Thursday, December 5, 2013

Perchance to Dream

Perchance to DreamPerchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars, not for equaling Chandler, but for having tried it. In a way, all books are lesser than The Big Sleep.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 25, 2013

Susannah McCorkle

What a wonderful and witty and wise chanteuse was Susannah McCorkle?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Meat Puppet Theory

It is my conviction that for any group of 100 people, relatively, eighty of them will be natural meat puppets. Of the remaining twenty, sixteen will have become the equivalent of meat puppets through bad choices such as addiction, romantic misfortune, or politics. That leaves four, of whom some combination of three will be less proficient in any given field of endeavor than the one,  who in turn has a 50-50 chance of being wrong, in the short and/or long term.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Three High-End Freshmen

In the marquee college basketball doubleheader Kentucky v Michigan State and Kansas v Duke on November 12, 2013:
  • Jabari Parker (Duke) -- 27 points, 9 rebounds
  • Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) -- 22 points, 8 rebounds
  • Julius Randle (Kentucky) -- 27 points, 13 rebounds

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How do states happen?

States happen by contagion.  One group organizes themselves with a flag.  Then they become aware that there is another outbreak of humans "over the mountain," and that those humans may control different (maybe better) resources.  So they seek to gain those resources and seek to bring the other humans into their group, under their flag.  They implement this by 1) taking the humans and their resources by force, or 2) persuading those humans to bring themselves and their resources under the group's flag, or 3) agreeing to coexist voluntarily and to share resources. 

In any event, the implementation involves calling the second group a name, maybe Transmontain, and the second group begins to call the first group a name, perhaps Uberberg.  Each group is a nation, because each shares common birth circumstances among its respective members.  Each group is a country because it exists in a territory.  Each group may be a state because it has rules for interaction among its members and for relations with the other group.

As one group gains advantage over the other, it dictates its own rules and makes more demands about the rules of the other, often under threat of violence (ie, exercising its advantage by taking or withholding).

More and more as time proceeds the people of both groups lose their memory of what it was like before the two groups touched.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More Winnies

A few columns back, I began to discuss the Winnies, a series of citations of what I considered to be the biggest train wrecks of American foreign policy.  Parenthetically, let me remind you that the Winnies are named for Winston Churchill, who in my view was the epitomy of the calculating, miscalculating statist.  If I were to devise such a list today there might be some omissions and additions to that earlier list, since I am continuously involved in new acquisition of information.  But I feel certain that my top three would stay in the top three, perhaps four or five.  So with this week's writing I cover two of the top three, and I will get to the Yalta Conference with the next edition.

The Treaty of Versailles -- It is incredible to contemplate all of the magical thinking that has plagued Europe since its colonization by the Roman Empire, but the Treaty of Versailles, purportedly ending World War I, was perhaps the finest distillate of a millenium of unforeseen consequences of desperately bad decisions.  And who went out of his way, to defy his own principles, to enable the outrage?  It was Woodrow Wilson.  The Treaty of Versailles, in punitively crushing Germany economically, merely perpetuated and did not resolve at all, the anti-human presumptions of a thousand years of monarchy and repressive religions in Europe.  The treaty was something worthy of a pissing contest, but nothing higher.  We suffer today from the horrendous missing of an opportunity to introduce freedom and individual self-determination among our species.  Wilson skulked away from his responsibility here just to keep his fantastical League of Nations alive in his pedantic mind.

Of course we all know today that turning Germany into a waste land was the gateway for Hitler.  It was also step one in the march toward global financial depression.  And finally, it set the stage for the highly predictable World War II, which was, in true perspective, just another episode in the statist, monarchical, religious wars that had swept Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire.

We will see a parallel with FDR and WW II, but Wilson sidestepped an actual peace because he did not have the solidity to insist upon it.  Instead, he cloaked himself with the fairytale mantle of the man who made the world safe for democracy (see earlier Winnie on democracy) and who was the champion of the League of Nations (even his own Congress would not agree to this failure in the making).  Just as we continue to kick the can down the road on the critical issues of today (such as the national debt), so did the politicians of yesterday -- ensuring that we would have their cans as well as our own.

By the way, there are many excellent analyses of the Treaty of Versailles, so I encourage you to begin reading.

The Manhattan Project -- The Hiroshima-Nagisaki results of this project were, along with Yalta, as the Treaty of Versailles was to World War I, the cowardly legacy of statism that would burden the world for generations, if not all time, thereafter.

Of course, I am being a skylarking optimist when I predict that this is just a burden that may last for all time.  It may eventuate as the termination of human existence, in which case there will not be a thing called "all time."

Letting the genie out of the bottle.  Opening a can of worms.  Ringing a bell that cannot be unrung.  Squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube.  Unleashing the furies.

I am sure we can come up with even more imaginative ways to kill great numbers of ourselves, if we have a future in which to do so, but it is hard to imagine a more myopic use of science.  We can now see, for instance, that the average scientist has no real concern for knock on outcomes, as long as he can get a government to pay for his/her noodling around.  In one sense, how do the antics of the Los Alamos crowd differ in kind from the experiments of Dr. Mengele, the syphilis trials at Tuskegee Institute, or any other "what if" exercise conducted with disadvantaged humans as the lab rats?

Well, I am sure that we can come up with ever more maniacal ways.  I live just tens of miles from one of the largest stock piles in the world of nerve gas.  And the capper is that the geniuses who dreamed this up, don't know how to stand down -- the government and its army have no clue as to how to neutralize and destroy their invention. Once you have a tiger by the tail, how do you release it?

Worse yet.  Other countries lower in the pecking order of world powers have followed in the pursuit of atomic warfare.  Some of these are "civilized countries," such as the UK (heh heh) and France (heh heh) who between them have been in every war in modern memory, not to mention the great kindness of colonialism.  Then there is Israel, one of the most traumatized groups of people ever, who live in the midst of other people who consider them to be invaders.  How about Saudi Arabia, who some people say have booby-trapped their oil fields with dirty nuclear devices?  India?  Who knows?  Pakistan and North Korea are two completely bat droppings crazy regimes, products of the lovely idea of partitioning (a proven winner for peace, he wrote satirically.

One must ask the question, will we improve posterity by evolving or by extinguishing ourselves?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Go BoSox! The Beantown Beards.

The Boston Redsox, the Fenway Fuzzmeisters, just won their 8th World Series title, which puts them all alone in 4th place for the most crowns.  Although I am a Kentuckian, my Mother was a Bostonian.  I spent many summers in Boston up through my teen years, riding the T (MTA back then) to cheer on The Splinter and Yaz.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Opinion is Dominated by Suspect Communication, Poor Thinking Skills

If an utterance is "just" an opinion -- not, for example, a reasoned argument or the product of critical thinking -- it is bad at a minimum, but worse, usually has bad consequences.  Opinions are useless.  Think how humiliating it would be to call anything that you have invested time and effort toward an opinion.  And yet opinions abound.  Are we under the illusion that others cannot see that these are opinions.  Sure, there are those who are fooled by opinions, but there are those who are not.

An opinion, that cannot be lifted by evidence to the level of a supported view, is a trivial, but damaging, missile, launched from a platform of garbled communication.  The Obamacare "debate" and the illusion of fiscal responsibility in government are two battlegrounds for which the air is filled with these missiles, mostly armed with stink bomb warheads.  Two of the stink bombs are: people have a right to health care (we can't even decide what a right is, but in no event is it a thing which can be doled out by government), and it would be fiscally irresponsible to provide health care for everyone (which begs the question of when government was ever fiscally responsible).

As I think about this problem, I don't see it as a tight topic for one column.  In a way, all of my writings are about this cognitive disconnect.  At the heart of the disconnect seems to be the modern idea that having an opinion is a positive happenstance.  The motto seems to be, if you can't know something then the next best thing is to have an opinion.  We also labor under the misconception of a beast called an "informed" opinion -- sometimes an informed opinion is built on someone else's informed opinion, which in likelihood is an uninformed opinion.  How much -- and what type of -- information would push the needle beyond "informed" on the knowledge meter.

Incomplete knowledge and opinion are two different things.  An opinion is an attempt to negate the passage of events, a denial of time.  An opinion is often based on a snapshot of known things, but it is very seldom updated with new data.  And often people will resort to violence rather than going to the trouble of gathering new data.  I site the bogus confederate flag controversy in my native South as a persistent example.

Why wouldn't a voluntaryist, finding himself in a state of incomplete knowledge, voluntarily pursue enough knowledge to be able to dispense with opinion to dwell rather in the realm of likelihood for the nearest future?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

But So Are Lies

5 Reasons You Can’t Tell When You Are Being Lied To

Beyond that when you feel you are being told the truth, you are likely only right half of the time, and when you feel you are being lied to, you are likely only right half of the time.  It could get worse if you are ruled by your biases.

Dr. Riggio lists these 5 reasons (I paraphrase): stereotyping, trusting, seeing, low feedback, low apprehension of artifice.  Stereotyping is a formalized bias that matches the way we classify information for the preservation of the species (don't talk to strangers).  But once we are engaged, our natural optimism wants to establish trust.  We tend to give visual cues too much weight.  We get hardly any feedback to test our assumptions on communicating with another.  And we are impressed by artfulness (often liars are most theatrical, but the obverse applies as well).

are my reasons why I believe that truth is so hard to distinguish: accumulation of lies, language, fact vs fiction, indoctrination, process trumps content, complexity, confusion, evolution, time-orientation, space-orientation.

The human record is tainted with an accumulation of truths, half-truths, and lies.  Everything we claim to know is an interlocking but often conflicting heap of versions of how things are.  There are no general consensuses, other than tribal ones, about which versions and which parts of which versions are true in a useful way.

Language itself is a terrible filter through which to put verity.  Then add to that the fact that among the users of any one language only a tiny minority have a command of that language.  Further, many of those who command the language have a tendency, intended or otherwise, to misuse the power.

Ask your average government-schooled individual to define the determination between fact and fiction, between objectivity and subjectivity.  The responses will astound you.  Every boondoggle in history is explained by a failure to get information right.

Do I really need to go into gritty detail about indoctrination, on a web site partially dedicated to unschooling and good parenting?  I didn't think so.
I will very frequently in this column turn to the idea that processes pollute the information they should be meant to preserve.  Presidential press conferences and talks to the nation are about showy lies, secretiveness, and trivialized false dichotomies, for example.  Elsewhere, the use of the terms "caucasian," "hispanic," and "african-american" in government statistics are nonsensical behaviors to cram life into statistics (aka organized lying).  And how about euphemisms like "enhanced interrogation" and "tradeoffs between security and liberty?"  There is alive in the land a modern belief that we can make ice cream from manure if we will just process it enough.

Life is complex, and the information about life is complex.  The sender has knowledge that the receiver lacks.  The receiver has knowledge that the sender lacks.  The message itself has a tendency to deteriorate, particularly in the richness of detail about the limitless degrees of truth among the limitless number of aspects of the truth.  Layer in confusion and error among all the working parts of any communication structure.  Also every piece interacts from different time and space orientations.  Our inability to understand the past or to foresee the future compounds the problem.

Then there are two aspects of evolution at play:  1) evolution is not finite until after a species or organism has become extinct, and 2) we may or may not be the ultimate species among those endowed with reason.  Everything looks like a failure in the middle.  At this point in time, humans are still a failed path in the evolution of creatures blessed by reason (or cursed by reason, as the case may be.  To pretend that we can distinguish truth from untruth from others in any effective and/or efficient way is -- truly -- a pretense.

Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.
 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. -- [perhaps] Benjamin Disraeli, [perhaps] Mark Twain ... but to pretend certainty on either would be a lie.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Who's on Your Wall?

Everybody's got a poster on his or her wall, real or imaginary.  Bureaucrats have presidents, governors, and/or other frighteners (like J. Edgar Hoover).  Teenagers often have non-authority figures, as I had James Dean, or Marlon Brando with motorcycle jacket, or Elvis.  My daughters had Kiss and Sid Vicious.  It's a means of shorthand which does away with a lot of preliminary discussion.  This is a more-or-less legitimate use of the argumentation technique, "Appeal to Authority."  I would rotate the personages on my imaginary office wall today.  These people would certainly be in the rotation:  Murray Rothbard, Robert Higgs, Mark Twain, William of Ockham, John Donne, Frederic Bastiat, and Thomas Jefferson.  Who's on your wall?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Further "Winnies"

Imperialism -- in the last writing we have already scourged imperialism, at least in the mode of claiming to be the world's police.  But the democracy scam is only a cover.  What is being covered is far more of a concern.  There are a number of disturbing ideas behind the facade.

Ideas such as:
 -- The earth's natural resources belong to those who can take them, by hook or by crook.  Whoever happens to be there, whether or not using the resources, can easily be replaced with a friendlier set of thugs.  Spend a little time with some true history of the overthrow of the Hawai'ian sovereign, or the duplicitous creation of Panama.
 -- Native populations have no business wanting or seeking self-determination.  By posing the straw man that self-determination is only the province of distinguished groups such as worthy classes (industrial barons, aristocrats, bureaucrats, politicians, warriors, supreme races), it becomes easy to deny all of the unworthy classes by denigrating them in comparison to the elites.
 -- What's good for Monsanto, for instance, is good for its beneficiaries, supposed or otherwise. And all who shut up and stand in awe of those benefits are creatively described as beneficiaries.  Other industrial giants have used this dodge -- railroads, the federal government, the auto industry, the Pentagon, higher education, public education.
 -- A superior state's way of doing things is superior to all possible alternatives.
 -- An inferior (fictional) collective must either adopt the methods of a superior collective or be colonized.
 -- Native colonials must be productive within the context of the colonizer or be eradicated.
 -- War is not an economic activity, but a means for achieving justice.
 -- Peace can coexist with the state.
 -- Individual peace is only found within the jurisdiction of the state.
 -- Exporting culture is an act of peace.
 -- Importing culture is an act of aggression.
 -- Intervention is a cooperative behavior.

I would be most happy to discuss any of these assertions at any time.  I know that assertions without support are just argumentative, so one supposes that we would begin by identifying what support may be available.  For example, what support can we deduce for "a superior state's way of doing things is superior to all possible alternatives."

On the other hand, we could take this approach; do any of the above assertions satisfy the NAP (non-agression principle)?  Although the NAP does not totally describe voluntaryism, there are no description of voluntaryism which can exclude the NAP.

Income Tax -- I have covered income tax previously in this column, but only on the grounds of whether it was right or wrong.  This time I will contend that the decision to impose income taxes upon a collective of people is an example of a wrong path for a social order.  In 1913, the USA decided that its programs were too meager and could not be continued without taxing the very means of life for its citizens, their incomes.

There was a seemingly good reason -- to pay for a war to save the world (If you want more fairy tales, I must humbly refer you elsewhere).

It was going to be relatively painless for two reasons -- only the smallest percentage of the very rich would pay, and as soon as the war was over the tax would be retired.

I have a single answer for all three of those canards, and it is the same answer as that to the question, "what comes out of male bovines in piles?"

Nowadays taxes have produced perpetual wars which in turn produce perpetual taxes.  And everybody pays in one way or the other.  We will not even get into the management and the application of taxes for the common good, a non-existent thing.  Just as the tax-war-tax vicious cycle smacked us in the face, we are now beginning to see that there is a tax-makework-tax cycle of which the endless war is only a part -- certainly a nasty part.

Every peccadillo of the state is related to the tax cycle and to all of the little wheels grinding within.  For instance, why do we need government-run schools?

Well, that's the wrong question.  The begged question is why do government-run schools arise?

State schooling is necessary to advanced militaristic planning, to indoctrination, to conditioned response, to the gaming of logical and self-ordering systems.

Similar answers for roads.  Similar answer for anything that the government has succesfully removed from private market mechanisms.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Just when I think I perfectly understand Mark Twain, I am treated once again to a demonstration of his wit and wisdom.

"If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way." -- Mark Twain

I have almost always known this, but it keeps arising in new cases, for Mr. Clemons also warns, "It is not worth while to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible."

It seems almost that Ron Paul's entire political life was built around these ideas.  See his theories on why the rest of the world hates Americans.  But we have shown that we are no more interested in listening to wisdom from one source than another. 

So I go without remorse from a two-year-old who couldn't take his mother's advice about an electrical outlet to a man 35 times older who decided that intervening between fighting dogs was an appropriate thing to do.  Now these were the dogs who live on the farm with me, and you'll have to take my word for it, no two more pure hearts have ever beaten within a canine's breast.  But the upshot and the consequence are what I'm pursuing here.  The upshot -- I spent 4 hours in a local ER (the last day BEFORE Obamacare, thank goodness), getting 8 stitches in my left pinkie.  The dogs, of course, were fine, just as they would have been if I had not been present at all.  The complication -- we discovered that one of the dogs was about 6 months overdue for a rabies vaccination, and since I didn't know which one had found my hand in the grip of her jaw, we didn't know whether the pertinent hound had been vaccinated.

Here then is the consequence -- under decree of the county health department, there are 3 things to do: incarcerate the dogs and be their warden for 10 days, or surrender the dogs to a death penalty, then if the observations are positive for rabies I should undergo a very unpleasant medical ramification.  All of this precaution is for the extremely unlikely fact set where either of the dogs has rabies.

OK, so I presume to make the best choice for me and the mutts, which is to make all 3 of us prisoners for 10 days.  The dogs are locked for the most part, in a stall in the horse barn.  This shows something that I have intuited for a long time.  If you cage a living thing with any intent other than to kill it, then you the jailer become likewise a prisoner to the regimen.  I have to plan every day around the keeping and caring of the prisoners; I too become incarcerated by the process of incarceration.

Now the irony raises its head.  The dogs don't appear to be suffering as much as I am.  And this is the point of this writing.  The dogs very quickly adapted through the Stockholm Syndrome.  I began to see that their comfort with the loss of freedom was rapidly achieved (not by me, but by them).  This also caused me to note that the 4 horses who live in the same barn, are usually in their stalls, even though they have entirely volitional entry and exit.  The status quo here at chicory blue hill is that these 6 critters have the run of 100+ acres, but they will often voluntarily trade freedom for security.

All I need to do to establish dominion over them is to take advantage of their natural preference for security.  It's too easy.  If my inclination were not to enjoy freedom, I could easily become a tyrant by merely devoting 24/7/365 to the misery of my friends.

The short moral of the story is to have a care about where and why you intervene, the longer moral is to be aware of how easily comfort, or even comfort with discomfort, can supersede one's happiness and philosophy.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Begging another question

Why do we need government-run schools?

Well, that's the wrong question.  The begged question is why do government-run schools arise?

State schooling is necessary to advanced militaristic planning, to indoctrination, to conditioned response, to the gaming of logical and self-ordering systems.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Democracy Snake Oil

The Democracy Litmus Test - Even though Woodrow Wilson was another horrid president, we continue to operate under a lie which he famously promulgated - that democracy is beneficial, that anybody knows how to do it well, and that you can fight wars to deliver democracy.

Firstly, the USA is not a bastion of democracy - our ruling class only give lip service to democracy as part of the lipstick on a pig that we call government. Secondly, no democratic form of government has ever been established. Every government which claims democracy starts off by excluding great swaths of the people from having a say in government. Our "government," for instance, excluded all but white European males from the vote. The colluders who cook up governments may put on a show of being democratic, strictly among themselves, but the fix is in and the fancy footwork abounds. And the quality of the decision making actually goes downhill as we graciously admit new voters to the flock. See above, where Mencken impales the presidency, he also skewers the electorate.

So, I have an extremely jaundiced view of anybody who claims to bring democracy to someone else. Are we really fighting in Iraq (and yes we are really still fighting in Iraq) to bring democracy to the Iraqi? If you have bought that proposition, then I have a historic bridge over the North Fork of Benson Creek I would like to sell you.

Do you storm your next door neighbors' houses to demand of them not only that they should vote on it, but that they must decide thereby to have the same thing for dinner that you do?

Politicians who tell you that they are supporting our country's holy mission of bringing democracy to the world have taken advantage of your good intentions. They use this as a cover for the most egregious imperialism ever practiced by human kind. Our politicians and the military industrial complex take no backseat to the Mongol Horde, Great Britain, Spain, the USSR, nor even the Nazis and the legions of Rome.

Why is such a cover chosen? It is because the manipulators have discovered that it works. The American populace has been dumbed down to accept anything under the banners of God, country and Mom's apple pie - but the state is none of the above. The federal government is not God. The Federal Government is not this bounteous land. And the Federal Government sure ain't my Mom nor her great apple pie. The Federal Government is not democracy in any form.

What would we call it if one group claims to deliver to another that which it does not practice for itself? Hypocrisy.


Nixonism - In the piecemeal way that we are taught history, as fables, we slip into the lazy proposition that history is made by great events performed by great men. But the sad fact is that our foreign policy actually grows out of an accumulation of lapses. Where we are today is just the logical point on the slippery slope of where we have arrived through a chain of errors and their cover-ups.

I don't know when it became the constant of U.S. government to preserve itself through lies, but I have the strong opinion that it reached a height under both the vice-presidency and the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Nixon made the arrogance of oligarchs public, but most probably not by design. To be a really perverse abuser of the government process requires a monumental incompetence and a gargantuan narcissism.

Although Nixon just barely outclassed such ignoble presidents as Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, he nevertheless excelled as a crook. His estate is the imperial presidency, rampant lying, using ends to justify means, paranoia, the tail wagging the dog, megalomania, narcissism, the misuse of government, the metastatic spread of government, and warmongering under the guise of peace seeking. Nixon combined all of the bad attributes of every mediocre-to-bad president we have ever had. And let's not forget Watergate - the idea that presidents were above the law.

In my view, there has been only one good president, Thomas Jefferson. And that is not saying that he performed well as president; it is just saying that he was most likely the greatest man who was ever president. So while, in my mind, the affliction of having a bad president could have been named after any one of 43 bad presidents, somehow Nixon always leaps to my mind as the worst of the worst.

Remember the words of Henry L. Mencken:
"When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental - men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
Someday, I will share with you more thoughts on bad presidents, but today I will share with you my current worst five: 1) Richard Nixon, 2) Franklin Roosevelt, 3) Andrew Jackson, 4) Abraham Lincoln, 5) Lyndon Johnson.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Shatners

Here's Daniel Drezner's list of bad foreign intrigues from Foreign Policy Magazine

10) Operation Continue Hope in Somalia.
9) 1983 Beirut bombing.
8) Bay of Pigs.
7) Sponsoring the 1953 coup in Iran.
6) Operation Iraqi Freedom.
5) Crossing the 38th parallel in Korea.
4) Expansion of the war in Vietnam.
3) The War on Drugs.
2) Refusal to join the League of Nations.
1) 1920s Economic diplomacy.

See his reasons at

The Euro

This past Saturday I began a new adventure.  I attended the first session in my first attempt at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, under the auspices of the University of Kentucky.  The choices of experiences, intended to encourage continuing education among seniors, is breathtaking.  I almost didn't know where to start, but through a combination of inclination plus opportunity I came to sign up for two offerings:  The Great Decisions discussion program promulgated by the Foreign Policy Association, replicated countrywide, and a local topic, Italian Verismo and the Opera of Giacomo Puccini.

It was the Great Decisions program that I have already begun, and about which I will share some thoughts here with you.  The Verismo course starts this Thursday and there is a chance that it may inspire a few reports as well.

First, the Great Decisions group will meet 8 times and watch, then discuss, 8 videos on various topics.  This past week the topic was about the future of the Euro, and by extension, the European Union.  Here are some of my observations on the event and on the topic.
  • No shortage of enthusiasm for lifelong learning is apparent.  This group of a dozen or so shows a keen intellect and impressive resumes, academic, professional, experiential and avocational.
  • I do see, however, a tendency to relate through indoctrinations rather than analysis.
  • One of the problems is that there is not much time to get beyond the shallow end.
  • On the other hand, we have not been blighted with the presence of any "experts" in monetary policy.  It is to be hoped that this blessing will continue into other discussion topics.
  • International financiers are hammers, therefor all problems look like banking and public administration nails.
  • The presentation and the subsequent discussion seemed to beg a critical question -- are the travails of the Euro, or any currency for that matter, solely in the wheelhouses of bankers and politicians.
  • Not once was there a question as to whether the state is where a solution lies.
  • The only inquiries I heard were concerning the immediacy of upping the level of central planning in the long term vs. imposing sink or swim expectations on the little guys (Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy) in the short term.  Have these people not been watching the USA, UK, and the Russias?  And we all know in advance that none will be allowed to sink.  Bailouts, anyone?
  • There is an interesting parallel between the Delphi Technique that the movers and shakers present in this case, compared to the sort of false dilemma claimed as the reason for replacing our Articles of Confederation with the Constitution.
I am particularly looking forward to weeks when we will discuss Syria and Egypt

The 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act

I will explain these “Winnies” in the coming weeks from bottom to top:

The Volstead Act was, you will recall, the act of Congress which implemented the amendment to the Constitution which was unique in that it removed a liberty from the people.  The only other negative amendment in terms of freedom was the 16th, which established an income tax, not a right or its removal but the placing of an obligation.  The 18th amendment was also the only one ever repealed.

I have been binge watching Boardwalk Empire for the past two weeks.  That show has made it clear to me that organized crime metamorphosed from a localized, specialized, urban phenomenon to a national, and perforce international, scourge – and the same could be said for corruption in government, overzealousness in government, and rampant growth of the federal government.

Some may argue that prohibition demonstrates that anarchy evolves into chaos, because the government was not made strong enough to deal effectively with the upsurge in crime.  My response is that such will always be the case.  The legislative process makes it impossible to either foresee or to respond to errors in planning.  This is a feature, not a flaw, in the American public life system.  One of the reasons for this dynamic is that no politician will be forthright about the costs of any program that he or she supports.  Another reason is that politicians are never really serious about the window dressing they inflict upon us.  They created prohibition to quiet an extremely noisy part of the electorate – to them prohibition was just another case of “giving the voters what they wanted,” but then letting it slip into the cracks.  It is clear that politicians everywhere regarded prohibition as a vast money making opportunity.

And make no mistake; American prohibition was of world wide scope.  The economic ripples circled and re-circled the globe.  But I cite the Volstead Act as a major calamity not just because of its short term economic effects, but because of its role in establishing a cynicism in American politics and public administration that has grown malignantly and enormously to this day.

I will work my way up the list in future weeks.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In the next edition of Finding the Challenges, I will discuss "The Winnies," my sporadic lists of monuments along the cattle drive trail of statist policy.

  • The Yalta Conference
  • The Treaty of Versailles
  • The Manhattan Project
  • The War on Terror
  • The War on Drugs
  • Income Tax
  • Imperialism
  • The Democracy Litmus Test
  • Nixonism
  • The 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act

Rants, the March for Freedom, Podcasts

Finding the Challenges by Verbal Vol aka Kilgore Forelle

Sometimes I will use this column, begging your indulgence, for an old-fashioned rant. My inspiration is beginning to lose its edge since I am not standing in some bureaucrat's line anymore. The real reason I am showing some restraint (I do not easily lay aside a rant) is that on leaving that bureaucrat's lair, I began to listen to a podcast in my vehicle which brought up items that out-outraged my prior complaint. So today I will write about two outrages in the man's inhumanity to man league (MIML), then I will give a few strokes to the one, now diminished, lesser complaint from the pain in the derriere league (PITDL). That's right it is a PITDL'ing rant.

I cannot pass this date without recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fiftieth anniversary of his “I have a dream” oration. Then, coming back to podcasts, I will begin my continuing reviews and opinions of more-or-less voluntaryist podcasts and other WWW resources.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Anti-Immigration Conservatives Get Silly After Boston Bombings

Anti-Immigration Conservatives Get Silly After Boston Bombings

The operational quote is, "The lack of omniscience in human institutions is not a curable flaw." How many 2000 page, unreadable, unread bills need to pass in congress for the groundlings to get that through their heads.

There is no statist remedy for the desperate future of the supremacist dream.

Individualism does not include asking the government to custom fit your personal future to your preferences.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Avery looks at things rightside-up!  Highly and vigorously recommended:

We, as human beings living a life of anarchy (on a daily, practical level), but held back by a gargantuan, yet frail, mirage of insanity called “government,” are in a position to change the world, if we can remember one thing:

Nobody’s in control, but everybody’s in control.

 -- Avery Tolliver

Come join us at

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Another 2000+ Libertarian Quotes

Another 2000+ Libertarian Quotes

Quotes from Thomas Szasz and others concerned with personal freedom and responsibility.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Finding the Challenges -- Language, Collectivism, War

Please go check out my debut as a commentator at

Finding the Challenges -- Language, Collectivism, War in which I discuss how the three problems are challenges for humanity, suggesting at least one possible voluntary response to each challenge.

An excerpt:
"Finding the Challenges" is an original bi-weekly column appearing every other Wednesday at, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here.

Our estimable founder, Skyler Collins, stressed that I should go for positiveness in my debut here at This is quite a challenge for a curmudgeon like me. I have educated myself under the sharpest of tongue, wit, and pen. My heroes are Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, Kurt Vonnegut, Dorothy Parker, George Carlin, and most currently, Fred Reed, Penn Jillette, and P. J. O'Rourke.

But I have found a little wiggle room in a positive alcove of my psyche. In fact, I believe that the troubadours of scorn, whom I have listed above, are each in his or her individual way actually guides to windows that face the Sun. After all, what is the purpose of a rant if not in hope of seeing things change for the better, of going toward the light. Otherwise, one's grumbling is just a self-service for one's inward entertainment. Just remember that Thomas Paine did not get to his current station in our esteem by telling us what a cool dude George III was.

Use the link above to read more ...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Fear IndexThe Fear Index by Robert Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's easy enough to hypothesize super machine intelligence, then work backward for the details. But there is always a disconnect. An algorithm does not engender something that is essentially different, such as ambition. In fact, one of the attributes of a good algorithm is cohesiveness, the ability to stick with Goal A. And also, wouldn't a super intelligent AI use something a little more sophisticated than bogus e-mail? Lisbeth Salander is way ahead of this rogue computer.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Schools as Black-Holes by Butler Shaffer

Schools as Black-Holes by Butler Shaffer

It was through the processes of continued inquiry, the refinement of one’s questions, that [one] began to experience the understanding that answers do not provide. Only discovering how to go deeper and deeper into the asking of questions does understanding arise. This is why learning how to think has far greater significance for one’s life than learning what to think.