Up in Smoke

Well, it looks like the smoking bans are going statewide now. Texas apparently has a ban up for consideration according to Thomas Firey over at CATO in this podcast.

The funny thing is, the reason I think it’s funny, is that Thomas Firey’s final suggestion
should sound familiar to anyone who’s heard me argue the subject of smoking before.

[Blog entries on the politics of smoking]

“Set up a system in which the businesses declare their intention to either be smoking or non-smoking, and let the market decide the outcome.”

May he have more luck arging this with the hardcore Pro-smokers than I have.

The Vote

Took the time to go out and vote today, just like I always do. I generally ignore the comments from some of my Anarcho-Capitalists friends, the types of comments that amount to “Voting is two wolves and a sheep deciding on what’s for dinner.” Not that I disagree with the sentiment concerning voting. It’s just that I’m a realist (unlike most of them) and I play the hand that has been dealt to me. Part of playing that hand is participation in the process. If you don’t participate, you really don’t have any room to bitch about the outcome.

Case in point, these Anarcho-Capitalists who don’t vote, who go to great pains to not vote, who spend a lot of energy convincing others of the futility of voting; these self same Anarcho-Capitalists will proceed to laugh at the sorry returns for Libertarian candidates (or mainstream candidates and issues that they might be in agreement with) and say, “see how pointless it all is”. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

I’m sorry, but that minuscule return is there to ridicule because people like me haul our sorry butts out on election day and cast ballots for the candidates and issues that conscience dictates we support. If we relied on your holier-than-thou selves, there wouldn’t be any candidates, or any numbers to ridicule, at all. The truism “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing” can’t be shown any clearer.

Not that I want to force them to vote. I just wish they’d think before spouting off about how pointless it all is. It’s real easy to sit on your hands and moan about how helpless you are; it’s another thing to expend your best effort in defiance of the naysayers, committing yourself to an effort that you essentially know is hopeless, but you would kick yourself if you didn’t at least try.

My hat goes off to all the Libertarian Party (and other third party) candidates and their staff tonight, for putting themselves through hell, and then some, for nothing more than the simple need to see something better than “politics as usual” on the ballot. For supporting people that they believed in, no matter what the odds were.

And the odds were pretty insurmountable. I can say, in Texas, that we didn’t win any major victories, although it looks like we may have squeaked out the percentage needed to stay on the ballot for another 4 years. (Texas election Returns) That, in itself, is quite a victory. Getting back on the ballot is an expensive process that should be avoided if possible.

Someone noted, during the last election, that the Libertarian candidates in most races had vote totals larger than the number of votes separating the winner and the looser of that race; the observation still seems to be true. More than that can be said, though. The Republicans lost the house and Senate because they betrayed the small government conservatives who make up a good portion of the libertarians out there. And many of the small gov’t social liberals consciously shifted their votes to Democrat (there was a lot of talk about this on CATO unbound and CATO podcast recently, as well as on Daily Kos) as the founding of Democratic Freedom Caucus (the Democrat version of the Republican Liberty Caucus) should have signaled to anyone who was paying attention.

[For more on this, check out the Op. Ed. Examining the Libertarian Vote in Depth by David Boaz and David Kirby]

So there were a few beacons of hope out there, if you were looking.

However, property owners in Austin (the sheep in the scenario above) once again were shafted on all 7 propositions put before voters this year; all of which passed, and all of which will raise property taxes.

Those of us who were cheering for a return to divided gov’t have reason to celebrate. The two parties will at least have to pretend to hate each others ideas for the next two years. It should slow down the juggernaut that the federal deficit has become. I doubt that anything is going to save the economy, though. And if the economy goes South, there’s only one possible outcome…

Hillary in 2008. Now that’s a nightmare.

But, that nightmare is two years away. Now is the time to get back to building the Libertarian party, fixing the defaced platform, and the hundred other thankless tasks that need to be done behind the scenes; just so that our erstwhile brothers in the libertarian movement can cast aspersions on our (in their very vocal opinion) hopeless efforts.

Here’s to making them eat their words next time around.


Mea culpa review 2017. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. The wife of the blowjob president was the nominee for the Democratic party and I voted for her. Donald Trump holds the office of president. I refer to him as His Electoral Highness. It is a weird world we live in. I still have libertarian delusions but I have medications that keep those in check.

I have become a supporter of mandatory voting and mandatory service.  I blame the people who delude themselves into thinking they are sovereign and don’t need other people to survive. Sociopathy appears to be running rampant on the internet. 

Libertarian and Liberty Minded Talk

I’ve been listening to Free Talk Live of late (you might have noticed I’ve blogged on the subject a few times) But I’ve also stumbled across a few other sources that bear mentioning.

CATO’s daily podcast has been quite informative, as is FMNN eradio.

I heard about Dan Carlin on Free Talk Live. I’ve enjoyed his rants on occasion; his tendency to deliver his points with emphasis, in a fashion reminiscent of Captain Kirk, can be distracting (or amusing) at times. I recommend his programs anyway. They do get the grey matter flowing.

As far as regular radio format, Jeff Ward in the afternoons on KLBJ-AM is probably the best three hours of local talk to be had on a daily basis. It’s too bad the morning show is so lackluster.

Most people will direct you to iTunes if you are looking for audio content to transfer to a handheld device for playback. I have no use for iTunes, I don’t have an iPod (it’s those pesky DRM issues that go along with iTunes purchases) although the iPod craze is to be thanked for providing a new market for the talk format. However, you don’t need iTunes (or an iPod) to download and listen to Podcasts. If you’re just looking for some new content to listen to, check out Podcast Alley. Get an RSS aggregator for your browser (I use Firefox and Sage myself) and start searching. I was able to find and download podcasts for Penn Jillette and the Mises Institute (recommended by a fellow FTL listener) within minutes using these tools. Loaded up and ready to go on the old Treo 650.

Keeping a constant stream of information going is critical for a news-talk junkie like myself.

Ghosts, is it?

Listening to the Halloween edition of Free Talk Live today, while the host trots out some accounts of Ghost Hunters and their exploits in New York and New Jersey to laugh at.

I’d like to say up front that I am not a believer; but having had experiences with what most people refer to as spirits, experiences that I cannot explain, I can’t dismiss the possibility of the paranormal. (More on that in a bit)

Ghost Hunters is a weekly show on the SciFi channel, they are in their third season. The episode with the theater and an orb of light that was discussed and laughed about on air was one where (contrary to the jokes) they debunked any claims to paranormal activity. If I remember correctly, the owners were actually relieved that there wasn’t evidence of anything occurring. It wasn’t something they were comfortable with.

It became painfully clear early in the radio show that the subject of the paranormal did not fall on sympathetic ears, as anyone who called with experiences that they tried to explain, or factual data (in the form of EVP’s) that didn’t make normal sense were immediately attacked with questions like “why aren’t there any real scientists working on it” calling into question anything not done by licensed professionals (a very un-libertarian stance for a libertarian talkshow) as if gov’t approved professionals were the be all and end all on any subject. The scientific method can be followed by anyone, whether they are a scientist or not.

James Randi and his million dollar challenge came up several times. The Amazing Randi isn’t offering a million dollars just for proof of the supernatural, he’s offering a million dollars for reproducible proof. Since the phenomena in question cannot be reproduced at will, there is no way to make a claim for the million. Randi is a debunker, and he’s particularly vicious when he’s debunking. I wouldn’t volunteer to be subject to the type of ridicule that would follow such a claim, not for several million.

[the Wife’s father could witch water wells. All the farmers in the area swore by him. When his partner wanted a well dug, he refused to rely on that ‘water witch’ rubbish and hired an engineer to drill his well. Several thousand dollars and several hundred feet later, they hit some rather poor and slow running water that the engineers said was the best they could do. After a few months, he gave up and asked Dad to try a hand at finding better water, which he did. About 15 feet away and 30 feet down. Better water than Dad had on his property. I never saw this occur myself, and Dad has been gone several years now. I would have advised him not to try for the million.]

The problem with the supernatural or paranormal is that it doesn’t reproduce itself on demand so that peers can verify the existence of this or that phenomenon. Time and again as I watch Ghost Hunters or some other show dealing with these types of stories, I think to myself “well, that could have been faked” or “this is how that chair could have moved”.

It’s all too easy to be debunked, unless it happens to you.


In my years of service in the architectural field, I have spent innumerable nights in the office, working until late in the morning hours, most times all by myself. While I was generally downtown in some not-so-nice areas late at night, I was never really afraid. I’m not a large man, but I can run fast, and I do know some basic defense tactics.

When I took a job for a firm whose office was in one of the older buildings downtown, I never really thought much about the history of the place, or the particulars of it’s location, or what an impact that might have on my ability to work the late hours that are generally required of architects, but it had an impact none the less.

I was struck, at first, by how quaint the structure was. Nestled against the side of an old quarry, it was backed by an old carriage house that had been renovated into offices as well. After a few weeks of work I settled into my usual routine of staying late and cranking out the work after everyone else left. Gradually I noticed that everyone else tended to leave earlier than usual in the evening; earlier than usual for an architectural office.

After a week or so, I noticed that the place started to feel less quaint, and more threatening, especially at night. I kept hearing people walking, when I knew I was alone in the building. It really started to get weird though, after I traded places with another architect. She wanted to move to the tiny little cramped cubicle that I was in, and was willing to give up a double sized cube space in order to do it. I thought it strange that she would want the cramped space I was in, but jumped at the chance to spread out a bit in a larger space.

Slowly, over the course of the next 12 months, a spiralling series of experiences convinced me that I was either loosing my mind, or that there was something wrong with my environment, something I could not explain.

I began to feel like someone was watching me. It wasn’t all the time, that I could have explained. Weirdly enough it was right about 7:30 pm, pretty much every night. I dismissed it at first as having my back to the floor entrance (a dog-leg stair from the upper floor) but I could not figure out why it didn’t bother me until evening time.

There were windows all around, but it didn’t feel like there was anybody outside. No matter how many times I looked, I never did catch anyone peeping through the windows. Peeping would have been hard anyway. Technically we were on the second floor above the quarry floor, but the front entrance was on the floor above and opened onto the original street that bordered the quarry. The window in my cube tended not to reflect any light off of it, almost like it opened onto nothing (the opposing building wall that was no more than 10 feet away always seemed invisible at night) which was a bit disturbing on its own.

I can’t tell you the number of times I heard footsteps on the upper floor, or walking down the stairs, only to investigate and find no one there. Once, with another architect present, we listened as footsteps appeared to walk the length of the upper floor and go right through a wall on their way out to the street.

Then there was the crowding and the touching. I kept feeling someone leaning over the back of my chair, pushing me into the desk. I kept having to consciously push myself away from the keyboard so that my arms would quit cramping. Something kept touching me on the neck, like fingers brushing across my skin.

It got to the point that I would leave as soon as the eyes started watching at 7:30. If I didn’t leave then, and stayed until the presence was in the cube with me, then when I attempted to leave I would feel as if I was being pursued. All the lights on in a clearly vacant room, and I’m terrified that there is someone who intends me harm, right behind me. Try as I might, I could not shake the feeling.

It was all I could do to make myself walk calmly up the stairs and let myself out. There was frequently an inexplicable cold spot at the top of the stairs, where the warmest air in the building should have been. As soon as I had exited the building, the feeling went away. I’m standing on a dark street, next to a vacant lot that is several feet deep in overgrowth; a place where the homeless were known to congregate, and I feel safer there than in the building.

I began to feel like there were two buildings in the same place at night. One was finished in the clear varnished oak and carpet that I was familiar with; the other was painted dark, cut into small rooms with old fashioned panel doors. Dingy little apartments. I can’t explain why I began to see this juxtaposition in space, I can only say that I did.

Once, when I heard a loud thump on the floor behind me, I spun around to find, just for a second, someone or something standing behind me. There and then gone again. I caught the same figure out of the corner of my eye a few more times after that. Ragged coat. Hat pulled low. Dirty worn out boots. Watching a door in the dark hallway. Waiting for someone. Waiting for someone with violence in his heart.

I wish I could write a fitting climax to the story, but I can’t. I was let go from the firm not too long after that time, and I haven’t had any urge to go back.

I would say that this was “the god’s honest truth”, but I don’t believe in god. It is the truth, exactly as I remember it. I didn’t believe in ghosts. I don’t know what I believe now, but I know that I can’t explain what happened in that building in the evenings. I just know that I wouldn’t stay late at work in that place again, not even if you paid me.


Mea culpa review, 2017.

I rewrote a part of this in a 2014 piece titled Paranormal? Ghosts? I realize going back through these posts that I never updated this one with a Big Bowl of Crow reference or even append my current thoughts on the subject of the paranormal,

As an example, the Wife’s father could witch water wells. All the farmers in the area aside from his farming partner swore by him. Now, this man was no ignorant Oklahoma farmer. He was a college educated man who served his country in the secret service during WWII. He worked as an extension agent later in life, teaching other farmers in the area how to make their farms produce.  He just also happened to be a water witch. When his farming partner wanted a well dug he refused to rely on that water witch‘ rubbish and hired an engineer to drill his well. Several thousand dollars and several hundred feet later, they hit some rather poor and slow running water that the engineers said was the best they could do. After a few months, the man gave up and asked my father in law to try a hand at finding better water, which he did. About 15 feet away and 30 feet down. Better water than could be found on my father-in-law’s own property. I never saw this occur myself, and Dad has been gone several years now, so I have no way of testing the veracity of his claims, and I remain unconvinced that the ideomotor effect is a sufficient explanation for experiences like his.

Most ghost experiences are actually quite normal.  There are documented physical properties of sleeping that lend themselves to the idea of abduction (Sleep Paralysis for one) or can lead you to believe that you see people who aren’t there just as you begin to fall asleep, or immediately upon waking (I have a recurring nightmare lately where I see light patterns that remind me of Threshold. I have no idea why.  They persist into wakefulness, and have to be actively brushed away in order for me to quit seeing them) I’ve had both experiences several times, myself. Once you understand what causes them, they become far less frightening.

The problem with the supernatural or paranormal is that it doesn’t reproduce itself on demand so that your peers can verify the existence of this or that phenomenon. Time and again as I watch some show dealing with these types of stories, I think to myself “well, that could have been faked” or “this is how that chair could have moved”. It’s all too easy to be debunked, unless it happens to you; and once it happens, you cannot simply dismiss the very real emotions that the experience generates.  You want the phenomena to be true, as in accepted by your peers as true. Unfortunately no one can understand what it is you experienced, no matter how much they may want to. Experiences like the one I’m about to relate aren’t easy to quantify, to set down in words with meanings others can understand in the way we mean. For myself, I’m left grasping at straws for explanations of things I only imperfectly remember even the next day. 

Most of my desire to see something proved on the paranormal front has evaporated with time.  The most likely explanation is that perceptions in these areas are simply flawed, and we tend to believe what our senses tell us even when they are wrong. The problem remains distinguishing between the flaws and the real. Not nearly as easy as debunkers think it is. 

Free Talk Live: IP and Disney

Listening to the Wednesday edition of Free Talk Live on my Treo 650 today; listening to Ian pound Mark over the head for his support for Intellectual Property rights. (third day in a row, I might add…)

Generally, I agree with Mark on this issue. As an architect, I know that the thought that goes into design is a valuable commodity that needs to be protected. Otherwise the less scrupulous out there will simply wait for someone else to do the hard work of invention so that they can then profit from it at the inventor’s expense. Contrary to Ian’s assertions, I’ve not seen any evidence that people will do the months and years of work required to bring something to market unless they have reasonable confidence that they will make a profit from it. If anybody can copy a design and be free to sell it the day after it hits the market (or as in the case of the Chinese clothing ‘pirates’, even before it hits the market) then the chances for profit are greatly reduced. I don’t know of any business that stays in business without making a profit.

On the other hand, I don’t really believe that corporations (like Disney) should be allowed to hold rights to intellectual property. Those rights should be limited to real people, not legal entities that will continue to expect a profit long past the lifespan of the original author. Disney is a prime example of this, since their lobbying was instrumental in getting the latest extension to copyright terms passed.

There is a phrase that applies to the subject of Disney characters and the school mural that was the subject of rather heated discussion on Wednesday’s show. That phrase is “work of art”. A work of art is generally exempt from claims of copyright infringement. That doesn’t stop the corporations with lawyers and money at their disposal threatening people with legal action if their demands aren’t met. The truth is that the school blinked when Disney decided to play hard ball. If push had come to shove, Disney would probably have dropped the case.

Copyright terms expiring was the real reason for Disney going after public displays of their copyrighted works. Like Coke being synonymous with cola and Kleenex with facial tissue, Disney was fighting the battle of keeping their property from passing into the public domain; and they won that battle by passing new legislation. If corporations were excluded from owning these types of property, the entire battle could have been avoided.

[On the question from a listener concerning the objectivist opinion on the subject; as an objectivist myself, I think I can vouch for the fact that objectivists in general understand the need to protect the “mind’s contribution” to the creative effort]

Oh, and Ian, your disbelief in intellectual property doesn’t equate to the non-existence of intellectual property. But your willingness to steal other peoples ideas speaks volumes to the subject of why the MPAA and the RIAA are willing to go to such lengths to protect their investments.

For what it’s worth, this is one of those arguments that illustrates the very narrow difference between a communist (in the government-less nature of the word ‘commune’) and the little ‘a’ anarchists and the extreme edge of the Libertarian party. They would also tell you that ideas ‘should be free’, but I’m not willing to live in their version of utopia either.

Constitution Day

Constitution Day is today (Sunday, the 17th of September) not that the average citizen would know this. If you look on the average calendar, you probably won’t find a mention of the day, which is a sad state of affairs when it comes to honoring one of the most important documents in American history.

When you ask a couple of jaded professors to write something about Constitution day, you get something like what appeared in The Chronicle a few days back; a rather biting attempt at humor from people who have come to revile the founding fathers for creating the document that can’t be made to do what they want, when they want it.

[what do you expect from the author of askphilosophers.org, a rather transparent attempt to make todays philosophy and it’s philosophers relevant to the average person. I don’t think he’s succeeding. Post-modernists have nothing going for them but contempt for everything else that exists]

Which is precisely the problem with gov’t in the US today. Too many people with too little understanding of gov’t and it’s place in society, demanding more from gov’t and never asking where the funds to meet their demands will come from.

Jay Leno said it best:

As you may have heard, the US is putting together a constitution for
Iraq. Why don’t we just give them ours? Think about it — it was
written by very smart people, it’s served us well for over two hundred
years, and besides, we’re not using it anymore.

Anyone who is seriously interested in learning about the Constitution, and how it came to be, should visit Constitution.org. If you write an e-mail message to Cato, they’ll send you a copy of the constitution, as discussed in this Cato Daily Podcast.

The flag I fly on Constitution day? The Gadsden. It expresses everything one needs to understand about the founders and their intent in forming this ‘new nation’.


I really don’t even know where to begin. I don’t fly the Gadsden any longer, although I still have one. The Tea Party stole that icon from me. Flying it now ties one to their lunacy and I really don’t need more confusion in my messaging.

I’m planning on writing an update to this post in 2018. Let’s see if that happens.

Constitutional Money

Every time I get into a discussion of money, someone brings up the Constitutional limitations on states, including the limitations of what can be accepted as money, which is found in Art I, Sec. 10, Clause 1, it reads:

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

They always point to the Federal Reserve and say “see, the FRN isn’t constitutional money!” Which is patently obvious, given the facts.

They never reverse it, which is something I find quite curious; why the several states don’t abide by the constitution themselves? Why don’t they refuse payment in fiat notes (the standard FRN baseless paper bills) and demand payment in gold and silver coin, as is required by law? Why do they continue the self-destructive delusion that there is real value in the US dollar? Value other than “the full faith and credit of”…? Whatever that’s worth.

Can you imagine what the results of that would be?

“No, I’m sorry Mr. President, but I have to abide by the rule of law, and the law states that gold and silver coin is the only thing we can accept as payment for the federal gov’ts debts. If we don’t receive your payment in gold and silver, I’m afraid we will have to put a stop to payments of our citizens tax monies into the federal treasury…”

To be present in the Oval Office to get a picture of that event. Priceless.



My only reaction to this article for the mea culpa review process in 2017? Coded language. I hate coded language. FRN is Federal Reserve Notes. FRN is newspeak of the sovereign movement and its wrong-headed ideas about currency and value. I really can’t broach my current thoughts on money as a mere addendum to this post. They warrant a much longer piece which I truthfully haven’t started writing yet.

A decade and more of listening to economist podcasts and reading economic books (as well as others) has radically altered my understanding of money in ways that are hard to describe without digging into the meat of philosophy and economics. Suffice it to say that my thoughts on money at this point in 2006 were truly infantile.

Which is sad, because I’ve always thought I had a pretty good idea what money was and what trade for value meant. I’ve been a hard bargainer at the negotiating table and have generally secured better than average compensation for my work, lower than average outlay for the goods I need. I understood it better than most people around me seemed to then, and I understand so much more about it now that it makes reading these old posts quite painful.

Still, I never did get an answer beyond the obvious one as to why the states have not made a fuss about the federal government subverting the Constitution with its current money not based on gold and silver as the document demands. Obviously they want the carnival ride to continue, that is why they haven’t. But the question still needs an answer, and the deviation from code should be corrected by updating the code itself.

Which is why the longer post about the nature of money is something I really should take the time to write.

McDonald’s gender issues

When we are pressed for time during a car trip, we have been known to pull into the local burger place to get the children something to eat. Truth be told, we do this far too often. The son always wants a kid’s meal, while the daughter has outgrown all that ‘baby stuff’ and gets salads these days. But that boy wants his prize with his chicken nuggets.

I’ve spent untold hours of my life repeating to them both “I don’t buy food for the toys, you get a toy with the food” in a vain attempt to avoid that “But I got this toy last time” argument. The ploy has never actually worked, but hope does spring eternal that one day I won’t hear “I want a different one!” when the toy is revealed. All this preparation and groundwork goes to waste though when the employee working the drive through window asks “Is the meal for a boy or a girl?”

McDonald’s frequently does these targeted marketing promotions with their kids meals. They give the boys trucks or weapons to play with, and they give the girls dolls or fluffy bunnies to nurture, as if the boys couldn’t do with some training in nurturing, or as if girls don’t have any interest in trucks. (or weapons) Not that McDonald’s is the only place with this problem. I witnessed a parent completely lose it once at the counter when the truly apologetic teen in the spotless uniform offered her son one of the girls toys with the explanation “this is all I have left”. She drug her son screaming and stomping (her, not her son) out of the restaurant, but I think the child would have been happier to have the ‘girls toy’ than to listen to mom make a fool of herself in public.

For as long as I’ve had children I have fought a losing battle not to go to McDonald’s. I don’t eat there, but the children beg endlessly to go (television marketing does work) and, really, one burger is pretty much the same as any other when it comes to national fast food chain stores. When the window attendant asks the question boy or girl? I won’t answer it directly. “A truck toy” or “A doll toy” is the best they will ever get from me, and I have driven off on a food order when the attendant presses me to answer girl or boy specifically. There’s always another McDonald’s a few blocks away. In McDonald’s defense, they’ve actually started noting the button on the register Truck and Doll a notation which displays on the order screen, but the person on the loudspeaker inevitably asks girl or boy? every time.

You’re probably wondering where this is all going at this point. Well, I’ll tell ya.

I gave in to the begging again tonight and wandered by the local McDonald’s. I pull up to the drive through window and notice that they’ve changed the marketing promo to Cars (the new Pixar film, I’ll be seeing it) and they give these cars to both genders of children. Here they’ve built up this 15 year legacy of properly filing the children away in their correct gender roles, only to blow it with this new promo that features ONLY CARS.

Cars for girls.

Fire that new marketing director. He’s clueless. The next thing you know, they’ll be giving dolls to boys instead of action figures.


2018 Mea Culpa review. I did a little refining of the wordsmithing for this one and that’s it. I did want to add a link to this episode of Hidden Brain, itself a repeat of a show first aired a few years previously. Still, it makes the same case that I make about gender stereotypes and how harmful they can be. Enjoy!