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.