The Charitable Steel Man

Not sure if you have any pull with Jim or not but I would like to continue the debate with you, just a bit unsure if that is the correct forum. I DO appreciate Jim for his non political writings, and do not wish to become airlocked.

In truth I have been well noticed, particularly by Jim, and received a tongue lashing and an allowance to stay. I make a point to stay within his posted rules of decorum and by those rules, I do not believe he wants a complete echo chamber. See rule #1. If you can reach him, ask for him to respond to me in PM. All debate will be in the same manner in which we have already been discussing things.

This was a private message from the opponent that a good portion of the article The Key to Ending Mass Shootings? was directed at before I took the time to generalise the argument in a way that made it more monologue, less dialog. I try to go through Facebook memories on a daily basis. I do this to pick up the conversational tidbits that never made it onto the blog, and then I put them on the blog where I unquestionably own all the content. Anyone who has read a post of mine and noticed the small print at the end probably realizes I do this. Yesterday was just another day. I search for a text string with the blog search function, and if that string isn’t there somewhere, I create an article and try to embroider what is frequently two or three sentences of text into something that unambiguously makes a statement, drives home a point.

Yesterday I looked at three paragraphs of text on a historical article and realized I’d never finished the article I was trying to create from those three paragraphs. What’s worse, I had preserved those paragraphs written on the spur of the moment, and a whole separate thread of comments that I had written in response to arguments presented in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting last year. Reading through the unfinished article, I realized that I had taken the time to write rather lengthily on the subject. For some reason that I can’t remember I abandoned the work mid-sentence.

So, I did my best to clean it all up and finally posted it to the blog a year late and a dollar short, and then I do what I always do and posted a link to the article on the threads where the content was posted. I do this as a mental note to myself, you’ve preserved this on the blog already, rather than in the hope that someone will notice and comment subsequently. Few people do notice and even fewer comment. This was an even rarer moment. An opponent that wants to continue beating a dead horse a year later. I’ve never seen that before.

First he took me to task for dredging the thread back up again. I in turn complimented him on avoiding Jim’s airlock for more than a year, going so far as to marvel at how he managed to get into the group in the first place let alone avoid capture and ejection for over a year. Considering how strident his attacks were, not getting airlocked in the subsequent year is no small feat. Then he PM’d me with the message above, and when I didn’t reply right away, he commented on the thread that I needed to check my messenger app. I’ll try to avoid the ire I feel at being chided for resurrecting a zombie thread, while at the same time being told I need to pay attention to said zombie thread and long dead counter arguments. I’ll try to do that and simply answer the specific question asked.

I don’t know Jim Wright. I was lucky and discovered his writing early. I got into his circle of friends on Facebook before he hit the 5000 max. It has not been all sunshine and kittens. I have had my share of disagreements with him in the past, mostly over the finer points of intellectual property (I should put those comments on the blog but I’d have to find them first) I’ve faced some pretty heated arguments with him. I’ve consciously risked airlocking more than once. I had people whispering to me both times,

“You better back down. You better change that post. He seems pretty mad.”

I’m a professional when it comes to arguments on the internet. I read every comment at least three times before posting, and I do this on every platform I participate on. I read the offered replies and I try to gauge the best argument I can assemble from the point being made. I’ve tried to employ the steel man technique for longer than I’ve known it’s name. If you are charitable, employing the principle of charity, rather than picking the flimsiest straw man you can concoct just so you can make the biggest splash possible, you’ll get less reflexive pushback from opponents. If all else fails, I walk away from the keyboard and contemplate the argument to get past the emotion. Sometimes I do this for weeks. Sometimes the navel gazing lasts for years.

If I can’t get past the emotion I simply don’t reply anymore. I won’t reply or I block the user, leave the group, whatever. If you respond in anger, your opponent wins the argument. They’ve forced you to act irrationally with their barbs. I’ve tested this truism many times. Responding in anger is always worse than not responding. I don’t succeed in striking a balance every time (no one does) but in the case of arguments on Jim’s turf, I want to be sure to go out well. As he has said more than once (paraphrasing) if you’re going to go out the airlock anyway, go out with style. If I post to Stonekettle Station, I try to make whatever I say something that is unambiguous in its point and worthy as my last words to live by. Because those words might well be the last words anyone on the group reads from me.

This caution on my part is well earned. My most innocuous attempts at humor have lead to violent outrage by former friends in the past. Some of these encounters are documented on the blog. Clever comments are rarely seen as clever by the targeted reader. The authors of poorly crafted arguments never thank you for taking their arguments apart. I’ve been blocked innumerable times, and I have my own lengthy block list that I add to prophylactically. I do this on every platform that allows blocking, and I don’t stay long on platforms that don’t allow content moderation. Arguments inevitably go sideways if someone is invested in their argument, if it represents a core belief or if emotions are running high. If emotions are at play, like when a gunnut kills 59 people and injures at least 527 at a concert. Or possibly when another ammosexual kills 17 high school students and injures 17 more. Children the same age as your own children that are gunned down in classrooms much like the classrooms your children are currently in.

You tend to not think clearly, in those cases. You really cannot think clearly, no matter how many years go by, and you just want the senseless killing to come to an end. You are motivated to see the circumstances change, no matter how many years go by, and no matter how many armaphiles just can’t bear to be separated from their cherished collections. In those cases it is time for the status quo to change, and it will change because enough people want it to change.

Opponents will be blocked in those instances. There really isn’t the mental space for contemplating not doing something. Opponents will be airlocked mercilessly until the lunacy comes to an end. Opponents will be blocked, their comments deleted, their participation in the conversation erased. This is true of everyone. Everyone will hit their August Landmesser moment.

Who is August Landmesser? Just another ordinary German. Someone trying to get along and be reasonable in the face of the complete lack of reason being displayed by everyone around him. Until he can’t ignore it anymore and rebels. He refuses to play along even though it costs him his life in the end. Once you realize that the authority you are responsible to no longer makes reasonable requests but instead asks you to sit idly by while the people you love are ground up by the machinery of profit, you’ll hit that moment yourself. When you realize that reason is no longer prevalent, you face an unenviable choice. You can conform to the nightmare in front of you and abandon who you were, or you can fight the nightmare in front of you with every weapon at your disposal.

This is me doing what I can for the cause. For the cause of not seeing more children shot while sitting in their classroom. For the cause of ending mass shootings as we have come to endure them here in the United States. I will tolerate this insanity no longer. #NeverAgain

Everytown for Gun Safety – Sick of leaders doing nothing to fight gun violence? So are we. Let’s work together and #ThrowThemOuthttp://every.tw/2sAcIwT

Struggling = Poverty

This was the headline that the Texas Standard chose to run for this story. It’s soft-pedaling hogwash, that’s what that headline is. Forty-two Percent of Texans Are Poor is how that headline should read. That is what the coded word ‘struggle’ represents. Poverty.

Texas Standard –Despite A Booming Economy, 42 Percent Of Texans Struggle

Though the state’s economy is experiencing relatively healthy growth overall, a new report by the United Ways of Texas shines a light on the surprising number of Texans who are struggling financially. The new report, “ALICE, A Study of Hardship in Texas,” says 42 percent of all households in Texas cannot afford basic needs such as housing, food, transportation and health care.

Texas Standard, January 30, 2019

Don’t believe me? Here’s the definition of ALICE from the secondary link,

ALICE, an acronym which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working, but are unable to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care, and transportation.

United Ways of Texas, ALICE

Asset Limited. Poor. Poverty. Now, the federal government and most especially the state of Texas will tut-tut that and say that those people are well above the poverty line established by government. Again I say, hogwash. Federal guidelines and especially guidelines from the state of Texas will not be truthful, if by truthful you mean accurate. This goes for anything that touches on the sacred beliefs of the average American, most especially the delusion that poor Americans aren’t poor. They just aren’t wealthy yet, and they never will be wealthy. But don’t tell them that.

This is well trodden ground for me these days because I’ve spent the better part of two months arguing with an in-law about this very subject recently.

I don’t think you know what poverty is. I was born in it and raised in it. The only thing that got me out of it was hard work. I had no intention of raising my children the way I was raised, therefore they had better than I had. And I do pretty well now only because I work hard to better myself. President Trump is making it so people can work and better themselves and get off the coattails of the government. I do not understand how anybody could think putting people back to work is a bad thing. Obama on the other hand closed down factories and put millions of people out of work and on food stamps.

Facebook comment

I had to block that poor fool because he kept calling me stupid. This exercise would be me once again wasting my time, convinced I can somehow reason with someone who refuses to think. The uninformed political opinions he’s throwing around I will dig into somewhere else, have already dug into somewhere else before (Obama, Caveat Emptor) But the poverty stuff? I don’t talk about that very often (Greece, Bootstraps) However, I’m pretty sure I have a general understanding of what poverty is and what it can do to people. I’m positive I understand it better than that in-law, because poverty has been my constant companion throughout my adult life.

That in-law is better off than me, but he’s still right on the margins of poverty. He’s middle class but not comfortably so, and not likely to stay part of the middle class unless he can keep working for another twenty years. The proof is in the statistics cited above, 42% of Texans are poor. That is just under half of all Texans being poor. Half. No one who isn’t independently wealthy will stay middle class without working, and independent wealth is built up through generations of hard work. Something I know neither he nor I come from.

There was a brief period of about two years in my adult life where I wasn’t poor. And when I wasn’t poor I never struggled for anything other than struggling to keep my job so I could keep paying for things. People of means do not struggle. They see a shrink and work it out, because they can afford to pay to have someone listen to them and help them work out their problems. Having a job that generates enough money to live on is not struggling in the way that the research demonstrates. The struggling that the United Ways is highlighting comes from having too much work and not enough money. A uniquely post modern development. Gainfully employed and still starving.

I keep linking this video in the vain hope that people who think that a dollar has work value attached to it would watch and learn a few things. It’s not like it’s a long video. It’s not a huge investment in time to watch.

Politizane – Wealth Inequality in America – Nov 20, 2012

I’m sure it’s quite painful to watch if you are a conservative. Conservatives and conservative economics have created this problem. Have created it more than once. Thinking you have to work to survive, to deserve to survive, is outmoded thinking and has caused the kind of crisis we are living through today. Has caused it repeatedly down through time. Today’s system throws off enough wealth all on it’s own to eliminate poverty completely if we simply set ourselves to the task of eliminating it. And even if we do eliminate poverty we’ll still have people wanting to work, and even more people capable of doing that work, because poverty is a man-made ill. Poverty is something we created to justify ourselves and our assumed status in life.

“Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.”

Thomas Paine Agrarian Justice The Writings of Thomas Paine pg 331

Poverty is looked down upon as being caused by the behavior of the poor themselves. This is patently not the case, as the OTM series Busted: America’s Poverty Myths (Bootstraps, again) goes to great lengths to spell out. But that doesn’t change the beliefs of most Americans. Poor people are more hated now than they have been in generations, and this is a worldwide phenomenon, not just in America.

If you think of yourself as white and you are poor in modern America, the fact that you are poor grates on you so much that you go looking for people who suffer more than you. Having a paler skin color is seen as a sign of status, has been seen as a sign of status down through the ages. Being pale means that you don’t have to work out in the sun. You have leisure time. you can throw this assumed status around, use it to your advantage in social interactions.

Unless you are poor. If you are poor, there is no question that your paler skin doesn’t convey advantage any longer, because there are demonstrably people darker skinned than you that have more status than you. They have more status because they have the conveyor of modern status, money. This is a corruption of the natural order in the mind’s eye of a racist. And we can’t just allow the natural order to be corrupted now, can we?

This is how we get to the point where the party of Lincoln, the party of the man who lead the Union through the Civil War and destroyed the slavery based economy of the Southern Confederacy; this is how the Republican party has become the party of people who wave the stars and bars of the confederacy and demand that they be given privilege over the brown-skinned. Republicans see everyone who is darker than they are as other, outsider, illegal. They couch their arguments in law and order, just like Nixon coded it in the seventies. But Nixon was a racist, too. They don’t even know that what they are promoting is racism. The Orange Hate-Monkey’s naked attempt to create a white American royalty.

Why Is This Happening? Organizing in Trump country with George Goehl

How can Democrats win in deep red America? During the midterms, momentum behind progressive candidates in red states garnered national attention — Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. These were no overnight successes. They were the culmination of, among many things, including the tireless efforts of grassroots organizers.

We are going to have to go out and prosthelytize to the poor, rural, white voter. We are going to have to go out and explain to them the harsh nature of the reality we are faced with. Because we cannot go where they want to go. We have to explain to them that we are losing access to good drinking water. That even the air we breath is under constant threat. Will lax regulation on businesses turn every Texas town into another West, Texas? Or will we go the way of Oklahoma and let  hydraulic fracking activate long dormant tectonic faults, triggering earthquakes?

But it is even more basic than that. Will our children and their children go hungry? Will they have access to shelter from the cold or the heat, especially given the unpredictable nature of the climate change we are creating? Will there be schools to teach the children that all of us will rely on in the future to provide every single thing we need? Things we will need paid for with money we didn’t work for that day? We didn’t have to work for, because the system itself provides a mechanism (money) that allows us to not have to work every single day in order to survive? These are real, hard questions that have to be answered today, so that we can have access to those things tomorrow. All of us, not just the 1% that currently receive all the benefits of modern society.

Or would you rather that your children starve for want of food when fortunes turn on them as it does on everyone? Sleep out in the cold because they can’t afford shelter? Rather that they die of preventable diseases because there was no profit in researching cures or vaccines? All of these things require public investment, something that you won’t learn from the worship of robber barons that pervades what passes for conservative ideology these days.

“The liberals will always do what they can to hold you back”

Conservatism is about adhering to the past, not looking beyond what our ancestors did, the rights they claimed for themselves. That is the sum total of conservatism.

Liberalism is about experimentation. Liberalism is a friend to entrepreneurs, scientists, etc. Liberalism promotes new ways of thinking and new ways of dealing with the world. That is the definition of liberalism. Look it up anywhere aside from conservapedia, and you will find that I am right on this subject.

Liberals accept that society and its inventions, things that we all inherited, belong to all of us. Because none of the living invented any of the technologies that provide the food for our tables today. We stood on the shoulders of giants and thought ourselves tall. Liberals understand that the only way to do justice to those who came before us is to see that those that come after us have what they need to thrive, just as we had what we needed to thrive.

Our rights include things like clean air and clean water. Health care is a basic human right since it takes the wealth of the entire nation to maintain the system, it has to be available to everyone, not just those who can pay.

If you want questions answered, you have to ask questions. Ask questions which are answerable. Declaring that everything you don’t understand is a plot to take the little you have to your name now is nothing more than a paranoid delusion. You can’t lose something you don’t own, and most of what we deal with today are things that don’t belong to us alone. The internet is useless without other people to talk to. You can’t tend to your own physical injuries if those injuries require expertise to remedy. If you have that expertise and try to doctor yourself, then you have a fool for a patient. It takes others to do anything meaningful in life. Spitting on the state, on government, and turning your back on progress in the name of preserving what you have now is to settle for less than you could have had, if you only have the sense to look around you with eyes that aren’t clouded by fear.

Modern farming would be impossible without federal research grants, federal subsidies, federal mandates. The ability to get a mortgage and own your own home was a federal mandate. Every single scientific endeavor survives on federal seed money. There would be no internet without it. There would be no handheld computer to read this message on without NASA. There would be no vaccination program without federal mandates. No science-based medicine without government oversight and consequently no way to know what medicines work without government involvement.

So yes, I will rely on government. So will you, even if you don’t think that’s what you are doing. Government touches everything. And in the United States, we are the government. We can pay ourselves enough that none of us need starve, and still leave room for entrepreneurs to profit off of their ideas, giving them motivation to create, to work. Contemplate that for as long as it takes to sink in.

Superbowl? Not Really.

I’ve watched one football game since I stopped sharing an apartment with a football fan. The last roommate I had before getting married was a Dallas Cowboys fan. He loved those Cowboys. Since the TV was his, and it was in the living room, we watched the Cowboys play every week, and I would be the devil’s advocate every week. “Who are the Cowboys playing this week? Yeah, I love those guys.” It led to some good natured rivalry, especially since I really didn’t give two shits about the game in the first place.

When I was living at home with my parents, back in the stone age of the 70’s, my dad would never miss a game that was being broadcast. Football. Basketball. Baseball. Hockey. If it was a sport and it was being broadcast, my dad was watching it. He lamented that I was too small for football myself because he wanted me to play like he played in high school. He did get me to try out for basketball. I didn’t make the cut, which was no surprise to me or Mitch, my wingman in that foray into sports. I wrestled for a few season. A had a perfect record. I was pinned every time I got on the mat. I even played baseball for a few seasons. I have my jersey around here somewhere to prove it because mom saved it. I was terrified of being hit by the baseball every time they’d send me out onto the field.

…And with good reason. I have the worst hand-eye coordination, come to find out. Dad played softball every summer until his health degraded to the point he couldn’t play, and his participation in that game lead me to try playing softball myself on one of my employer’s teams. For one season. During warmup one afternoon I was holding the mitt too low and the ball tipped the top of the mitt and plastered me right on the lip. I can feel the tingle where the lip split on the inside of my mouth to this very day. Between that and the gravel raspberry I got all up and down my left leg sliding into base one time, I decided that sports really just weren’t my thing. I’d be better off sticking to video games. The finger and wrist sprains are more easily dealt with.

We watch so few sports in this house that we joke that the TV is broken, sports-wise. We tell guests “Nope. It won’t tune sports. No idea what’s wrong with it.” The one time we had a guest insist on watching her game we banished the fans into another room so that they wouldn’t interrupt our movie watching. I will admit to occasionally keeping half an eye on baseball scores. I like baseball, even if I can’t play it. Baseball is the real American game, not football. American football is rugby played with helmets and pads.

George Carlin – Baseball and Football George, as usual, has it right.

But the Wife always liked the Seattle Seahawks. She didn’t know anything about football, the game, but she had studied statistics for some fantasy football league that she was part of one year, and Seattle had the best all-around players at the time. She won a lot of matchups that year because the individual players all did really well, so she never forgot them. Years later when the Seahawks made it to the Superbowl for the very first time and she decided she had to watch that game because her boys were in it. Consequently I spent the next two hours explaining what a fourth down was. What the ten yard line meant. I mean, I knew all the mechanics of game play because dad had drilled all this crap into my head, so I can watch and follow a game even though I consider the games just slightly more interesting than watching paint dry.

There is one thing that I do care about. Injustice. Bad calls by referees. Players cheating and getting away with it. Teams that don’t deserve to lose, but end up losing anyway. That is what happened to the Seahawks in the one game we had ever bothered to watch together in thirty years of marriage. The Seahawks lost because of a bad call. The Wife was pissed, I was pissed, and we’ve never turned on a football game since. It was Super bowl Sunday yesterday, and I did notice that cheatin’ Tom Brady won again this year. That makes this just another game I’m glad I didn’t watch.

Facebook comment posted to the blog.

Annoying Ya’ll

I occasionally riff on word spellings and definitions on the blog. I don’t do it very often, but when I do, I go all in on the subject. I’m especially fond of obvious, having tripped over that word and its subtlety of definition enough times in the past. This image appeared in my newsfeed awhile back and it resonated with me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve typed something into a computer interface and had it not recognize the word or phrasing I knew was correct, or hoped was correct. You know how it is. I think this is a word, but spellcheck will save me from having to go dig out a dictionary and look the word up.

Or maybe you don’t know? Who has dictionaries anymore? I haven’t used one in years, but I have a few in the house. Who needs a dictionary when you can just ask one of those ridiculous computer assistants to tell you how to spell onomatopoeia or ask them what something means or to get synonyms for balk. Having to actually type words into the computer by hand?! How quaint.

Back when I was writing specifications, tech manuals and notes for architectural drawings, it used to drive me nuts having to check and then tell the computer to ignore (Passive voice! Arrrg! Everything in a specification is written in passive voice!) a spelling or word usage, or to add the more common ones to my personal dictionary. It isn’t worth the investment in time to modify standard spellings for obscure words on company computer spelling dictionaries. Computers that you are forced to abandon every other year.

…And don’t get me started on latin legal phrases or attempting to point out fallacious arguments with well-known shorthand acronyms. Or slang. Really, don’t get me started on slang. I mean it. Or as I said on Facebook at the time,

I find it amusing when someone outside of the South tries to tell me how to spell ya’ll. As if there is proper spelling for slang.

Another friend of mine immediately linked to a blog article on just that subject, completely missing the point that I was trying to make in their rush to insist that there was a correct spelling for the words we use in everyday conversation. Improper conjugations and amalgamations of words that may or may not make any sense to the speaker or the listener.

Some writers put the apostrophe AFTER the ‘a’, as in: ya’ll. *shudders* Now tell me, does that make ANY sense given the law of contractions? No. It does not. The proper way to contract ‘you all’ is by using the apostrophe to replace the ‘ou’ in you and the space between the words, as in: y’all It’s beautiful in its simplicity, don’t you think? Boy, do I feel better, maybe even up to tackling a semi-colon or two. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system

Ya’ll vs. Y’all – A Texan’s Anguish

Now if I was trying to impart colloquialism, trying to drag you kicking and screaming into one of the Southern states of the United States, someplace where ya’ll is a word ya’ll’d hear regularly, I might quip something like them’s fightin’ words or something to that effect. But since you wouldn’t know the frame in which to place my attempts to communicate southernisms, most likely my attempts to draw you into the picture will fail and I’ll just look like an idiot. I’m used to that, but it isn’t a productive use of my time to repeat failed lessons from the past. I’m a quick learner, rumors to the contrary.

To put the problem as simply as I can, the error is in believing that ya’ll is a contraction to start with. As if ya’ll was ever two words compressed into one. As if slang is capable of being defined or set down into anything permanent, what written language is, and still preserve the emotion of the speaker and listener(s). It simply cannot be done. Even the best writers comment on how what they wrote is received by the reader, and how they don’t get the emotion that they hear in their head reflected back from the average reader.

The problem isn’t that simple. It isn’t something that can be fixed that easily. Just knowing the proper spelling for a Southernism will not make you Southern. Just knowing how ya’ll fix the issue of pronouns in your region of the English speaking world will not make me understand what it is to be from that region. The problem is that English is broken when it comes to second and third party plural pronouns.

In “standard American English,” meaning, essentially, schoolroom English, the second person pronoun is “you,” for either singular or plural. Talking to your spouse? Use “you.” Talking to your spouse and his or her entire family, at the same time? Use…well, also use “you.” It is a huge, strange weakness in American English: when someone is talking to a group of people, we have no way of indicating whether the speaker is talking to only one person or the entire group. Peeking your head out from the kitchen at a dinner party and asking, “Hey, can you get me a drink?” is likely to score you a look of confusion. Who are you talking to, exactly?

Thou and ye is a perfectly fine arrangement of second-person pronouns, and we’d all be better off if they’d stuck around, but they didn’t. Nobody exactly knows why, but scholars have focused on the mid-17th century work of Shakespeare to help tell us how people were talking to each other and what pronouns they were using.

Atlas Obscura, Y’all, You’uns, Yinz, Youse: How Regional Dialects Are Fixing Standard English

There’s no two ways about it, English is broken when it comes to pronouns. You could be any number of people including just one person. I’ve had innumerable written confrontations with people on the internet just because they read the word you and think he’s talking to me. And while I am talking to you, I’m also talking to the ten thousand or a million or even a billion other yous that might happen upon these words and read them. It is a conundrum of English that I cannot express the difference between you (thee) and you (them) The Wife and I will occasionally use thou and thee because we are weird people who read a lot. You can blame Piers Anthony for that.

Speaking of readers: sometimes things in my fantasy fiction become real in Mundania. One is the “Thee Thee Thee” convention, said as a declaration of complete love. I was told of a couple who married using that instead of “I do.” Now I have heard of one who did use it as part of the ceremony, some time ago; he is now dead and she is passing along the ring to a family member with the words engraved on it. She asked me which book it came from, and I said Out of Phaze, where the robot Mach calls it out to save his beloved Fleta from death, the sheer power of that declaration nullifying the magic that had doomed her. But then I thought, how did Mach know to do that? Did the convention appear earlier? My senescent brain does not provide the answer, and I’m too busy to reread my own earlier novels; time is a greater constraint for me than money. If there is a reader out there whose memory is better than mine (that is to say, most of them), please let me know, so I can let my reader with the ring know: what was the first instance of the “Thee Thee Thee” convention?

Piers Anthony

It’s somewhere in the Blue Adept series, Mr. Anthony. It was earlier than the one you recall. It’s been thirty years since I read the series myself. I have no idea where the first instance is, but it definitely was not that passage of the book. I’m sure someone knows and will correct both of us pretty much the minute I hit enter. They probably corrected you (or thee) the minute you hit enter, too. Unfortunately, that newsletter wasn’t the one I found first. This is an aside, don’t get your underwear in a bunch.

I have had people accost me before (carpetbaggers, mostly) insisting that ya’ll is properly spelled y’all. That it is a contraction of you and all and so duh! But as I say to them, that’s a connector between ya and ll, that little hanging bit (‘) in the middle. The apostrophe. The apostrophe represents any number of letters, syllables and whole words the speaker doesn’t feel they need to take the time to pronounce. If you actually attempted to write the word phonetically, it would have at least two a’s in it, something more akin to ya’all or ya-all. After a bit of pushback on the subject, more than a bit to be honest, I decided I’d trot out an example to illustrate the point I was trying to make. Consider the following sentence, which I’m sure most Southerners have heard more than once. What does this sentence mean?

Ya’ll be round later

Is it a question? Is it a statement? A demand? What words and/or punctuation will complete that sentence coherently? Is “you” or “all” in it? Well, it depends on the speaker. If they’re asking a question,

Ya’ll be round later?

It would probably be completed something like this,

Will all of you be present when I need you later?

If the speaker is making a statement

Ya’ll be round later.

It would render out something like the following in proper English,

Come by the house later, I’ll be here.

or maybe something more like Go (wherever I’m going) and we’ll meet up later. There really is no telling what the speaker meant without the context of the usage. If the speaker is making a demand,

Ya’ll be round later.

It would come out something like

You will be here later when I’m looking for you.

…And if it was dad (or pop maybe) making this demand, you’d better be where he wanted you to be when he was expecting it, or there would be hell to pay. So ya’ll is not two words squeezed together. It is a hodgepodge of meaning scrunched into four letters and an apostrophe, and I can spell it any damn way I like.

I don’t go around pretending to know how to spell any number of words that they might say in New Jersey (youse? use? Who knows?) it’s slang. They have the same problem that the rest of the English speaking world has, no way to speak clearly to an individual or a group using indefinite pronouns to define the loose collection of people being spoken to. You guys, you’unz, whatever. We’re all just making it up as we go along. Sometimes the apostrophe just shows up where it wants to. There is no accounting for it.

But try and explain it all again to me, if you feel the need. I’m from here, I’ve got nothing but time. But I do thank you for spending the time it took to read this. If ya’ll are ever in the neighborhood, come by and sit a spell. The tea will be on ice, but it won’t be sweet. There’s only so many Southernisms you can indulge in before the accumulation of them kills you.

Wildly expanded article first published in 2014.

We Are Being Ukrained by the Orange Hate-Monkey

I blocked a stealth Stormtrumper on the Stonekettlestation Facebook group today. I’m pretty sure he was airlocked pretty quickly after he posted the following,

Jesus man, the mother in law is listening to Fox news, and since she can’t hear it’s loud. It’s all boxes of ballots being found and counted, the election was over Tuesday, why are these crooked Democrats that would steal an election any way they could still counting votes, Hillary this and Hillary that, poor Matt Whitaker, a man with integrity the liberals are vilifying because of the Steele dossier and how the FISA courts got duped not once, but 4 times by information Hillary colluded with the Russians to get! Oh yeah, and hammering a female MSNBC anchor ( didn’t hear who) that hates Trump and blah, blah, blaaaah…

It’s no big news that I blocked a Stormtrumper. I do that pretty much every day these days. But this one snuck into Jim’s group, which was no easy thing to do. I wasn’t even sure that he was a Stormtrumper at first. There are several ways that statement could be read. I mean, is he quoting his mother-in-law? Are those his words? Hard to say. So I replied to him.

“FOX should be shut down and fined. It’s owners indicted. There should be laws against what FOX and conservative outlets are actively doing. Deceiving the public. Committing fraud. Propagandizing. How to craft rules about this, though. That is the problem. How to write laws that can’t be used to silence valid opinion pieces while stopping the deception. It’s not as easy as you might think.”

The Stormtrumper outed themselves, at this point. They immediately followed up with objections about freedom of speech, to which I replied, “There is no first amendment protection for fraud. There is no first amendment protection for speech which endangers life or property. There is no first amendment protection for lying, misinforming or otherwise distracting the public with more noise and smoke than anyone can see or hear through. This is what is being done to us. This is what was done to the people of the Ukraine. This is a tried and true playbook we are seeing here. How to regulate it out of existence is the only question remaining.”

His response? “I don’t like Trump, but he IS President…do you want him and his minions to have the power to brand their opponents as “fake news” and use the power of the govt to silence them?”

I never said anything about giving the power to inhibit freedom of speech to the president. I never even argued that this is a power that should be exercised solely by the government. This is the exact same argument as the gun argument as framed by gunnuts. No limitations or there is no freedom. This is transparently false. There can be and are limitations on your ability to lay down destruction among your neighbors. You can’t own nukes. You can’t own tanks or fighter planes. There are a lot of limitations on firepower out there, and there can be sensible limitations on speech (a point I later embroidered on here) Does Trump tell you that you can’t drive a car, just because licensing is required?” Obviously not. There are other, more subtle ways of creating outgroups to persecute. One of those ways is fabricating evidence and then citing it as proof. Dick Cheney and his “yellow cake” propaganda, as one example. 

That incident remains a prosecutable fabrication and yet no one is willing to prosecute him for it. The Orange Hate-Monkey is simply doing what Cheney did (more haphazardly) and remains unpunished for doing. It is time to start enforcing limitations that exist. It’s time to start prosecuting the powerful for their excesses. It’s time to write libel laws that work in this country. 

BTW, that last thing is what the OHM fears most. That’s why he spoke about it, to take that threat off the table. Who would presume to echo something he said and be serious about it? And yet he would be the first, most obvious target of libel laws. For him it would be slander law. You have to write to be prosecuted for libel. Come to think of it, a good portion of his tweets are demonstrably libelous. Who has he not slandered/libeled over the course of his life? Lying can be and is a crime, for normal, everyday people. It simply depends on the circumstance surrounding why you lie and to whom.

The laws are not enforced by the president, and the president should not be given the power to enforce laws. The Justice department prosecutes and the FBI investigates and neither of them is directly under the control of the president. This is how it should be. Believing the president is the sole enforcer of law in the country also discounts the thousands of police departments, prosecutors, etcetera, departments of law enforcement and prosecution all across the nation that do the real work of law enforcement.

Any fraud is a crime and fraud is not limited to lying under oath. The limitations exist, if you disagree with this observation you simply aren’t interested in seeing these limitations enforced. Imagine what might have happened if the first time the Orange Hate-Monkey lead the chant “lock her up!” he was arrested and fined for slander and incitement to riot? If Ted Cruz could be similarly charged for falsely accusing Beto O’Rourke of crimes? There is no such thing as an absolute freedom of speech. Speech which carries no consequences.

…and at that point I blocked him, because the argument had gotten circular as it does so frequently with Stormtrumpers and Christianists. I have little doubt left that Trump is a Russian stooge these days. He’s been using the same tactics to control the media and what they pay attention to as the tactics that are/were being used in Ukraine by Putin. He isn’t smart enough to come up with this tactic on his own.

Olga Yurkova TED2018 Inside the fight against Russia’s fake news empire

Aether, Ether, Higgs?

When is a field not a field? When you call it aether, apparently.

“Aethers were invented for the planets to swim in, to constitute electric atmospheres and magnetic effluvia, to convey sensations from one part of our bodies to another, and so on, until all space had been filled three or four times over with aethers … The only aether which has survived is that which was invented by Huygens to explain the propagation of light.”

James Clerk Maxwell 1878, Encyclopedia Britannica

The image above comes from the SGU on Facebook, their Facebook status referencing an article in Popular Mechanics. The article details the experiment that proved that alchemical aether didn’t exist back in 1887. This isn’t the first time that the SGU and its host Dr. Steve Novella have ridiculed the notion of aether as a substance that permeates all matter and gives it definition. What I find interesting is that scientific people, people like the brothers Novella, recently celebrated the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Particle physicists in particular were thrilled that they finally discovered the Higgs, the final piece of the puzzle that completes the standard model of particle physics (and if you have a grasp of what that is, you are probably doing better than I am right now) they now have all the particles that represent the forces and parts of nature that were theorized centuries ago. Except that they don’t have a complete explanation of the forces of nature. Science can’t explain gravity or point to the particle that carries that force, and it can’t explain quite a few other things that are pretty important to the functioning of the universe. Things like dark matter and dark energy. So they don’t really know as much as they like to pretend they are certain of. But that is beside the point of this article.

Particle physicists and the skeptics on the SGU both accept that there is a thing called a Higgs field, a thing related to the Higgs boson I mentioned previously. The Higgs field, a thing that permeates and defines all of the physical world that we can see around us. They simply refuse to equate this field with aether. This is a discussion that has been aired on the SGU several times now. I can almost recite it by rote having listened to all of the nearly 700 episodes of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe. I’ve got the argument in my head. It won’t go away.

To put it bluntly, for the purposes of discrediting alchemy, proving that alchemical aether was a delusion makes this particular experiment important in the annals of history. Alchemy is bullshit unless you are playing Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft, in which case you can do magic all you want, because it isn’t real. But in the real world alchemy is bullshit. This experiment proved that fact without a doubt.

However I fail to see the distinction between the Higgs field and the primordial notion of aether. Does it not permeate everything that exists? Does it not even exist in a vacuum? Does it not define all matter as we know it? How many other things are there out there that we don’t know about that enable existence as we know it? One? A thousand? We don’t know that, either. How about we admit we don’t know things? It really doesn’t hurt that much to admit it.

“Relativity actually says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of matter pervading the universe, only that any such matter must have relativistic symmetry. It turns out that such matter exists. About the time relativity was becoming accepted, studies of radioactivity began showing that the empty vacuum of space had spectroscopic structure similar to that of ordinary quantum solids and fluids. Subsequent studies with large particle accelerators have now led us to understand that space is more like a piece of window glass than ideal Newtonian emptiness. It is filled with “stuff” that is normally transparent but can be made visible by hitting it sufficiently hard to knock out a part. The modern concept of the vacuum of space, confirmed every day by experiment, is a relativistic ether. But we do not call it this because it is taboo.”

Laughlin, Robert B. (2005). A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down. NY, NY: Basic Books. pp. 120–121. ISBN 978-0-465-03828-2. h/t to Juan Calsiano on Facebook
This article was based on a comment from Facebook.

Forcing Allegiance Is Fascism

Stonekettle Station on Facebook

Lauren McGaughey is reporting on this story for the Dallas Morning News. She says the case stems from a suit filed by parents of a student who was kicked out of school for not standing to recite the pledge. The student and her parents say the school violated her First Amendment rights with that punishment.

“Attorney General Paxton says that it’s a ‘moral good.’ He said, in a statement, that kids learn about citizenship and patriotism from saying the pledge every morning,” McGaughey says.

A First Amendment expert McGaughey talked to says he believes the Texas requirement that students recite the pledge is unconstitutional.The Texas Standard


The Texas Standard KEN PAXTON INTERVENES IN SUIT FILED BY STUDENT KICKED OUT OF SCHOOL FOR NOT STANDING DURING PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE September 26, 2018

Ken Paxton is a Christianist. He wants to force Americans to worship his God. This is a documented fact that anyone can find out for themselves with a simple Google search. A good portion of Texas agrees with him and his fascist views concerning the Freedom of/from Religion guaranteed by the US Constitution. If evil exists, and I am agnostic on the existence of evil; but if evil exists his views and the views of his fellow Christianists are an active evil in the mind of modern America. Ken Paxton should be shunned. He should be rejected at the polls. If you vote for Paxton, you are voting for evil.

I have a distinct opinion on the subject of forcing children to pledge allegiance, as the title of this article and the above paragraph should make abundantly clear. My qualms about the wisdom of making children pledge allegiance before they are old enough to know what words like allegiance mean go back to an early reading of The Children’s Story by James Clavell. In that story the children in a generic classroom are introduced to a new teacher sent to them by their new government. That teacher explains the intent behind the words of this pledge they’ve been forced to recite all their young lives, but the explanation she offers is a lie, and the children are too young and impressionable to know that they are being lied to by an authority figure.

These qualms came to a head when Texas passed a law requiring that children pledge allegiance to the Texas flag as well as the U.S. flag. I received a flyer amongst several other pieces of documentation sent home from school with my children the year this law went into effect, a flyer informing me that Texas law required all students to mouth the words of the United States pledge of allegiance, as well as the then newly revised Texas pledge of allegiance (HB 1034) in addition to observing a moment of silence once each day (SB 83) a practice that intended to re-introduce morning prayer into Texas public schools. The sponsor of HB 1034, when queried on the subject of religion, had this to say (source, Capitol Annex: More HB 1034 Exchanges):

BURNAM: Are you aware that Governor Perry has recently said, “Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion.” And my question is, do you agree with that statement, Ms. Riddle?
RIDDLE: I would say, Amen.

Which pretty much sums up the intent of the modification of the pledge, and the accompanying minute of silence. It also showed the utter contempt the governor and the majority of the legislature had for anyone who didn’t share their particular christian beliefs. Freedom of religion is a meaningless concept unless it includes freedom from religion; requiring someone to have a religion places constraints upon the person, negating any freedom that might be present.

The requirement to recite the two pledges has been on the books since 2003. When they changed the pledge in 2007 they felt they needed to inform parents, once again, of their children’s duty to stand and recite the pledges. This prompted me to fire off a letter to the school in response, telling them in no uncertain terms what I thought of their forced indoctrination into religion and what has become a transparent attempt to create an American theocracy.

Dictators and cult leaders require the slaves under their rule to swear allegiance to them, because power is jealous of rivals. In a free society, pledges of allegiance should not be required, because individuals are free of any allegiance other than to rational self interest. Additionally, pledges required of the public are contrary to the sentiments of the founders of the United States, as it reverses the role of the subservient state and places it above We The People.

Obviously, from the tone of this letter, you will be able to discern that I am hereby notifying you in writing that my children will be exempted from this practice. They will not be required to recite any pledges, nor will they be required to observe a minute of silence. This notice is given pro forma, because my children have abstained from reciting the pledges for the entire time that they have attended school; and they have done this without asking me or the omnipotent state for permission to do so. They have remained silent during pledges even in my presence, when I have recited the pledge autonomically; and I applaud them for their strength of will.

If it was possible, I would extend this exemption to any student of AISD, of any school district in Texas, or of any state in the United States, who wished to abstain from reciting the pledge, but lacks the permission that the state requires.

The Religious Right, the Christianist right, have simply become more strident over the years since 2007, not less.  They do not appear to have learned anything from the many battles they have engaged in and lost when it comes to the subject of making the US a christian nation against the will of the majority who like it just the way it is.

Nor is this an issue of socialism versus fascism, the author of the pledge having been a card-carrying Socialist of his timeSocialism itself is not a bad word. Socialism is another in a long list of bogeymen that really should be retired, since the mindset that inspired the pledges and Marxist Dictatorships of the twentieth century now looks as alien to us as most of the other concepts of the time do. However, it does remain fascist to force conformity to any ideology; fascism being the sole surviving ideology that holds up Authoritarianism as a benefit to society. Freedom of conscience requires that we allow people to believe what they want to believe and to act according to their own conscience. That means that allowing people to abstain from reciting the pledge is the least we can do in acknowledgement of their freedom of conscience. Imagine what it would be like if football fans could be reasoned with in this fashion.

The article that included the letter sent to AISD

Equilibrium on the Equinox

David Gerrold on Facebook

What happens on September 22nd? I think to myself as I start looking through today’s history on Facebook. It’s bugging me. This day is important. There is an event that occurs today, what is it?

Obviously, it is the equinox. It took a bit of googling to turn the lights on, but finally, I had my answer. That is the significance of September 22nd. Equinox. Equal amounts of day and night across the globe.

Most years, this happens on either Sept. 22 or 23. However, every once in a while, the autumn equinox can occur on Sept. 21 or 24. This happens because the length of a calendar year (365 days) is not equal to the time it takes for Earth to travel around the sun (365.25 days). To make up for this inconsistency, people have observed “leap years” for the last two millennia. By adding a “leap day” (Feb. 29) to the calendar every four years, we have managed to keep our seasons more or less consistent from year to year.

The last time the autumnal equinox fell on Sept. 21 was over a thousand years ago, and the last Sept. 24 equinox was in 1931, according to timeanddate.com. While it’s been a long time since the equinox occurred on Sept. 21, we can expect to see it happen twice in the next century, first in 2092 and then in 2096. The next Sept. 24 equinox will be in the year 2303. (Keep in mind that these dates are based on Universal Time, so some time zones may not experience these equinoxes on the dates listed here.) – Space.com Autumnal Equinox Not the Same Day Every Year

Equinox. Equilibrium. Balance. I’ve been feeling pretty unequal for about a month now. Unbalanced. The Meniere’s has been particularly burdensome since sometime in mid-august when the left ear started to flare up again. There has been a near-constant feeling of pressure in the ear for the last month. The pressure started a bit early this year for me, and it has lasted longer and been more annoying. But then this is the beginning of fall and it’s accompanying seasonal allergies. I just got my annual symptoms a little early this year, I guess.

Along with the pressure have been long bouts of hyperacusis and/or painful tinnitus. I can’t hear, I’m uncomfortable, I feel ill as if I have an infection. I went to the ENT yesterday just to reassure myself that I wasn’t actually ill. Nope. Not ill, just Meniere’s. This feeling of malaise has lasted for a solid month, almost without respite.

Which is why there is a dog hugging a goat at the top of this post. Denied physical balance I will seek mental balance. Calmness where I can find it. Lacking medical treatment to alleviate the symptoms of Meniere’s, I will simply endure it for as long as it takes. I see a lot of World of Warcraft in my future.


So I woke up this afternoon with vertigo again. This is the third day in a row (10/22/2018) I have woken up with rotational vertigo. The third day in a row where I wake up and quickly drug myself. Take meclizine. Add Xanax if necessary. Stare at the screen in front of me for hours at a time. Try not to shift the focus of my vision because that always causes a little bit of spin until the new focus point is established. Lovely. Just lovely. This bout of vertigo is just the latest part of the symptomatic spell that started mid-August for me. This makes it a pretty solid two months of being severely symptomatic.

The vertigo spell finally ended on Wednesday the 25th. I celebrated by getting out of the house for the first time in a week and treating myself to an All Star Special at the Waffle House. Since Austin has established a Boil-Water Mandate in response to the record breaking rainfall on the Llano Estacado, and the subsequent flooding of the highland lakes including Lake Travis, the lake that provides Austin’s water, the choice of places to go was rather limited. When a restaurant can’t use the water that comes out of the taps to make the food they sell, most restaurants will simply close when there is no visible demand for their services.

But the Waffle House is always open if they can turn the lights on and fire up the griddle. That is why there is a Waffle House index for disasters. It was a yellow day, plastic tableware and a limited menu, but I would have gone to the Waffle House anyway. Love the coffee, even if it has to be decaf these days. I have to have hashbrowns and eggs over easy, too. My goto breakfast for those days when just waking up is a good thing.

Being symptomatic, when you have a chronic illness like Meniere’s, is not a contest to be won. You don’t get brownie points for suffering more than the next guy, because the next guy’s goal is the same as yours. That goal is getting through the bad days so that you can enjoy the good ones. If your good days don’t happen often enough, maybe you should change the things you are doing, or the treatments you are using, and see if you can’t get yourself more good days. Since there is no cure, and you won’t die from it (ergo chronic illness) the only metric available to you is the number of days in a row where you wake up glad to still be here. Today was one of those days. I had waffles, and I got out of the house. Looking forward to the next good day, now. If only the pressure in the left ear would ease off. That would be great. 

Wrong Again. Why am I Not Surprised?

Robert Reich & Facebook

On this day in 2015, Robert Reich started his status about the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) with this gloomy paragraph,

Donald Trump is leading all other Republican candidates — not just in polls but also, according to Google Trends, in Google searches. This could push Trump even higher in Google’s search rankings, and such higher rankings would in turn bring him even more support.

He went on to prophesy that the OHM could well win the presidential race based on Google’s skewing of the preferences of Americans through their use of specific algorithms to produce search results. At the time, I was completely oblivious to the structural problem in the internet’s construction, the bias that serving us more of what we wanted to see lent confirmation to the beliefs that we operate under on a day to day basis. This fact alone probably explains why I thought Hillary would win (she did win, but not where it counted) Google served me results that confirmed my bias, masquing the discontent that was felt by far more people than I ever suspected. Felt most especially in three key states that squeaked out a lead for the OHM in the Electoral College. My response three years ago was,

Donald Trump is and will always be a three time loser. In order to be this at running for President, he will have to run one more time after he loses this bid. I encourage him to stick with it. I would like to be right in a prediction for once. In the meantime Bill and Opus for President 2016.

Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County

Sadly, Bill and Opus did not win, although the brain that briefly inhabited Bill the Cat’s body did apparently get enough electoral votes to become president. The conspiracy that aliens are controlling the OHM remotely remains a distinct possibility, however, since the brain of Donald Trump has never been found after it left Bill’s head.

Looking back at my utter cluelessness as to just how ready nearly half the US voting population was, willing to watch the entire place burn rather than vote for Hillary Clinton, makes me wonder just how much of that ire is Facebook and Google’s fault? How much of my cluelessness is the fault of their algorithms and how much is my own desire to see the United States continue in some recognizable form?


HIDDEN BRAIN Voting With A Middle Finger: Two Views On The White Working Class October 15, 2018

No matter what the answer is, the America that emerges from under the OHM’s attempted dictatorship will be a different America than went into it. That much is certain. It is certain because America has already changed under the OHM’s naked propagandizing, suppression of the government’s regulatory ability, disregard for disaster relief, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum. Whether that change is for the better or the worse will be determined this November. I’ll see you all at the polls.

Amazon is IOI

RBR on FacebookSeattle Times

As mega-corporations grow increasingly powerful, they are exerting more control over their employees. Consider a new patent secured by Amazon for a cage-like contraption to enclose warehouse workers during their shifts. These metal cages mounted atop robotic trolleys are designed to shuttle workers around fulfillment centers, blurring the line between human and machine. Amazon has also considered using electronic wristbands to track their employees’ every move. – Robert Reich on Facebook

So we’ve discovered the genesis of IOI then?

Well, that’s good news?

What’s IOI? Innovative Online Industries. You know, the corporation from Ready Player One. If you haven’t read it, get the Audible version read by Wil Wheaton. It’s excellent. Don’t watch the movie of the same name; or more exactly, don’t watch the movie of the same name and expect to see the story from the book. The movie contains an entirely different narrative, with different characters and different FX sequences. The plot for the book would have been far less exciting on screen, and would have made for a much longer film. As far as video stimulation goes, the movie has excellent FX sequences, they just aren’t plot points that occur in the book. At all.

How do I know that Amazon is the corporation from Ready Player One? Well, for one thing, that cage looks like something that IOI would think was OK for workers to spend the majority of their lives in. For another, the links to the book and the movie both go to Amazon. I could point other places, but they’ll all be owned by Amazon eventually.

The Wife and I watched the film a few weeks back. I had never read the book at the time, she had read the book. We set the viewing up on purpose as a test to see who enjoyed the film more. I’m pretty sure I won that contest. I had nothing to compare the film to and so had no expectations for it to fulfill. She spent the first thirty minutes of the film just trying to figure out where in the book the scriptwriter started the narrative at, because it certainly wasn’t anywhere in the first half of the book in spite of the fact that the first scenes have him living in the stacks.

Having watched the movie I then fell asleep to Wil Wheaton’s voice in my ear for the next week or so, describing the world of Ready Player One. A world that is either a post-apocalyptic hellscape or a capitalist paradise depending on your point of view going into the book. In any case, as usual, the Hollywood version has cardboard cutouts for villains and the novel has pretty well-fleshed characters that you can believe exist somewhere. Neither tale is free of flaws, but both have their own moments of entertainment value.

Just understand that, when I envision the giant robot battle for capitalist dominance of the globe, I will now picture Jeff Bezos inside the Mechagodzilla.

Based on a Facebook status from last week