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Futurism, Rugby, The Winning Fallacy

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other week, usually on Wednesday, at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. When you become aware of how often information is baked, by the media, by politicians, by interventionists, by authoritarians, you must learn to see the data around you, then make it your information, your knowledge, your wisdom.Futurism Are we there yet?  Well, yes, in fact, we are always at some “there.”  Will we make something of it, or will we fritter away the opportunity?  Furthermore, each of us is the only one “there” at a given time.  Whose responsibility is it to occupy and improve that conjunction of space and time?  Shall I volunteer to make an improvement, or will I wait until someone else requires it of me? As readers of prior columns may know, I am engaged in lifelong learning up to the gills.  That is how I fill all my time-space allotments.  On Mondays, I go to a writers’ shared interest group, where I often share things I have written here in this column, then in the evening I go to the Socrates Cafe Louisville group, where we discuss philosophical queries.  On Tuesdays, I attend a meeting where we are trying to learn mindfulness.  Later in the day, I teach a class on Thinking Like a Computer, and again on Thursday nights.  Every other Friday, I facilitate a shared interest discussion group entitled Lifelong Philosophy.  All the rest of the times available, I am also making learnable moments out of the data I encounter voluntarily, reading, listening, talking, watching rugby or basketball, working on the farm, doing everything I can do in accord with nature, and taking advantage of a lovely relationship with my partner of more than 50 years — she and I will mark our official 50th wedding anniversary in the midst of May. But let’s get to the reason that I write, under the topic of Futurism.  I am concerned at the number of intelligent people that I see dwelling on things that they do not know and can do nothing about, things in the past, things in a wished-for or feared future. I read a revelatory piece by David Deutsch this week (I got the link from a fellow laborer in the vineyard of Socrates Cafe Louisville).  As usual, things that you learn don’t roll to a standstill in a vacuum.  I shared the article with friends on Facebook (almost 5,000 now).  That evolved into a discussion of whether history repeats itself, to which question I got answers that generally settled into these buckets — 1) Yes, absolutely, 2) Seemingly, but not sure whether it repeats or rhymes, or 3) Perhaps, but events do not match related events repeatedly.  Here are some... Read the full thing

Wearing of the Green, Rothbard on Ireland, Historical Confirmation Bias

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other week, usually on Wednesday, at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. It is so gratifying that Rothbard has something to say about Ireland, because as I write, it is St. Patrick’s Day.  I am 3/4ths Irish on my Father’s side, and 3/4ths Irish on my Mother’s side.  That makes me 6 parts Irish out of 8 parts.  The other 2 parts are Acadian and Welsh.  And neither of those had much love lost for the English either. In observance of my ancestral day, I am featuring the lyrics of “Wearing of the Green,” a poetic description of the lengths to which tyranny may go, and Rothbard’s comments on where the Irish had been before the oppression of the English.  Then, I will wrap up with a logical review of how history may be abused.The Wearing of the Green A link to John McCormack Singing “The Wearing of the Green”. O Paddy dear, and did ye hear the news that’s goin’ round?The shamrock is by law forbid to grow on Irish ground!No more Saint Patrick’s Day we’ll keep, his color can’t be seenFor there’s a cruel law ag’in the Wearin’ o’ the Green.” I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the handAnd he said, “How’s poor old Ireland, and how does she stand?”“She’s the most distressful country that ever yet was seenFor they’re hanging men and women there for the Wearin’ o’ the Green.” So if the color we must wear be England’s cruel redLet it remind us of the blood that Irishmen have shedAnd pull the shamrock from your hat, and throw it on the sodBut never fear, ’twill take root there, though underfoot ’tis trod. When laws can stop the blades of grass from growin’ as they growAnd when the leaves in summer-time their color dare not showThen I will change the color too I wear in my caubeenBut till that day, please God, I’ll stick to the Wearin’ o’ the Green. Rothbard Quote #16 For the libertarian, the most interesting and certainly the most poignant example of the creation of a State through conquest was the destruction of the libertarian society of ancient Ireland by England in the seventeenth century, a conquest which established an imperial State and ejected numerous Irish from their cherished land. The libertarian society of Ireland, which lasted for a thousand years—and which will be described further below—was able to resist English conquest for hundreds of years because of the absence of a State which could be conquered easily and then used by the conquerors to rule over the native population. … The most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts, however, has been neglected by historians... Read the full thing

Imagination, Rothbard on Rulers, False Imagination

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other week, usually on Wednesday, at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. This March is the month in which I observe the completion of my third year of writing Finding the Challenges (FTC).  It is nearly incomprehensible to me the journey that I and those I love have taken in that time.  And I’m sure that each of you readers have had an equally astounding set of times and places — some of them, as Mark Twain might have said, actually true. The reason for that odd statement at the end of the above paragraph is that I will be covering imagination, awareness, philosophy, expansion of the consciousness, and adaptability in this column.Imagination — The Life of the Mind I’m thinking of the life of Robert Penn Warren, whose mind roamed the Universe.  Wonderfully for us, he brought much of that expansive view back to his nest and condensed it so artfully.  I see Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jack London in much the same way. Warren found a workshop for his art,  wherever he hung his writer’s hat.  He could look out his window, seeing what there was to behold in the physical world, but he could look far beyond in the imaginary world where he saw a life and career of Huey P. Long and a fatal crisis for Floyd Collins and the Black Patch Wars of his birthplace. Although I do not claim the ability of Robert Penn Warren, I at least have vision into the imaginary world.  Imaginary and fictional are not synonyms. All fictions are imaginary, but all imaginations are not fictions.  I can sit in my nest, looking at the woods going down the hill and through the wintry trees to the snow covered hill beyond.  But I can also see the ponga forest near Whangerei Falls on the North Island of New Zealand, where we trod the boardwalks among the tops of the tree ferns.  I can see the sea cliffs of Molokai from a helicopter.  I can see the tomb of Charles Darwin in Westminster Abbey.  I can see what that hillside at home will look like when the dogwoods will bloom. Last spring, we visited Mark Twain’s estate in Hartford, Connecticut.  It was grand, sitting on a hill looking across the countryside, but it was meager compared to that which Samuel Langhorn Clemens saw from that apex.  His mind would impoverish any nesting place.  If he were resting on the shore of Marin, west of Tamalpais, overlooking the Farallons, he could, and would, see much farther than that. The mind never rests, but as the body rests, the mind expands throughout the foreign and domestic, the true and the could be true,... Read the full thing

Scalia and the Constitution, Rothbard #14, Arguing Labels

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other week, usually on Wednesday, at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. The groundhog didn’t see his shadow here in Central Kentucky.  How about where you are?  What establishes the rule, your locality or the specific locale, Punxatawney, PA?  Neither seems to me particularly rational, certainly not scientific.  Just think, the same MSM that dutifully reports on Punxatawney Phil each year is the one who keeps the drumbeat up on global warming.  Oh, well, it distracts them from reporting on the primaries momentarily. But enough for the trivial.  Let’s take a look at the Constitution of the USA, again, this time as observance of the passing of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Antonin Scalia, then we will see what Murray Rothbard has to say about the Supremes.  We will try to tie that up with a discussion of the logic fallacies of labeling.Scalia and the Constitution I have just finished listening to an excellent podcast of the Tom Woods Show, Episode 595, in which he discusses the historical impact of Antonin Scalia’s three decades, with guest, Kevin Gutzman.   They do such an excellent job of discussing the details, I commend their effort for your listening.  I will only write here of my general concerns with the Constitution and the Supremes, as illuminated by the Scalia story. As you likely know, I am a Spooner man.  Every time I think even momentarily about the Constitution (or “The Con,” as I more often refer to it), I am struck by what a dismal failure it has been.  Any accomplishments of this people in this land have been in spite of the Constitution, not by virtue of it.  The Constitution will be the undoing of the statist edifice founded here.  It tells me much that the drafters of the Declaration, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin, had no part to play in the formulation of the Constitution (Franklin signed but did not author any of the document).  What was it meant to protect, and what has it done in service to that objective? In any event, Scalia disdained the role of revision and reinterpretation by a majority of an unelected committee in medieval regalia.  He didn’t go far enough, never making the case as poignantly as Spooner that the Constitution could have no effect beyond the room full of people (a rapidly dwindling number of people by the time of signing) gathered in 1789. Scalia may have done yeoman service in terms of keeping down some of the excesses of SCOTUS.  Maybe he chose the old standby method of working from within the structure.  But it did not work.  In effect, nowadays, SCOTUS allows anything by any authoritarian force and nothing... Read the full thing

NVC, Unschooling Dads, The Fallacy of Violent Communication

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing, usually every other week at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science, nonviolent communication, and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. One never stops learning.  Today, I learned again that whenever you take a malfunctioning something to a fix-it place, the thing will begin to work splendidly and will stubbornly refuse to repeat the malfunction.  The case in point was a gimpy smart phone, but this has wide applicability.  Sick pets will stage miraculous recuperation on the front step of the veterinary clinic.  Then there was a second thing I learned — the thing that behaved perfectly before the caregiver will suffer a dramatic relapse on the way home. And, as usual, I learned some new things about Voluntaryism in the past two weeks, which I will duly share with you today:  1) a new influence called “non-violent communication,” 2) a great new book from Skyler, as editor and publisher, entitled Unschooling Dads, and 3) a particularly toxic form of begged question, communication in the form of browbeating. Nonviolent Communication A few days ago, I was invited to join a Facebook Group,  wherein members sought to see the match between voluntaryism and nonviolent communication.  By way of introduction, we were asked to write a brief hello telling how we came to voluntaryism and to nonviolent communication.  As I considered this assignment, I realized that though I might be a good voluntaryist, I had very little skill at transferring my non-violent outlook to my ways of thinking, listening, talking, and writing.  Here is how I responded: I have always acted in a way to avoid violence, but culturally I have been influenced toward verbal aggression. In a family which was very competitive in professional pursuits, I was encouraged to be dominant in communications. I have had a lifelong struggle trying to turn my bent away from verbal aggression. I am getting much better now since I have discovered voluntaryism. I left out that I was also trained, in every venue, to respond, slavishly, to violent communication.  In order to have a quiet zone around me, I have become a wielder of a flame-throwing tongue.  In the days since, I have been amazed at how often I have carried on an internal monologue of things I should not say to my worst enemy — silent temper tantrums.  Even now, as I write, I am becoming overwrought, feeling buckling in the layers beneath the thin veneer of placidity that I show to others. Just this Tuesday, the (University of) Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball Team lost to a below-average Tennessee team, blowing a double-digit lead.  How many unkind words have I spoken in my imagination about that?  It is not going to be easy. I have discovered that it takes more than just a... Read the full thing

A is not B, Another Rothbard Quote, Unknown Processes

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. I have not been resting on my laurels, such as they may be.  But I have been somewhat inconsistent, production-wise, over the turn of the calendar.  I don’t know whether I have been exceptionally busy or exceptionally delinquent.  In the end supposedly, it makes little difference. I am reminded of, and I will share, Walt Whitman’s observation, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”  This is one of my favorites, and it applies to consistency also.  In fact, my last column departed completely from my consistently chosen format, but I will return with this writing. Part 1 is about a logical construction that dawned on me while I was conducting a thinly veiled head-butting with a believer in “The Singularity,” wherein computers will supersede their human builders.  In Part 2, I will address some of the wisdom of Murray Rothbard.  And in Part 3, I will relate Part 1 to a more general logic fallacy, which fallacy causes us to misconstrue our own goals.A is not B I wrote recently on Facebook, if A is not B, then there is no process C which may convert A to B while still keeping A.  I referred to this also as the rule whereby one cannot have one’s cake and eat it too.  I could also call this the Alchemist‘s Lament, since at this writing there still had been no report of a magic process in which baser materials are converted to gold. Politicians live and die with this sleight of hand.  You can fool enough of the people enough of the time to have them believe that there is a free lunch.  Sleight of hand is a process.  If you can distract an honest person’s attention (it is easier with a dishonest person) long enough, you can fool them about what he has seen.  One of the greatest distractions is an otherwise hollow process.  A bogus process has the added strength of deepening the viewers doubt so that she will harden her attention, focusing to a fault on the wrong thing. The Singularity is a contrived process, usually described as the point of no return.  If your rocket ship gets close enough to a black hole, your ship’s power plant cannot overcome the gravitational pull of the black hole.  Why, you ask, would one take one’s rocket ship that close?  But some futurists (perhaps people who have reached the point of no return with trying to figure out the past and present) contend that we humans are deliberately flirting with a Singularity of our own device. It is quite popular to pretend that the... Read the full thing

My Seasonal List

“Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. I would like … an explanation for prospective war that is not an insult to the adult inquirer, an expectation that no one even vaguely like the Dulles brothers, John Foster and Allen, will ever darken the doors of national bureaucracy again, a promise that there will be no more televised debates among politicians running for the office of POTUS.  If I want to be lied to, I will go find a crackhead who needs money, that I will continue to be a lifelong learner, that I will continue to learn from my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren, that I can keep on sharing ideas with my descendants that will be useful to them, for there to be people who continue to do critical thinking, for there to be people who can point out my filters so that I can reconsider whether they are still giving me good information, that there will still be rugby, the sport, that there will still be interscholastic cross-country meets, with lots of bright colors and beautiful autumn weather, that I can remember the essence of Catch-22 better this time than when I read it the first time 50 years earlier, to discover at least a dozen new philosophical minds and/or views in the coming year, that I will encounter many more opportunities to absorb wisdom from H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Lysander Spooner, Murray Rothbard, George Carlin, Stephen Colbert. Louis CK, Robert Higgs, Tom Woods, Skyler Collins, and Scott Horton. for there to be another spring, summer, fall, and winter, more Mozart, more new understanding of Alan Turing, more outside-the-box technology ideas, from all quarters, more colorful sunsets, that Frank Sinatra will not be forgotten, that Tony Bennett will keep on making duets, never to forget Occam’s Razor, to over-simplify, infrequently, to understand complexity, being more understanding of the past, living in the present, not fearing and not trying to control the future, to recognize that the state is less of a problem than those who believe it can make problems go away, recognizing that the lion’s share of climate change, in whatever direction it goes, will likely take place outside the circle of human control and central planning, for people to see that science is never done, therefore it can never be settled, at least another year, and longer is better, before the Great Yellowstone Volcano does its thing, for the Segway to really amount to something significant, that there be no tidal waves or tsunamis for awhile, for the fourth estate to find honest work, to take some more trips, with one being to Ireland, to see some new lighthouses, to have a pleasant experience... Read the full thing

Jazz, Intensification, Prisoner’s Dilemma

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. Stress overcame me this morning.  Maybe it was outrage over the killings in San Bernardino, or maybe it was that something (again!!!) that Donald Trump said was the top “Trending” story on Facebook, just the morning after San Bernardino.  Or maybe it was incredulity that the story about Trump was NOT about what he said about San Bernardino, which was, of course, stupid, but not as stupid as what he said so as to be zooming up the charts.  I am not even going to grace the content of his utterances by detailing it in this column.  Don’t worry, the hits will keep on coming, courtesy of Trump and the MSM, later today or first thing on the morning news. I am experiencing outrage burn-out, even though I normally thrive on adversity.  I usually spring into output mode when the going gets tough.  I usually see stress as motivation. But, today, if I launch into a rant about the two topics above, or the 3-week old story of Paris, I might just lose it. So I am going to write first about something that brings me joy.  Then I will ease back into white water by visiting with Murray Rothbard again — Murray will not be addressing pleasantries nor sugar-coating adversity.  But Rothbard is the strongest of rudders in rough seas.  And last, I will remind myself that there is much to do, with the machete of logic in the jungle of fallacies.Jazz This morning, I wondered what could bring me personal peace, as the world burned.  I would get back to the world after I recovered a bit of coolness, a shred of objectivity, a few clear thoughts.  My iPod, with its shuffle play feature, did the deed.  As I stepped into the shower, the room filled with intelligent but emotional, muscular jazz.  The music began slow and bluesy but soon began to soar into great, free expressions of joy. Yes, I know that jazz grew up in America in association with slavery, but that is not its story.  Jazz was always a testament to the freedom of humans, to their ways of expression no matter how narrow the confines of civil manners.  Jazz in America arose through the importation of African rhythms and sonic invention, but here it became the very voice by which the downtrodden express their indestructible individualism and self-ownership.  You can chain me but you cannot take me unless I give myself to you.  There is no way you can drive away that song, that shout, that trumpet blast of joy. Jazz is also notably free from strictures.  Most of the great jazz performers had no concrete... Read the full thing

Information, Non-intervention, Hindsight

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. Life is a positive feedback loop.  But we must understand that the “positive” refers to a gain in information.  This gain may lead to an awareness of negative truths, these truths may be for the short run or the long.  I have been watching a video debate, “Be it resolved humankind’s best days lie ahead,” and before the debate I voted, “agree.”  Afterwards I still agreed but perhaps for more enlightened reasons.  Whether we learn good or ill, intelligent consideration can lead us to a higher state of wisdom, for which there is a ratchet effect.  Wisdom is a bell you cannot unring.Voluntaryist Book View — Information If you are, as I am, an autodidact, you are a natural sponge for information, and you are a natural candidate for having your life changed by a book, ie. synthesizing data toward information, information toward knowledge, knowledge toward wisdom, and wisdom toward truth, which is more data in the never-ending cycle of synthesis.  My life has recently been changed by the book, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, by James Gleick. Here are some of the life-changing information packets I have now assimilated: None of the phases of information (data, information, knowledge, wisdom, truth, concrete fact, abstract fact, concrete fiction, abstract fiction) die; they ripple through the ether forever, awaiting rediscovery. The gigantic intellects addressed in this book — Newton, Babbage, Lovelace, Shannon, Turing, and Wiener, among others — although justly famous for original ideas, and astounding thoughts, all died with far more unresolved than completed puzzles on their tables. Every literate person alive today had the most significant information event in their lives to occur long before they were born, the invention of the Gutenberg press. The knowledge explosion, if not a wisdom explosion, since that time has been immeasurable. A much clearer understanding of the import of the Turing Machine. Harkening back to Socrates’ advice, information transmitted to us only through the fortuitous existence of Plato in a place and time wherein he could hear and appreciate and interpret Socrates (as far as we know), the wisest human is the one who understands that he knows nothing. Rothbard Quote #11 — Antiwar  … what have generally favored is political nonintervention in the affairs of other countries, coupled with economic and cultural internationalism in the sense of peaceful freedom of trade, investment, and interchange between the citizens of all countries. And this is the essence of the libertarian position as well. — Murray Rothbard The position articulated by Rothbard above is an important, immortal abstraction, but it is on its deathbed today.  A week ago tomorrow, nearly 200... Read the full thing

Innumeracy, Territorialism, Organized Lying

Send him mail. “Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here. Every day is filled with vexed questions.  Which ones are true problems and which are time-wasters?Debating with Numbers I ran into a substantial roadblock on an issue being debated at Socrates Cafe Louisville, a few weeks back.  I thought we all had a common view of the numbers involved among human welfare, corporate welfare, and warfare.  The proposition in contention was whether a good society would allow some of its members to starve, to be homeless, or to be without care.  Since the propositioners were being kind of coy about who would make it so, I was quick to take up the libertarian principle that government should be excluded from consideration as an implementer.  My principle idea was that when you ask government to help then you tacitly approve other things that government is doing, such as warfare, corporate welfare, and cronyism.  Unwisely, however, I chose to illustrate my point with projected numbers.  I wrote on the group’s Facebook page, For each billion in “humane welfare,” we get 50 billion in corporate subsidies, 100 billion of picking winners and losers, 200 billion of war … and the state does none of them particularly well (in quantitative terms this means net failure).If we agree to the precepts of laudable goals, but then agree to implement these by government, then charity will be a net negative. Its good would have to offset war. Surely if we have the precepts to do good, then we must have the precept not to kill children and destroy countries. Although the above numbers are projections, I still feel as though they represent reasonable relative size.  One interlocutor just said that my numbers were “suspect.”  Another argued that he couldn’t find such numbers.  The second guy also argued that if they were true that taking my first number, then applying the stated ratio to recent US budget numbers would yield war numbers greater than 14 trillion.  I agreed that his 14 trillion number was telling since war contributes far more to national debt, or long term cost, than it does to budget period spending.  On-the-books welfare (versus hidden welfare such as corruption, cronyism, service to special interests) is usually paid out over 1 budget year into the next.  But long term national debt is covered by bonds, and other bookkeeping dodges, which carry beyond the current budget period, and include interest owed.  The debt periods for our current adventurism in the Middle East are about 14 years and counting.  My second interlocutor never replied to this explanation, he just slipped into the Ad Hominem fallacy.  The first objector, when I told I had used educated guesses on... Read the full thing