Might *doesn’t* Make Right

Got into one of those discussions this weekend (I don’t know how I manage to do this so often) someone insisting that the use, or threat of use of force, is required routinely to provide a ‘safe and secure’ society.

When I offered the counter observation that it was hardly the case, and that most poeple would rather do anything to avoid a fight, it was scoffed at; never mind that day after day, time after time, events transpire to prove that people will tend to avoid confrontation if they can.

(one might even argue that it would be a better world if only more people felt there were things worth fighting for, but don’t get me started)

That there are people who only respect force is a given, in my book. That is one of the core reasons that some form of government will always be necessary. Self government only works if you are intelligent enough to modify your own behavior when your desires drive you to take what isn’t yours or in some way transgress the ‘normal’ code of conduct that is currently enforced as law. That there isn’t daily killings on the highway for transgressions of driving ettiquette is all the proof that I need that most people are capable of self government.

If Might made Right, then anything achieved by force would be acceptable to the sensibilities of people in general. Logically, if the use of force “made right”, then I’m not sure what business anyone has objecting to anything that is done to him. Obviously it’s ‘right’ if it can be done, given that force is the only measurement of ‘right’ (being what the word ‘makes’ means) if you accept the statement as true. That people object, and that some people will respond with force (also known as self defense; a concept near and dear to my heart) proves that Might Doesn’t make Right. Not even ‘Right now’.

Lucky for the rest of us. I guess I’ll have to add a few more names to the book, though. The record of people that I will need to apply force to if I ever want anything out of them…

Liable for Compulsive Gambling?

A Pathologist is suing a drug manufacturer, and the casinos that he lost his 14 million dollar Fortune to, because the drug that he was given causes compulsive gambling. I think that not only the drug manufacturer, but the casinos could loose that lawsuit, despite the objections about “where is the justice in this” that I’ve heard.

The lawsuit has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with philosophy. In the dominant philosophy in the US right now (Kantian Altruism) it is accepted that “we are our brothers keeper” which means that the casinos have the responsibility to tell someone who is hurting himself by loosing too much “you’ve had enough now brother, time to stop”. It doesn’t matter that this introduces a whole new mess of problems for the gambling industry. Just like the can o’ worms that bars now face (and that McDonald’s et al narrowly dodged by adding ‘healthy’ items to their menus) in having to be “brother’s keeper”, the casinos have a responsibility to do likewise.

The only way this can be corrected is to change the dominant philosophy in the world today; a daunting task.

As a Capitalist/Objectivist, I’m not going to bother trying to defend the argument that the casinos should be liable; I’m just stating for the record, that based on Altruist values and reasoning, they are.

Not Public School, Government School

If the schools were public, then the public (at large) would control them. This is clearly not the case with the schools we have now. They are government funded, with government mandated curriculum. They are run by quasi-governmental entities elected in the same fashion as government itself.

They are government schools.

As for what to do about it (at least here in Texas) see my earlier rant.

Beyond the Da Vinci Code

I read the Da Vinci Code; I thought it was a good bit of fiction, a gripping who-done-it with a clever twist at the end, as good as any of the mystery writers that I’ve enjoyed over the years, with just that bit of ‘what if’ that stirs the mental soup even when you’ve finished reading it.

I’d like to stress the word fiction again, just for those jumpy christian types who keep thinking that it is possible to disprove something that is published as fiction.

Seriously, three hours, and counting, of material on the “History Channel” (which gets confounded sometimes as to whether it’s actually supposed to be the PTL or the militarism channel) attempting to prove that a work of fiction is in fact, fiction.

“Yeah, it’s says it right on the spine of the book, thanks for caring, though.”

Not that they didn’t have some interesting sources during the course of the three hours. Sources that lent more credence to the thought that the story was a bit more than fiction, than to the blatant attempt to discredit the book as, once again, fiction.

So, just for grins, here are the sources:

Dr. Deirdre Good – General Theological Seminary
Dr. Karen RallsThe Templars and the Grail
Richard Leigh – Holy Blood, Holy Grail
Timothy FrekeThe Jesus Mysteries
Margaret StarbirdThe Woman with the Alabaster Jar

A heartfelt encouragement of ‘good reading’ I give to you all. May you find it as intriguing as I found the History channel programs frustrating, with the exception of the insights from the sources listed above.

People should question their most firmly held beliefs. Every day. If your beliefs cannot withstand your own questioning, then are they really your beliefs?

Writing without Reason?

I generally have two or three books I’m working on reading at any given time. Currently my non-fiction book of choice is Stephen Hick‘s Explaining Postmodernism. So far it’s been an excellent read for anyone wanting to understand some of the broad philosophical trends of the last few centuries. Currently I’m working through chapter 4 – “The Climate of Collectivism”. I’m marveling over the impact that someone like Rousseau seems to have had over philosophy in recent history.

Whatever else he may have said aside, anyone who writes theses about reason being the root of mankind’s unhappiness, and that we must abandon it in order to be happy, really ought to look to his own house first. As someone who has written volumes over the years, I think I can honestly say that one cannot write a sentence without applying reason, much less an entire treatise on any given subject.

I’ll give him one thing, mankind would have been much happier if he had followed his own advice. 

A Downward Spiral

A friend of mine tried to make a call to me the other day. Seems he was picked up on an old warrant issued on a citation that he had thought had been dismissed. I didn’t actually get to talk to him because Correctional Billing Services refused to allow him to speak to anyone on the phone unless they were willing to pay 50 dollars in advance for the ‘privilege’ while he was being detained at Travis County.

With no other visitation options, they are, there is no other word for it, extorting money from friends and family members of anyone unfortunate enough to get arrested in Travis County. They stole personal information from us under false pretense (asked for address and billing information and then claimed to “not have a contract” with our phone provider. Strangely, they didn’t have a contract with one of the largest mobile phone providers in the country either) and then demanded 50 dollars in advance to be allowed to talk to this friend of ours who has clearly had a hard enough time today.

They then proceeded to tie up our phone line for several minutes after we declined to pay them their usurious fee. The supervisor that we demanded to speak to (none of them would give names) called back after we hung up and proceed to lay the phone down in order to tie up the line on purpose.

[Bad as Travis County is, Williamson County is magnitudes worse, so don’t get me wrong here. I’d sure like to see the contracts for this company pulled. I’d rather see them inhabiting the same cells they currently provide service to, and see how well they like it. But I’ll settle for simply putting them out of business]

It’s been 4 years (and more) of purgatory for this friend of mine, all because he was caught speeding and then agreed to a search of his vehicle by the officer that pulled him over (which I would never agree to, myself) who then found something to arrest him for inside the vehicle. This time they stopped him for a broken headlight, and when they ran his license number came up with the warrant that failed to get dismissed due to some petty little clerk’s vengeful attitude. And off to jail he goes again.

Some would say “well that’s what you get, should have kept his nose clean”; but to me it’s the opposite lesson that should be taken from this. Always assume that you are guilty, and that you will end up in jail. With all the new laws on the books, there’s bound to be something that you can go to jail for if they decide they want you. Learn to ‘bah’ convincingly like a sheep, for as long as it profits you; but don’t bother worrying about whether your nose is clean. They’ll dirty it for you if it’s deemed necessary. Just keep the number of a good lawyer handy, you’ll probably need it.

At lunch the other day, another friend of mine related a story concerning how he was nearly shot for being a drug dealer, just because he had the same name as someone who was fingered by a felon looking to lower his jail time. It was only due to a panicked call to 911 because there were strangers in his yard, that the warrentless invasion of his property was avoided. The vision flashed before his eyes, so he said. His house on the 6 o’clock news, and how they would describe him as one of those ‘kooky gun nuts’ that dared to resist police who were just ‘doing their jobs’.

The downward spiral is in the system, not in the morals of today’s population.

Common Sense Alternatives

It’s my curse to see them, and then spend my time arguing with complete buffoons about them.

Like the smoking argument, the solution the the drinking and driving problem isn’t less alcohol consumption, or more expensive drinks; just as the solution to problems with second hand smoke isn’t keeping people from smoking. It’s architectural; or in this case, a zoning issue. If it was possible to set up neighborhood pubs or sidewalk cafes as they do in other places, it wouldn’t be necessary to drive down to the pub to get a pint, or to the cafe to get a taste. You could walk there.

De-stressing the forbidden nature of alcohol would go along way in stopping teenage drinking as well.

But I don’t expect anyone will listen to this argument any more than they have to the other ones I’ve offered.

Ideally There Would Be No Idealists

So I get a response from Mr. Bylund the other day to my Blog entry, and I keep meaning to write up my own reply, and just never get around to it. I am a man of many passions (as this blog should quite readily show) I once spent an (in hindsight) inordinate amount of time on politics and political thought, but those days are quickly receding into the past. Much like the message he sent me.

Then, lo and behold, I notice he’s added comments to the blog entry itself.

Hello Mr. Bylund, I’m not ignoring you, I just think that achieving the anarchist ideal ranks somewhere behind science fiction fandom and humor (and living in the here and now) on the importance list. I establish my own values, just like I know and uphold my own rights; I don’t look to government to maintain them for me, but to abstain from violating them in the process of doing it’s legitimate work.

I read your comments through several times. This is the paragraph which I feel the need to specifically address:

To minarchists, the anarchist position is utterly utopian, perhaps even idealistic, and they conclude it would not work. Such a society could quickly degenerate into chaos and misery since there is no final arbiter in conflicts and no power to leash or control the evils unavoidably existent in society. The reasoning is that there needs to be something larger, but external to the market, setting the basic rules and enforcing them. Without the enforcement of rights, there are no rights.

The key phrase here is final arbiter. Government is legitimate, in my estimation, when it:

  1. Violates no rights in maintaining its existence.
  2. Acts only as the final arbiter in a conflict.

While I don’t know of any government that meets this criteria that is currently in existence, I believe that it is possible to attain (I would, in fact, refer to Nozick’s state as Government; because that is the word that fits the purpose being served) What I do hear from Anarchists that argue with me on the necessity of government is that they have a plan to substitute the structure that is government for another structure which does essentially the same job, but isn’t government. My counter argument will always be “a rose by any other name”; it is still government no matter what it is called.

When I point out to them that Anarchy is chaos, by definition; and that political Anarchy, to be true to its definition, would require that there is no structure (which I will always call government) in order for it to be called Anarchy,that the resultant society would be chaotic and prone to instability, which most likely would lead (and has lead in the past) to more repressive forms of government taking root, I’m told that I just don’t get it.

But I do get it. The anarchists want to use the word anarchy to serve as a figurehead for something that isn’t anarchy but will be different from the current government structure; a tactic which has and most likely will backfire again when acted upon. Which is why I bother to argue about this in the first place.

Utopian and Idealist visions have lead to some of the worst hell holes on the planet. During the time of the Russian revolution, Anarchists and Socialists were brothers in the same cause; fighting to bring change to a Russian society that, without a doubt, desperately needed it. The idealist Anarchists of the time thought that if they could just get rid of the Czar the social utopia of Communism (which is a governmentless form of society, an anarchy; at least as Marx envisioned it) would soon follow. I think history will show it turned out differently.

No, I’m not saying that Anarchists are Communists. The Wiki entry should plainly show, if nothing else, that Anarchists don’t even know what Anarchists are. Which is fitting, considering the definition of the word anarchy. Chaos is its own definition.

Every time I find myself butting heads with someone politically, I discover that the someone in question has some ‘ideal’ vision in his head concerning what should be the way things work; a Utopia for which they just won’t accept any substitutions. Unfortunately reality doesn’t consult with us concerning it’s inner workings. In an ideal world, there would be no idealists. That’s my idea of utopia. You can thank your lucky stars that I don’t believe in Utopias.

If we want structures to serve the purposes we intend for them, then we have to look at the constraints that reality places on us and design them to fit. Self-funding support bodies for essential government functions (i.e. the cost of police and fire departments being funded by the insurance companies and land owners that profit from their existence) is just one vein of thought on the subject. Government structures that don’t violate rights simply by existing in the first place.

Suffice it to say I’ve put some thought into this, and I doubt that there is much that can be said that will sway me from my opinion.

Teaching people to think

Hello, I’m Anthony. (Hi Anthony) …And I’m a Forum Addict. It all started years ago with CompuServe forums and Usenet. Not long after we got our first Internet account (way back in ’94, through the local university) I started looking for people to talk with. At first it seemed innocuous enough, just chatting with people who had shared interests. There was the occasional disagreement with the odd agitator who showed up just to argue, but all and all, a forum was a friendly place. I’m not quite sure when or how it happened, but as time progressed it seems that the forums became more about the disagreement, and less about the sharing of knowledge; perhaps we are all looking for that emotional high that comes from being in a ‘good argument’.

Actually, the tendency toward ‘forum addiction’ can be traced back much earlier than that. If you remember the charge you got the first time you knew something somebody else didn’t know, and you got to explain it to them, got to see their eyes light up with understanding, then you too are a potential forum addict. That’s where it starts. And then you discover the Internet, and how easy it is to share information. You join your first forum and you start posting. Before you know it you are spending days at a time trying to shove a few facts into another idiot’s brain, never realizing that you to are an idiot just for making the attempt.

Talk about a waste of effort.

At some point (if you are like me) you will probably also discover that you are in an adversarial relationship with everyone in your group (Personally I tend to agree with a friend who observed that “it’s the nature of the medium”. For some reason the impersonal nature of text communication seems to make people more prone to “misapprehend” the meaning of a statement. There’s a multi-million dollar government funded study in there somewhere) …and the one time that you can all pull together is when you are trying to single out some other agitator to get rid of.

More and more often these days, that agitator turns out to be me. It seems I have this disgusting habit of making people think about things they’d rather not. Call me weird, but it’s kind of a point of pride with me. I figure if I don’t make someone go “Hmmm?” with each post, then I might as well watch the boob cube with the rest of the couch potatoes. Therein lies the rub. If you can’t impart a few simple facts to the unwilling, how on earth can you make them think?

Once again, can we say Waste of Effort? I knew that you could.

…This is why government schools don’t teach, they indoctrinate. No one wants to sit in neat little rows and listen to someone else lecture; and rote learning is boring, to say the least. So we have schools full of the unwilling that can’t be taught even simple facts, much less be made to think for themselves. If it was understood that thinking for oneself was a blessing, and that school was a place where this was facilitated, you might actually find children wanting to go to school just to learn, instead of going just to escape from their parents.

…And that is why the Montessori method of teaching will always be superior to the typical attempt at teaching found in government schools. It stimulates the natural desire within the child to learn and to understand. This is also why you won’t find Montessori teaching in the ‘public’ (government) school system. Worse than getting children hooked on drugs, getting them to think.

Back to the task at hand…

The idiot that I am, got kicked off another forum the other day (you might notice that it disappeared from my sidebar) Miscued on a post by another, who miscued on a (poor) attempt at humor on my part. The peanut gallery pounced at that point, I’m sure; one can rack up a lot of negative feelings when he’s trying to pound a little sense into the opposition. They offered to let me stay on if I would agree to be moderated, but I’m not interested in letting someone else second guess what I should post. So I’m outta there…

I’ve alienated friends and family members with this stupid forum addiction, this blind belief that I can somehow impart a little understanding to the (as someone else called them) “unwashed masses” by “getting the information out there”. Silly, really. Or is it?

Over time I’ve progressed (?) from knowing everything, but understanding very little (typical teenager) to knowing nothing, but understanding a great deal (hello mid-life) more than I can express in a blog entry.

I wonder when I’ll learn to think…? And will it be before I hit ‘send’ the next time?


March 4, 2019. Coded language. How quaint. Government schools are not bad, per se. When they don’t indoctrinate. When they impart real life skills. They do just fine, then. So long as they get the job done that needs to be done government schools are just fine. It’s when the job they are doing is not serving the greater good, creating people who can think for themselves, critically. That’s when government schools and all schools, fail. Montessori fails to educate those students with special needs, and it fails because a good portion of Montessori instruction is based on belief/ideology and not on tried and true best methods. Finding a school that teaches critical thinking based on best methods. That is the really hard part.

Polluted Memories of Stage Fright

A friend sent me a link to a music and humor blog the other day thinking I would get a kick out of the references to days gone by, inside jokes that only us old people would find amusing. What they didn’t know was that the Janis Joplin  music that the blog was playing would remind me of Janis staring down on me from the wall of the Janis Room at Threadgill’s. Not a pleasant memory of my youth but of the location where we used to hold a weekly Libertarian Toastmasters (Politimasters) meetings and the terror I went through pretty much every week that I was expected to give a speech there. The kind of thing that should carry a trigger warning, if I believed in those kinds of things.

Anyone who’s ever tried to speak in front of a large group of people can probably commiserate with me here, if not completely understand what I’m talking about. It wasn’t just fear that I felt, standing there trying to speak, and stage fright is too dismissive to cover it. Perhaps topophobia would describe the feeling, if only I could get a definition that wasn’t the (current) generic fear of certain places or situations. But stage fright might explain why Janis (and so many other performers) resorted to numbing herself before getting onstage. I know the politimasters meetings went better when alcohol was served beforehand (at least they seemed to) How can you be expected to be entertaining when you can’t shake the feeling that you’re going to melt (or explode) at any moment? Heart racing, a feeling of the darkest dread, the desire to run away and never stop running? Is that entertainment?

Public speaking is one of the most common human fears, and this was confirmed by my own experiences within the Politimasters group. The group itself died from a lack of participation. We just couldn’t get enough people. Ten people were all we needed. Ten people, and you can run an effective Toastmasters training group. We couldn’t even get 10 people in the city of Austin interested in meeting every week to practice their speaking skills in front of an audience. That is how prevalent the fear is.

Toastmasters and stage fright in turn remind me of my high school speech class and the dreaded speech class project, another instance (and another trigger warning) of getting up in front of an audience and performing in front of other people. The teachers decided to do a mock version of The Gong Show (this was the 70’s after all) in front of the entire school body as well as guests. To make matters worse they decided we would determine in advance whether we were going to be gonged or not (I think they missed the point of audience participation a key feature of The Gong Show) A friend of mine convinced me that we should try and do Abbott & Costello’s routine Who’s on First, and we (she) decided that we didn’t want to be gonged. I went along with the plan lacking even the slightest idea what I could possibly do that an audience would find interesting. [I’ve written a piece more recently, Coping with Dysgraphia. It might shed light on why it was that I was convinced I couldn’t be interesting.]

Abbott & Costello – Who’s on First?

I memorized the routine. I read it every day for more than two weeks. I performed it in front of family a number of times. I could do it backward by the day of the show. All that practicing amounted to nothing. It didn’t matter because when that curtain rose, I couldn’t remember word one of the entire thing. I am, to put it bluntly, speechless, in front of the entire auditorium. Both of us end up reading the routine from cards that we carried on stage with us. There is no other way to describe what we were doing other than bad, and we should be gonged for it. The audience wants us gonged, and can’t figure out why the judges don’t go along. I remember the feeling of thousands of people in the audience wanting my blood (although I’m sure the auditorium in Stinnett didn’t hold more than a few hundred; and ‘wanting blood’ is a bit of an exaggeration. Just a bit) when I walked off that stage I swore I would never do anything like that again.

…And Janis is looking at me from across the room. “You had a speech prepared for Toastmasters tonight, right?” Pure terror.


The website/blog that stimulated this trip down memory lane removed itself from public view a number of years ago. I searched for it using different text strings and even went to archive.org and looked for a record of the blog in the archive. Not even the URL was preserved. This gaping absence in the beginning of the story forced me to rewrite the opening paragraphs for this piece. Having then embarked on a major re-edit, I decided to do a few other wordsmithing edits while keeping the feeling of the piece that I had intended to communicate intact.

Well, that’s true as far as it goes. The real reason I’m editing today is because Chuck Barris died this week (March 2017) and as much as I hate to admit it he had a real impact on my life, as is partially related above. My family watched The Gong Show every day if my memory serves me right. The show was on in the hour after we got out of school and since we only had one TV and two channels back then, I cringed my way through most of the stupid on it. There were occasional gems to be found but I don’t think love or like are words I would apply to The Gong Show. The show was more like an inoculation for stupid than anything that I might remember with affection.

If you haven’t seen Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and you are a Chuck Barris or Gong Show fan, you might want to give it a chance. It is a very strange film about a very strange man. I personally would rate the film as meh. I know that is what I thought because it made so little impression on me that I barely recall it. The vast majority of films that I’ve seen rate a meh; so while that’s not a glowing endorsement, at least I didn’t gong it and send it back unwatched. There have been quite a few of those over the years. Too little time, too much to watch. The Wife and I wanted to see it because Sam Rockwell plays Chuck Barris, and he does a credible job of channeling​ the man and the madness that was the 70’s as seen through the rearview mirror. Personally, I’d rather look at the 70’s through the lens of Barris’ eyes than mine. He was always more charitable to the stupid than I could ever be. It was his saving grace.


Editor’s note, September 2019. The Texas Standard ran a segment on Texas’ Woodstock a few days ago, an event that featured a Saturday night set performed by Janis Joplin. The webpage and the audio on it are all worth listening to. It was apparently quite an event; an event that the Texas of the time was embarrassed about and tried to make us all forget. Janis got the last word. Good for her.

On the first day, Sam and Dave and B.B. King got the crowd moving despite the heat. Chicago played. They were still called Chicago Transit Authority back then. But the act that got the crowd’s biggest ovation was one of their own: Janis Joplin. She closed out Saturday’s show with a set Hayner remembers as electric.

“Texas had been pretty hard on her and so what I remember her saying is that she had really felt kind of nervous about being there but we really made her feel like she was welcome and part of us,” he says.

And she was part of them. Janis Joplin had to leave Texas to become the Janis Joplin everyone now knows. For most of her career, she stayed away from her home state. Texas was a place where she was bullied, ostracized for who she was. That experience left her, like so many in the crowd, caught between worlds that were often at odds with each other. But now here she was – an icon of the counterculture. The crowd clapped her and the Kozmic Blues Band back on for two encores. And then, as concertgoer Billy Kirby remembers it, she had something to say.

“Her band was walking off the stage, she was walking off the stage. The lighters were up, people were screaming ‘Janis, Janis, encore, encore.’ Well she comes out and everybody goes crazy again and she just kind of quiets the crowd down a little bit with her hand movements,” he says. “And she leaned to the microphone and said ‘Thank you very much. But what I want to know is where the fuck were you motherfuckers when I needed you a few years ago?’ And left.”

Texas Standard

Editor’s note, October 2019.

the Texas Standard

“She never talked about how hard she worked to get to where she was and become the musician she was. And suddenly, I hear her coming up with guitar parts, figuring out different tempos, new arrangements of the songs. She was really calling the shots.”

Holly George-Warren
New Janis Joplin Biography Reveals The Hard Work Behind The Heart

The Texas Standard segment and the Fresh Air episode linked above contain different interviews with the author of Janis: Her Life and Music, Holly George-Warren. If I was more of a Janis Joplin fan I’d probably take the time to read the book. I may take the time to listen to Janis’ discography back to back with Big Mama Thornton‘s work just to get a feel for the two different approaches to the material.

I should have been paying closer attention to what Janis was singing about back in the days when it might have saved me more time. Freedom isn’t something that you conserve. Freedom is a state of nature that admits to no tomorrows.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

Me and Bobby McGee