Why Are You So Angry?

This is the most common question I’ve been asked for as long as I can remember.  From high school through to the last argument I had “Why are you so angry?” pops up again and again.  Everyone I talk to on almost any given subject is convinced that there is some one thing in my life that is bugging me, and that if they can just fix that one thing I’ll be happy.

I’m not angry, I’m intense. This would be my explanation. I’m focused on whatever it is that I’m talking about, writing about, thinking about.  It comes across in nearly every conversation, in nearly any documentation, in almost any interaction.  I’m pretty sure it freaks most people out and I have no idea how to turn it off.

The quickest way to get me to feel actual anger is to ask me why are you so angry? when I’m simply responding with emphasis.  This tendency to fly off the handle has gotten me sent to many headshrinkers over the years. Thoughtful types who purse their lips and want to dig through all the detritus in my head to find out what makes me tick. They would press me to get past the anger masking the real emotion so that they could help me.

Let’s say I’m angry, just to admit a point for debate.  Why would I be angry?

I have always been a smartass. My father made sure that I knew this at a very young age, informing me “you really are a smartass, aren’t you?” throughout most of my youth. The internet age has given me a synonym for smartass. Troll. I apparently trolled my parents and teachers pretty frequently.  I was sent on mysterious errands in Sunday school for asking things like “who made god?” or “where did the extra loaves and fishes come from?” I had no idea I was being a smartass.  The questions occurred, and questions need answers. There were always more questions than there ever were answers, and I’d bet one of my limbs that the first time I was labeled a smartass was when I observed this fact to an adult. Why couldn’t they answer my questions?  I thought adults knew everything.

Standing apart and observing others with a clinical eye when most people are too busy, too caught up in the rough and tumble to notice the larger picture.  Disturbing the peace with my questions, my unwelcome observations. Daring to call down the wrath of adults and spending more hours sitting in a corner than I probably ever did on the playground, just to gain an insight into behaviors that puzzled me, patterns and habits that baffled me.

Stuck in the middle of Kansas surrounded by people that I could just barely relate to, forced to participate in rituals that I had no interest in.  Church? FootballRodeo? That last one is the kicker I will never understand.  What purpose is served by rodeo? In the medieval guilds you would call what rodeo does a demonstration of skill. A demonstration that a journeyman attempts in order to be hired on somewhere as a master. I guess if I was in the need of horse riders or cattlemen, I’d go to a rodeo to find them. Luckily for me, I don’t need any of those so don’t need to go to the rodeo. The inscrutability of rodeo is tangential, though. It is a speed bump in the middle of nowhere that makes you ask, why?  The speed bump is irrelevant, the question is important.

Why am I so angry? Well, there is a start right there.  If I’m angry at all.  Am I really angry?

I was first clued in on the synonym for smartass while in a Compuserve chat group way back at the dawn of the internet. They called me a troll. In hindsight this label was indeed accurate. I was trolling then. Internet trolls do seem angry about something, although what they are angry about is open to question. The wife insists I’m not a troll because in her eye trolls are evil creatures. Trolls are not evil, trolls are misanthropes; and all of us are misanthropes outside of our comfort zone.  I was called a troll because I didn’t understand and wanted to know. Wanted to know about being other kinds of people than I appeared to be. I appeared to be, still appear to be, a white guy who appreciates his guns, cars and the company of women. I understand that.  That is life for the average male in the midwest.  It’s not enough for me, but it appears to be enough for most men.

I wanted to know, so I went outside my comfort zone which is the only way to learn anything and started asking questions, making observations.  As I have always done.  As I will probably always do. I asked, I read, I listened and I learned.  Because I learned I became sensitive to the misuse of various words, which I have even wrote about in the hopes of educating others.

If you don’t listen to the answers to your questions, if you don’t learn anything from asking questions, you are worse than a troll; you are wasting everyone’s time asking questions that you have no intention of internalizing the answers for.  You are tormenting others just to hear yourself talk. You are engaging in casual conversation, conversation without feeling. Conversation without meaning.

I loathe casual conversation.

If I am angry, a point which I do not concede, then the demand to engage in meaningless banter on a near constant basis is probably the biggest reason why.  I do not speak to hear myself talk.  I’m not quick on the uptake and most wit goes right over my head on first pass.  It is only later that I will piece together the joke and then facepalm over the stupidity of not getting the point while the conversation is occurring, when it would have done me some good.

It takes mental energy to engage in small talk effectively.  To be witty in a casual fashion. Far more energy than I care to devote to a brief conversation with a stranger whom I will probably never meet again. I have always had goals that were far more important to me than witty banter.  Goals which consumed most of my mental energy.  When the adults around me failed to produce answers to my questions, I turned to the only source available in 1970’s Kansas.  I went to the local library.  For most of my life I have wandered around with my nose stuck in books.  Books were the only place where answers could be found, where stories that interested me were being told.

What was real? Where are we going? Where did we come from? Every question answered produced at least two new questions that needed answers.  A never-ending task of education which now extends out beyond my mortal existence. Another good excuse to be angry.  Frustrated by the limitations of life itself.  I will die still needing answers to questions that will never be answered.  If that doesn’t piss you off, you aren’t thinking about the problem.

Thinking. Thinking about thinking.  Thinking about thinking about thinking.  The philosopher’s dilemma. Is this me thinking or is this an outside influence causing me to come to a particular conclusion?  Am I angry or does my thinking make you angry which you then reflect on me? I’m thinking the latter.  Of course I would think that.  You would think that in my place.

I’m thinking that most people hate thinking so much they’ll pay to undergo pain in order to stop themselves from thinking. I’m thinking I’m not angry but that you wish I’d stop troubling you with my thinking, my desire to make you think. You are angry because I’m thinking and thinking makes you angry. I apologize for not having electric probes for you to blank those thoughts with. Is it sadism to make people think knowing that they would rather endure pain than think? Am I the jackass whisperer? If I’m not, am I the jackass? It’s probably best to leave the jackasses to their electric shocks and not taint myself with their pain.

“Casual conversations, how they bore me. Yeah, they go on and on endlessly. No matter what I say you’ll ignore me anyway. I might as well talk in my sleep, I could weep.”

Why go on, just hoping that we’ll get along.

Supertramp

Editor’s note. This narrative was originally interwoven with the narrative contained in The Unappreciated Art of the Troll when I first wrote it. I set it aside and then left it out of the second draft. Still, enough of my own experience is in this narrative that I thought I ought to at least publish it on the date it was written. So here it is.

Conspiratorial Fantasies

I’m going to dive right into this. I’m going in hot. The image at right appeared on a friend’s Facebook wall recently.

The correct interpretation of facts currently on the ground is that anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If they do not pander to the big spenders in the current climate (i.e. the corporations) then they will not get the funds they need to win.

Winning is key. Without a winning strategy, what occurs is just;

…a tale [t]old by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

The Scottish Play

All of them are working for the corporations, even the third party candidates. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable.  This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple.

I really have no problem with the image.  I probably don’t have a problem with the website it came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild.

I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends indulge in conspiracy fantasies though; and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Let’s start with the phrase conspiracy theory. It really isn’t a theory at all.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community.

They aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  It has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation.

What we are left with is conspiratorial conjecture. They are stories that are told to entertain, for the most part. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you.

When my friend made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his Facebook post the image was attached to, rather than argue with his conspiratorial mindset directly, I linked this recent video discussing scientific studies showing that the conspiracy fantasists were more gullible than other people;


Rebecca Watson – No Shit Study: Scientists Show Conspiracy Theorists Will Believe Anything – May 18, 2015

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real”  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real.

Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are delectable in contrails, the planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

…Unless you have a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All you have to do is go look and leave your critical thinking skills behind.  That is, if you ever learned to think critically in the first place.

Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

The Rothschild thing? That is an old anti-Semitic/White supremacist fabrication.  Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews. Which again, says more about you than about anyone else.

If you think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then conspiracy theorists are as gullible as the study she talks about shows.  They lack the ability to detect when they are being subjected to satire and ridicule, and repeat satirical posts as if they are real. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans (and I don’t) I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.

The conversation spiraled into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales.  Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time.  I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they’ve heard of at me one at time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

Perhaps the reason why so many American’s subscribe to conspiracy theories is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?


I really should have mentioned the latest conspiracy fantasy that has taken Texas (my state) by storm. Ever ready to believe anything said of President Obama (except this) when the military announced their latest round of training exercises Operation Jade Helm 15 the entirety of conservative Texas lost its collective mind.

My favorite clown head politician, Ted Cruz, took to the internet and the news to predict dire consequences if these maneuvers were allowed to happen (as if they don’t happen pretty much every year) Even our sitting governor had to get in on the act, saying he would call up the Texas State Guard to protect the state from the federal military. (h/t to Skeptoid for a link to Abbott’s letter)

I’ve been to Camp Mabry. I have a lot of respect for soldiers, but if that’s what is going to protect us from the US military, I think we’d be better off pleading for mercy from the feds and then asking for reconstruction aid, rather than rely on the Texas Guard to fend off the largest military the world has ever seen.  No offense fellas, but you’re just a bit outnumbered and outgunned. Just a bit.

I’d like to second the observation of a friend that suggested the US government should simply offer to pull all military bases out of Texas as a gesture towards non-aggression. All those tax dollars in the form of soldier’s pay, base construction, etc going to another state instead of Texas.

What was that? You weren’t serious? No, no I think you were serious. Seriously deranged, anyway.  You might want to get some help with that.

Paranoia is a mental illness, not a super power.

Stonekettle Station

The latest fantasist appears to be Seymour Hersh; which is too bad.  Too bad because the guy really had a marvelous resume. Not too long after his revelations on Abu Ghraib, he seemed to lose his grip on what we colloquially refer to as reality, mistaking his desire to see grand conspiracies everywhere for the demonstrable facts in a story;

Perhaps the most concerning problem with Hersh’s story is not the sourcing but rather the internal contradictions in the narrative he constructs.

Most blatant, Hersh’s entire narrative turns on a secret deal, in which the US promised Pakistan increased military aid and a “freer hand in Afghanistan.” In fact, the exact opposite of this occurred, with US military aid dropping and US-Pakistan cooperation in Afghanistan plummeting as both sides feuded bitterly for years after the raid.

Hersh explains this seemingly fatal contradiction by suggesting the deal fell apart due to miscommunication between the Americans and Pakistanis. But it’s strange to argue that the dozens of officials on both sides would be competent enough to secretly plan and execute a massive international ruse, and then to uphold their conspiracy for years after the fact, but would not be competent enough to get on the same page about aid delivery.

The many problems with Seymour Hersh’s Osama bin Laden conspiracy theory by Max Fisher

Don’t get me wrong here. I’ve never accepted Pakistan’s denials of knowledge concerning Osama Bin Laden’s location, since he was living near their military training academy. What surprises me on that subject is we haven’t been able to demonstrate what classes he was teaching there.  Which high-ranking official in the Pakistani government helped him take up residence in Abbottabad.

That aside, not even the Obama administration accepts that Zero Dark Thirty is anything aside from a Hollywood fantasy attempting to make sense of the disparate narratives that could have lead to OBL’s killing. They have denied that torture lead to information on OBL’s whereabouts, and have maintained that key evidence was provided by a walk-in source voluntarily, not through any kind of intense interrogation.  Only Cheney and his ilk insist that torture produced anything useful, and I’ve already said my piece on that subject. So the accusation that Hersh himself levels at the Obama administration is largely incorrect.

I offer the previous as an attempt to disarm the fantasy believer, so that when I observe that Hersh is engaging in conspiratorial fantasies it in no way means I accept any other particular narrative on the subject.  Rather it is an observation like this one detailed over on Slate;

It’s this commitment to counter narrative totality—the idea that a few legitimate questions make the entire official narrative a lie, accompanied by a certainty in a counterhistory based on theory, suggestion, and a relatively negligible amount of secondhand evidence—that make Hersh’s account reminiscent of what you might see from the professional conspiracy theorists at InfoWars. It privileges the accounts and suggestions of a few vaguely connected ex-insiders over other, more exhaustive accounts based on the testimony of people who are in a much better position to know at least some of the facts.

Slate

It is Hersh’s tone and his spittle-flecked denunciation of the US government’s complicity and cooperation with Pakistan in the killing of OBL as a publicity stunt that gets him marked as a fantasist, not the content of his counter-narrative.  Most of what he has to say on the subject really isn’t even news, if it is at all believable on its face.

This story is a baseline for conspiratorial fantasies. A gateway drug.  A building 7 in 9-11 truther language. If you can get past the point where you stop wondering how hundreds of civil employees and soldiers could have been motivated to keep silent on this subject, then you can get busy embroidering Hersh’s revelations with details of your own.

The detail of size is what makes the likelihood of this conspiracy being true so improbably remote.  Fantasists who support Hersh point to the Guardian / Edward Snowden revelations as proof that massive conspiracies can and do exist. However, it is that very story that illustrates the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret.  Oh, it was officially denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there at some point. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact.

The NSA’s spying program is the hallmark of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.  The fact that Hersh’s fantasies concerning OBL contain so little new reliable information proves that they are just that.  If they weren’t, he’d have solid witnesses willing to swear to the veracity of his complete story.  Those simply don’t exist outside of his imagination.


This post was revised and reposted in 2018. It bears mentioning that at this point in time (2018) it has been revealed that the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy fantasies were created by Russian operatives as a testbed to see if they could alter US politics by sowing discord. In a word, yes. Yes they could and did, and continued to do from this point through the 2016 presidential elections that gave us the Orange Hate-Monkey as president.

TEXAS STANDARD|Michael MarksMay 4, 2018 12:38 pm|SECURITY EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA IS WINNING THE DISINFORMATION WAR

More on this at the 2018 Version of this post.

A Big Bowl of Crow

Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008,

The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

 Yes, that was me. That’s not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it’s still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today.  That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I’m ready.

No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.

If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls, then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked in a program as complex as Social Security is and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint. The program could be made solvent, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.

If the program fails it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. We allow it to fail by voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. If we allow it to fail, it is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can’t keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.

When your Representatives or Senators tell you that caring for the elderly and the infirm is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think, not cheer.  Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I’d say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment.  The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future.  If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.

That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I’ve needed to take for awhile now.

Socialism is not a dirty word.  There, I’ve said it. Contrary to virtually every sentiment I’ve expressed in the past, the idea that society should care for it’s people; that programs should serve the group as a whole, not just those capable of paying, is a laudable goal. Socialist mechanisms exist within the system as it currently stands, have existed within the system since the first time shipping firms and international traders pooled their collective resources and insured themselves against losses, allowing them to venture out on the high seas without worrying about the loss of one ship bankrupting any one particular firm.

State Socialism (or Marxism) which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in its wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.

The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn’t something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place.  I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?

This ideology, this dream of mine, that charity can do what government does currently, provide for the less fortunate in our midst, might still be possible at some time in the future.  One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a high enough level that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care.  That the infirm are not left on the streets to die. That day is not today.

In today’s America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy (an even more valid observation in 2017 Trump’s America) The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.

The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.

The leadership of this country, with the exception of President Obama, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of. This is not the America I want to leave for my children.

It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive.  That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn’t mean that? Government for the people, by the people.  If that government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.

If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us.  If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive.  Life should mean more than that.


Editor’s note. Don’t be that guy. That conservative. Just don’t.

Be a liberal, instead. Embrace the future.

Trolling, Second Amendment Style

Schadenfreude (/ˈʃɑːdənfrɔɪdə/; German: 
[ˈʃaːdn̩ˌfʁɔʏ̯də] (listen); lit. ‘harm-joy’) is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There was a study done recently on trolling behavior on the internet. I’m sure most of us remember it, but for those who don’t, here’s the link and a snippet;

“These findings provide a preliminary glimpse into the mechanism by which sadism fosters trolling behavior,” the article says. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground.”

The key phrase to take away from the article is “Not based on random sampling” which means that any claim to scientific rigor in the study just goes out the window. Consequently the label of sadist really can’t be applied to trolling behavior in general, much less just the trolling on the internet. Still, it always interesting to see trolls squirm.

There are trolls (as in people who place themselves in the way of furthering a conversation) everywhere in life.  Recently they’ve been showing up in restaurants and retail establishments across Texas.  They look something like this;

These are trolls, trolls in real life.  They are attempting to stop a conversation concerning the place for weapons in everyday life in the US.  They intentionally bring weapons into places where they are not needed or wanted, and they do it specifically to stop conversations like this one;

MSNBC

Now, I have talked to people like the Texas Open Carry members in the photo above (another one of those frequent conversations in the TexasLP.  It’s in the platform, even) They insist that they are simply exercising their second amendment rights. I understand the argument, but I have a counter observation I’d like to offer “Do you take that in a short or regular straight jacket?”  Because the idea that people will not feel threatened by their openly carrying weapons is completely fucking psycho.   It reminds me of the NRA stationing armed guards at a Washington Press Club event they were attending, only to have the press call authorities to have the armed guards removed.

The presence of a weapon in any situation is a unspoken threat of force, always there under the surface.


Jon Stewart reveals the nature of open carry; the goals of the NRA.  The clip after that will give you tips on how not to troll with your guns.

THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART KEEP GUN AND CARRY ON – 6/5/2014


To troll someone is to experience Schadenfreude,the reason I started this article with that definition. This entire article gives me enough Schadenfreude that I think I might need a cigarette now.

(Editor’s note: Schadenfreude definition replaced with wikipedia definition and directed to wikipedia instead of answer.com. Page gives a 404 as of 2019. The archive of the clip for All-In on June 3rd is missing. I left the video link in just in case MSNBC finds their assets and puts that video into the archive)

In My Dreams I Sound This Good While Ranting

Give this a listen, and you’ll hear what I mean.

Tim MinchinStorm by Tim Minchin (Audio only version) – Jan 28, 2009

This is topical for the conversation I was just relating in my previous blog entry (three in two days.  I’m going to burn out!) However the draft this post was based on had been hanging out on the blog interface so long that the activity Tim was involved in was Jesus Christ Superstar (I’ve had a long-time fascination with that musical) a show that is no longer playing and which had just released its DVD. So, you know. Championship level procrastination.

I tracked Storm down after listening to The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe – Podcast 184 and hearing him mention it in the interview. I already had a weakness for White Wine in the Sun.

This is posted here and now because I went trolling back through the drafts today looking for something completely different and found it. Oh, the treasures you find in the back alleyways of your long forgotten notes. 

Father, Freethinker, Objectivist-Humanist

I used my post on Why I am a Libertarian as an example of how I would describe myself for many years. A decade and more of time has passed, and when I look back on this with an eye for continuity and history, I find my previous blind reliance on libertarian principles to be quite humorous.

I have never been an anarchist; in fact, anarchists are some of the people I disagree with the most. If I could point to a single reason why I almost never identify as libertarian any longer, it’s because libertarianism (especially on the web) is default anarchism. You have to struggle to get the average libertarian to admit that structure is required in society. That you need organization to build roads, do science, construct complex machinery. In fact, there is so much knowledge involved in a single field of expertise these days that it’s almost hard to find generalists with enough depth of knowledge to bridge the gap between specialists.

So this idea of the rugged individualist doing all for himself, with no one to thank for what he has other than himself is complete self-delusional bullshit.

From the hospital where most of us are born to the school paid for with tax dollars, from the roads we travel on during our working years to the social security system most of us will rely on in old age, almost nothing we experience occurs because we were the sole architect of its existence. Much less would we want to own any of the convoluted bullshit we have to deal with systems invented by madmen and executed by sadists? Better to be leaves floating on an irresistible wind than acknowledge that any of this is what we would have wanted, planned for, inflicted on others.

I played a mental game with myself for quite a long time. I still find it amusing on occasion, especially when opponents in argument will trot out the ad hominem, try to affix labels to me and my arguments in order to dismiss them. Flip the script is how you might describe it these days. How would you define yourself in as few words as possible, using only labels that others might use to discard you and your arguments. Epithets or titles applied to you by others to summarize and pigeonhole you or your views.

I could to get it down to three; Objectivist, Architect, Father (no longer licensed, so can’t call myself architect anymore. Libertarian was in second place at one point) These days the three would be more like Father, Skeptic, Objectivist; and Objectivist is left on the end simply because I still believe we can obtain glimpses of objectivity, not because I buy in to the whacky psychological ideals of Ayn Rand. That we have to be able to discern objective reality in some limited fashion unless everything we sense is complete illusion, which demonstrably is not the case. Most Objectivists these days make me cringe when they speak.

I daresay today’s Objectivists would make Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum cringe as well; but then I’m not her, was never a member of her cult of personality, don’t believe in revealed knowledge in even the vaguest sense. What I do know is that the system she describes as ideal doesn’t even resemble the current political, ideological or economic system; and the economic and political actors of today are more akin to the looters of her novels than her contemporaries in 1950 America could have been. That current self-identified objectivists laud the behavior and thinking of these people simply puts the lie to their claim of objectivity.

Consequently, when self-styled Objectivists start mouthing anarchist phrases while representing the Republican party, I almost disown the objectivist label, too. Who knows, maybe that one goes next. Would Ayn Rand have modified her ideals given the advances in knowledge about the workings of the mind and the social patterns of the human animal? I’d like to think she would have admitted fault at some point, but then that wouldn’t have been very Ayn Rand of her.


This introspection was brought on by a challenge from a fellow member of the now-defunct Dan Carlin BBS forums. Gone are all the threads and thoughts recorded on those boards, unless they are preserved somewhere on Dan’s private servers or happened to be picked up by the Wayback Machine, if even the Wayback Machine itself continues to function. 

I get no satisfaction from the knowledge that I predicted the demise of the boards years before they were taken offline by Dan Carlin, but I knew that his hands-off approach to freedom of speech, his belief in the innate goodness of people, was a recipe for disaster. That the disaster did occur was in spite of my best efforts, for years, before finally giving up. Trolls will continue to troll until barred from trolling, and it takes a judicious use of the ban-hammer to make people respect you enough to be forthright in their posting habits. If you are anonymous and without rules, driving people away with harassment is simpler than trying to reason with them. The time spent is the only cost of such behavior, and that is essentially free if you have free time to spend. Some of us have far too much time. 

But the challenge had been to be as self-reflective as you could and be open about things you might have learned since joining the forums. I believe it was cast against the more recent findings that people did not change with argument (more recent than the establishment of the forum) and the member who issued that challenge was de officiis I think. They were just another stranger on the internet, but someone who had reliably challenged me with heartfelt interrogation, always offering comments that I felt were honest. So I accepted the challenge in the fashion offered. These were my most honest thoughts of the time. They still hold some power over me.


Since writing the above, I tried out the word ‘Skeptic’ as defining me, and I find it too skeptical.  The daughter thinks Freethinker is too pretentious, but then I think pretentious defines my assessment of the importance of my thinking quite well.  So I’m going with the pretentious sounding ‘freethinker’ rather than the piss on your parade personal interpretation I get from the word skeptic (Yes, skeptics, I know that isn’t how you see the word) I would say that I approach all subjects with a healthy dose of skepticism, but I don’t enjoy the process very much.  I do love finding truths, but telling others what the truth actually *is* is a very tricky process.  A process I find I don’t do very well.

Consequently, I also feel the need to temper Objectivism with Humanism.  Objectivists will say this means I’m not really an objectivist; something else I find funny since most of them don’t see the problem with being religious and claiming Objectivism as a philosophy.  Human is the lens that modifies the world we see, and Humanism is the attempt to make our systems more humane.  I’ll take that.

Dan Carlin BBS forum introduce yourself addendum post.


What is a Freethinker?

Die Gedanken Sind Frei!

Die Gedanken Sind Frei by Dan Barker and Kristen Lems

What makes a freethinker is not his beliefs but the way in which he holds them. If he holds them because his elders told him they were true when he was young, or if he holds them because if he did not he would be unhappy, his thought is not free; but if he holds them because, after careful thought he finds a balance of evidence in their favor, then his thought is free, however odd his conclusions may seem.

Bertrand Russell
Pete Seeger- Die Gedanken Sind Frei from the album Dangerous Songs!?

Conspiracy Cults; Getting What’s Coming to Them?

This is for Steven Vandervelde who, in his infinite wisdom, decided to unfriend me in the middle of a conversation on his wall (conversation appended) I was in the middle of real life, of watching movies with family, when this conversation started.

I should have resisted commenting on his post (that was how I started the comment I had to abandon because of his actions) I have no fondness for trolls, and despise myself when I catch myself trolling. Still, I have to wonder if the conspiracy theorists (see appended conversation) understand just how nutty their words appear, when seen from outside the realm of the conspiracy initiated; the people who simply “know” that the forces of government are arrayed against them. In yet another example of my inability to keep myself from arguing with the terrified weapons holder (a phrase that should give anyone pause) I attempted to explain that it was completely rational to limit weapons to people who are trained and licensed to use and carry firearms. That there is no conspiracy at the UN to steal all our guns.

The UN exists exactly as I described; it was created specifically to echo the will of the victors in World War Two, it does what we (our government) tells it to. Everyone who isn’t part of the conspiracy knows this. No one is proposing that you should not be allowed to defend yourself. Even if they were, such a proposal would contravene centuries of US law and the founding documents of the government of the United States; not to mention the most recent decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States (District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570) which has reversed the presumption that you could render the population of the US defenseless, legally.

Can Not Be Done.

Not without changing the precedent, something that is quite rare. Let that sink in for a moment.

Before I leave this subject, I’d like to highlight another point. Recently the world was treated to a breath of fresh air commonly referred to as the Arab Spring. Third World regions such as the Middle East (my apologies to anyone who takes offense to this characterization) are historically the most despotic. They have some of the worst records on human rights, freedoms; and most importantly gun ownership. Yet these people, officially unarmed by law, managed to overthrow several governments and change the course of the region, politically.  What does that mean when it comes to the necessity of arms and the need to make government responsive to the people? For me, it embroiders an opinion that I’ve long held; that revolution need not be violent in order to be effective.

The US is obsessed with guns. We have been since Lexington and Concord. In the 1700’s, it was necessary to hold arms in order to be able to effect change. This adage was observed and utilized through numerous generations, and taken to heart by several successful dictators of the recent past, which the gunnuts (a term I use with the greatest of sympathy) have enumerated ad nauseum during the current debate about guns. But that doesn’t mean that guns are ultimately of any use to those who hold them.  It bears noting that Adam Lanza’s mother (who purchased the guns he used in his mass shooting) ultimately disapproved of the use he put her guns too after he killed her with them.

…and that really is the question before us. The people who are opposed to this discussion on the basis of the discussion itself want to frame the question completely differently; but the real question remains, “can we limit access to weapons and yet retain our ability to defend ourselves?” Experience and history seem to indicate that this is a viable possibility, despite the (nearly) insane rants of those who would have you believe that if the government keeps you from purchasing and owning an Abrams tank, they are restricting your right to defend yourself. That conversation continues, in spite of the insanity.

There is something about the arguments of the conspiracy minded, though, that inspired this entire rant. The paranoid, like a broken clock, is right at least once a day (twice a 24 hour cycle) and the paranoid among us are already onto the weapon that will be used against them.

It’s been suggested in a few of the previous conversations I’ve had on this subject, that the government was going to restrict access to weapons based on a judgement of sanity; that they would deem us all insane and thereby take away all our guns. I’ll give them partial credit here.  There are people who have guns today who are (to establish a clinical judgment) completely nuts. Those people really shouldn’t have weapons, and I hereby approve of the government taking their weapons away from them, in furtherance of the safety of the rest of us.

You know who you are.

The rest of us, those of us who are quite sane, should probably welcome a discussion of what measures should be taken to limit access to weapons. After all, we’ve seen more mass shootings in the last few years than we’ve seen previously in history; if that knowledge doesn’t give us pause, then I guess it’s time to go buy those Bushmaster’s with 30 round clips, as well as the fallout shelters, a year’s worth of dry goods, a water purification plant and a good solar power system. Too bad there aren’t enough electric cars available on the market to make a ‘self-sufficient’ system truly viable (the operation of a refinery being beyond the ability of a small group of determined individuals) much less there being no real investments to hold all those fake dollars we invented over the last few decades…

…But please, don’t let me dissuade you.  They are coming for your guns. Go run and hide. We’ll let you know when it’s safe to come out.


Here are the saved comments and my embroidered responses to them. If they can block me and pat themselves on the back, I see little reason not to make myself sound smarter and righter than they are on my own blog. Screw ’em.

Steven Vandervelde shared L Neil Smith‘s photo.

[Just say “NO” image removed by Facebook poster]

To Obama, Feinstein, Biden, Schumer, Reid, McCarthy, DeGette, and the rest of weird, sick, criminal anti-gun fetishests …

I am saying no. I’m saying no to the weapons merchants, the profiteers and their defenders in government.

L Neil Smith Anthony, were you born a useful idiot, or did you have to take lessons? Go read some history. Victim disarmament is the all-important prelude to genocide — in this case democide. Go look at Agenda 21 and see what this government and the UN have in mind for you. 9/10 of the human population must die, in their view, the view of every top-level gun-grabber in the world, to save their lovely Mother Gaia.

I chose not to drink the conspiracy kool aid that appears to have infected the balance of libertarian thought. This is a fact-based observation, not an ad hominem. That it appears to be an ad hom is not my problem.

L Neil Smith American Independence was the result of a conspiracy. So was the Federal Reserve System and the income tax. Look up “Jekyll Island”. Not to mention the Manhattan Project. Or the dirty tricks that kept Ron Paul off the ballot. Are you ignorant of what Obama’s death squads are starting to do? Better look that up, too. Holding your nose loftily in the air only make it easier for the badguys to cut your throat.

And you never answered my question

I did answer your question. The fact is that the UN does what we want it to do. It was designed to do what we want it to do. If you don’t understand that basic fact, there’s no point in addressing the various other fallacies involved in the conspiracy theories you allude to.

Steven Vandervelde if you actually had a point you certainly failed to make it, minus the ad hominem attack. Are you really that incapable of carrying on an intelligent discussion? Are we to suppose that you don’t support the right to self defense? Why do you call yourself a libertarian?

I don’t call myself a libertarian. Not anymore (not for quite awhile) Self defense? Self defense does not guarantee you a firearm, or else you’d emerge from the womb clutching one.

L Neil Smith I deal with them every day. Usually they’re cowards who simply don’t want to think about the murder and mayhem going on all around them. Or they’re too lazy to take charge of their own lives, which includes pulling their heads out and looking around. Natural-born Tories. Imagine one of them calling himself a libertarian!

Wonder what this guy is going to tell himself when Obama’s death squads become commoin knowledge.

Again I repeat, Not a libertarian. You gotta love the total lack of ad hom’s in their replies. So much more directly argumentative than my comments, not attacking the person at all. I really should try to emulate them I guess. Also, I’ve noticed a distinct lack of death squads since this back and forth occurred. Still waiting for them to appear.

L Neil Smith Anthony, I’m not sure I’d use the word “we” as promiscuously as you do. I agree that the evil fascist sum presently troubling us is widely distributed. I can’t tell which end is the dog and which end is the tail. The UN and the US government both approve Agenda 21. I’m not a part of the “we”, are you? I’ve written of UN officials and presidential advisers who agree that 9/10 of the population must be gotten rid of. I’m not a part of that “we’, either, are you?

I know that this is painful — it was for me — but get it through your head: you don’t live in Disneyland any more. You never did. The only way we’re gonna have the America we thought we had is to_make_ it, starting now.

Oh, and I don’t drink Kool-Ade. I drink Jameson’s.

I drink Kelt, myself. What alcohol preference has to do with a known cult reference is a matter of conjecture. I don’t think we should casually joke about the insanity of believing everyone is capable of handling firearms responsibly.  That they can and do hold these beliefs without question is one of the hallmarks of cult-like thought.

Oh, and Agenda 21?  Another baseless conspiracy theory.

Then you hear the knock on the door. They know. Four blue-helmets stand there, armed to the teeth. One of them hands you a slip of onion-skin reading “CITATION 36-H53.1: LEFT BATHROOM LIGHT ON DURING WORK SHIFT.” And without a word, you go with them. There’s no need to pack and no point in protesting. By nightfall, you’ll be farming wind at a Work Camp 100 miles outside of the city, and nobody will say a word about the new code-stamper at the factory on Monday. Because they don’t want to be next. And in the North American Continental Sphere, anyone can be next.

Skeptoid

Rigging the Beauty Pageant?

I read an excellent opinion piece today (Paul Krugman: “Fearing Fear Itself”) on why none of the “front runners” amongst the Republican candidates stands a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the next election:

…Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.

Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.

Consider, for a moment, the implications of the fact that Rudy Giuliani is taking foreign policy advice from Norman Podhoretz, who wants us to start bombing Iran “as soon as it is logistically possible.”

Mr. Podhoretz, in short, is engaging in what my relatives call crazy talk. Yet he is being treated with respect by the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination. And Mr. Podhoretz’s rants are, if anything, saner than some of what we’ve been hearing from some of Mr. Giuliani’s rivals.

Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up…

read more | digg story

Only Ron Paul stands a chance of winning against the Democrats this time around, and he’s rapidly being shown the door by the core of the Republican party, who don’t want to hear that their fears are baseless.

This is shaping up like all of the other Presidential elections that I’ve witnessed. I don’t know why anyone pays attention to this stuff anymore. The throwing of the election by one party or the other, by offering up a candidate that only the core of the party would ever vote for (gun-controlling Mondale, socialist snoopy Dukakis, dead fish Dole, wooden Gore, lying Kerry) and with third party candidates excluded from real participation; they essentially hand the election to the other major party. With the exceptions of the elections of 1980 and 1996, there was never any question in my mind who was going to win.

[…and I really don’t want to hear about irregularities in the statistical ties that have dominated the 21st century elections. I’m well aware of the problems, they just aren’t relevant to the candidates chosen by the dominant parties, and the purposes behind their choice]

In all the other elections it seemed clear to me that the “opposition party” had chosen a candidate that was guaranteed to loose. It’s not as hard as you might imagine, to do this. The average Joe wants to vote for a winner (don’t ask me why that is, but I’ve talked to enough people, and seen enough data to know this is true) and the primaries can be reasonably easy to manipulate by excluding unwanted candidates and orchestrating media exposure (as was done to last elections Democrat favorite) so as to show your ‘favored’ candidate as winning early enough to start the landslide.

This is clearly shaping up to be a ‘handover’ election (no matter what Ol’ Joey, the Republican mouthpiece has to say about it) which is why the Democrat candidates feel secure enough to tell us all about their expensive and invasive social programs in advance (programs that the Republican front runners strangely feel the urge to parrot, albeit to a lesser extent) so that the election, when it occurs, will be a mandate for handing health care (and possibly control of the internet) over to the federal government.

Beauty pageants disguised as good government (election is just a popularity contest, after all) It might be more interesting if the candidates weren’t so old and wrinkly.

… And if the designated winner wasn’t transparently obvious.

Declining Dollar is only the First Symptom

While this story is a year old already, Why the global financial system is about to collapse remains scarily accurate in its analysis of the problems faced by fiat money systems around the world.

The global financial system is about to collapse because the US dollar is about to collapse. The US dollar is about to collapse because of a simple economic fact that no one has the power to change or conceal. The fact is that the spontaneous remonetization of the precious metals is a Nash equilibrium.

Why the global financial system is about to collapse

I don’t know who John Law is, but he made some interesting points. Good luck finding him if you have questions for him. I questioned the insistence that gold (or any commodity) could serve as a stand-in for money, questioned it at the time, but I temporarily gave a home to the text he generated because I thought it worth discussing. 2019. That time has passed. I removed the text he generated from this blog entry aside from the snippet. Follow the link if you want to read the rest of the article.

I’m no longer convinced that John Law understood economics better than I did at the time, and I’ve learned a lot more about economics in the decade since stumbling across that article. People like the idea of gold as money, but they aren’t willing to carry the stuff around in order to trade with it, and they don’t seem inclined to pay the full costs of maintaining all the systems and the costs of maintaining reserves simply to protect against the debasement of their currency.

Humankind needs to come to some new understandings about what money is and why we need it, but I don’t see a return to gold anywhere in the cards. It just isn’t practical to have huge troves of precious metals sitting around gathering dust in treasuries around the world. This is especially true when electronic systems could be created that could do the same job without taking up the real estate doing it.

No, I’m not talking about cryptocurrencies, at least not any of them that currently exist. We’ll just have to see what happens next. In the meantime I may drag out a few more snippets as examples to rebut in a future piece that I will be writing about the subject of money.