failure to learn the musical rhythms of a song before memorizing the lyrics; lack of adequate keyboard skills; and a whole host more.

In short, all those unsexy, grubby, painstaking, unglorious tasks that are seldom, if ever, recognized are what lie behind success… and that’s something that fewer and fewer young people are taught and shown every passing year, as well as something that far too many voters fail to take into account when casting their ballots.

This Electronic World

Yesterday, my wife the professor set out for work… and was back in less than half an hour. Why? Because the power was out at the university, and the reason was that a student who was texting while driving lost control of his car and ran into the electric power distribution transformer. The immediate result was that the entire university lost power for more than half a day, but because the transformer is actually connected to the music building, the university public works crews could shunt power to the rest of the campus, but repairs to the music building’s electric distribution system may take several days, perhaps a week. In the meantime, even without power, the building is effectively shut except for emergency access, because all the locks are electronic.

Texting while driving strikes again, and while this comparatively small accident injured only one driver and shut down a small-to-mid-sized university for half a day, the fact that all the doors are electronically actuated underscores the growing reliance of everything in society on electronics and electric power.

A far larger problem occurred early Monday morning when apparently the failure of a piece of electronic equipment at Delta’s headquarters triggered a power failure and crashed the entire computer system and grounded the airline’s flights for hours, causing more than 600 flights to be canceled and some 3,000 or more to be delayed. Delta said it didn’t know why the power outage hadn’t brought all the back-up systems on line.

And that wasn’t the first airline computer problem. A month ago Southwest airlines had to delay and/or cancel some 2,000 flights due to a computer system glitch.

These kinds of events point out the vulnerability of the United States to power outages and computer system crashes, and, frankly, the fact that it appears that we just might need to be doing more as a society to safeguard and back up both our power sources and our electronic information networks and security systems.

Perhaps some businesses are, but it appears that the cost to Delta from the latest outage/crash is going to cost quite a bit more than up-grading and improving back-up systems would have… and now back-up costs will still be incurred. From what I’ve observed of the local power company here in Utah, they’re still playing roulette with their placement of spare transformers and the like, suggesting that the efforts of electric power system providers leave quite a bit to be desired.

But then, maximizing current profits takes precedence over everything, even long-term profitability – or even survival – just as the immediate pleasure of texting appears to take precedence over safety… and even survival.

NOTE: The latest word from the university is that the damage was so extensive that it will likely cost at least several hundred thousand dollars to replace the equipment, and take six months to a year to obtain a permanent replacement transformer/distributor. In the meantime, the university is operating on a mix of a back-up generator and “temporary” re-wiring.

Writers’ Shift

Over the past few years I’ve been asked how the field of writing has changed since I was first published, a question I suspect comes up because I’ve managed to stay published for a long enough time that I might have some perspective on any possible changes affecting writers, in particular.

Some of the changes are obvious to any even casual reader, such as the decline in the number of big box chain bookstores and the growth of ebooks, along with a decline in the availability of a diversity of mass market paperback books. Others are less likely to be quite so apparent, and some will be apparent only to long-time F&SF readers, such as the actual length of books.

When I started writing most SF novels fell in the 80,000-90,000 word range, and for a very good reason. Almost all science fiction was published as paperback originals, and paperback books longer than that had a disconcerting tendency to fall apart rather quickly. Also, there was very little fantasy, and for whatever reason, science fiction novels, in general, tend to be shorter than fantasy novels. The binding technology has gotten better, and now most F&SF tends to be published in hardcover first – a practice pioneered largely by Tor, I might add. And whether it’s because of better bindings, more fantasy, or something else, F&SF books are definitely longer and larger than they were thirty-five years ago.

While it’s one of those things I can’t prove absolutely, what I have observed suggests that writers who are not blockbuster best-sellers and who turn out a book a year or more infrequently are earning less than they used to, largely because bookstores carry fewer titles in backlist inventory and because media buzz, even electronic media hype, tends to die out much more quickly after a book is released than it once did. That’s one of the reasons why more and more authors find they need to publish more frequently and to establish and maintain as much of a media presence as they can. The problem with this is that maintaining a full-scale media presence takes a great deal of time and effort, and that time and effort isn’t going toward actually writing books.

At the same time, publishers aren’t doing as many author tours, except for their very top authors, as they once did, and more and more authors are trying to arrange their own appearances, pretty much anywhere that they can. This was greatly frowned upon in past years, especially by the big-box book chains. One such chain wouldn’t let me appear in any of their stores for several years because I went around corporate management and worked out an appearance in one of the chain’s stores because, for some reason, the chain didn’t seem to want me appearing in any of their stores in a certain mid-sized city, even though the local stores did. Now, the local community relations people in many of the B&N stores seem much more receptive to that, but I wonder if they’re just keeping corporate headquarters in the dark, or if headquarters is just grateful for anything that might boost sales.

Because more and more authors are doing personal marketing of some sort, the author who doesn’t is often at a disadvantage, but personal marketing takes a considerable amount of time and effort, as well as a financial outlay that can range from modest to outrageous.

Another area that’s changed is that there’s much more media interest in authors who are in some way personally intriguing or young and attractive. While this has always been true to some degree, it seems as though that’s become even more so, and that there is now a greater number of authors who get read more because of their media persona than because of the content of their books.

Not surprisingly, really accurate “hard” science fiction has declined, replaced largely by “space opera,” even steampunk, perhaps because it takes more knowledge and effort to write good solid science-based fiction, because scientific discoveries have ruled out a great number of popular scenarios, because those discoveries require more knowledge on the part of readers at a time when fewer and fewer readers are science-literate, and because more and more readers prefer exciting escapism from a world they believe is already too technically demanding.

And, of course, there is self-publishing, the growth of which is well-known, but which would have astounded followers of the field if someone had predicted its impact in 1990, and probably such an accurate prediction would have earned the forecaster ridicule. That impact was made possible by electronic books, an innovation which unfortunately has also had the impact of effectively destroying significant percentage the mass market paperback sales, while boosting piracy, with the result that most authors’ per book ebook sales don’t make up for the loss in sales of recently released books, and largely only authors with either blockbuster titles or long backlists come close to the royalty levels that existed in the 1990s.

All in all, a very mixed bag in how authors have fared.

The Self-Made Myth

It’s always baffled me how so many successful, usually white, usually male, individuals claim that they alone were close to solely responsible for their success, discounting or ignoring so many factors that contributed to that success.

One factor that’s so often discounted is simply the fact that it’s easier to take risks if you’ll still have a safe place to sleep and something to eat if that risk turns to failure. Another is knowing that you have the skills or qualifications to get another job. Yet another is having a lighter skin color. Another is having a manner of speaking that’s accepted. The list of other overlooked “advantages” is far longer than most “self-made” men will ever consider. And I’ve certainly had more than a few of those usually discounted or overlooked advantages.

Then, there’s luck. Now, it is true that people who work and try harder do have more “luck” than those who don’t, but in all the fields in which I’ve worked, I can name a number of people who had more talent and who worked harder that others who were more successful, largely because the successful ones were in the right place at the right time.

Obviously, it’s not all luck. I do work hard. I’ve averaged writing 2 ½ books a year for more than twenty straight years, and I’ve visited almost forty percent of the B&N bookstores in the U.S. over the past 20 years, as well as hundreds of other bookstores, not to mention the time and effort spent on the website and other activities, but there are other authors who worked that hard as well, and not sold as well as I have, and there are some who haven’t worked as hard as I have who’ve sold a great deal more.

I was a marginally successful short story writer – very marginal – until Ben Bova wrote me a critical rejection letter. He didn’t have to write it. I was fortunate that he did, because his suggestion that I should write novels was absolutely accurate. I was also fortunate that David Hartwell read all the major SF magazines, because when I submitted my first novel to him, he recalled my name from the few ANALOG stories I’d written, and that meant that he turned to reading my manuscript before those of totally unknown writers. Now he bought the book because it was good enough to publish, but I’m sure there were others good enough to publish that probably didn’t get bought for various reasons. I was also fortunate that David prompted me to do to my first SF convention, because the experience at that particular convention prompted me to write The Magic of Recluce, which I never would have considered, at least not until later, and Tor published that book with a Darrell Sweet cover just a year after The Eye of the World, the first Wheel of Time book, which had a Sweet cover, and the fact that The Magic of Recluce also had a Darrell Sweet cover and was released so soon after The Eye of the World certainly had to have helped enormously in launching my fantasy career.

Whether you call it luck or good fortune, it’s still a factor, and while I’m exceedingly happy that those events worked out that way, I’m also very well aware that they might not have… and that I could still be struggling to write short fiction while mired in a 60-80 hour a week high stress job in Washington, D.C. All of which is why I’m extremely skeptical of anyone who touts themselves as self-made. There are doubtless a handful of such individuals, but far, far fewer than most of those who claim such a title will ever understand.

Police and the “Black Lives Matter” Movement

A recent edition of The Economist featured an article on a series of studies conducted by Roland Fryer, a tenured African American economics professor at Harvard. Fryer was concerned that his own encounters with police as a teenager might color his views on the use of force by police officers in dealing with blacks and other minorities. His first study reviewed and analyzed five million cases from New York City from 2003 to 2013. The raw data indicated that blacks and Hispanics were 50% more likely to encounter non-lethal uses of force than were whites. Even after analyzing the data to account for factors such as attempted assault on an officer or flight to avoid arrest, blacks were still some 17% more likely to incur the use of force than were whites, and even in the case of blacks reported to be perfectly compliant by police, such blacks were 21% more likely to have some force used against them than were whites.

Another study, by Ted Miller of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, reached a similar conclusion about the disproportionate stopping and harassing of minorities.

But the most shocking figures to Fryer were those uncovered when the two separate research teams he supervised looked into the over 1300 shootings by police in ten police departments from 2000 to 2015, including the cities of Houston and Los Angeles. The raw data found that blacks weren’t any more likely to be shot by an officer than non-blacks. Fryer then dug deeper, looking through 6000 incident reports from Houston, looking at all incidents involving shooting, Tasers, or other situations where lethal force could have been justifiably used, but was not. The result remained the same. Black suspects were actually less likely to have been shot than non-black subjects, and similar results appeared in the other police districts studied.

In effect, racial bias appeared in all kinds of situations – except in the case of shootings or where police used or might have used guns or Tasers. Why was there this difference?

Fryer suggests that the reason is that incidents involving guns and Tasers all require higher-level review and that all police officers are well aware of that, and therefore take more care in dealing with such incidents, whereas less violent situations seldom see that kind of review. If that is the case, then the growing use of body cameras by police may also lead to a more equal treatment of blacks and other minorities.

But the problem of violence between police and those detained or arrested isn’t exactly one-sided. Miller pointed out that on average, every day, three people die and 150 people are treated at a hospital because they are injured by police, for total number of 55,000 annually. At the same time, Miller’s study showed that in 2012, an estimated 67,000 law enforcement personnel were assaulted, with 18,600 medically treated for injury and 48 killed. All of this shows, at least to me, that, yes, there’s a definite problem, and remedying it will be anything but quick or simple.

Political Neverland

Like millions of Americans last Thursday night, I watched and listened to Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. The speech was about what I expected, but the reaction of the crowd was frightening, for more than a few reasons.

The speech ticked off and highlighted every concern and fear of the right-wingers, evangelicals, and “disenfranchised” white middle class males, and Trump’s answer to each concern was that he was going to fix it fast on January 20th, and that’s the equivalent of Peter Pan’s Neverland being transported to American politics.

Why? Because, first, Trump offered no specifics, and, second, that the vast majority of the problems that he highlighted (and I will admit that most are problem areas, if not always of the severity he claims) either cannot be “solved” by the President without action by the Congress as well, and Congress NEVER acts that fast, if it acts at all, or are problems that cannot be effectively addressed by the federal government at all. For example, except for the Capitol Police, under the jurisdiction of the Congress, police forces are under the jurisdiction of state and local governments. The various trade agreements that he deplores require Congressional action to be changed. So do most federal regulations, because they’re required by law.

Then there is the rather significant point that virtually every proposal he made requires more funding and more resources, and yet he proposed a massive income tax cut at a time when the federal deficit is already far too large.

The crowd, good Republicans all, was oblivious to all of this, and their chants, and Trump’s cheerleading, reminded me all too much of movie footage of Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. What too many people either forget or never knew was that the German people felt the same way about the German parliament as many Americans do about Congress, and most either agreed or looked the other way when Hitler effectively abolished parliament, placing the blame on the communists.

At the same time, as I noted close to a year ago, Trump is raising issues that affect and worry possibly as much as half the U.S. population, if not more, although at this point a majority doesn’t appear to agree with his proposals for dealing with them. But if people perceive that these problem areas are getting worse and that Clinton doesn’t care or won’t address them effectively, Trump has a good shot at being elected President.

Add to that Trump’s total disregard for facts, his apparent failure to understand the Constitutional structure of our government (or his blatant demagoguery ignoring its limitations), and his supreme egotism, and combine those with the simplistic views of the current Republican party, and, if Trump is elected, the scene is set for some form of governmental/political catastrophe.

Are the Democrats much better? Their platform certainly promises more than Congress will ever deliver, but what Clinton proposes is at least technically doable, if not necessarily desirable, but Clinton’s less flamboyant approach isn’t likely to win over middle class males feeling disenfranchised, and those Americans with immigration and terrorists at the top of their worry lists.

In the end, the question is whether a woman promising the costly and largely possible, at the expense of the wealthiest Americans, can top a man promising to do the impossible in a campaign based on fear and nostalgia for a past that never was.

Stress and Risk

In terms of fatal risks, the most dangerous occupations in the United States are those of loggers, fishers, pilots, roofers, garbage collectors, and ranchers. Police rank fifteenth on the list, a fact pointed out by some of my readers.

The problem with that listing, though, is that it’s a single factor listing.

Compare that list to another list, that of the most stressful jobs. According to a study by CareerCast, the most stressful jobs of 2016 are, in order: enlisted military personnel, firefighters, pilots, and police, followed by 24 other positions. Other sources add to the high stress jobs such professions as surgeons, teachers, and nurses, but almost all the various high stress job ranking lists include military personnel, firefighters, pilots, and police officers in some order at the top of the list.

One of the highest factors leading to stress for most people is uncertainty, of not knowing what to expect or when. In fact, almost any job can be high stress, especially if high expectations are placed on the worker without giving that worker either sufficient resources, time, or enough control of the situation, but what’s interesting about the “top four” high stress jobs is that all of them have high levels of uncertainty, ranging from all the time to part of the time, and that three of the four, all except pilots, almost always have to operate with insufficient resources, time, and control, while pilots have to deal with a different set of stresses, such as the responsibility of hundreds of lives in their hands, often terrible and unpredictable weather, and an unrelenting schedule.

Although all of the “top four” jobs involve uncertainty, only police and pilots face it largely unremittingly, and speaking as a former military pilot, except in combat, pilots don’t generally have to worry about the possibility that at any moment someone could be shooting at them. This knowledge can’t help but trigger anticipatory stress for police as well as for deployed military personnel.

Those who hire personnel for those jobs also recognize that fact by allowing people in those fields to retire early, a tacit and real acknowledgement of just how great a toll those occupations, with their combination of stress and risk, can take on people, not only mentally, but physically, and interestingly enough, recruiting enough qualified police and pilots is becoming more and more difficult.