Polluted Memories of Stage Fright

Any human being who doesn’t lean into you when you are scared is not a human being you want to be listening to you.

Mandy Patinkin

A friend sent me a link to a music and humor blog the other day thinking I would get a kick out of the references to days gone by, inside jokes that only us old people would find amusing. What they didn’t know was that the Janis Joplin  music that the blog was playing would remind me of Janis staring down on me from the wall of the Janis Room at Threadgill’s. Not a pleasant memory of my youth but of the location where we used to hold a weekly Libertarian Toastmasters (Politimasters) meetings and the terror I went through pretty much every week that I was expected to give a speech there. The kind of thing that should carry a trigger warning, if I believed in those kinds of things.

Anyone who’s ever tried to speak in front of a large group of people can probably commiserate with me here, if not completely understand what I’m talking about. It wasn’t just fear that I felt, standing there trying to speak, and stage fright is too dismissive to cover it. Perhaps topophobia would describe the feeling, if only I could get a definition that wasn’t the (current) generic fear of certain places or situations. But stage fright might explain why Janis (and so many other performers) resorted to numbing herself before getting onstage. I know the politimasters meetings went better when alcohol was served beforehand (at least they seemed to) How can you be expected to be entertaining when you can’t shake the feeling that you’re going to melt (or explode) at any moment? Heart racing, a feeling of the darkest dread, the desire to run away and never stop running? Is that entertainment?

Public speaking is one of the most common human fears, and this was confirmed by my own experiences within the Politimasters group. The group itself died from a lack of participation. We just couldn’t get enough people. Ten people were all we needed. Ten people, and you can run an effective Toastmasters training group. We couldn’t even get 10 people in the city of Austin interested in meeting every week to practice their speaking skills in front of an audience. That is how prevalent the fear is.

Toastmasters and stage fright in turn remind me of my high school speech class and the dreaded speech class project, another instance (and another trigger warning) of getting up in front of an audience and performing in front of other people. The teachers decided to do a mock version of The Gong Show (this was the 70’s after all) in front of the entire school body as well as guests. To make matters worse they decided we would determine in advance whether we were going to be gonged or not (I think they missed the point of audience participation a key feature of The Gong Show) A friend of mine convinced me that we should try and do Abbott & Costello’s routine Who’s on First, and we (she) decided that we didn’t want to be gonged. I went along with the plan lacking even the slightest idea what I could possibly do that an audience would find interesting. [I’ve written a piece more recently, Coping with Dysgraphia. It might shed light on why it was that I was convinced I couldn’t be interesting.]

Abbott & Costello – Who’s on First?

I memorized the routine. I read it every day for more than two weeks. I performed it in front of family a number of times. I could do it backward by the day of the show. All that practicing amounted to nothing. It didn’t matter because when that curtain rose, I couldn’t remember word one of the entire thing. I am, to put it bluntly, speechless, in front of the entire auditorium. Both of us end up reading the routine from cards that we carried on stage with us. There is no other way to describe what we were doing other than bad, and we should be gonged for it. The audience wants us gonged, and can’t figure out why the judges don’t go along. I remember the feeling of thousands of people in the audience wanting my blood (although I’m sure the auditorium in Stinnett didn’t hold more than a few hundred; and ‘wanting blood’ is a bit of an exaggeration. Just a bit) when I walked off that stage I swore I would never do anything like that again.

…And Janis is looking at me from across the room. “You had a speech prepared for Toastmasters tonight, right?” Pure terror.

Postscript

I ran across another former citizen of Stinnett while looking for a link to represent Stinnett in the article. I’d never heard of Jim Foreman before, but he’s got some interesting stories printed on his site. I identified with the sentiment in The Graduation, which is where I found the picture.

He also had some photos of the old railroad station in this story about going home. I remember how my buddy John Thompson and I used to go prowling around the old cotton mills and grain silos near the station, and how we caught and raised pigeons that were nesting there. I wonder if it still stands?

March 2017. The website/blog that stimulated this trip down memory lane removed itself from public view a number of years ago. I searched for it using different text strings and even went to archive.org and looked for a record of the blog in the archive. Not even the URL was preserved. This gaping absence in the beginning of the story forced me to rewrite the opening paragraphs for this piece. Having then embarked on a major re-edit, I decided to do a few other wordsmithing edits while keeping the feeling of the piece that I had intended to communicate intact.

Well, that’s true as far as it goes. The real reason I’m editing today is because Chuck Barris died this week and as much as I hate to admit it he had a real impact on my life, as is partially related above. My family watched The Gong Show every day if my memory serves me right. The show was on in the hour after we got out of school and since we only had one TV and two channels back then, I cringed my way through most of the stupid on it. There were occasional gems to be found but I don’t think love or like are words I would apply to The Gong Show. The show was more like an inoculation for stupid than anything that I might remember with affection.

If you haven’t seen Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and you are a Chuck Barris or Gong Show fan, you might want to give it a chance. It is a very strange film about a very strange man. I personally would rate the film as meh. I know that is what I thought because it made so little impression on me that I barely recall it. The vast majority of films that I’ve seen rate a meh. So while that’s not a glowing endorsement, at least I didn’t gong it and send it back unwatched. There have been quite a few of those over the years. Too little time, too much to watch. The Wife and I wanted to see it because Sam Rockwell plays Chuck Barris, and he does a credible job of channeling​ the man and the madness that was the 70’s as seen through the rearview mirror. Personally, I’d rather look at the 70’s through the lens of Barris’ eyes than mine. He was always more charitable to the stupid than I could ever be. It was his saving grace.

September 2019. The Texas Standard ran a segment on Texas’ Woodstock a few days ago, an event that featured a Saturday night set performed by Janis Joplin. The webpage and the audio on it are all worth listening to. It was apparently quite an event; an event that the Texas of the time was embarrassed about and tried to make us all forget. Janis got the last word. Good for her.

On the first day, Sam and Dave and B.B. King got the crowd moving despite the heat. Chicago played. They were still called Chicago Transit Authority back then. But the act that got the crowd’s biggest ovation was one of their own: Janis Joplin. She closed out Saturday’s show with a set Hayner remembers as electric.

“Texas had been pretty hard on her and so what I remember her saying is that she had really felt kind of nervous about being there but we really made her feel like she was welcome and part of us,” he says.

And she was part of them. Janis Joplin had to leave Texas to become the Janis Joplin everyone now knows. For most of her career, she stayed away from her home state. Texas was a place where she was bullied, ostracized for who she was. That experience left her, like so many in the crowd, caught between worlds that were often at odds with each other. But now here she was – an icon of the counterculture. The crowd clapped her and the Kozmic Blues Band back on for two encores. And then, as concertgoer Billy Kirby remembers it, she had something to say.

“Her band was walking off the stage, she was walking off the stage. The lighters were up, people were screaming ‘Janis, Janis, encore, encore.’ Well she comes out and everybody goes crazy again and she just kind of quiets the crowd down a little bit with her hand movements,” he says. “And she leaned to the microphone and said ‘Thank you very much. But what I want to know is where the fuck were you motherfuckers when I needed you a few years ago?’ And left.”

Texas Standard

October 2019. A new book about Janis Joplin was published. Here are two interviews with the author of Janis: Her Life and Music, Holly George-Warren.

the Texas Standard

“She never talked about how hard she worked to get to where she was and become the musician she was. And suddenly, I hear her coming up with guitar parts, figuring out different tempos, new arrangements of the songs. She was really calling the shots.”

Holly George-Warren
New Janis Joplin Biography Reveals The Hard Work Behind The Heart

The Texas Standard segment and the Fresh Air episode linked above contain different interviews with the author of Janis: Her Life and Music, Holly George-Warren. If I was more of a Janis Joplin fan I’d probably take the time to read the book. I may take the time to listen to Janis’ discography back to back with Big Mama Thornton’s work just to get a feel for the two different approaches to the material.

I should have been paying closer attention to what Janis was singing about back in the days when it might have saved me more time. Freedom isn’t something that you conserve. Freedom is a state of nature that admits to no tomorrows.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

Me and Bobby McGee

April 20, 2020. Threadgill’s is no more. The end of an era, and the end of my access to the food that I had grown to love over my decades in Austin. COVID-19 claims another victim.

Wilson opened a second location, Threadgill’s World Headquarters on Riverside Drive, in 1996. That space, also a music venue, closed in 2018, but Wilson kept the spirit alive at the original restaurant known as the Old No. 1, the walls papered with posters that told the history of the city and culture he loved.

The closing of the North Lamar spot, which Threadgill opened in 1933, marks the end of an era for old Austin, the traces of which can be hard to detect around town these days.

statesman.com

Blogspot archive for the month of January 2006

It’s Called Philosophy

This was an open letter to a local talk show that was being guest hosted by a local state representative (whose opinions I generally agree with, but not that day) a state representative who kept wondering, on air, how anyone could get by without religion to shape their moral fibre, and what a shame it was that the importance of religion in American society was failing, since we are a christian nation after all. You can have three guesses as to what set me off in the first place and I’ll bet you don’t need two of them.


The word you are struggling to find is philosophy. Philosophy, even amongst the religious, is where morals come from. I say this as an Objectivist, Americans ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining a personal philosophy at their own peril. It is the short-cutters, the people who turn to religion and superstition to answer their metaphysical questions, those people are to blame for the degradation of the morals in our society, not a lack of faith or prayer in schools or whatever imagined slight the christian right (Christianists. -ed.) wants to whine about today.

We have not moved away from christianity in the United States. Contrary to popular opinion, the founders where not christians, they were Deists:

The Founding Fathers, also, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of religion. Most of them believed in deism and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, “Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom.” Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscious. Masonry welcomed anyone from any religion or non-religion, as long as they believed in a Supreme Being. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hamilton, Lafayette, and many others accepted Freemasonry.

EarlyAmerica.com

One of the most religious men in the continental congress was John Adams, and he was a Unitarian.

This is my answer to the question you posed why has America given up on the christian faith? I only wish I could have called in to set you right in your confusion. Religion is a curse that will betray America to ruin, and it will do that very soon now that conservatives have embraced evangelicalism. Philosophy needs to be taught to children as a part of their school curriculum, it is every bit as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. Economics also needs to be taught, but that isn’t what this letter is about. Only with the mental tools for judging and abiding by morals of their own creation will our children be able to stop the moral decline that this country is in if it is in moral decline at all.

Like many other complainants that aired their grievances after the show today, I had to turn off the program before it was over. One more holier than thou phone caller trying to tell me how I needed to go to church would have sent me over the edge and I don’t need the extra stress in my life.


These days I just point to the study published in the Journal of Religion and Society titled Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, that shows the impact of fervent religious belief on society as a whole is negative. I don’t know what else needs to be said on the subject of how we can get by without religion other that to observe that we might well be better off without it at all.

Postscript

I wish the founders had all been deists as I erroneously claim above. We’d be better off now if they had been. The blight of Christainist dogma would not have been inculcated into our social psyche if three quarters of the founders hadn’t been adherents to various flavors of christianity that have since evolved into evangelicalism and the Prosperity Gospel.

My error doesn’t mean that the US is a christian nation. The point that debunks this claim isn’t the faith of the founders (an erroneous argument that I simply repeated at the time) but rather that there is no thing called christian that all christians can agree on and want enforced as the religion that everyone should follow. You can thank the protestants for that social benefit. If they hadn’t broke from the mother church we would probably still all be Catholics and subject to papal dictates.

This was the first of a repetition of encounters with average people who seemed baffled by the fact that other people do just fine without church or religion to guide them. It’s almost as if they’ve never done any moral thinking for themselves. Perhaps they should give it a try. They might discover that their religion didn’t invent the concept of morality. I humbly suggest that the interested reader look into creating a human-centric philosophy and morality as opposed to continuing to believe in a god-centered one:

Humanism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the individual and social potential and agency of human beings. It considers human beings as the starting point for serious moral and philosophical inquiry.

Wikipedia

The show that I was being so coy about naming was the Jeff Ward Show and the guest host was representative Suzanna Hupp. I carried a lot of water for her over the years thinking that she had an inside road towards a deeper understanding of loss. This show was the first speedbump on the road that lead to my distancing myself from her.

This article as it appeared on Blogspot in 2006 when I wrote it. Featured image: The Death of Socrates.

Mid-Life Crisis? Not Yet.

Stated flatly at lunch today:

Not jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, no bungee jumping, not letting someone cut on my eyes and reshape them with lasers (Lasik) just so I can ‘look cool’ without glasses. After lunch one of my buddies jumped on a motorcycle and tooled out of the parking lot. Make that item number four: distinct preference for four wheels and a solid cage of steel around my personal space, thank you so much.

So much for that mid-life crisis at least so far. The wife on the other hand is deep into hers. She’s been wanting a mini so bad that she’s already designed hers at the site. She insists that our recent purchase of a Kia proves that I’m not being truthful. We’ll see. I wonder if it’s contagious?

Critiquing an Artform

It’s all hot air, I’d just like to say that as a preface. The critiquing of art only has statistical relevance, as in the method used at rottentomatoes, and then only if the positive/negative is weighed properly. Which is why I don’t make top 10 lists, for example. It’s pretty pointless. My favorite top 10 anything will shift from day to day, and should be meaningless to just about anybody else.

I know what I like and why I like it. Conversely, I know what I don’t like and why that is as well. For example, Sin City is not a good film no matter how many tickets it sold. There is no discernible theme. There is no apparent rhyme or reason for the use of color in the film (which is done in nouveau black and white for those who haven’t seen it. Can anybody explain the Ferengi in the final segments of the film? I just don’t get that bit at all) it is an excellent representation of a graphic novel whose pictures move, but it is a very poor film. Are we clear? Good.

Having made that point clear, I’d like to respond to two points brought up here:
http://www.fireflyfans.net/showblog.asp?b=2857#8598

(non-SciFi fans will be forgiven if they run screaming…)

Gedeon wrote:
So are you saying Joss will lose his thunder like David Lynche did?

I’m still a browncoat, still love the characters, but they should stop whoring the story for new fans next time around. You know, not have Simon save River thus destroying what he did in the series. Not have Jayne take River for a nice Shuttle ride… It makes the story clearer, but you and I didn’t need it.

What I was saying is that Fire Walk with Me was a failure in every way that Serenity was not; and yet it was acclaimed as a great film. I’ve never cared one way or the other for David Lynch’s work. I consider his version of Dune to be one of the worst adaptations of a movie from a novel that I have ever seen. They didn’t get one thing right except casting and makeup for the Harkonnens. I’ll have to beg off judgment on anything else he’s done since I haven’t seen it.

I personally think that Joss took the wise course in attempting to create a film that would not alienate the new viewer by catering to the fans of the TV show. I’ve said this before and it bears repeating, I’m not in charge of making the movies and I daresay that you don’t make films either. Since they don’t pay me to make decisions about what I want to see in a film but rather pay someone else to do it, I don’t expect people in a position of authority on any particular film will care much if I have a complaint about a particular scene or even complete movies. Watch or don’t watch. Those are your only choices.

The scenes in question make sense from a plot standpoint even if they don’t make sense in series continuity, and so can be forgiven. I especially love the beaning that Jayne gets. Nice pun Joss. They do not conflict with established facts from the series. So, no aspersions on Joss whatsoever, kudos to Joss for getting Serenity in the air at all.

Gedeon wrote:
To me, in years to come, we will consider Serenity like trekkies consider the first Star Trek movie. It’s the right characters, but the costumes were all wrong. The other six are much better.

The worst of the ST films was the last one. That they (Paramount) have apparently given Berman and Braga (the Nemesis of Trek) the reins of the next film as well pretty much spells the complete end of the franchise for me. If Berman is given control of this film, it will be the first Star Trek film that I won’t bother to see in theatres. Nemesis was so far removed from Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Trek that I just couldn’t sit through it more than once. That and the fact that they rehash the death of Spock with the death and rebirth of Data. They inexplicably find yet another brother for Data, while traveling on a dune buggy the only vehicle with wheels ever seen in Trek. Need I go on?

In contrast the first film, despite its meandering pacing and far too simplistic plot, clearly has a lot of Gene in it. The machine trying to become human a la Data from Next Generation, for example. The first Star Trek film is something I cherish. It got the ball rolling again.

If that is what Serenity ends up being, the film that gets the ball rolling again, then I will look back on it just as fondly.

Postscript

Someone commented after I wrote this article that the next S.T. movie wasn’t going to be Berman’s, but that it would still be a prequel. That just means that it will be Harve Bennett’s “Trek Babies” (Star Fleet Academy; most likely with Kirk, Spock and McCoy in Starfleet) idea. Not only won’t I pay to see that film, I’d pay not to see it. How about we just use a plot line from one of the hundreds of books? Why is that a problem?

By the way, you all may have spoken about this LOOOONG before I joined the group, but, what did everyone think of the Serenity movie vs. the t.v. series? I personally enjoyed the series MUCH MORE than the movie. 

Christina

After nearly 30 years of watching Star Trek the original TV series translated to movie form (and all the stumbling about to get back into characters the actors had long forgotten) and after watching Next Generation go directly into movies, I think I’ve gained a little insight into this process.

Watching a movie and watching a series are two completely different ways of taking in entertainment. You wouldn’t think so, but they are. A series of short simple stories with weeks between them giving you time to think about the characters and situations while anticipating the next episode; versus one long complex story, less character development, and the knowledge that you might never see these people again.

It’s kind of depressing, even if you love Serenity (which I do) to think that this might be the last time we ever see these characters. I like my SciFi to be on television. You get time for good characters that way. Shows that don’t focus on character development don’t last very long (witness the Ber-Trek Enterprise if you don’t believe me) and I find that to be the part of the show that I like. Knowing the characters. However, given the option of no more Firefly, and Firefly movies, I’ll take the movies and enjoy them anyway. I already know the characters.

As we all know now the Abramanator ended Trek as it was prior to his raping of the franchise. Not satisfied with forcing himself on Star Trek, he then raped the Star Wars franchise out of existence. Star Trek is now dead. R.I.P. Star Trek. Star Wars is dead. I know this because Disney bought them. Disney is populated by the zombified corpses of most of my childhood memories. Brrr. There was no more Firefly following the release of Serenity. There probably never will be unless someone else tries to remake it. I wish them luck.

Professions

Started ranting with the wife about technical jobs…

Ranting with not ranting at? It’s like an argument concert. She rants, I agree and rant, she responds with a loud denouement of whatever. Life around here can be quite different, really. Quite different, when you realize that she’s the truly technical one. The hardware junky that builds things. I’m just her one and only flunky that keeps the software running.

…and what they pay these days. Most of the places that advertise computer assistance/repair services pay no better than the places where the sum total of knowledge required to do the job is to be able to say “do you want fries with that?” We’ve gotten most of our business from people who have first called a number they heard advertised; and then after *insert business name here* made the problem worse, they did some searching and found us. We’d love to be the first ones that get called; but we just don’t work that cheaply, and shouldn’t be expected to.

What’s out of sync is that we don’t charge any more than *insert business name here* (less in fact) it’s just that as sole proprietors we pocket the full hourly charge for ourselves, like any real professional would.

And then I started off on a tangent. Specialized knowledge. That’s what makes a profession what it is. Imagine what it was like back when houses first started getting electricity. You already had plumbing, most likely. But this electrical stuff was all new. Someone who understood electricity and its rules would be highly valued. What followed would be decades of hard learning for all involved, with more and more people getting experience in the field. At some point, common knowledge of the basic rules of electricity made it seem like any old idiot could go out and wire a house and fiddle with electrical current. But that isn’t the case. Electricians still exist, and some of us still rely on them. Idiots get fried every year because they think they know about electricity. This isn’t that hard is probably the last thought they had.

While you won’t kill yourself trying to do some of the more technical jobs for yourself, when you realize that you’ve just turned your very expensive computer into a paper weight, you might wish you were dead.

No, I don’t think we need the government to step in now and start setting standards for a computer profession. I haven’t noticed that it’s done anything for any of the other professions out there including architecture. I just think it’s a shame that you’d pay a plumber an hourly wage that an attorney might charge, to handle the mystical plumbing problem you’re having, but computer problems are a different matter? You want fries with that?

Failed Movies From Failed Series

Ever heard of a show called Firefly? I’m a fan. A hardcore fan. Ever heard of the movie Serenity? It’s a continuation of the characters and storyline in Firefly. Again, I’m a hardcore fan. I just want to get the fact that I LOVE the show(s) in the record before we go where this post goes. Stay with me here.

Firefly was canceled due to the infinite wisdom of Fox television. All television executives are omniscient, just ask the guys at NBC who canceled Star Trek in the 60’s. They knew it was junk and was never going to make any money. Don’t let the fact that Paramount has milked millions out of the franchise (and founded the 5th broadcast network with not much more than Star Trek to carry it) since that point fool you, Star Trek needed canceling. In much the same way, the red-headed (browncoated) stepchild that was Firefly needed canceling, because Fox only agreed to let Joss Whedon do it so that they could keep him for another season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You don’t promote and fund a ‘gimme’ long term. And they didn’t. 13 episodes filmed. 10 episodes aired. No promotion to speak of. You’re outta here!

But Firefly wouldn’t die, I’m sure the old guard Star Trek fans out there understand why that is. Writing. Talking. Promoting. And lo and behold the show that needed canceling is resurrected as a feature length film. Some said “that doesn’t happen” (Trekkies know better, but we let them have their moment. Kids are so cute) and marveled at the feat. And, really it was a feat. An excellent film that preserved the atmosphere of the original show, and completed the main story arc left unfinished by Fox needing to cancel the show. It was on screens all too briefly, and passed onto disk (a copy of which is already in my library) within a few short months.

And then the rumblings started from naysayers, TV executive lakeys, and Hollywood insider wannabes concerning whether Serenity the movie was a success or failure, and whether or not this should “shut the fans up”.

Personally, I don’t feel like shutting up, and I don’t count the shows short time on screen as a failure. Why you say? Because in comparison it’s just not.

I’d like to point out a show (no, not Star Trek) that had a similar fate, not so long ago. A critically acclaimed series with a very short life was resurrected as a movie (that was also critically acclaimed) that went out of theaters nearly as fast. What was the show? Twin Peaks. The movie was Fire Walk With Me. My point is this, even with the media circus that surrounded the show and the subsequent movie, if you look at the numbers here or here, you will see that the show did not in fact do an impressive amount of business. A recoup of about half of the 10 million dollar budget spent on it. But the critics loved it…

In comparison, Serenity’s numbers are just rosy here and here. All told, Serenity has made back the money spent on it, and we aren’t even done with the video sales yet. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. And still, I hear the “What if’s” and the “If onlys”. What’s done is done. The movie came out when it did, competed with the films that were out then, and left the theaters when new films crowded into the fall schedule showed up to push it out. Gotta have all the good films out right before Oscar time. Don’t ask me why, it must be that same omniscience that the TV execs have.

So why should we wear long faces and walk silently? Because the film wasn’t as popular as Lord of the Rings? Didn’t make the kind of money Titanic did? The film didn’t have the history of Lord of the Rings to promote it to every adult in the world, or the potential 200+ million dollar hickey that motivated the blitzkrieg of media exposure which ensured Titanic‘s (undeserved, in my opinion) box office sales. Serenity was good enough on its own merits to pay back it’s investors, and good enough on its own merits to inspire loyal fans of the series. I say we crow to the moon and demand a second film! Who’s with me?

Children’s Rights, Drugs and School

From the Archive. There was a proposal a few years back by a nearby school district to require drug testing for all children engaged in extracurricular activities. As a free thinker and a libertarian I had a problem with this. I don’t know if the proposal was ever adopted. I do know that my mind remains unchanged on the subject.


I am the guardian of my children’s rights. To submit children to drug testing without probable cause violates the 1st, 4th and 5th amendments to the constitution, just on the face of it, no matter what the SCOTUS ultimately says.

I find it offensive that the school has decided to exclude my children from extracurricular activity over this issue. I say this because I will not allow my child’s rights to be violated, and they will not be allowed to participate without testing.

If I feel that the evidence warrants testing, rest assured I will see that they are tested. But the state has no business getting involved in this issue. My children will not be involved in extracurricular activities if testing is required. My children will not be in school if testing is required of the entire student body.

Further, anyone who submits to a drug test for ANY REASON when not under arrest is abdicating their rights under the constitution. They are admitting guilt until proven innocent.

There comes a point where you can yield no further ground on an issue. That point has been reached. If you want to end the threat of drugs in the school REMOVE THE PROFIT, LEGALIZE THEM.

It really is that simple. Prohibition does not work, we proved that nearly a century ago.

are you willing to open that can of worms [children’s rights] for the liberals?

It’s not a can of worms, because you are misconstruing my post. The child has no rights directly (again, in spite of what the SCOTUS says) They are not adults, they do not comprehend actions and consequences as a general rule, and they do not think at an adult level. However, as the parent, I am charged with guarding the rights of my children. It falls to me, and to no one else, to do this.

If someone fails in their duty as parent, the child should be free to seek whatever shelter can be found; be it private charity or government action. If the child can prove that he/she is able to function as an adult, then he/she is no longer a child and should have the ability to seek redress for harm done like any adult.

Children do not stay children, they become adults. Parents who fail to realize this natural order of things (and I know a few who fall in this category) deserve whatever comes to them when the adult who was their child takes offense at the liberties taken by negligent, or even over-protective, parents. Religion is no excuse for mistreatment of a child; there is, in fact, no excuse for mistreatment. None.


…as far as I read it you were stating it’s a violation of the children’s rights to be drug tested. But as you just stated the children do not have many rights by law. So you’re saying its ok for a parent to violate a child’s rights but not the government’s right [to do so]?

The government has no rights, only individuals have rights. Some will tell you that the government is an illusion, like the spoon in the Matrix. But I digress.

I’m always amazed at the confusion most people exhibit when the subject of rights comes up. I’m amazed because the first document of a free America proclaims the existence of inalienable rights, and amazed because the concept is so clear to me.

To put it simply: Children are potential adults. If they succeed in reaching maturity then they are adults. All adults have rights, they are the same rights no matter where you live (despite what the Chinese premier thinks) because they come from what makes us living, thinking individuals. Children have potential rights, and these are vested in the guardian or parent whose job it is to ensure that the child matures into a responsible adult.

A parent can violate a child’s rights. Negligence, abuse, or some other failure of guidance should be seen as a breaking of the trust that is parenthood.

In demanding drug testing, the gov’t and the school have determined that all the children are guilty until proven innocent. Any parent who yields to the pressure and allows their child to be tested in this fashion allows their children’s rights to be violated, and in so doing, abdicates their right to be called parent.

Postscript

The practice, once established, spreads.

Several districts in Texas have drug testing in place. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 broadened the authority of public schools to test children for illegal drugs by allowing for the inclusion of middle and high school students participating in extracurricular programs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Testing had previously been allowed only for student athletes.

usatoday.com

The Clutter Bug

There has to be such a creature. I can’t think of any other explanation.

I’m pretty sure they came across the border in a banana shipment (or something like that) and that they come from at least three different regions. I’m pretty sure the place is called “Slobovnia” (what else would it be called?) The ones from Lower Slobovnia leave clutter in the floor areas. The ones from Upper Slobovnia leave clutter in the empty spaces above the floor.

Then there are the ones from Central Slobovnia, the most common kind (at least around here) because there is clutter all over the fucking place.

How do I know there are bugs responsible for the clutter? Well, I know it isn’t me, and when I ask the rest of the family “who made this mess?” No one did it.

It’s gotta be the bugs.

Now I just need to find a good exterminator that doesn’t laugh when I describe the problem.

Abort Alito

Has a nice ring to it, don’t it? Unfortunately, taking the “Shoot down Alito at any cost” tack feels too much like Schadenfreude, Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Alito wrote two memos in 1985 that rocked political circles when they were made public in November.

In one, an application for a promotion in the Reagan administration, Alito wrote “the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.”

He said he was proud to fight for such causes in which “I personally believe very strongly,” and he cited his membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group widely criticized for opposing efforts to bring more women and minorities to that university.

The other memo outlined a strategy for attacking the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, asking: “What can be made of this opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects?”

Alito and his supporters have sought to put some distance between him and the memos. Republicans predict he will survive this week’s grilling and be confirmed to succeed centrist Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a step that could shift the court notably to the right.

seattletimes.com via the Wayback Machine

His misfortune to have been on record being honest in his opinions (misguided or not) Bush’s misfortune to have (apparently) been elected in the first place. He’d have been better off if he’d never ventured into politics.

…So would most of the rest of us.

If You Don’t Like Abortion, Don’t Have One

Sitting in the car listening to three confirmed christians (if Austin is the liberal island in the center of the conservative ocean of Texas, then why don’t we have any atheists on the airwaves around here? Sorry, lost track there for a second) sound off endlessly about the rightness of an anti-abortion stance, and listening to these three self-proclaimed conservatives express apparently genuine confusion as to why the abortion issue is the litmus test for potential judges. From what I’ve seen it’s not a litmus test, as in a piece of paper that is one of two colors based on the acidity of the solution it’s placed in, it is rather a weathervane that shows which way the hot air is blowing during any given political season. That these three talking heads can’t see it just shows their rank in the political game.

If there really were a litmus test for supreme court judges, it ought to be the constitution that forms it. The test (as is fitting) should be in the form of a single question and answer. “What is the meaning of the ninth and tenth amendments to the constitution?” Unenumerated rights. Limited powers. Any potential judge that does not concede the existence of a right to privacy, of a limit to state power, does not have a place on the bench within the US court system. Good luck getting a straight answer there.

This is one of those arguments that I’ve had so many times with so many people that I could convincingly argue both sides in a continuous monologue that looked like a dialogue. I don’t think I’ll do that. It would go on as long as the so-called debate (if two sides engaged in endless name calling could be labeled a debate) has gone on already, and none of you would read it.

This is a faith based issue with the devout believing or being instructed to believe in a particular fashion on both sides of the argument. The Fascist Right (what I fondly refer to as the Religious Reich; what is generally mislabeled ‘conservative’) believes that it is the correct stance of the state to confirm their loathing of a waste of potential and to require women to carry pregnancies to term, no matter what. For those on the right, correct thinking is paramount, the resultant unpleasant reality is punishment for incorrect thought. The socialist left (Tree huggers if you like, I don’t have a cutesy name of my own for them) believes that it is the correct stance for the state to confirm a woman’s right to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, with funding as necessary. For those on the left, correct actions are paramount. We should always feel good about what we are doing, even if forced to.

What the two sides have in common is the desire to wield force in the form of law, and require others to bow to the whims that they worship. This is, in truth, the common thread of all the political footballs that come into play with each and every election and decision. What the players on the field (or the pawns on the chessboard, take your pick) never seem to understand is that the leaders on either side of the issue don’t have any core disagreements. They are all willing to force others through law to behave or believe whatever they deem correct at any given minute. The issues are simply how they maintain control and distract attention.

“But wait” you say, “The Republicans are poised to reverse Roe v. Wade! How can you be so cavalier about this?” It’s easy. The Republicans have no intention of reversing Roe v. Wade. They would be fools if they did. The reason is constitutional.

Roe v. Wade establishes a right to privacy. To reverse that is to make us all wards of the state (some would say we already are) and to make all claims to privacy by persons, including the multinational corporations, null and void. I just can’t see the Warren Buffett’s and Bill Gates’ of the world signing up for that type of punishment. So excuse me if I don’t take this threat seriously. The Right to Privacy will continue to exist (as it did unenumerated before Roe v. Wade) and with it the availability of unpopular medical procedures, including abortion. Sorry folks, them’s the breaks.

In libertarian circles there has been an uneasy truce on the issue of abortion for quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, we have believers on both sides of the issue here too. It just doesn’t get contentious (generally) because we don’t acknowledge that the state has the authority to force someone to bear children on the one hand, or the authority to levy taxes to pay for abortions on the other. We’re more than happy to let the individuals involved make decisions for themselves. It’s what tends to work best.

I hear you saying “what about protecting life, dammit?” That’s all fine and good. First, prove that there is a life, a life with a conscious mind, a will to live (not just autonomic responses) the presence of brainwaves, preferably; and then show how you will preserve that life without harming the life (and by harm I mean economic as well as physical harm) of the mother-to-be, and you might have a telling argument. Otherwise we are still back at individual choice.

The short version of this is if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. That should limit the decisions to the individuals with a real stake in it. The women.

Postscript

Mercifully my libertarian delusions about tax dollars and government health expenditures fell by the wayside when I came to a deeper understanding of what money is and what society is. (Wayback Machine version of the original article) What good governance entails. It could have happened sooner, but I’ll take the enlightenment anyway I can get it.

I have come out as unambiguously on the side of choice in recent years., science having pretty much taken us to the edge of survivability for the fetus outside the womb. What is needed now, if the anti-abortionists want to prevail on this subject, is an artificial womb. With that invention the woman need no longer carry the baby to term herself, it can be implanted in the artificial womb and the lifers who think every sperm is sacred can just foot the bill for raising all those previously aborted children.

I’m sure they’ll jump at the chance to pay for that.