Sunday, July 9, 2017

Can You Still Be a Libertarian While Endorsing a Republican Candidate?

Austin Petersen is running for Senator from Missouri as a Republican. I am endorsing him. I even changed my Facebook profile picture to show solidarity with his campaign. The image is taken from the larger painting   "A Happy Day at the Libertarian Convention". It was based on my experiences in Orlando last year.

But now Austin Petersen is running as a Republican. So what does that make me? A liberty lover, as always. It's no different from that time not too long ago when Ron Paul was running for president as a Republican. I did everything I possibly could for him, including serving as a delegate to the local Republican Convention. We never got out of our County, though, because the local Republicans voted for Rick Santorum. Later, after the huge disappointment that Ron Paul was not even allowed to speak at the National Republican Convention, our local group of Ron Paul supporters split up. It turns out that some of them went on to vote Democrat, and some voted Republican, and some voted Libertarian. I was one of the latter.

 The first time I voted for Gary Johnson for president, it was because Ron Paul lost the Republican primary. The second time I voted for Gary Johnson, it was because Austin Petersen lost the Libertarian primary. I never voted for Gary Johnson as a first choice, but only as a last resort, when all else was lost.

But now I am supporting Petersen in his run to win the Republican nomination for Claire McCaskill's senate seat. I would have supported him if he were running as a Libertarian. Or as a Democrat. Or an Independent. My support does not mean that anything about my beliefs, my ideals or my politics has changed. I am just as Republican now as I was back when I did my all for Ron Paul. And I am just as libertarian as I was then!

Some people are now criticizing Petersen for having too many out-of-state supporters. They seem to be gearing up to smear him for that, the way Trump is now criticized for having "Russian support." I, however, am not an out-of-state supporter. I am local. I live right here in the Missouri Ozarks. I am proud to support one of our own.

And if you would like to hear what I think about taxation (and how it is theft), you can come hear me talk at the Missouri Libertarian Convention in Jefferson City, MO, on July 22! I am an invited speaker.

The event will take place at the Hilton Doubletree in Jefferson City.

Come hear me talk, and feel free to ask me anything you like about libertarianism -- or how principles are more important than parties.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Note: This is a Vlog Post, so the text comes from the embedded videos. It is therefore in a spoken rather a written register of English.

So... I was listening [to] and watching a lecture by Alain de Botton that was delivered somewhere in Australia, I think at an opera house. And he was giving his usual message, which is really an anti-individualist message. But a lot of people don't realize it, because it is couched in such humanistic language that a lot of people are, in fact, attracted to it. And the point of his lecture was that it does not matter who you end up with, that you can love anyone, and that Romantic love is probably something that we were conditioned to feel by literature, but it's not real, and that in fact there are probably a lot of people walking around pretending that they're in love, because they think they can't be in a relationship unless they are in love. But it's okay, you don't have to pretend anymore. The secret is out. It's not real. 

I do think that there's a lot of truth to what he says. and that's why it resonates with people. But it's not true for everybody, and that's part of the problem. 

He says that we are now in the Age of Romantic Love, and then he gives an example from Flaubert's Madame Bovary to sow ow awful it is. But, of course, Flaubert was not a romanticist. He was an anti-romanticist. He was a realist, and he was on the same bandwagon as de Botton. He just wanted to tear apart the image of romantic love and show how silly it was.

In fact, maybe a higher percentage of the world's population is not given to romantic love, because they're not limerent. And it does not ave specifically to do with love, It also has to do with preferences.

Some of us have very strong preferences -- on everything.  We know exactly what kind of pizza we like. We know what movies we like.  We're in love with certain characters in movies and television and books. And we are totally not interested in other movies and other television shows and other books. We have strong preferences, and we won't change that.  And then there are other people who just go by trends. Their favorite clothing is whatever happens to be fashionable today. Their favorite show is the one that is popular today.  They're going to read the latest novel on the best seller list, because it's on the best seller list, and they want to be able to discuss it at parties with other people. And it doesn't matter whether they like the book or not, but they're very open, and being open like that, they just don't have a preference.

Even something like "What's your favorite color" is a question that not everybody has an answer to. You can say that we were conditioned by society to think that we're supposed to have a favorite color, and if we don't have one --- well, we make one up. And, of course, if we don't have one, and we make up the favorite color, today it could be red; tomorrow it could be blue. And somebody for whom the whole question of favorite color is important might think: "This person is lying to me. Yesterday his favorite color was red. Today it's blue. He's lying! He's keeping the real favorite color a secret from me." We often have that kind of a clash with people for whom some things are just not that important.

So when I was watching that lecture, here's what it reminded me of. In 1976, during the Bicentennial, I visited England, and at the time I had a best friend. So I was obsessed with this best friend, because I am one of those limerent people, and I was having a conversation with my host in London, and I was going on and on, and I said "My friend" -- let's call her Suzie. That's not her real name, but let's call her that. "So Suzie said this about that. And Suzie really likes to do this." And on and on.  Almost every subject that we brought up, that we were talking about, I inserted something about Suzie. And finally -- kind of -- he was laughing silently to himself. So I asked him: "Why are you laughing?" And he said: "Well, you keep talking about Suzie all the time." And I said: "Yes, because she's my friend. Don't you have any friends?" And he said: "Yes, I have many friends. But I'm not obsessed with them."

Okay. Well, that's just it. To me, if you had a friend, you pretty much had to be obsessed with that person. Otherwise, it's not your friend. I either like somebody a lot or I don't like them at all.

For most people, it's not like that. And I think it's like that with everything in their lives. You can talk to them about what profession they would like to be in, or what profession they are in, and they're not going to be passionate about it, and you might get the impression they don't like their job, but that's not actually the case. They like to work. They like the workplace. They like to socialize with other people in the workplace. They may be perfectly happy and content with their jobs, but they are not in love with their job. They're not obsessed. They might be married. They might be happily married. They might have a spouse who they truly -- they have a very nice arrangement going. And they're not ever going to get a divorce, and they're very content, but you won't get the impression that they're in love, because, in fact,  they're not in love. But that does not mean that nobody is ever in love.

Rather than it being a new thing that we suddenly realize that romantic love is a falsehood, and that really we should make reasonable choices about a mate, this has been ongoing. When I was teenager, that's exactly what my Great Aunt told me, that's exactly what I heard from everyone, including my friend Suzie -- which is not her real name.

Okay. So, what did Suzie say? She said that she could fall ,,, I mean, that she could marry -- she wasn't talking about falling in love at all. She thought the romantic ideal was wrong. She was a Christian. She was an Episcopalian, and she believed in loving everyone, and she thought she could be a very good wife to any man, provided that he were normal. Now, of course, I had no idea what she meant by normal. But just so you understand her situation, let's backtrack to Suzie's early childhood.

So Suzie's parents were happily married and had four children. And everything was going well, and her father was a professor at a university, and he was content with his family life, but this was maybe in the sixties -- I mean, it was in the sixties -- and he kind of got flower fever. And one day, he turned to his wife, Suzie's mom, and he said: "I love you. And I love the children. But I don't want to do this anymore. So how about I quit my job, and I get a motorcycle -- maybe we get two motorcycles -- and we tour the country with our four kids on the back of the motorcycle. Wouldn't that be a much better way of living?"

And his wife, Suzie's mom, looked at him and said: "You're crazy. I want a divorce."

Okay, so this is the background to Suzie. Suzie's mom took her four children to the town where Suzie's dad's parents were, and raised them as best she could on her own.

And Suzie was thinking: "I don't want this to happen. I don't want a flower child." So she was looking for somebody with nice conservative values, a good Christian, with whom she could form a family, and it didn't matter that he wasn't necessarily the guy that she was most attracted to, or anything like that. 

Okay, getting back to Suzie. She found the kind of man that she was looking for. And they married. And they lived in a small university town, And they had five children. And everything was going very well. She was homeschooling; he was a good provider. And then, one day, after some of the older children were teenagers, he came home and said: "I love you, Suzie. And I love the children. I don't want to change anything, except that I've met this young woman, and I'd like to bring her into our family, and have her live with us as my concubine, just like in the Bible."

And Suzie said: "You're crazy! And I want a divorce."

Now, Alain de Botton, one of his pet theories is that you can go and see what's wrong with what you are looking for in a mate, because you are probably looking for the exact same way that you were treated in your childhood, or you're looking for something from your childhood, something familiar. You're not actually looking for happiness. You're looking for familiarity. And so, if you had a cold, unfeeling parental figure, then you're looking for a cold, unfeeling parental-- I mean, sexual mate. And that's why you should not listen to your feelings. That's what he says: "You don't --You should not listen to your feelings, because you are just trying to repeat your childhood." 

But I think it's a little more complicated than that, if we look at Suzie's story. She was looking for somebody who was not like her father. Her father was an intellectual; so she was looking for somebody who was very religious and traditional. Her father was happy-go-lucky, and she was looking for somebody who would be responsible. She was looking for the exact opposite. She was trying to avoid the things that had happened in her childhood. And it was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because what ended up happening was amazingly similar to what happened to her mother. But maybe the thing that made it happen isn't that the man was not normal. 

It's really actually pretty normal to want that. It's fairly normal to at one point in your life, about mid-life -- to reexamine everything. And to think "Well,  maybe I don't really like my job that much." That's not unusual. And that's what happened with Suzie's father. It's also not that unusual for a man at mid-life to cboose a younger woman. It's actually kind of unusual to say: "No, I don't want to abandon my existing family." To say: "I still love you, and I just want this extra thing." And if we are conditioned by the society that we live in to do anything, it's that we expect to not renegotiate the contract, and if somebody tries to renegotiate the contract midway, then we say: "No. You're crazy." And also we don't consider other marriage patterns than the ones that we have become accustomed to. Even though, we might be religious, we might read the Bible all day long and not notice that's what's going on there. So I would say: "Suzie, read your Bible more closely!"

I'm not saying that I have the answer. The problem is, it's kind of like this prophecy in ancient literature, where you hear that your son is going to kill you when he grows up, and you think: "Well, let's try to avoid that!" So you take the baby, and you expose him on a mountain top, not realizing that the gods and all the animals are going to save the baby, and then the baby comes back, and he's fully grown, and he doesn't know that you're his father, so he kills you. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Maybe the answer is not to not listen to your feelings. Maybe you should listen to your feelings more closely.

Somebody asked Alain de Botton after that lecture that I saw: "So what would be a good way to choose a mate? Do you think that Tinder works? Do you think all of these new-fangled ways of selecting a  mate -- Do you think that that helps us find the right person?" And he said: "No, there is no right person, and I think this emphasis on choice is wrong.  You should understand that you should be capable of loving anyone, if you learn how to love. And in fact you should be willing to marry a leper. In fact, it would be great if everybody married a leper!" And he laughed.

Okay. I have a very big problem with this. And it's not because I am prejudiced against lepers. Lepers are people, too. But each leper is a different person. And so, even if you decide that you are going to a leper colony and you are going to marry a leper, it matters very much which leper you choose. 

The idea that you should look for somebody with a disability and that that disability defines that person is one of the most evil things that there could possibly be. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Shortages, Migrations and Rationing

Humans have migrated every time they found that they did not have enough of something they needed to live. Instead of trying to fix their environment, they moved to a place where things were better for them.

More recently, when facing shortages, people do not consider moving. Instead, rationing and redistribution are ways in which such shortages are handled.

"What if Florida goes underwater due to global warming?" People ask this question, as if by asking it, it will make us all want to work hard to prevent the globe from warming up.  As if we could! As if we were that powerful! But isn't the answer obvious: If Florida goes underwater, then people who live there will move someplace else that is more habitable -- Greenland, maybe, if it suddenly becomes green.

Insuring the public against natural disasters has the effect of making life unbearably expensive. If every time a city built below sea level is flooded, it is rebuilt at public expense, if every time a public school built on a flood plain washes away, it is re-built by the taxpayers, then people will never see the wisdom of moving on and going to a place where things are better for them.

Living in a warm place where you need not heat in winter is desirable. Having fruit just growing on the trees, ripe for the picking, is nice. When too many people move into the same place, resources get depleted, as happened in the dust bowl, or in Middle East,  that used to be a place flowing with milk and honey. It was fertile and green there then, but now is arid and desert-like. Yes, we do, at least to some extent, destroy the paradise that we thrive in. But as people with a rich hunter-gatherer heritage, our basic instinct is sound: after you foul the nest, move on to someplace cleaner.

Are we trying to escape ourselves? Absolutely not. We are trying to escape each other. Like Pa Ingalls, we know that when the other people arrive in droves, then it is time to move on. Good neighbors are those we only see occasionally.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Laissez Faire in All Things

Lately, I have been experimenting with turning some of my essays into videos. Not everybody likes to read. Some people prefer being read to. Here is the latest video in this vein.

The text of this video can be found here. 

Ostensibly, the above video falls into the genre of the self-help, since it is a response to a similar effort by The School of Life. But at heart, what I am trying to say is the same as in this essay about nature and the free market. 

Th text to this video can be found here

I don't think that people who believe in socialism came up with that belief in a vacuum. I think it permeates their understanding of everything. They think it applies to love, to family, to society and even to nature. I keep getting inundated with ads from Jane Goodall. The latest one was to the effect that if I send her enough money, then "nature can win!"

Sorry, Jane, but nature always wins.  It does not need money from me or you  to function. We are a part of nature. There is no way to escape it. Nature's code of laws is self-enforcing. Any attempt to get away from the natural consequences of our actions is futile. But if we just go with the flow, if we just let things be, then we can be the beneficiaries of the consequences of sequences of events that cascade all by themselves.

Love is like that, too. It's not necessary to second guess everything. We don't need less ego to enjoy it. We can just understand this one simple thing: taking and giving happen simultaneously without "exploitation" when you just allow people to do what comes naturally. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Not Anti-War But Anti-Tyranny

War can be hell. But it is also something that many young men look forward to so they can test their mettle, men like Alexander Hamilton, who in a 1769 letter to a friend wrote: "I wish there was a war." (He apparently had not yet mastered the subjunctive.) In times of peace, young men often wish for war. In times of war, all men wish for peace.

Here is a song by Leslie Fish explaining why the wish for total peace, if granted, would lead to tyranny. We all want peace, but not at the price of a one world government.

Is it wrong to long for a war to break out just to gratify one's personal wish to go to war? Well, it is if you start a war just to make that happen! It is if you conscript and/or tax others to serve in that war without their consent. But it's not wrong,  if you are a privateer or a mercenary, and you offer your services to those who want them and would be willing to pay.

Who should pay for waging war? Those who want to wage war. That way we can put a cap on it. But it is not wrong for a young warrior to long to serve. It is not wrong for men and women who have that calling to pursue it.

In the video embedded below, I read from Nathan Alterman's poem "אמרה חרב הנצורים" --"Said the Sword of the Besieged".  The poem is from the point of view of a sword being wielded in a hopeless last battle, in which the warrior is killed.

In the discussion that ensues after the reading, my father, Amnon Katz, says: "The sword's entire purpose is battle. And it is happy to fulfill its purpose. Even under these tragic circumstances. But we get the impression that also the one who wields the sword is privy to these values and to this experience, to the glory of this bitter and awful hour." Is it wrong for a young man to long for battle? To sign up for voluntary military service? To hope for glory?

Both Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton served in the American Revolution. Both distinguished themselves. But Aaron Burr wanted always to be on the front lines, so when he was offered a desk job by George Washington, he turned it down. Hamilton was ambitious for advancement, so he took that job.

Both Jean Laffite and Aaron Burr served the US as volunteers. Neither of them did it for a "free" college education or for a salary. Laffite was never reimbursed for his contribution or for those things that were taken from him by force. For years, Aaron Burr was destitute after being persecuted by Jefferson, but as a veteran he was not entitled to a military pension. Finally, when Burr was very old, President Jackson granted him a small pension.

Is all war bad? Or only some wars? Is getting paid for war always bad? Shouldn't our soldiers be paid?

There are some Libertarians who seem to have serious problems with the idea that military service could be entered into in the hopes of going into battle or for pay.  In the video embedded below. Austin Petersen and Larry Sharpe discuss a recent anti-military statement by the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party.

Not all libertarians are anti-military or anti-war. "Did you agree to kill people for money?" Austin Petersen asks Larry Sharpe.  Sharpe replied "War is evil. War is bad. ...Would I join now? No. I'm also not 17 years old anymore."

But is it wrong to be 17 years old and long to serve? I don't think so.  Should soldiers expect always to be penniless and to go begging when they are in want?

Why do we honor our soldiers only when we see them as poor and without compensation for their service? Why do we think that they deserve less than teachers or doctors? Is it because we are uncomfortable with the work they do? Or is it because public funding for anything corrupts?

Let us honor our soldiers and work toward a free country where they can ply their trade with their heads held high and with compensation that is not dependent on taxation.  We do not want a standing army, but we do need to have warriors who are well trained and ready to fight for us. If we repeal the Neutrality Act and the Logan Act, we can restore the freedom that volunteer soldiers like Aaron Burr fought for in the Revolutionary War!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

On the Plains of Negev

This is my English translation of "בערבות הנגב". I translated it from the only version I knew, which was in Hebrew. But... the history is more complicated.  This song came out in Hebrew in 1948, but apparently it is just a version of a Russian song that was written in 1943:  На опушке леса "On the Edge of the Woods". Who knew?

If you see me smiling at one point when I am singing, it is because I realize my translation of that line is really awkward.

Israeli war songs  are so different from any song I have heard in America. I have looked for songs about grieving mothers, but have not yet found one about how she raised up her son to keep her people free or about how another soldier can replace him. Most of the songs I have heard have two salient differences from this one:

  1. The loss of the son or other loved one is seen as only personal and not national.
  2. There is usually some mention of reunion in an afterlife.
For people who see death as final, it takes a completely different outlook to accept this kind of loss. 

Related Posts

My English lyrics can be read here

This is my analysis of some of the issues with this song:

This is the guy who wrote the Hebrew version:

Here is all the info on the Hebrew song:

The lyrics in Russian can be found here:

There is also a closer translation to Hebrew of the original Russian words:

Monday, May 15, 2017

You Get What You Pay For

You get what you pay for. But no, don't read that with the accent on "pay". Of course, you have to pay. Everyone knows that you can't get anything without somebody paying for it. Yet people are always hoping that somebody else will pay for them.  So even though we all agree that you get what you pay for, most give that line the wrong reading. It's not "You get what you pay for." It's "You get what you pay for."

This is certainly true when it comes to the defense of your country, as well as the defense of a legal case. You cannot expect to get proper representation unless the person who holds the purse strings is the person being defended.

If it's not the person who eats the dog food who pays for the dog food, the dog food may not end up being fit for a dog to eat.  That's even though the person paying for the dog food has very good intentions. It's not the amount of money that is spent that matters, nor the intentions of the one spending it. The Wedel chocolates will be ruined, if the free market does not serve as quality control.

I've seen people arguing that if the accused  is entitled to a free defense -- to have an attorney appointed for him -- then a sick person should be entitled to free health care, too. If the one is a "right", why shouldn't the other be a "right"? Well, neither is really a right, because the doctor and the lawyer still need to agree to serve. Yes, I know, the government can pay them.  But nothing that we don't personally pay for is going to be the same in value as what that amount of money could purchase if wielded by the ultimate consumer. That is the aspect of laissez faire that socialists don't grasp.

Ask anyone accused of a crime how helpful his PD is. Ask veterans dependent on the VA how great the service they receive is. Ask any dog whether he would rather eat dog food or your leftovers. You get what you pay for. What you personally pay for.

Monday, May 8, 2017

2017 Appearance, Review and Bio

I will be a featured speaker, along with Will Coley and Bill Redpath at the 2017 Missouri Libertarian State Convention on July 22, 2017 in Jefferson City. My topic will be "Show Me What You want to Tax and I Will Show You What You Will Destroy."

I am very excited about this opportunity, Meanwhile, though we did not get a public celebration of the 200th anniversary of the  founding of Galveston this April, a new review of Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain has come out this year by a Top 100 Amazon Reviewer.

There is also an new biographical entry in the LPedia about me as a libertarian author.

For me, 2017 will be a year not for writing new books, but for speaking out about the books I have already written. The new audio version of Vacuum County as read by Kelly Clear should be out in late August. And perhaps for the first time, my writings will have a clear genre designation in which they legitimately belong: libertarian.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Random Acts of Kindness

There are many disadvantages to being visibly different from other people. One possibility is that you will be bullied. But another, equally unpleasant one is that someone will decide to target you for a random act of kindness.

Yes, there is a movement like that. It's been going on for a long time, since before I was born. And the idea behind it is that if we all practice unexpected small acts of  kindness toward strangers, we will be living in a much better world. Practitioners of random acts of kindness are well meaning, but incredibly thoughtless.  Because of that, if we overreact to their kindness, they are likely to go ballistic. So if it ever happens to you, the best thing you can do is set them straight very softly, so as not to set them off. There is nothing like a would-be good Samaritan to become enraged if you reject his random act of kindness, no matter how bad it makes you feel.

The first time I was subjected to a random act of kindness, I was seven years old and in a public swimming pool. I had just learned how to swim, and my movements were still very jerky. My father was in the pool with me, supervising from a distance, but not interfering with my progress. Suddenly a strange man that I had never seen before swooped in, carried me aloft and deposited me on the other side of the pool. That was really scary. And then when he explained that he thought I was drowning, it just got very embarrassing. My father thanked him for his help, and eventually we laughed about it. But it was still an unpleasant thing to have happened. I will never forget it.

Random acts of kindness are based on the idea that without knowing someone, his situation, his abilities and disabilities and the subtle context of his life, you can decide what would be best for him and just swoop in and do whatever you like to him, without his permission. It's really no different from kidnapping, except that you mean well. In the case where they refuse to take your money for a service or give you money that you have no way to refuse, that is a kind of assault that we don't even have a name for.

Take the example of a professor who returns to the US from abroad and finds himself at Yale on a snowy day dressed in sandals, because he has just come back from a place with a different climate. Let's say his clothes are wrinkled from the long flight, and his hair is disheveled. He walks into a Payless Shoe Source to get snow shoes, but the clerk there becomes convinced that this is his moment to shine in a random act of kindness. The clerk is a young African American man, very well groomed and dressed for success. He is also a church-goer, and he sees the professor who walks into his store as a needy person. "Why are you wearing sandals? Have you just had an operation?" he starts to ask. "No," the professor answers distractedly. Because nothing that the professor says or does makes sense to the clerk, he becomes convinced that this strangely dressed man is a homeless person -- possibly retarded. When he offers to give him the shoes for free, and the professor refuses, he starts to take offense, because he thinks maybe this white homeless man is prejudiced against blacks, and that's why he's refusing his generous random act of kindness. "I go to church," he starts to say. "I'm a good person!" It does not help that the professor tells him he earns a great more than he does and does not need his charity. The good Samaritan is now insulted!

Or how about the case of the elderly woman with white hair and very plain clothes who does not  accept that the person behind her wants to pay for her groceries in an orchestrated act of kindness by a Church group during the Christmas holidays. She's not going to tell the stranger that she is well-off and set for life. She was brought up to be modest in her dress and to not brag about her wealth so as not to arouse envy. But how to deal with people who think they know who is in need based only on their outer appearance?

These are all true stories.  In each case, the random act of kindness is like a slap in the face to someone who had no idea he looked so helpless and in need to other people. And what makes it worse is that we are not allowed to get angry, for fear of offending our would-be benefactor, because the benefactor belongs to a majority religion or a particular ethnic group.

I have been trying to warn my well-meaning friends who practice random acts of kindness that they may be hurting others in the process, but so far I don't think anyone understands what I am saying. They are so into charity and good works that they think this is all about "selfishness". But who exactly is the selfish one here? Is it the person refusing unwanted help or the benefactor who hopes to store up points to go to heaven by forcing himself on others?

The person you pity based on their appearance, clothes or behavior may indeed be missing your physical coordination, social skills or fashion sense, but they might have advantages that you don't even know about. They might be a mathematical genius or wealthy beyond your imagining. But since you won't bother to get to know them before bestowing your kindness on them, there is no way for you to find that out. You figure if they look weird, they need help. The random act of kindness is ultimately motivated by the same instincts as those of the bully: to level differences and to enforce uniformity. The only way to avoid other people's pity is to act and look exactly the way society says we should. Otherwise, you never know when someone might mistake you for his inferior and swoop down to help you unbidden.

All people need respect and friendship and love. But you can't help strangers by just throwing money at them or fishing them out of the water, because they have not mastered the breast stroke yet. Random kindness is not too different from random violence. It's rude and thoughtless and causes pain to others, because it just stresses the difference between and among people. Don't do it. Resist the urge. The kindest thing you can do for a stranger is to leave them alone, unless they ask for help.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bullying by the Government

Many of us have been bullied in the past. Bullying can take the form of name calling, and in such cases, it isn't legally actionable. It can involve social unpleasantness without physical outcomes. Bullying often escalates to become more physical, though, and it can  involve throwing things and hurting others, even to the point of outright murder. Most bullying is designed to punish people for being different from others, and its origins are tribal. While bullying may result in ostracism or even death to those bullied, the overall effect is to enforce uniformity in those who remain. Viewed scientifically, bullying has a social function. For those of us who want to put a stop to it, we have to address that function, and not just the symptoms.

In order to get to the bottom of bullying, we need to understand our own role in it, even if we are a victim or someone standing on the sidelines, neither participating nor reaching out to help the individuals being bullied.

The time to help is when it begins, not at the bloody end. The thing you have to be willing to do is to stand up and say that you support the other person's right to be different and are willing to put yourself at risk, even if you don't share their difference. It is not enough to just say afterwards that it's too bad that they died. Or that you had no idea it would go that far. Or that you were sure the other person would surrender before the mob put him to death. Because that's what every "sensible" person would do -- surrender!

If that is your attitude, then you are supporting the overall function of the bullying: to enforce uniformity.

When bullying is done by individuals and private groups, it is ugly. But when it is the government that takes on the role of the ultimate bully, that's when we should all stand together against it.

One of the reasons the Branch Davidians had so few people speaking up for them before they were slaughtered in plain sight of the entire nation is that they were smeared in ways that made people on the right and on the left have no sympathy for them. On the right, all you had to do was allege sex with minors, and no decent church going American was willing to lift a finger. On the left, all you had to do is call them religious nuts with Messianic leanings, and the same happened. Nobody cared because they were "too weird".

I tend to be tone deaf to exactly those "PR blunders" that are now tearing the Libertarian Party apart. It makes no impression on me if you attribute to Satan a libertarian sentiment. I'll agree with the sentiment and not worry too much about Satan. It does not worry me if freedom of religion involves having some people worship a man as a god, as long as I don't have to. And I want the Federal government to stay entirely out of the sex racket. The states have jurisdiction over those issues, and if Child Protective Services in the local jurisdiction have cleared someone, I do not want the Feds charging in there with their guns drawn.

Where were you when Mt. Carmel was under siege? I tried to organize a peaceful protest, but somehow all my Libertarian, Quaker, Wiccan and Unitarian friends were too busy to show up that day. The Feds, on the other hand, were very prompt.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Memory Aids: Prose Poetry and Song

I am very excited about what Kelly Clear is adding to the experience of reading Vacuum County.  I am not a big fan of Audible books myself, because I like to look at the words in a book as I read it. You might say I am more of a visual learner. But there are some things that need to be heard to be understood and remembered. Poems are meant to be said out loud. Songs should be sung.

I was sharing this video of the song "Down by the Crick" from Chapter 3 in Vacuum County with a friend who had read the book many years ago. "That's nice," she said. "But I don't remember that there was a song in the book." Well there were the words to the song. And David was described singing it. But it depends on how you read books whether you are likely to remember that.

If you're reading visually, it's easy to miss that something is a song. I mean, it's obviously not prose. And it says in the story that David plays the guitar and sings it. But if you only kind of sped past that part in your reading and only tend to remember "what happened" in the chapter, then you are unlikely to remember the song at all.

Most people use episodic memory  for specific vivid events and rely on semantic memory to sort out the overall narratives of their lives, but they don't remember anything that they read in a novel word for word. By the same token, few people have episodic memory for dialogue in real life.  Much of the information that we acquire through experience is stored as semantic memory, without the moment by moment experiences that gave us the information. In the same way, if we read a book, and it made any kind of impression, we might later be able to describe what happened in the book as a general synopsis of the action, or we might be able to say what we may have learned from the book, but nobody expects us to remember all the words in the book in the right order. If we could do that, there would be no point in copyright laws. Everybody would have a copy of each book he has read stored in his head and would be able to read it off for other people at a moment's notice.

But when you hear a song played or a poem recited, this creates an episodic memory of it word for word, and not just a summary of what the song was about. Read it out loud several times or hear it played and re-played, and you'll remember it forever. That is the genius of poetry and song. 

When new readers experience Vacuum County through the medium of the Audible book produced by Kelly  Clear, they are  going to remember certain passages as if they had lived through the experiences themselves. The songs sung by David will come to life!

File:Frans Hals - Luitspelende nar.jpg

Image: By Frans Hals (1582/1583–1666) - André Hatala [e.a.] (1997) De eeuw van Rembrandt, Bruxelles: Crédit communal de Belgique, ISBN 2-908388-32-4., Public Domain,

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where Religion Ends and Ethics Begins

Most civilized people agree that it is none of our business what other people believe. We support separation of Church and State. And as good neighbors, we do not mock the faith of others, even though it is not our own faith. We don't argue about whether so and so arose from the dead or whether that sea was parted so those people could cross, or whether there really is a purple multi-armed goddess who provides for people. Civilized people know to leave others to do their own thing, engage in their own ceremonies, cherish their own beliefs about historical events and just avoid confrontation when another person's mythology clashes with our own. You believe in unicorns and I'll believe in  leprechauns, and we can agree to disagree. That's separation of Church and State.

But there is a point at which religion ends, and ethics begins. No matter what somebody's religion says, we're not going to allow them to kidnap our child and sacrifice him to their god. We are not going to allow them to burn down our house, just because their holy book says that is the right thing to do. And we are not going to allow them to discharge our debtor in bankruptcy when it's to us that the money is owed and not to them. When they start to argue that we should forgive our debtors so that our creditors will forgive us, that's where we draw the line. You forgive your debtors, we say, but only after you have paid your creditors in full. Forgiving a debtor when you still owe money to someone else is a gift in fraud of creditors and is not allowed.

Freedom of religion, really, is something that we tolerate only to the extent that what our neighbor believes is not materially important to us. The moment it starts to affect our rights, then we can't allow it. This means, among other things, that to the extent that religion preaches stealing, fraud or hurting others, then we can't tolerate it. Our tolerance is only for meaningless chatter and ceremonies and symbolism. We tolerate religion in the same way we tolerate literature -- if it's only just words, it's okay.

Sadly, religion can affect the morals of people who grew up steeped in it, even when they leave the church. Many believe that it's okay to steal from creditors, long after they have given up on  the idea that that fellow rose from the dead.

It does not matter what cosmology our neighbors believe in, It totally does not hurt me if they believe in the Easter bunny or in miracles. But when their religion tells them it's okay to steal from me, that's where their rights end and mine begin.

A horseshoe I found yesterday

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Beware the School of Life

Lately, every time I watch a video on YouTube, in my peripheral vision, on the sidelines, or in the center when my video ends, YouTube offers me a selection from The School of Life. I don't know how much YouTube has been bribed to show me those videos and to tempt me to watch them, but I'll wager that some not so small amount of money has passed hands.

The style of some of those videos is similar to this one I made to promote the unrequited love aspect of Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way.

The School of Life videos are better drawn, more professionally edited and feature a sensible sounding male voice with a British accent. "Sensible" is the word that comes to mind when listening to the advice they offer. It's quite a bit like talking to my distant relations in Great Britain. Urbane, well read and very, very sensible.

Here's the sort of advice you might get from one of the  School of Life videos:

  • Everyone has feet of clay, goes to the bathroom, puts on their pants one leg at a time, so don't let being painfully aware of your own failings blind you to the fact that you are just as much a mess as everybody else. Chin up and do your best.
  • We instinctively choose people who remind us of our parents to mate with, even when they remind us of our parents' worst qualities. So when choosing a mate, whatever you do, do not listen to your feelings. Be sensible, and choose somebody nice.
  • People don't come with an owner's manual, so this makes anticipating another person's needs difficult. But in order to keep your relationships going, do your best to help your partner unravel what makes you tick.
  • Machievelli has a bad reputation for telling princes how to do evil things, but in fact he is just trying to help nice people find a way to get by in life by manipulating others for their own good.
  • We are told to respect other people, but in fact when someone is throwing a tantrum, you should treat that person like a very small child.
  • Work is boring, but there is a good reason for that, so carry on. At least we know it is equally boring for the CEO of your company as it is for the lowliest janitor -- so it's fair! 
I don't even know where to begin. In case you think I am exaggerating, go watch some of their videos. I do not think they need any more promotion from me than they are already getting from YouTube, so I am going to limit myself to just one of their videos, the one about how boring work is and why it's all good.

Take this statement "The modern job market gives us no option but to specialize." It makes it seem so one-sided. Us against the job market. But if everybody didn't agree to specialize, what would happen to the job market? Is there something that inherently makes the job market trump all our individual wishes? I mean, I could understand it if just one person wanted to give expression to the multitude of possibilities within himself, but nobody else wanted that. But if all of us want the same thing, couldn't we do something about it? What is forcing us into jobs we don't actually want?

According to our sensible middle class British narrator, this was first explained by Adam Smith, who said that "the division of labor massively increases collective productivity." Remember this word: collective. I'll come back to it.

And then we move on to a discussion of Karl Marx. Make no mistake, our middle class British narrator actually knows something about Marx's writings, which the average American, whether a conservative, a liberal or even a libertarian does not. Most Americans I have met -- those who like Marxism and those who detest it -- assume that Marx was for redistribution and collectivization of the ownership of  the "means of production." They assume that he was preoccupied with inequality of wealth and that it was out of an egalitarian concern for meeting the material needs of the poor that he wanted socialism or communism -- or progressivism or whatever we are calling that -ism today, because the last -ism we used has fallen into disrepute. Wrong! Marx actually cared about the mind of the common laborer and was afraid he would die of boredom. He wanted to put an end to the forced drudgery of the constant repetitive actions in the factory. He cared about ordinary people's minds and souls, something no modern day socialist cares a fig for.

Now, here is where our sensible guide to Marx comes in with the most sensible twist of all. Marx was wrong! he tells us. But he wasn't wrong because redistribution of wealth violates the rights of the individual. He wasn't wrong because theft is bad. He was wrong because collectively we can produce more stuff  by all of us doing work that bores us out of our gourd. So it's all good!

"In suffering this way we are participating in a common human lot," the Sensible Narrator tells us. But the thing is, it is not a common human lot. In a free market, you can choose what you do. You can change your mind and choose again. And yes, you can even work at one job by day, and follow another career by night.

In my own life, I have been a lawyer, and a linguist, a novelist and an ape language researcher, a mother and an academician, a poet and a lyricist and a playwright. And that's not counting my hobbies of painting, taking pictures of butterflies and editing YouTube videos. My life is not boring at all. I do not do the exact same thing every day, and while some of the changes from one profession to another have been serial, many other things were done and continue to be done in tandem. There are such multitudes lurking in many of us, and they find external expression every day. I was almost tempted to say that there are such multitudes in everybody, but that would have been falling into the universalist trap that the Sensible Narrator has set.

The fact of the matter is that contrary to what we have always been told, not everybody wants the same thing. Not everybody is the same on the inside. You cannot just imagine yourself in another person's shoes and know instinctively how they must feel.  Not everybody wants to be free! Some people just want to be safe and loved and taken care of, while other people want to go on grand adventures. We are always going to be in trouble if we imagine that we can solve all the world's problems just by catering to our own desires on a global scale.

Karl Marx felt sorry for the average factory worker from the 19th century, because he tried to put himself into that person's shoes and realized that he would be bored silly! He had a kind heart, and he wanted to rescue the multitudes from boredom. But guess what? Not everybody is Karl Marx. Not everybody is bored by repetitive work. Some people are bored instead by reading multi-volume works on economics or how to build a utopia. Some people feel safe and comfortable doing the same job, day in, day out and repeating the same actions, provided they are paid well and given plenty of security.

Work does not have to be boring, nor is it boring for a great many people. Some people like to learn things by rote and keep repeating, and others like to think for themselves. There is room for both sorts on the planet, and for many other sub-types that I have not named.

There is a problem, though, if government interference forces all people to work day in, day out at secure jobs to pay for everybody's collective prosperity and security. And this is why some of my libertarian friends are running into a wall while talking to others, when they use the assumption that we are all the same at heart and all want the same things. The materialist argument in favor of capitalism only works on materialists. The romantic argument in favor of freedom of self-expression only works on romantics. And don't even get me started on how silly it is to mistake our sensible pro-status-quo friends for people who care about liberty and justice, just because they are anti-communist.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Representation without Taxation

"No taxation without representation!" was a slogan of the American Revolutionary war. Yes, they had slogans back then, too. And this slogan -- while catchy --  was not much more than a slogan. Like many other slogans, it did not directly translate into policy. In order to solve the disparity of representation of the Colonists as British subjects, they could have been given seats in the British Parliament. Then their representatives in the House of Commons might have voted on the Stamp Act along with the representatives of all their English speaking compatriots, and they could  have gotten great solace from the fact that even though the tax had not been repealed, they had had a "voice" in the matter.

James Macpherson argued that the Colonists should have asked for seats in the House of Commons

In  The Rights of Great Britain Asserted, published in 1776, James Macpherson, Colonial Secretary of British West Florida, called the rebellious Colonists' bluff:

Had the Americans, instead of flying to arms, submitted the same supposed grievance, in a peaceable and dutiful manner, to the Legislature, I can perceive no reason why their request should be refused. Had they, like the County and City of Chester, represented, that "for lack of Knights and Burgesses to represent them in the High Court of Parliament, they had been oftentimes TOUCHED and GRIEVED with Acts and Statutes made within the said Court, derogatory to their most ancient jurisdictions, liberties and privileges, and prejudicial to their quietness, rest and peace;" this Country would, I am persuaded, have no objection to their being represented in her Parliament... If they are not madly bent on independence, let them propose the conditions on which they wish to continue as subjects...

Let's face it: it was never about equal representation. The Colonists didn't want equality with their distant cousins. They had no desire to vote and get outvoted by their brethren abroad. They did not want to continue as subjects under any conditions. They wanted to be self-governing, They didn't want the British outside the American colonies to have any say in the matter.  The Colonists didn't want more representation. They wanted less taxation.  They wanted to be free.

Today, when we look back to that slogan of no taxation without representation, people often criticize the representational scheme that the American states first put into effect once they were free from the British. We are told that women and blacks could not vote -- and that there were poll taxes and even poor white men were kept from voting in some places, if they did not own property. And we are expected to consider our current uniform voting rights to be so much more enlightened than those propounded by the Founding Fathers and the legislatures of the several states, as each worked out its own suffrage laws. All the while we ignore the fact that the yoke of taxation that all of us suffer under is much heavier than ever the British Crown would dare to impose in 1776.

Why is that? Why are our taxes so much higher under "freedom" than they were as British subjects?

Just maybe it has something to do with who is allowed to vote about what today. When people who don't get taxed have equal representation with those who pay the tax in question, this rather skews the outcome of the vote in favor of higher taxation. That's why removing all the voters in Britain from the right to vote in America was a much more effective cure than giving Americans seats in the House of Commons.

This is also why a state such as New Jersey right after the revolution, in its own enlightened self interest, allowed everyone, blacks, women, or poor whites to vote, as long as they were free, not in debt, had a net worth of fifty pounds and had lived in the county for a year.

Today, people who have nothing are voting on representatives who have the power to tax people who have something. This happens at the Federal level with regard to income taxation, but it is not the only place where it happens. Even in a governmental unit as lowly as a county or a school district, people who own no property get to vote on the property taxes that are imposed on people with property. This ultimately hurts everybody, but the poor are encouraged to do this, because they are told it will hurt only "the rich". We have been taught to worry about the rights of the poor, but nobody seems to have spoken to us of how helpless any property owner is in a county where most people own nothing.

In Vacuum County, I touch obliquely on this issue.

He wasn't laughing any more. "At least it saved me
some money."
"Every hearing is at taxpayer expense. And I pay
eighty percent of the taxes in this county."
I thought about that. "And yet you only get one vote."
He smiled. "It hardly seems fair, does it?" (paqe 334, Vacuum County.)

In school districts where a large percentage of voters are living in subsidized housing, property taxes tend to go up. Sometimes homeowners are baffled by it, not understanding whether their neighbors are so rich that they can afford the extra taxes that they themselves cannot or whether all the other voters are just plain stupid enough to vote for every proposed tax hike. The answer is much simpler. The voters who support the tax hikes are neither rich nor stupid: they simply have nothing at stake. They are not property owners, and we are no longer allowed to keep people who don't own property from voting on property taxes.

The slogan the colonists used was not exactly what they were fighting for. It was not "no taxation without representation" as James Macpherson so ably noted. But maybe what they meant to say is "no representation without something at stake." If you are not going to be subject to a tax, you should not get to vote on it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Possibilities at Audible for Vacuum County

I was thinking of F.L. Light and how much better his Audible books were faring than his print books, when help came from an unexpected quarter. Kelly Clear, a vocalist who has been singing some of the Debt Collector songs, sent me a very nice reading from Vacuum County. It just happened over this weekend, and voila! here is a short demo.

Vacuum County is my most critically acclaimed novel. However, it is not my best seller. Over the years I have made a few videos about it. There is, of course, this trailer that emphasizes the Phoenician connection.

There is also this short discussion about the Biblical inspiration for the book.

And here is the video in which I discuss how realizing that Cabeza de Vaca had to be Nabal's ancestor led me back to my book report on  Hannibal of Carthage by Mary Dolan. .

And there is also the video in which I discuss the connection to the Branch Davidians in Mt. Carmel, Texas.

There is also one video filmed outdoors in the outer pen in which I am proofing Vacuum County and reading it out loud. but we are interrupted when Leo, who was just a puppy at the time, was whining for attention, and I had to get Bow to agree that I would go help Leo. We also still had chickens at the time. You can hear the rooster crow. But it does not make much of a reading.

I by far prefer Kelly Clear's readings to my own, and I look forward to working with him on a long term project on Audible to produce a full audio version of  Vacuum County. 

Order Vacuum County

If you want to order Vacuum County, I have provided the link above. Because if you just Google it, here is what you are likely to find:

Friday, February 17, 2017

What Happens to His Works When an Author Dies?

I can't help thinking about F.L. Light and what has become of his works. Yesterday, I found another photo of him, and in this one he is not wearing a baseball cap.

If you enlarge the photo, you can see that he has a number of library books on the shelf behind him, and some of the titles are The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street, The Annenbergers, Dark Genius of Wall Street. Other titles are harder to make out. On the screen of his computer, there is part of a play, I think it might be about Henrry Clay Frick.  But it is Carnegie who is speaking here:

Carnegie: I cannot tough inimicality
endure, Unflattering audaciousness

He takes too far. His hostile diffidence
 In me divides us. Now my causeful heart
 He counter-hurts. The freckest rupture... 
The editing software on his screen has underlined two of the words he used as wrong: "causeful" and "freckest", They aren't wrong. They just aren't common.

I don't know who his literary heirs are, or why all his books in print are now not available any longer, except in secondhand form. I noticed that just last month, long after Light had died, someone posted a recording of an excerpt of one of his works on Youtube. It was a translation.

 I am not sure whether this is an authorized edition, but I would not be quick to pursue the person doing it, even if it is not. After an author is dead, if he has no heirs, people who copy his works for their own profit are his biggest helpers. They spread his words and cause them to be disseminated, and this is what authors generally want.

On the screen, the poster comments that listening to an audio recording of a book helps the listener to learn how to properly pronounce words that are new to him. Then we are invited to download a free audio file. I would exercise caution in doing so, because sometimes these free things being offered are a trap -- a Trojan horse that unleashes an army of spammers onto our computers. But you never know -- it could be benign.

I also wonder what happens to reviewers once they die. So far, all of Light's reviews of my books are still up there. But I am taking the precaution of saving screen shots, in case they later disappear.

He found less to praise in Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain than in Vacuum County, but his evaluation of Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain was quite positive.

I like the way he evaluates loyalty from an ancient perspective. I think there is something about my works that appeals to classicists, because they understand the historical context of the master servant relation better. .Light never read Our Lady of Kaifeng.  The second half did not come out until six days after he died. I can't help but wonder what he would have thought of it.

Light himself preferred audiobooks. He converted Vacuum County to audio before that was common. He had text-to-speech programs that helped him to do this. It is possible that because he was a poet, Light  understood that we need to hear poetry out loud, before we can properly appreciate it. It may be that his works in audible form will outlive his written words.

But I would still like to know: Who is his literary executor and why are all his books suddenly out of print?

Related Links 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Remembering the Poet FL Light

I never met F. L. Light. I would not say that I know him well or that he played a major role in my life. But yesterday I found out that he had died nearly a year ago, and I am sorry. I feel that I will miss him. In fact, I've been missing him for about a year. I just didn't know he was gone for good. Here is his obituary.


The only photos of him that I have seen show him in sharp profile, wearing a baseball cap.

It's not always the same baseball cap and the background varies.

Light first came to my attention when he began submitting poetry to the Inverted-A Horn in the 1990s. At the time, my father was editor-in-chief. We had very strict standards for metrical poetry, and F. L. Light met them.  I felt at the time that his vocabulary was unusual, as he preferred archaic and rarely used words to common vocabulary items. His syntax was also a little archaic. His sentences were not always SVO.

In Horn #11, which came out January 7. 1993 we published two of F. L. Light's poems, both of them about Bernhard Goetz. The poems were metrical and fit in with our philosophy and worldview, but the vocabulary Light chose to use required us to publish a glossary. For years after that, the word "latrociny" would pop into my head at odd moments, and I could barely restrain myself from using it in ordinary conversation.

We did not know anything about F. L. Light, except that he lived in New York and sent his poetry submissions in on used sheets of paper that had other things completely unrelated printed on the other side. At times I speculated that he was homeless or very poor, but sometimes I thought that he was very wealthy and worked as a stockbroker by day. I think it was what was on the other side of some of the poems that made me think that.

It was only years later that I realized he had been educated in the Classics and could translate Greek to English. Here is a link to an interview with Light that I published on PubWages.

Light gave the impression of a solitary person who was interested primarily in his own poetry and secondarily in free enterprise and the worship of ancient gods. Some of his letters to the editor at the Inverted-A Horn contained unexpected praise for Zeus. Sometimes we laughed when we read his letters, but we always published them, anyway.

I did not understand in the 1990s how involved and interested in many aspects of the real world F.L. Light actually was. He seemed caught in a time warp, living in a world all his own. But after my father's death, he began an email correspondence with me, and some of the things he wrote showed he was much more observant and thoughtful than I had previously believed.

Here is an email he sent me in 2008:

 Sat Jun  7 12:04:41 2008
During the last year I read *The Chimps of Gombe, *by Jane Goodall, works by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, who has studied for the last decade the bonobos chimps,and books by a Dutchman named Waal or de Waal. Thus I have written a numberof aphoristic couplets on chimpanzees and will send some as an attachment tothis email.
I have seen chimpanzees pointing to lexigrams on monitors. Their speed is somewhat astounding.
Bow's attachment to you reminds me of Flint's to his mother Flo, which isdisplayed in a video with Jane Goodall as the narrator. It is presented in 3or 4 parts, each about twenty minutes.I found it through, butGoogle should have the link.
Your answer to my letter on fanatics is quite well-reasoned, reasonable enough for me to accept. I am a member of the site, which is a forum for those who favor the principles of Ayn Rand. There are promotions in this site I disavow, not caring for all their passions, especially the unnatural ones.  They might wish to read your description of a rational fanatic, as  most of their ideas are grounded on rational objectivism. is one of my sites

*F L Light*

In time, F.L. Light reviewed three of my novels on Amazon. Here is his review of Vacuum County.


We were friends on Facebook. I was one of nine people who were friends with him on Facebook. The last time he posted there was on Feb. 6, 2016. His obituary says that he died on March 4, 2016. But the memorial service was not held until May 17. His obituary does not mention that he is survived by anyone, and he is said to have died in his residence. I cannot help but wonder if he died alone and was found two months later. 

I recently noticed that of his many works available on Amazon, the books that were in print are no longer in print, though available in second hand form. But the Kindle and Audible versions are still available. Does he have a literary executor, I wonder? What becomes of the books of Createspace authors who have died intestate? Does Createspace, which treats our royalties as "earned income", just assume that we stop earning the moment we draw our last breath?

Here at my house, FL Light is not forgotten. Just this morning, Bow and I read some couplets from Shakespeare versus Keynes.

If you know FL Light and want to share some memories about him, please comment. I would love to learn more.