Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Finally, Impact!

I write, because I must. It's an inner compulsion. My writing flows out with passion. And while I later go back and check for factual errors. structural issues, problems with syntax and stray typos, I don't generally change anything just to please a particular audience. I do, however, always hope that what I have written will eventually have an impact.

This attitude and its conflict with other ways of thinking about writing and the marketplace is discussed in my last and final CS blog post from 2015.

Publishing for Impact

Often after seeing reviews of my books, I am left with the impression that even if reading the book had been an enjoyable experience, ultimately no impact has been made. Lives have not been changed. Minds have not been touched. The worldview they came in with is intact. And that's okay, but I always hope.

Today, Facebook told me that the fans of Our Lady of Kaifeng  had not heard from me in a while. Not knowing what to post, I scoured the internet for new mentions. I did not find any new reviews, but I found something even better. Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy way was mentioned when discussing the meaning of the word autoist.

Source: Stackexchange

The impact I am having is not literary or political -- but I am making a contribution to the English language!

Why is the word "autoist" necessary to describe someone who does things only for the love of the thing? Because "hedonist" isn't right, and "selfish" or "egoist"  have all those negative connotations, and because while "autistic" is actually closer than you think, it, too, is heavy with misconceptions.

So there you have it: the opposite of an altruist is an autoist, not an egoist. And  altruist, in case you are wondering, is just "social metaphysician" with a positive connotation.  So the opposite of an egoist is a social metaphysician. But if you want to avoid words with negative connotations for the concepts you are discussing, just use autoist and altruist. They are pretty much self-explanatory, if you understand the etymology.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Proposed Libertarian Party Bylaws Change

This is the Proposed Change
Things marked in Blue are added to the original. Thing struck out in red are removed from the original Bylaws.

This is my proposed change to the Bylaws of Libertarian Party of the United States. Here is my rationale for the proposed change:

In order to allow maximal representation to the delegates at the convention, including those whose first choice of presidential nominee is not selected by a majority of their peers, and to prevent a vice-presidential candidate who is not considered by the delegates to be fit to be the president from serving in the capacity of vice-presidential nominee, it is best to select the candidate for presidential nominee who received the second highest number of votes in the final ballot for presidential nominee to serve as our vice-presidential nominee. This will also save a lot of time in superfluous nominating speeches, as no vice-presidential nominee will require an additional nominating speech besides that already given before the election for presidential nominee takes place.
For an in-depth discussion of the proposed change, including answers to questions posed by those arguing against the change, see the video embedded below. 


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Government Harm with Drug Proscription and Nutritional Prescription

It was my friend Julia who drew my attention to this satirical video about what would happen if hummus were outlawed in Israel.

The horrors of drug enforcement are well known to the general populace. And maybe those who enjoy the humor think it could never actually happen with hummus. But in a way, it already is happening. The tomato growers and the ketchup producers are already getting a hand from the government here in the United States in suppressing hummus (a high fat condiment)  and therefore promoting ketchup (a low fat condiment.) Of course, the battle here is not conceived of as one between hummus and ketchup. It is fat versus carbs.

Ever since the 1950s, American nutritional "experts", with the full authority of the Federal government behind them, have been pushing an agenda to promote carbs over fat. The Food Pyramid taught at school, the low fat meals funded by the taxpayer in the public schools, the dietary recommendations that doctors had to provide with the approval of the American Medical Association, all indicated that a low fat diet would be a good thing. As a result, obesity became an epidemic in the United States.

The  USDA Food Pyramid pushed by the government Courtesy of  GrowMap
Very slowly, over the new millennium, the truth has been seeping out to the general public. Here is a recent international study published in the Lancet, that shows low fat diets are associated with a greater incidence of early death than high fat diets.

But because most people do not read the Lancet, and because many people trust implicitly in the advice of their doctors, there are still many, particularly those who are obese, diabetic and/or suffering from chronic heart disease, who are still following a low fat diet. And the shelves of the grocery are still full of artificially reduced fat products that dare to boast loudly on their labels: "Low fat!" As if that were a good thing!

So the satire in the Israeli video about outlawing hummus and the chaos that would ensue hits home for me on more than one level. Of course, the War on Drugs is a bad thing, even when it comes to recreational drugs that are detrimental for our overall health. But how much crazier are the results when the government also tries to suppress the sale of food that is good for us in favor of other foods that are bad for us. And by good and bad, I mean relatively speaking, of course. High carb diets are sometimes indicated, when we are trying to fatten up people who have been starving. Sugar is a lifesaver for those who have been deprived, but it's a death sentence for the well-fed.

Today, as people are waking up to the dangers of the high carb/low fat diet, many of the Statists among the general population are pushing for the government to print a new food pyramid that promotes the eating of fat and suppresses the eating of carbs. They think the bad guys are the carb growers, and they hold the government above reproach. It's all the fault of those bad lobbyists, represented by the evil tomato grower in the Israeli video.

Hummus is a relatively high fat food, with 35% carbs to 48% fat, while ketchup is a very high carb/low fat food at 93% carbs to 3% fats. No wonder public schools tried to label it a vegetable and sell it to the public. But if you really want to go high fat, you eliminate the garbanzo bean that gives hummus its name, and stick to its other main ingredient, tahini. At 78% fat to 12% carbs, tahini is a good food for diabetics, people with heart conditions and the general population. However, if you have a starving person on your hands, feel free to feed him primarily on ketchup!

The government is never going to be flexible enough to understand the shifting context of nutritional requirements. That is why allowing them to prescribe to us is killing lots and lots of people who are incapable of thinking for themselves. Those people include a captive audience of school-aged children who really have no way to decide for themselves.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Nabal's Psalm

The Audible Edition of Vacuum County is soon to be released.

One of the last major items to be recorded by Kelly Clear is what I like to refer to as the Nabal Psalm.

When we hear complaints against our fellow man, that they are not doing right, we often stand in judgment of the person complaining. Doesn't he have anything  better to do with his time, besides criticizing other people? Is he so  blameless himself? By what right does he judge others? And how could something so filled with rancor possibly get labeled a psalm? "That's a psalm?" you are probably thinking to yourself, "How is that a psalm?" It's so sad and hopeless, so angry and petty. No wonder nobody would sing that in Church! No wonder I've never even heard of this psalm.

But yes, it's a psalm, and it's in there, and it would be hard to understand why, unless you also read Samuel 1:25, the story of Nabal the Carmelite, who refused to pay protection money to David, when he was running from Saul.

What are the original words of this Psalm and what do they mean?

From my personal copy of the Old Textament, Psalm 14

The original psalm is very short. It has only seven verses. Here is a rough translation of each verse

  1. To the conductor, to David: Nabal said in his heart, there are no gods; they have cheated and abominated. There is none who does good.
  2. Jehovah looked down from the sky to see is there anyone who is skilled in seeking the gods.
  3. All strayed together, went bad, there is none who does good, not even one.
  4. Why, all the evil doers know the eaters of my people ate bread, did not call on Jehovah.
  5. There they feared fear because in a just generation there are gods.
  6. The counsel of the poor you will shame, because Jehovah is his shelter.
  7. Who will give from Zion the salvation of Israel, on the return of Jehovah to dwell with his people? Jacob will be joyful and Israel happy.
This is not exactly the translation most English speaking people have read.  In most translations, the word נבל is translated as fool, the word אלהים -- which is a plural form of a word for a  god -- is translated as God, and the name Jehovah is not rendered as Jehovah, but as "the Lord". The result is that many of the distinctions being made in the original text become opaque.

Here is King James' version:

14 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge.Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

The key to understanding the poetic works in the Bible is parallelism. These poems like to say the same thing at least twice, each time in a different way. The contrast helps us get a new perspective on a familiar problem.

The first verse in  Psalm 14 is parallel to the second in the following way: The first is the judgment of a particular man (Nabal) upon God or the gods. The second is the lamentation of a particular god (Jehovah) on being forsaken by the people -- or rather, his people. (Every god has a people, and the people assigned to Jehovah are called Israel.)

 The contrast between the lament of  a man about the absence of his god, and the lament of a god, against his people who have strayed, is what makes this poem intriguing. Have you ever heard women complain there are no good men to be had, and men complain that there aren't any women? It's kind of like that. Gods need men to worship them, and men need gods to help them do right. But sometimes they have trouble finding each other. This isn't a psalm about atheism. It is about how the people of Israel and their local god should turn to one another in their mutual hour of need. It's about how true love leads to happiness.

 What makes it difficult to see this parallel between gods and men and their mutual dependence in the King James translation is that certain words are substituted for other words.

Nabal  (naval נבל), as a word, does not mean "fool". Knave maybe, or rogue or rotter, or villain,  but not fool. The triliteral  root of the word has the meaning of  "to rot or to wilt." When Abigail says against Nabal that he is like his name, "a villain he is and villainy is what he does", she is referring to the name and the meaning at the same time. Now some question whether he actually existed, since who in his right mind would give such an unflattering name to a child? But it's possible that he was named for a lute (nevel  spelled נבל), and that this play on words was a pun.

Was there an actual Nabal?  The account in Samuel: I 25 describes him as a Calebite,  a descendant of Caleb the spy, son of Jephunneh, (כלב בן יפונה),  and thus a Kennizite (קניזי), actually having origins in the land of Canaan long before Exodus. In other words, Nabal had deep roots in the land, and he remembered the old ways. His claim to the land is as good as anyone's, and yet he does not ask for much, except to be left alone. To him, both Saul and David seem like upstarts, and he wants no part in their quarrel.

When Nabal refused to pay David protection money, there was no claim on his part to the throne. He merely remarked that there were many breaking away from their masters nowadays. And he was not going to give the victuals that he had prepared to feed the men working for him to those who came from out of nowhere, demanding payment.

Is Nabal the Carmelite the same Nabal as in Psalms 14? I'm not the only one who thinks so. Look what I found here:

The difference between the usual outlook on Nabal and mine is this: I'm a libertarian, so I believe that we shouldn't hurt people or take their stuff.  I don't blame people for refusing to  pay protection money, and I don't praise the women who betray them.

Did David write Psalm 14? I don't think he did. But there is internal evidence that the  Psalm is oddly edited, and I like to ascribe at least that part to David.

To learn more about Nabal and Nabal's Psalm, read or listen to Vacuum County on Audible.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Reaping the Whirlwind

For many, the big news of the moment is the disaster in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey. There is a lot of blame going around concerning how much help people are getting, and I have even heard some using the old ruse of blaming natural disasters on the iniquity of Man, only today's iniquity seems to be using too much energy and causing the planet to heat up, rather than refusing to worship a particular deity. I find that about as hard to swallow as Father de Sedella's assertion  that the hurricane of 1818 was caused by the fact that Jean Laffite refused to make the Catholic Church the State Church of Galveston.

From Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain

When the whirlwind did finally materialize, because life is after all much like a storybook, it was the Karankawa Indians, and not the Catholic Church, who helped Jean Laffite and the Champs d'Asile settlers to survive the disaster. But at least the Biblical quote from Hosea 8:7 was put to good use. In the same way, it is hardy private citizens, libertarians and profiteers, who are helping in Galveston today, people accused of being cannibals, like the Karankawa,  and not the nanny State.