Monday, December 4, 2017

Conjuring Up Memory and Imagination

Do you remember your past, and if so, how do you remember it? Can you smell the cookies baking, or see the flies buzzing on the manure? Do you hear the voices of people who are long gone or feel your mother's touch as she fed you your oatmeal or soup before you were allowed to wield a spoon? Can you remember word for word an entire conversation that happened decades ago? And even if you don't actually remember, can you dig deeper into something that happened a long time ago and bring back dormant memories? Is it like re-watching an old episode of a favorite TV show, which you had forgotten all about, but now recall vividly?

My grandmother Klara, myself, and my grandfather Benzion Katz

Not all people have that kind of memory. Some can know things from the past, the same way we know historical facts, without having access to an image or a sound or a sequence of events that led to the conclusions that were drawn from the experience. Without access to the life event that led to a particular belief, it is not even possible to go back and reassess our conclusions.

Today, I posted an old memory of an interaction with my grandfather many years ago.


Without an episodic memory, I could still have told you about how old I was when I started reading, or where I learned English, but I could not have described the vivid experience of knowing how to read and being told not to read out loud what was clearly written on the page. I could not have remembered the pointer, or my grandfather's voice.

Today I came across an article about how some people can't see pictures in their imagination.  As a result, they might not enjoy reading fiction, and they might not be able to visualize objects at will. But I think this is not strictly an issue of visualizing. I think some people cannot re-experience any sensory memories in the sequence in which they happened. They can remember what an apple looks and tastes like well enough to recognize an apple the next time they see it, but they have no memories of specific apples, and how they felt and tasted, and who gave them those apples.

I know there are some people who enjoy nonfiction, because they feel it is factual and that they gain knowledge from it, but they get nothing whatever out of fiction. If the facts in the books are all made up, why even bother to memorize them, they think. But we don't set out to memorize fiction. The whole point is to experience it as raw events in the making. Then we are free to draw our own conclusions. We don't have to agree with the narrator, who may or may not be reliable

While it's true that nonfiction has an authoritative voice, it often presents us with fewer facts from which we may draw our own conclusions. Every news source is biased, and unless we learn to read between the lines, accounting for the idiosyncrasies of the unreliable narrator, then we are stuck with all our thinking done for us by somebody else.

I have never liked that. That's why I am not going to sit around watching the news, whether the source is CNN or Fox. I would much rather ferret out the truth for myself, by paying attention to the tell-tale facts that show up in my peripheral vision while I am experiencing life. And since I have great episodic memory, I can replay old episodes in my mind's eye years after they happened, until I can get a detail that escaped me before to come into focus.

The virtue of Vacuum County is that we can experience the story from multiple points of view. All of them are biased, but together they help us to build a consistent image of the truth that each narrator cannot help but also share. All people lie. But all people also tell the truth, if you know how to listen. Vacuum County is good training. Listen to Kelly  Clear tell you the story, and close your eyes to see what images your mind conjures up.




Friday, December 1, 2017

The Christmas Shopping Countdown

It's December already! This year, my marketing focus has been mostly on Vacuum County. That's because the Audible Edition of Vacuum County will be released very soon.

To buy the book -- click here    To buy the shirt -- click here


Here is a short  vignette of Kelly Clear, talking about his formative experiences with reading out loud.


I really hope you will give Audible Vacuum County a listen, even if you have already read the book. But while we wait for the release, you might consider one of my other books. You don't have to read them all. You could just choose one!


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Friday, November 24, 2017

The Long Distance Collaboration that Led to Audible Vacuum County

Those of you have been following this blog may remember that earlier in the year, I was very preoccupied with the death of the poet F.L. Light. 

I wrote about Light, my expanding view of him over time, and how I found out about his death. Then I wrote about what had happened to his works online after his death.

Shortly after that, I started to talk about Kelly Clear and my collaboration with him over an Audible Edition of Vacuum County.

Kelly Clear, laughing

For anyone who might be interested in how these events are connected, and how I found such a great voice artist and musician to help me with this work, here is a video that explains everything. For me, it was serendipity, pure and simple.


If you would like to read Kelly Clear's review of Vacuum County, here it is. It's there with all the others. Right below it is the review by F L Light, entitled "Aggressive Hospitality."

Buy it now



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Doesn't Consent Matter?

Order F now

Today I published my short story, F, on Kindle. It costs less than a dollar. Go and check it out. It's a good light read with a twist ending. It also happens to encapsulate an issue that everyone seems confused about today.


  • Is it okay for the government to use its police power to coerce people to submit to groping and sexual assault? Doesn't consent matter?  Is it okay if a TSA agent does it on the job as part of his duties?
  • Is it okay to use your economic power as an individual to solicit sex? Doesn't consent matter? If a Hollywood mogul requires it of an actress in order to be cast for a part, can't she just decline the offer and forgo the part? 
  • What is the difference between economic power and government power? In a free world, do you think there will be no prostitutes? Doesn't consent matter? Can prostitution be just one of the duties required of an employee who also does something else that is of value?
There you have it in a nutshell. Read the story. Leave a review. Let me know what you think.



Monday, October 23, 2017

Why Nabal did not Testify Against Verity






Because life is complicated, and in the interest of fairness, it might be a good idea to examine the other side of the coin. Can women rape men? Does it happen? And why is it so rarely reported? It has to do with honor and courage and proof. It has to do with social norms and the legal system.

But it's not something that can be easily fixed, by passing another law, because ultimately it has to do with sexual desire, the limbic system, and our own struggle as individuals, not just with concepts of personal sovereignty, but with the mind-body problem. We are not just our minds, We are not just our bodies. And our minds and our bodies do not always agree.

Stranger rape is clear cut and obvious, but even there, victims have been known to be burned by the burden of proof. Date rape or rape in relationships is much more messy.  And quite often, rape ends up getting ratified after the fact.

As an attorney practicing in Texas in the 1980s, for instance, I learned that bringing up a non-consensual sex act that occurred thirty years earlier between a husband and wife, at a time when it was not a crime, was not allowed as evidence of cruelty in a divorce action. The victim was deemed to have waived the right to withhold consent when she entered the marriage. If she stayed in the marriage for thirty years after the act happened, she was deemed to have waived her right to complain about it even in a divorce.  Today, when the current law says you cannot waive any of your rights when you enter a relationship, there are ways in which, by their actions afterwards, people end up ratifying an act that was done without their consent.

To complain about it afterwards opens up a very real possibility that you will be slapped with a defamation action. But even more than that, there is the issue of whether the body and the mind were of one accord, and who exactly are we? Are we the mind who said no, or the body that said yes? This is the issue that makes rape one of the most difficult crimes to investigate.

Bruises do not necessarily mean it was a rape. Not having bruises does not necessarily mean it was not a rape. Lack of sexual receptivity does not prove rape. Sometimes people consent verbally and mean it with all their heart, but their body does not cooperate. Sometimes people do not consent, but do experience arousal. The mind-body dichotomy is very real when it comes to sex. If you report a rape, then all of what happened must be described in open court, and it can be very demeaning to the victim, especially when it involves arousal. If it is not reported, but the victim later talks about the event in public, then a suit for defamation can be brought, and the burden of proof under common law shifts to the defendant to prove the allegation is true.

In the "good old days", long before "sexual liberation", many people avoided rape by not getting into ambiguous situations where proof would be difficult to come by, because they understood that the burden of proof would be on them if they were raped. They did not complain decades later about a rape they had not had the courage to report at the time, because they understood this would open them up to legal action. They didn't talk about it nearly as much as they do today, but I don't think that meant that rape was more rampant a problem.  If a rape did occur, this might lead to a duel, not a lawsuit. I happen to think that dueling is a very good deterrent to both rape and defamation.  I don't think we have made it any better or any less likely to happen by all the mandated anti-rape and anti-sexual harassment seminars that young people are being forced to attend on college campuses today.

When rape happens to a woman, there is more sympathy. If it happens to a man, we are conditioned to be dismissive. I think that's wrong, but it may be inevitable due to the nature of the act, and the  undeniable inequality of the sexes in matters of basic physiology.

I'm not going to say much more about it right now. I'm not going to describe what happened between Verity and Nabal. I'm not going to justify a violation of the NAP that did occur in the story, but that was definitely ratified afterwards. Buy the book and read it yourself, or get the Audible Edition, and listen to Kelly Clear act it out. I will just share two paragraphs from Nabal's letter to Verity written after the fact.


 Don't you think it's true for all of us? How else can they claim that our tax payments are voluntary? And aren't all peace treaties signed under duress?

To order Vacuum County, click here




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Why Verity did not Testify against Abner

Vacuum County is, when superficially described, a story of a young woman who is falsely accused of DWI, because she refused the sexual advances of a crooked sheriff in a backward Texas community.

 We all agree that sexual harassment is bad. We all know that it happens. Frequently. We know that blaming the victim is not right. And that's quite possibly where what we all agree on ends. And because that's all we agree on, the practice will live on, long after all the present victims and perpetrators have died.

This is true, despite the fact that every so often a great and powerful man (like  Harvey Weinstein) will be brought low when the evidence against him is made public  -- evidence that everybody knew about for years, but that could not be acknowledged until some political events behind the scenes suddenly make the transgressor vulnerable.

We know why victims, like Verity Lackland in Vacuum County, don't testify in open court against their oppressors. We know they often make peace with the situation, because they are threatened with dire consequences if they do speak up.

A excerpt from Vacuum County


In Verity's case, her lawyer, David Smith, advised her to plead no contest to the false charges, because a Vacuum County jury would have ruled against her.Was it right of Verity to take her lawyer's advice?  Was she a coward not to speak up?


An excerpt from Vacuum County


Nabal thought so. Sometimes it takes a victim to know a victim. Sometimes it takes a truth speaker to recognize another true witness. Sometimes everybody who is nice to us and takes our weaknesses for granted is in league with our oppressors, while the only person who makes us feel ashamed is the one who knows we have a soul.

The reason Abner was untouchable at the time was that he served as the right hand man of the County Judge, Saul Jones. But as soon as David Smith was the new County Judge, Abner became vulnerable. By then, Verity had already made her peace with situation, and was serving as Nabal's slut.  When she was asked to testify against Abner, she was reluctant, but for a different reason from the one she had had before.

An excerpt from Vacuum County


There is a time when testifying against a perpetrator would be brave. That time is when he has the whole power of the establishment behind him, and toppling him would also make a dent in the power of those who put him in a position to hurt others. When he is alone and vulnerable, and the people in power just want to use your testimony to bring him low, because it suits their plans, then it is no longer brave.

An excerpt from Vacuum County

There is a time when we can make a difference by speaking up. Doing so at that time would be brave. There is a time when we can be a tool in powerful people's hands, just like a skewer at a barbecue, and then testifying becomes not so brave. In the end, Verity didn't have to testify, because Joe found another way to get rid of Abner, so that he could become the new sheriff.

Sometimes a Democrat is in power, and he uses that power to abuse people, including women. Sometimes a Republican is in power, and he uses that power to abuse people, including women. Sometimes it's just a rich man who has a stranglehold on an industry you want to work in. And some will submit to get in. When the person in power changes, or when somebody is brought low for reasons that have nothing to do with justice, that is probably not the time to revel in exposing him, especially if you got something out of submitting. Why? Because at that time, it is no longer brave. It can be just plain sadistic.

As for telling our personal story of being abused to others, there are times when people do that just to relieve their emotional suffering or to let off steam. It's okay to do that. It's your story, and you can tell it wherever and whenever you want. But if you don't name names, it's not brave. And if you do name names, then you have to be prepared to prove it.

Yes, the history of mankind is full of slavery and abuse and rape and bending the knee to an oppressor, because we are scared. There is shame in that -- for all of us. We need to find the courage in ourselves and in each other to put an end to it. But it's not helpful when we are just making a display of it, and business as usual is what is actually afoot.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Neither Populism Nor Elitism

The people who disagree with my proposal to change the Libertarian Party Bylaws have trouble classifying me and my motives. Half the time they accuse me of being a populist. The other half of the time, the accusation is that I am an elitist. I am neither. I wish everybody could have a veto on everything that affects himself and no say at all on anything that affects only others. In the free market, each person does get a vote on precisely those things that pertain to himself. I wish we had a free market for government, too. But barring that, I want to make sure that representation, when representation is meted out, does not all go to the majority. Why? Because the closest thing to freedom, under any form of government, is checks and balances to make sure that one group of people cannot victimize another group of people just because they outnumber them. Which is why I keep bringing up the Constitution of the United States as an example of limited government. I don't do this because I think the constitution is divinely inspired or the most perfect document imaginable. I do it because it is an example we all know about, and it seemed to work for a short while, before it was so altered that it stopped working.

Populism is letting everyone vote on everything, and allowing the majority to decide all things for everybody else. Elitism would be allowing a small number of select people to have the only votes and to decide everything for everybody else. What I want to do with my proposal is to allow the majority to elect the presidential nominee, but then let the next highest minority choose the vice presidential nominee.

My proposal is not more populist than the current provisions in the Bylaws, because it takes power away from the majority to decide everything. But it is also not more elitist than the current provision in the Bylaws, because the minority who gets to elect the vice presidential nominee is not defined in advance. It is not an elite group of people who know they are the elite. It is not going to be the same group of people each time. It is not based on financial status or skin color or gender or even belonging to a particular faction of the party. It is just the next most numerous group who happen to agree on their choice of a presidential nominee after the winning group. In all likelihood, just like the winning group, the second group will consist of a diverse part of the Libertarian Party membership who just happened to support the VP nominee as a better presidential nominee than the one chosen by the majority. Every time we go in to vote as delegates, we will not even know in advance which group we belong in: majority or minority.And that is the beauty of the proposition. The Silver Rule we all should follow is: When you are in the majority, treat the minority the way you would have them treat you if you were in the minority and they were in the majority. Isn't that a great rule? Wouldn't you like to see it implemented in our party's bylaws?

People have asked me: Why can't we just have a second election where the vice presidential nominee is chosen? Because the same majority that chose the presidential nominee will be able to choose the vice presidential nominee, if majority rule is what we are going by. So it really does not matter if they run as a ticket or are chosen separately: if the same people are choosing them, the same choice will be made as if they had been running as a ticket, so long as this is what that faction wants to do. Only if a Presidential nominee supported by the majority does not choose a running mate will the practice of having two separate votes for POTUS and VP nominee make any difference at all.

When I patiently explain this to opponents of my proposition, some retort that it would be like handing out trophies to losing contestants out of a desire to spare their hurt feelings. They speak about it as if a political race were like a physical race to determine who can run the fastest, or a beauty contest to see who is the fairest of them all. And by fairest, I don't mean who has lily white skin like snow white. What then is "fair"?

People argue that fairness in such a competition is to award the prize to the fastest runner or the most beautiful contestant. Handing out a trophy to a loser would be unfair and smacks of political correctness or worse, SJW shenanigans. Letting the VP be a person not supported by the majority would be like handing out prizes for participation, they say. But in an actual race to see who can run the fastest, the second and third best do get trophies routinely, and even Miss Universe has a first runner up who will replace her in the unlikely event that she is disqualified or otherwise unable to serve. Even when casting parts in a play,  a producer will select an  understudy, who is usually someone deemed less desirable than the person cast, but still good enough to step into the part in the case of an emergency. Choosing the second-best person as spare in the event of a disaster is actually a very normal practice in real world selection processes not involving politics. The Vice President of the United Stares was originally intended to be the second runner up or understudy to the President. It's only through a convoluted series of historical events that that was ever changed.

But besides all of that, there is this: Our choice of Libertarian Party nominees for President and Vice President is not a reward to the candidates for a job well done in running such a nice campaign prior to the national convention. Those people are chosen to represent us. And they will -- whoever they are -- in all likelihood represent precisely the interests, not of everybody, but of those delegates who selected them.

That's why voting for the "best man" is almost beside the point in politics. "Best" is only meaningful in relation to what it is you hope to achieve. As libertarians, what we should all hope to achieve is minimal involvement by government in our lives. But for some reason, individual libertarians tend to have pet areas of non-intervention by government, while looking the other way when it comes to other forms of intervention. If we want to have an honest libertarian campaign, we need people on the ticket who represent a wide spectrum of areas in which we do not want the government to intervene in people's lives, ranging from economic issues, to religion, to personal choices of lifestyle to freedom of speech and association. This is important to each of us, and it is important to the Libertarian Party as a whole.

I am not a "typical" libertarian, nor a typical "conservative" nor a typical "radical"
When I joined the LP and supported AP my biggest immediate concern was US Fish & Wildlife confiscating chimpanzees
I am a minority of one -- and so are you!
When the Founders decided that we should have checks and balances built in to the government they were organizing, they could have just divided the Federal government into three branches and then let all the people vote en masse for each office holder in each of the branches. But they understood that if the same majority got to elect all the office holders, then it would not matter that there were different individuals in each of those offices -- they would all still serve only those special interests who had been able to cobble together a majority, leaving the minority unrepresented.  That's why they chose for Congress to have two houses, the lower one to represent the people and the upper one to represent each State. That is also why there is an electoral college, and the people do not elect the President and Vice President directly. It is why Federal Judges are appointed and not elected at all. It is why the Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed for life. All of this is done in order to divide the power of those who rule over us, so that no one will be able to run roughshod over anyone else, just because they happen to command a majority at the moment. And this is why one man, one vote was never a slogan of the Founders. By the time we got to one man one vote as the ideal, our Republic was already well on its way to becoming a democracy. And a democracy is the least libertarian of all forms of government for one simple reason: in a democracy the "people" never vote not to hurt others and not to take their stuff. They vote to only hurt the minority and only take the stuff belonging to the minority. And even though it always turns out the people they voted for do hurt them and do take their stuff, the "people" always persist in trying to vote in new representatives who will only hurt others and only take away other people's stuff. To put an end to this cycle, we need to get away from the illusions and delusions of majority rule. We need to get to a point where everyone realizes that if they vote to take away stuff, it will be their own stuff that is taken. And if they vote to hurt people, they are the ones who will get hurt.

Yes, the Libertarian Party is a private club. Yes, we can make up whatever rules we damn well please. The rules do not have to be fair at all, and anyone who does not like the rules can leave. But if our aim is to take over the government so we can leave everyone alone, shouldn't we start by showing a little more wisdom in how we run our own house? Shouldn't we serve as a shining example to everyone else that our party is not like the others?

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