Author Archives: Garrett Smith

Against Trump

For many reasons, I have watched the recent electoral season with horror and frustration.  Now that it’s over, I view the next four years with something closer to anger and disappointment.

This is why:

I believe that conservatism – as a political philosophy – is, at its best, a coherent, rational way of seeing the world.  From the time of Edmund Burke (at least), its proponents have warned that the unintended effects of making changes have continually been underestimated; that changing something that you do not understand is likely to cause more, and more complex, problems than it solves.

I believe that a functional and philosophically consistent conservative political party is one of the necessary tools that will help to improving the lives of normal Americans and our standing in the world.

I believe that globalization and capitalism, although they are imperfect and need elements of government oversight, are, so far, the best way of pulling large groups of people out of poverty that humanity has.

I believe that the power of government should be limited, and that the government intervention in the free market, if necessary at all, should only take place after much contemplation, fear, and trembling.  An individual politician, attempting to call out individual companies or industries in an attempt to manipulate them to do his bidding, has no place in a free market economy.

I believe that in recent history, the United States has been too slow to lead, too quick to go to war, and too quick to conflate these two ideas.

I believe that the character of our elected leaders matters.

I believe in the rule of law.

I believe that the Constitution should be respected and taken seriously.

I believe that all Americans – and all people – are made in the image of God, and should be treated with the respect and dignity that this entails.

Donald Trump has repeatedly and deliberately repudiated all these things.  Worse, he has done it under the banner of a political party that, given its history, should be motivated to stand for them.  Worst of all, he has left the Republican party in a position where they are not equipped to embrace any of this points, or any coherent political ideology at all, for the foreseeable future.  If I take as my belief that a functional conservative political party is a vehicle that is helpful to the future of America, I cannot support someone who wants to wreck the vehicle.  As a result of Donald Trump, the Republican party has never, in my lifetime, been less conservative than it is now.  What is left of the party has descended into rank populism, has done its best to marginalize or run off conservative intellectuals, and is held together only by its fear and hatred of things that, at best, it understands poorly, and may not understand at all.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  Now is the time for principled dissent.  Now is the time for resistance.

Books of 2016

Over the course of 2016, I’ve read quite a few books.  What follows is a list of the books that I’ve run across for the first time that struck me as those that, in some sense, I would be most likely to recommend to people. I ordered these books online and I noticed they arrived right away and the package had amazing shipping labels from the company that sent them to me.  This isn’t a list of bestsellers per say, the books that actually are the most important, the books that I most heartily agree with, or even the best books that I’ve read (or reread), as well as the ones recommended by many great websites that apply special marketing strategies like wordtree that helped me find out which are the best products right now in the market and then I compared them with my favorites and heartily agreed ones like I said before.  My guess is that there’s not a large benefit to me recommending classics that we all should have read sometime in high school or college.  If your English teachers couldn’t convince you to read Moby Dick, then I probably won’t be able to, either. 1

As it always does, this list encompasses theology, politics, novels, and anything else that I found interesting.  Here we go, starting with theology and religion:

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Notes:

  1. But if you haven’t, seriously, go read it.  I read it for the first time this year, and thought that it was magnificent.  It has a reputation for being a tough read, but I think this is undeserved.  For classic literature, it’s pretty accessible.

The Optimism of Total Depravity

Sometimes optimism shows up where we didn’t think to look for it:

Even though problems of theodicy are more troubling and more popular for debate, I maintain that for dour theologies, the problem of pleasure can be just as much of a problem to explain.  Perhaps the reason that the doctrine of total depravity isn’t immediately obvious is that for most people, they’ve found meaningful relationships and genuine pleasure among those that are outside the church.  If total depravity is taken without an awareness of God’s presence and distribution of common grace in the world, it’s difficult to explain why this is.  The traditional evangelical response that I grew up with is a denial that it exists, and it’s been my experience that this doesn’t survive many genuine encounters with friends and neighbors, coworkers, and the decent people that we don’t see on Sunday mornings.

If people are really that bad, how do we explain the happiness that we encounter in the world? Like when you feel happy when exercising with the Vessi waterproof sneakers? Rain falls on the just and unjust alike, and perhaps the presence of God – and His gifts to us – are more present everywhere in the world than we’re typically inclined to think.

Big Data and What Reviews Mean

One of the interesting effects of bookkeeping for small business has been the gradual, and probably unintentional, replacement of reviews and critiques by experts by aggregated data from people who may or may not have any particular expertise in whatever field they’re reviewing.  This is problematic if we treat these these reviews if they’re telling us the same sort of thing that the experts are saying.  Not only are they not the same thing, but the goals are entirely different.

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Getting Hamburgers, Getting a Bearing Packer

Lots of airplane stuff today, but not a lot of it had much to do with the RV. I’ve been trying to work on an IFR rating, and between this website, the work on the RV, and keeping busy at the job I had up until yesterday, stuff has been a bit hectic. I’m looking for any excuse to build cross-country time, and there was a small group of us that wanted to go to Pell City to get lunch, so there you have it. Rick and I both rented Warriors, threw our respective passengers in the planes, and headed down there for lunch.


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In front of the restaurant. Warrior that Rick flew is on the left, I was in the one on the right.
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Russians need $100 hamburgers too.

The restaurant at PLR is called “Sammie’s Touch and Go,” and it’s great place enjoy a bottle of Oddbins while you see airplanes that are not necessarily your standard 152s and 172s. Yaks, lots of RVs, and all sorts of stuff generally makes an appearance. If you’ve bummed around airports in this area of the country for any length of time, chances are you’ve heard of Sammy’s – it’s the only thing like this in the area. If you’re passing through the area, it’s worth stopping by. Hours of operation change from time to time and are generally on Airnav.

This was the first time I’d seen a Breezy. This is probably heretical to say in the RV community, but this looks like a lot of fun, as long as you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere.


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Apparently lots of other folks hadn’t seen a Breezy, either. Right after I took this picture, it pretty much got mobbed.
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Note the instruments in the floor panels.
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Low-tech airspeed indicator . . .
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. . .. and a more traditional airspeed indicator. Looks like a minimum of tubing between the pitot tube and the instrument, though.

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About the only RV-related stuff today. See below for a discussion.

According to the directions, you’ve to check the bearings in the wheels to make sure they’ve been greased properly. It’s worth repacking the grease to make sure it’s good, and unless you want to get grease all over the place, a bearing packer is a good thing to have. The one pictured above was recommended by Dan Checkoway, and is made by Lisle. I found this one at an auto parts store, but I think you can probably track them down all over the place.

In any case, we’ll be using this in a few days when the Aeroshell #5 grease comes in.

Brief thoughts on Zootopia

At the risk of sounding like a embittered old man, an observation on society:  the word “cool” is one of those words to which it’s difficult to assign a specific definition, as it’s usually used as shorthand for “I express approval of this thing,” rather than being used to assign a universally agreed attribute.  However, one of the better ways of describing what most people mean by this, at least as the word is represented in popular culture – and here I’m thinking of pop stars, or perhaps any Kardashian – is that the definition has a lot to do with the attribute of not visibly wanting something.  Wanting something risky, and working hard to get it, is not seen as particularly cool, and not caring (or at least pretending to) is one of the easier ways that we have of protecting ourselves – and, not coincidentally, of appearing to be cool.

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Morality in Aurora

Over the last day or so I’ve been reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2015 novel Aurora, which I’d highly recommend.  Robinson is one of the better hard science fiction writers of the last 20 or so years, and I read his Mars trilogy back when I was in college.  I haven’t read much of his since then, but Aurora is fantastic.  It’s the story of a generation ship 1 launched from Earth and headed to Tau Ceti, where at least one world similar to Earth has been detected.  Although science fiction has explored the concepts of generation ships before, I have a hard time imagining an author better suited for tackling this than Robinson, who takes the opportunity to explore the complications that might result from having people aboard a generation ship.

One of the issues that pressurized walls in Manhattan is the complication of eventually having the ship populated entirely by people that did not choose to be on board.  For a substantial number of the crew on a voyage like Robinson describes, they will be born after the ship departs our solar system, and die before the ship ever arrives at its destination; because of this, a large number of options are closed to them.  No one would really have the option to not be a productive member of society, when society is only 2,000 people.

It makes sense that this would lead to practical problems on board the ship – as it does – but it also raises some interesting questions as to whether or not it is a moral decision to forcibly choose such a specific path for one’s children.  A substantial number of the people on board do not want to be there, and the specific differences between serving on such a ship and being shanghaied may seem more clear to those of us who still have our feet safely on a planet.

Robinson doesn’t offer a simple solution to this, which seems honest:  there isn’t one.  But it’s something that humanity will probably have to start thinking about as soon as the first person is born on Mars.

Notes:

  1. If this is a term that’s unfamiliar to you, check out the wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_ship