Archive for October 2013

Shut Down Gets Personal   Leave a comment

As I said, Alaska as a LOT of federal employees. We’re 2 or 3 in the nation, depending on the news article. So there are at least three non-military federal employees going to my church. The “shut down” just got personal, because these are people I know and care about.

However ….

One man is still working — he’s TSA, so is considered an “essential” worker. He began looking for other work several months ago anyway. This is just making him look harder.

The stories of the other two are interesting in their diversity.

The woman who works for federal wildlife is freaking out because she didn’t plan for something like this and she can’t pay her bills.

The guy who works for the fire service was calm and collected. He typically takes a couple of weeks off this time of year because his schedule is insane during the summer fire season, so he’d be hanging out at home anyway. He and his wife and kids live on his income alone, but it’s a good income and they live modestly, so they have six months’ of operating expenses saved for a rainy day. He said when his slightly shifted two-week vacation is over, he’ll start doing the computer work he does all winter from home, so he will be legitimately eligible for back pay. I asked him if he could hang on until after Christmas as some of the pundits are saying it might go that long and he said he could. The State of Alaska has been head-hunting him for a decade, so if the federal government permanently contracts he’s likely got a job if he wants one. He’s got one more year before he has 20 in with the feds, which triggers important changes in retirement, which is what he’s holding out for — but he also really likes what he does in his job.

It’s painful to watch friends struggle. I’ve been there myself and I know it’s not fun. However —

Planning ahead for the inevitable federal contraction should have been Plan A for every federal employee. Right now it’s temporary, but it should be permanent. My friend who works for the fire service wisely planned for that inevitablity. Federal employees typically make 52% more than workers doing similar jobs in the private sector. They can afford to save for their future and they should.

Does the federal government really need to do things like the fire service? The fire service is an essential function in Alaska’s summers. Black spruce will burn if a moose exhales too warmly. I’m not saying the job my friend does is not essential. But does the federal government need to do it? The State of Alaska already has agencies that do something similar and my friend has already been given an open door to that employment.

Does the federal government really need to do wildlife service? Again, the State of Alaska has a very large wildlife division.

Does the federal government really need to do the TSA? These functions used to be done by private contractors for local airports. There’s no evidence that TSA is doing a better job than they did. Yes, three planes were hijacked, but I’m not convinced that the TSA could stop that any better than private contractors would.

Just because the contraction of government services became personal does not change my essential belief that the federal government is bloated beyond sustainability and needs to be severely pared down. Right now about 85% of the structure is still functioning, but in reality, by 2025, the structure should be one-third of what it currently is.  With the exception of those workers currently employed by the federal government needing to go find other jobs, the services that the federal government provides are largely unnecessary, duplicative of state-level agencies or could be performed by the private sector. Those federal employees who have good skills and a good work ethic will be able to find similar work in state government or the private sector. They probably won’t get paid as much, which stinks for them, but they should never have been allowed to make more than the prevailing wages of their employers (we the people) anyway.

Anarchist Alternatives to Voting   Leave a comment

You, my readers, get the benefit of my research as I try to decide what I believe. Right now, I’m focused on anarchy. I see value in their beliefs, even as I don’t think I will wholly embrace those beliefs.

What are the anarchist alternatives to voting? I’m not blowing up stuff as a political statement. That’s off the table before we even sit down. So, I asked a couple of Fairbanks anarchists who hang out at the same coffee shop to explain it to me. Coming off a local election in which sheer lunacy reigned supreme, they had me with “notice we don’t care how the election turned out”. That doesn’t mean I drank the koolaid, only that I recognize it might have a nice flavor. This is the result of my interview, possibly colored a bit by the three 4-shot mocha breves they plied me with.

Elections guarantee that various political parties and their members will be out seeking your vote and support or at least a few minutes of your attention. Elections are a popularity contest that are touted as THE time when the average American citizen gets to have a say in how the country is run. My anarchist friends say “Don’t vote! Organize instead.” And then they started talking about “direct democracy.”

For the record, they need another term. “Direct democracy” has a connotation that scares the hell out of me and doesn’t actually match their definition of it.

Anarchists view voting and political representation as a bankrupt way of meeting the needs and wants of society. Politics, political parties and representative democracy sees politicians elected by popular vote to represent the people and our interests. In exchange, we the people give them the power to make decisions on our behalf – in effect, to govern (or rule) us.

The power to make laws, regulate and control society are in the hands of those in power (politicians) and are binding on the people. A few at the top of the pyramid dictate to the rest of us at various levels of the lower pyramid. Information and power are concentrated with the few representatives, who make decisions under the people’s authority. If the representatives don’t do a good job, we are allowed the right to replace them periodically by voting for another bunch of rulers, but we’re stuck with them and their decisions in the interim and the laws they pass often hold sway long after we’ve fired the set of rulers we didn’t like. Moreover, when the new set of rulers get comfortable with their jobs, they begin to tyrannize us just as much and usually in similar liberty-destroying way.

Anarchists see this hierarchy and imbalance of power as the source of most of the problems in the today’s world because a tiny group of people (be they politicians or corporations) have more power, say and control than others.  This loss of control at the bottom leads to greed, exploitation and poverty because those without power are coerced by those with power.

Anarchists propose “direct democracy” as a less coercive alternative to “representative democracy.” Anarchists don’t want to see the pyramid flipped upside down (as socialists advocate). They want to do away with the pyramid altogether, replacing it with what they call “federalism”.

Instead of electing representatives with authority to act on the people’s behalf, we would select delegates for temporary task-oriented assignments for the purpose of carrying out that task and with no authority to make binding decisions or to deviate from the assignment. My friends point out that we use this arrangement all the time in our personal lives and many family businesses are arranged this way.

The key aspects of direct democracy are:

  • the fluid and temporary nature of delegation;
  • delegates are directly involved in the decision making
  • delegates are directly from and for the group;
  • everyone involved has a direct say in the issue at hand

Equal balance of power in making decisions assures the non-existence of an exploitative hierarchy, allowing direct democracy and self-management to flourish —meaning you can have the maximum input in what directly affects you. Such voluntary association groups can connect with other groups doing hte same thing (neighborhoods, towns and states, even countries) and form a federalist system of groups following the same structures and the same principles.

It sounds good and extremely inefficient, which I’d be okay with if we lived in the 1830s, but I suspect this system would leave us unable to respond very quickly to something that requires a quick and decisive response — such as a foreign invasion by a force using 21st century technology.

And, how are we selecting these delegates without voting????

Posted October 13, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Anarchy, Common sense

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When Doctors Decide Your Disease Doesn’t Actually Exist   Leave a comment

I think I’ve said that I worked as an administrator for a community mental health center for more than a decade.
I can attest to the people whose entire lives have been defined by a disability that I often thought did not apply to that person.
There are people who have schizophrenia who may never be able to work at 9-5 job because they can’t handle the stress and the voices. I’ve met those people. Many of them, however, can work a part-time job with an understanding boss AND SHOULD. And I have met legitimately depressed people who needed help … for a time.
The problem with these diagnoses is that they frequently are used as an excuse for not living. “I can’t get a job because I suffer depression.” Seriously? You were diagnosed 10 years ago and you’ve been stable for a decade and sometime in the last 8 or 9 years you didn’t feel well enough to get off your butt and do something for yourself? You manage to show up at this mental health center several times a week for a free lunch. Seriously? You couldn’t use that energy to work for a living? Then you find out they do have activities to keep them from being bored — church, kids, one woman owned horses — but no, they couldn’t possibly work because they “suffer from depression.”
I’m glad to see the DSM-V is tightening up definitions. Maybe psychiatrists have begun to realize that the country can’t afford so many “disabled” people.

pundit from another planet

People come to like their diagnoses, or at least to feel that they have explanatory power for the dissatisfactions in their lives.

Theodore Dalrymple writes: Diseases that have no objective tests to distinguish them from normality have a tendency to spread like fungus: for example, it is years since I heard anyone say that he was unhappy rather than depressed, and it cannot be a coincidence that 10 percent of the populations of most western countries are now taking antidepressants. Yet the state of melancholia undoubtedly exists, as anyone who has seen a case will attest.

Likewise with autism. I remember an isolated, friendless and uncommunicative patient who tried to kill himself when his landlord could no longer tolerate the collection of light-bulbs that he had collected since childhood, was constantly enlarging, and that now threatened to fill the whole house. For the patient light-bulbs were the meaning of…

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Posted October 12, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

A Nation of 300 Million Slaves   Leave a comment

I listened to Patriot’s Lament today and once again saw the logical end to the sort of anarchy they ascribe to.

It sounds so wonderful. Throw off the yoke of the government, form cooperative communities and use contract rather than coercion to make society work.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. The United States of America is a nation of 300 million people who owe $17 trillion dollars. The largest part of that (a bit more than $1000 billion) is owed to China and about $900 billion to Japan. Japan might think it owes the American people for its booming economy, but China clearly does not believe that. If we dissolve the government and say we the people don’t owe the debt, do we really think they will just forget about it?

Right now we’re slaves to a master of our own choosing — sort of. The Constitution still exists and we have means to reestablish it as the rule of law in the country. If we the people dissolve the institutions that are seen as capable of paying what we owe, there is nothing preventing China from coming to collect from we the people.  I don’t think the UN will protect us. It’s controlled by third-world nations that believe we are the cause of their problems. I think they will allow China to establish an occupying force and put us all to work paying off that debt. Sure, some of us will fight back, but most won’t because they weren’t prepared and China can afford to lose population compared to us. When the patriots are depleted or just plain run out of bullets, we will stop fighting. The numbers are in their favor. And why should they leave after they’ve built factories and farms to turn us to productive capacity?

A nation of 300 million slaves is more profitable after their debt has been paid off.

Just a thought. I’m not against making changes and I like some of the principles of anarchy, but without a state a nation is at the mercy of other states and those states will win because those states are organized and a state-less society would not be.

This is probably why anarchy hasn’t taken off around the world.

Posted October 12, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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Honest Injun   3 comments

So, I don’t generally follow minority politics because, frankly, I’m not a very divided person. I think when DNA combines to make a human being, that human being is unique and individual. I’m comfortable with having a Swedish dad and an Indian-Irish mom. I’m not a Swedish-Irish-Indian American. I’m more of a mutt-American … or, maybe an Alaskan-American.

But occasionally a cousin forwards stuff to me and I give it due consideration because I don’t reject my grandmother’s culture. It defines a part of who I am, just not the whole. Some of my cousins have not figured out yet that I think the whole racial discrimination thing is a con job that’s gone on way too long.

I guess I heard that the Oneida “Nation” is trying to pressure the Washington football team into changing its name. For the record, my tan has a ruddy cast to it, so I’m not insulted by the term “red skin”. If the shoe fits and all that. I’m also a red-head in the summer. That doesn’t insult me either.

As I was reading of this ulta-important effort to bring color-blindness to the world of sports, I noted that President Obama felt the need to weigh in and it really saddened me.

Don’t we have more important things to do in this world?

American Indians are 2.9 million people — about 0.9% of the population. That tiny fraction are prime examples of the destruction power of socialistic programs in this nation. Billions of dollars have been given to set up and profit from Indian corporations/Alaska Native corporations, yet the tribal members are still receiving billions in aid for food, housing, utilities, health care, education and transportation. For that sort of investment, they ought to be some of the wealthiest communites with some of the healthiest and best educated people in the nation, but — no, Native Americans are the greatest percentage of poor, sick, badly educated and, dare I say, whiniest, in the nation.

Here are some numbers to prove my point.

  • Almost 12% of deaths among Native Americans and Alaska Natives are alcohol-related — more than three times the percentage of the general population (11.7% versus 3.3%).
  • High school graduation rates are up nationwide, but almost half of Native Americans failed to graduate in 2010. Roughly 51% of the class of 2010 earned a diploma. In 2008, the Indian demographic peaked at 54%.
  • They are raped or sexually assaulted at a rate four times the national average. They are raped and sexually assaulted mostly by their own tribal members.
  • The number of American Indians and Alaska Natives living below the federal poverty lines was the greatest on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota (51%). Pine Ridge has an 80% unemployment rate and per capita incomes are between $4,000 and $6,000. There are 400 or so homes on the Rez. 150 of them have no runnning water or electricity. Being from Alaska, that doesn’t exactly scare me, but Pine Ridge has been recipient of a lot of government aid. You’d think they could have spent some of it on bathrooms.
  • Native American teens and young adults are committing suicide at more than triple the rate of other young Americans.

I picked on Pine Ridge because I could get statistics for that and it’s not far from where my mom grew up, but Mom was not Oglala. The Wyndake of Canada have done much better than the Sioux or our cousins, the Wyndote in Kansas and Oklahoma. The Wyndake have largely assimilated. The cousins I mention are mixed with other tribes, including Oglala.

The American government solution to the Indian problem is to keep throwing money at the problem, which hasn’t worked in 100 years and probably won’t work ever. Here’s why. If I were hanging out in an Alaskan village, hauling water and chopping wood, waiting for the mail plane to fly in, and watching cable television — I’d be so bored out of my mind by monotony that I might consider alcohol and drugs to be a reasonable recreational activity and suicide to be an alternative to wasting my life, especially if I was surrounded by people all singing the “they won’t let me get off the floor” blues. The fact is, human beings need work and challenges to live meaningful lives and the life I’ve seen on the Rez and in the village embraces despair rather than choice.

It’s all great and wonderful to perserve fading cultures, but not at the expense of current lives.

So, given those statistics, why should I care about what a football team is called? My cousins have way more dragging them down than a semi-accurate descriptive term. And, the biggest thing dragging them down is government aid because they can afford to whine rather than live.

Case For Not Voting   Leave a comment

My research theme of the moment is anarchism – hence the posts on that subject. I am not myself an anarchist. I find reason within some of what anarchists have to say, but not being a koolaid drinker means I can’t wholly embrace any philosophy. That’s why I didn’t become a liberal in college. Andrew Breitbart blamed it on going to class drunk. My excuse is I see the holes in many philosophies and follow those to their logical conclusion and then think – well, that sounds like a good idea, but maybe it won’t work out so good.

Anarchism provides a lot to think about because a lot mascharades under the term “anarchy”. There’s a huge difference between the “anarchy” of the Weather Underground and the anarchy of Patriot’s Lament. Both are against the state, but that’s about the end of the similarities.

At its most basic, anarchism means a system of society that does not have a government, but really the word itself means a system of governance that is not based upon a hierarchy – an’archy.

I’m fascinated and perplexed with why anarchists don’t vote. I’m not exactly buying the “you give your own power away when you vote” and “you elect your own tyrant” arguments. In my opinion, if you don’t vote, you are choosing not to participate in the political process, so you shouldn’t be surprised when those who do decide to participate vote in ways that reduce your liberty. You didn’t take advantage of one of the tools our society provides and have disabled yourself in that way. I’m not saying it is right that the majority of those who show up can restrict the liberties of those who do not. I’m just acknowledging it as a reality that we allow by our complacency – or anarchists embrace for philosophical reasons I’d like to understand.

I also don’t think the results of an election mean the subjects surrounding the election are closed to further debate. Email is a wonderful thing and if you are not engaging your Congressional delegation in this way, you’re not doing all you could to participate in this system of self-governance. I email Mark Begich regularly because I think he is beholding to listen to his constituents even if they didn’t or wouldn’t vote for him. He’s supposed to represent all of us. That he doesn’t is a really good reason to fire him. On the other hand, I recognize that if you voted for Mark Begich, you brought the Affordable Care Act into being. He was the deciding vote even though Alaskan voters were polling 80% against the ACA. Apparently Mark doesn’t believe he needs to listen to his constituents. Lisa Murkowski, who helped draft portions of the bill while on the Senate health subcommittee, did listen to Alaskans and vote against the bill. I won’t vote for her, but I give her that applause because she earned it.

So, I see the point anarchists are trying to make – that elected officials do what they want rather than what we the people want. Representative government is clearly broken and we need to do something about that. I don’t necessarily accept the anarchist idea that not voting is somehow better than voting.

Posted October 11, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, politics

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Finally! A (Distant) Inconvenience?   Leave a comment

Word from the Alaska DIspatch is that fishing guides on the Kenai are having to cancel their charters and the vital airplane links all over Alaska’s largely roadless wilderness are being grounded because of the federal shut down.

Let’s be honest. This is more of a reducing diet than a shut down. Less than 15% of services have been “furloughed”. A shut down would be something to worry about. This is more like where we ought to plan to be in two years rather than where we’re forced to be because our elected officials won’t take needed action.

And, yes, I mean the Democratically-held Senate should be taking action to implement to cost-savings measures (including defunding ObamaCare) that the House has wisely proposed.

So, charters on the Kenai can’t operate because their federal permits are suspended.

That’s a problem if your bottom line relies on those revenues. I’m not arguing that people don’t need to go on fishing charters so what’s the big whoop. It is a big whoop because people can’t exercise their liberty and businesses are impacted negatively. And Alaska needs our general aviation commercial fleets to keep flying. People here cannot simply hop in the car and drive to the nearest market because there are no roads.

But ….

Why is the federal government involved in permitting fishing charters on the Kenai Peninsula in the first place? Why is it involved in certifying general aviation aircraft?

They don’t need to be. Fishing charters could be left to regulate their own numbers through private associations. GA carriers could certify aircraft safety through a similar system.

This is a crisis that the federal government created by taking those tasks on itself and then spending so profligately that they can no longer afford to accomplish those tasks. They were unnecessary regulation to begin with and now the suspension of oversight is being used as an excuse to make the slim-down painful. There’s a solution to that.

First — charter owners — just do it! Be careful how you do it. Don’t dump trash in our waters, etc., but just do it and if the feds try to pull your permit afterwards, refuse to accept their “guidance”.

GA carriers — just do it. Make sure your maintenance records are in order, take the safety precautions you normally would take and just do what needs to be done. And, if the FAA comes back and pulls rank, ignore them.

Governor Parnell has already stated that the State of Alaska is willing to take up this argument. So, just do it! Push back! Act like free men and women and make use of your liberty and, hey, force the State to have this discussion with the feds.

When will there ever be a better time for civil disobedience to nonsense administrative state regulation? Let today start a new chapter in our relationship with the federal government — a chapter in which we take back our liberty and the federal government looks petty and tyrannical if they try to stop us.

We Get What We Ask For   2 comments

Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for every other form of government.” Wise man. All forms of government stink, some worse than others, and democracy is just the least smelly of an odiferous bunch.

I wouldn’t want to live under a dictatorship, socialism or communism. I opt for liberty and I’ll take it in part if I can’t have it in whole. Let’s be honest, though – democracy is failing in America and we can’t just blame the politicians and corporations for subverting the people’s will. We actually voted for our own self-destruction by electing professional liars, thieves and tyrants to represent us.

The democratic process is really just a popularity contest. Voters inevitably support the lawmakers who offer the best free or low-cost stuff in the shortest time possible, regardless of the long-term consequences to the nation. The problem with that thinking is that no government can offer something to one person without first taking it from another. Entitlements, handouts, and benefits offered by government are always confiscated from others in society. As those goodies increase in size and scope, that confiscatory scheme creates a downward spiral of entitlements leading to inescapable debt because governments (not just socialist governments) always run out of other people’s money.

That doesn’t stop us from voting for the leader that tells the best lies in our electoral popularity contests. Thus, when realistic candidates say America is in deep debt and must shrink government or go the way of the Roman Empire, the majority looks around for a fantasy-land candidate who says there’s nothing to worry about.

Real governance requires tough decisions, especially in a nation that is $17 trillion in debt. Tough decisions are unpopular and unlikely to be supported by a majority of voters. Most people are far more concerned with their own immediate benefit than the future they might be handing to their children or grandchildren. We vote for our short-term interests rather than the long-term viability of the nation.

Democracy is failing in America for this reason and we are headed toward a near-certain collapse probably within our lifetimes and perhaps much sooner than we expect. Most of us are unwilling to elect a president who honestly tells us that we must cut the federal government by 80% to balance the budget while maintaining the same level of taxation for the next decade in order to pay off the debt. Too many people are into the cookie jar up to their elbows to hear that. Too many voters depend on government checks. Too many wealthy corporations rely on government enforcement of monopolies and subsidies.

In past generations, it might have been possible – back when America was an educated country whose 8th grade graduates could do basic math and had read the Constitution. Today, the concept of compound interest on the national debt is going over the heads of most college graduates. We are a nation of short-term consumers, trained to think in two- to four-year cycles, to calculate in this year’s budget only and to vote accordingly.

Yeah, some of us are sounding the alarm, but if you’re not also storing food and ammunition for the inevitable reset, you’re a fool.

Slaves Don’t Need to Be Smart   Leave a comment

Fairbanks just had its local elections. We were voting on the City mayor, some School Board seats, some Borough Assembly seats and some bond issues.

I think local elections are far more important than presidential elections because what happens locally affects us way more than what happens in DC. DC can pass all the administrative lunacy it wants and it wouldn’t matter if local officials had backbones and told them to go pound sand.

So, this election had a clear choice of City mayor. The current mayor is a business man who wanted to serve the community for a couple of years and then go back to his business. He’s done that and he’s doing that. Neither candidate, in my opinion, was of the same caliber as Jerry Cleworth, but there was a clear choice. The fiscally conservative small business owner who had a fairly consistent conservative voting record while on the City Council or the labor lawyer who never saw a spending ordinance he didn’t like while he was on the City Council. The conservative said she would follow a policy of not increasing the budget or dipping into the municipal savings account. The labor lawyer said he was planning to give the city employees (already the highest paid workers in town) a raise and that he saw no problem with this because we have a savings account. The newspaper comments showed people pretty much didn’t like John Eberhart’s spending plan, but they thought Vivian Stiver didn’t have enough experience running large businesses to be qualified as mayor. Which was odd because Jerry Cleworth was also a small business owner with no large business experience and he’s been great, according to almost everyone except the labor unions.

School Board and Borough Assembly seats are non-partisan. It was a mixed bag on the people who won. Some will be good. Some will be bad.

The bond issues were the most worrisome. The School District wanted us to bond to replace a school that is only 40 years old because, they said, it was structurally deficient and not earthquake safe. Except that in 2002, Ryan Junior High withstood a 7.9 magnitude quake and suffered ZERO damage. That’s the largest quake Fairbanks has experienced in recorded history. So what’s the problem with Ryan. The bond issue would more than double our indebtedness and come to the highest level of indebtedness that the Borough has ever had, including during the Pipeline days when we built multiple schools very rapidly because of incredible population increases.

Seems like a no-brainer. Vote for the fiscal conservative for City Mayor and vote down the bond issues. If you read the newspaper comments, you’d have thought that would be the outcome.

But …

Only 14% of registered voters showed up for the election. The bond issues passed with 60% margins and John Eberhart will be our new mayor. There goes the City’s savings account. We’re now deeply in debt as a community (or will be by spring, anyway). We’re going to give overpaid workers a raise.

I previously posted that I thought Fairbanks had finally begun to reap the benefits of years of fiscal sanity.

Guess not.

And that, folks, is why the whole system from DC to Podunck is going to come crashing down. It’s pretty to think that a return to federalism will fix things, but I’m starting to think it won’t. We as a people are apparently too stupid to come in out of the rain. Maybe we’ll get smarter after the UN allows China to annex us for the purposes of paying our debt.

Of course, how smart we become then won’t matter. Slaves don’t need to be smart.

Bears and the Federal Shutdown   3 comments

Nine days into the federal “shutdown”, I finally encountered a potential inconvenience.

The White Mountain National Recreational Area is just over the ridgeline from our family cabin. It’s possible we share the same bears. We certainly have an aggressive grizzly in our valley.

And, now the federal government is not hauliing away the trash from the bear-proof garbage bins and the bears are snacking at the wilderness equivalent of White Castle.

“Sweet” bears — those who have been habituated to human food — are more dangerous than truly wild bears. It’s remotely possible that these bears might someday wander across the ridge into my valley and attempt to eat me … which is one of the many reasons I own a gun.

Of course, this is actually easily dealt with. Just give me the key to the bins and send me out with someone carrying a shot gun and we’ll haul the garbage out and seal up the bins so humans won’t keep using them and put signs on them saying “Haul your trash”.

This is, by the way, what we do at our cabin. We haul our trash and police our food. Alaskans have been doing this for generations. It was the NPS and BLM who brought in the bear-safe bins and tempted us to use them. Prior to that, we were smart enough to not attract bears.

So, I promised I’d report when I encountered an inconvenience. I haven’t yet, actually, but potentially — maybe — someday — but it didn’t need to be in the first place.

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