A Downward Spiral

A friend of mine tried to make a call to me the other day. Seems he was picked up on an old warrant issued on a citation that he had thought had been dismissed. I didn’t actually get to talk to him because Correctional Billing Services refused to allow him to speak to anyone on the phone unless they were willing to pay 50 dollars in advance for the privilege while he was being detained at Travis County.

With no other visitation options, they are (there is no other word for it) extorting money from friends and family members of anyone unfortunate enough to get arrested in Travis County. They stole personal information from us under false pretense. They asked for our address and got billing information from us, and then claimed to not have a contract with our phone provider. Strangely, they didn’t have a contract with one of the largest mobile phone providers in the country either.

…and then they demanded 50 dollars in advance in order to be allowed to talk to this friend of ours who has clearly had a hard enough time already today.

They then proceeded to tie up our phone line for several minutes after we declined to pay them their usurious fee. The supervisor that we demanded to speak to (none of them would give names) called back after we hung up and proceed to lay the phone down in order to tie up the line on purpose.

As bad as Travis County is, Williamson County is magnitudes worse, so don’t get me wrong here. I’d sure like to see the contracts for this company pulled. I’d rather see them inhabiting the same cells they currently provide service to, and see how well they like it. But I’ll settle for simply putting them out of business.

It’s been 4 years of purgatory for this friend of mine, all because he was caught speeding and then agreed to a search of his vehicle by the officer that pulled him over, who then found something to arrest him for inside the vehicle. This time they stopped him for a broken headlight, and when they ran his license number came up with the warrant that failed to get dismissed due to some petty little clerk’s vengeful attitude. And off to jail he goes again.

Some would say “well that’s what you get, should have kept his nose clean” but to me it’s the opposite lesson that should be taken from this. Always assume that you are guilty, and that you will end up in jail. With all the new laws on the books, there’s bound to be something that you can go to jail for if they decide they want you. You should learn to bleat like a sheep, for as long as it profits you. Don’t bother worrying about whether your nose is clean. They’ll dirty it for you if they deem it necessary for you to have a dirty nose. Just keep the number of a good lawyer handy because you will probably need it.

At lunch the other day, another friend of mine related a story concerning how he was nearly shot for being a drug dealer, just because he had the same name as someone who was fingered by a felon looking to lower his jail time. It was only due to a panicked call to 911 because there were strangers in his yard, that the warrantless invasion of his property was avoided. The vision flashed before his eyes, so he said. His house on the 6 o’clock news, and how they would describe him as one of those ‘kooky gun nuts’ that dared to resist police who were just ‘doing their jobs’.

The downward spiral is in the system, not in the morals of today’s population.

Postscript

I finally published the article about my experience with Austin city police, the experience that informed the Wife and I about just how hard it was to call out of the municipal jail and the Travis county lockup when they finally bother to let you have your phone call.

It was because of that experience that I was more than willing to go the extra mile for this friend of mine. The phone service the county was using has closed their website. They can now (2020) be found at securustech.net. Travis county is still contracted with them, which means that the injustice system continues in Texas.

Why I am a Libertarian

This is another historical piece from the pre-blog writing archive. On rereading it I remembered that I had used a little literary license in writing the piece.

The first time I heard the word ‘Libertarian’ was at the Texas State Capitol building, about ten days before the the Gulf War in ’91. During an anti-war protest there, I got to talking to Terry Liberty Parker, and he mentioned that Libertarians were against the war unlike the Democrats. I have since fallen out of friendship with Mr. Parker (and, in fact, his behavior is at the core of why I’ve become inactive in the party both times it had happened) but I will always be in his debt for introducing me to the party.

I had said several times prior to that event, in discussions with The Wife, if I was given a choice between socialism and fascism, I would choose socialism because you live longer (socialists just want your money, fascists want you to agree with them philosophically or they shoot you) but I could not understand how the Democrats (the party of Jefferson, the party that cast itself as the opposition to the Vietnam war) would be in support of a war that was not in our own interest. I was all for getting involved with a group that wanted to end the military adventurism that we’ve been involved in since the end of WWII, so I started looking for libertarian meetings and talking to libertarians when I found them.

I was already an Objectivist, I had read most of Rand by that time and found her philosophical outlook to be very much like my own, so I was already ‘in tune’ with the core of Libertarian thought. At some point I took the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” and found that I was a dead center Libertarian (These days I’m nearly 100/100 on the chart) I spent a good bit of time in the old TCLP office on Middle Fiskville Rd. talking to Bruce Baechler, and I think he was the one who made me feel most comfortable with supporting Libertarians as more than just a protest vote.

Anyway, what follows was what I posted in response to a request for “Why I am a Libertarian” articles. The Republicans coming to power within the article was Reagan in 1980. I thought Carter was a great president at the time. The Wife still does.


I am a libertarian because I believe, first and foremost, in the concept of limited government. Most people, when told this will exclaim “ah, you are a Republican”. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Before I discovered the Nolan chart (http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz.html) and through it the LP, I was a staunch yellow dog Democrat, like my parents and grandparents before them. I believed that government was there to help, and that social freedoms could be taken for granted under the Democrat’s benign rule. But I was at a loss to explain why the drug war persisted, why the term PC was ever created and why taxes were increased, even in the face of Democrat dominated legislatures and presidents.

When the Republicans came to power they talked of reducing the size and expense of government. My fellow Democrats cried over this, but I could not understand how reducing government, and the tax burdens on the people, was necessarily a bad thing. Strangely, the cost of government never got smaller. The Republicans did reduce taxes, but the debt burden passed on to the next generation went through the roof. I started to think that the politicians were not being truthful with us, and if they were lying to us about their intentions, then what else were they lying to us about?

It took eight years of a Democrat president to convince me of the truth that I know today; If a politician has words coming out of his mouth, he’s most likely lying. You well may laugh, but to an honest man, this was shocking. I discovered something else in the course of nearly 30 years of following politics: Government is a weapon. It is a loaded gun that you point at wrong doers to make them stop what they are doing. That is the only help that government can give, and it doesn’t even do that cheaply. If you want government to do something for you, then you are employing force to get it done.

Everything that government does can be done by private industry better, faster and cheaper. The fewer government run programs, the less force that is present in our system and less force means more freedom. Jefferson and those who started the ball rolling way back when understood this. They were Democrats. Because of this, I was a Democrat. What I did not realize was that the allegiances of the parties have shifted over the course of 200+ years, which brings us back to the Nolan chart, and the LP.

Chart the beliefs of the founders, and nearly to a man they will turn up Libertarian. Jefferson was solidly Libertarian. When I took the test, I too charted as solidly Libertarian. It has been more than 10 years since I took the test, lodging protest votes against the two major parties, discussing issues with fellow libertarians; and it’s been only recently that I have come to the realization that I was indeed a Libertarian in belief, and not just a political misfit.

Ask any libertarian why they are what they are, and you will get a different story. Some are former Republicans and some, like me, are former Democrats. Most of them are of the younger generation, fresh out of college and worried about the future they face at the hands of an ever-expanding federal government. If there is a core libertarian belief, then that is a good portion of it; the requirement that government at least return to constitutional limits, and be responsive to the people who fund it. That force not be employed except in response to force. That we are all capable of governing ourselves, just as has been done throughout our history. We are the Libertarian Party, and we are here to stay.

Postscript

June 11, 2016.  The wife of the blowjob president is the presumptive nominee for the Democratic party and I support her.  It is a weird world we live in.  I still have libertarian delusions but I have medications that keep those in check. I used this article as a template for a submission to a local newsletter. It became my About Me blog entry until it was superseded by this one.

I just took the quiz for isidewith.com and I’m apparently a Sanders supporter. Which is weird because I like Hillary Clinton better as a leader.  Proven track record as a leader.  I’m good with that. Still weird. Still liberal.

Dry Cleaning Conspiracy

Clothes that can’t be washed in water, when the world’s surface is covered by 71% water; when the body that it goes on is 60% water; when on any given day in the average human’s life, water can fall right out of the sky onto the clothing he is wearing (well, unless you’ve been living in Austin lately, that is. What a drought) what else would you call it?

Yes, I put the dry cleaning into the washer again, so what?

Postscript

This is a recurring problem in the Steele household. Dry cleaning tossed into the laundry as if the launderer can be expected to check labels before washing. They clearly can’t be expected to check labels. Don’t buy dry clean only clothing, that is the solution. Do not, repeat, do not blame the person who washes the clothes. Not if you want them to keep washing the clothes.

Featured image: pinterest

“Light up, Everybody”

The smoking argument. A conversation with my teen, and some suggestions.

CATO’s regulation seems to enjoy beating dead horses as much as I do. They have offered a rebuttal to the ACSH article that calls them to task for belittling the health threat posed by cigarette smoke. Quoting from the article:

We started that article with this declaration: “Truth was an early victim in the battle against tobacco.” We ended the article with this admonition: “When that goal [i.e., truth] yields to politics, tainting science in order to advance predetermined ends, we are all at risk. Sadly, that is exactly what has transpired as our public officials fabricate evidence to promote their crusade against big tobacco.”

OK, granted. They spin some pretty good arguments for the CDC’s figures being exaggerated. But I think they are confused about who and what is motivating the witch hunt that the CDC is simply the public edifice for. It isn’t the gov’t that is after ‘big tobacco’, as referendum after referendum and ordinance after ordinance against public smoking is proposed and passes. It’s the average person on the street who doesn’t smoke himself (which is now the majority of the population, by the way) doesn’t want to have to smell someone else’s cigarette smoke, and figures “there oughta be a law”. Suddenly, there are laws. This is how democracy works. (Yes, I know, we’re a Republic. The majority says we aren’t any more, apparently they don’t understand the meaning of the words in the pledge that they recited daily. I guess that’s what happens when you let socialists write documents for free thinking people) The fact that there are serious health consequences to smokers, and costs that get passed on to the government as the guy left holding the tab at the end of the night, simply buttresses the argument against allowing people to smoke, at all. Facts that the regulation article itself admits:

Second, we are wrongly censured for stating that “the hazards of smoking remain largely speculative. “What we actually said is quite different, indeed mostly contrary: “Evidence does suggest that cigarettes substantially increase the risk of lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema. The relationship between smoking and other diseases is not nearly so clear.”

Pretty much puts case closed on it for me. My point in bringing up the evidence against smoking was never to call attention to how many deaths, and the obvious manipulation of statistics to awfulize the outcome should be ridiculed; but the facts do show a connection between poorer health, shorter less healthy lives, and smoking tobacco. Since I have health problems already, it benefits me to choose non-smoking establishments when I do go out. Luckily for me Austin is a proper socialist paradise and has taken any need to think for myself, about where to go on a night out, out of my hands.

…Which is good, because if it was left to my anarchist/libertarian brethren I’d have no choice but to walk in and sniff the air before deciding if I wanted to actually stop anywhere. Probably just stay home in that case (the recurring “what do you want to eat?” argument is hard enough on its own) which would be cheaper.

On the bright side, I watched a segment on Beyond Tomorrow tonight dealing with an ‘anti-smoking’ injection. Clinical study results are positive (success rates approaching 60 percent) which is good. Most people who try to quit ‘cold turkey’ fail (3 percent success rate) The various forms of nicotine replacement therapies fair only slightly better (30 percent success rate) So the drug manufacturer is obviously quite pleased with the results. I myself quit cold turkey, after three tries. I was able to apply an REBT technique to the nicotine craving; I would think of the smell that an empty bar has in the morning when you show up to clean it, every time I wanted a cigarette. It took a while, but I was able to beat it. I actually feel ill when I think about smoking these days. (I’m applying the technique to craving french fries now. I don’t know if that’s going to work or not. Love them fries)

I hear you saying “what if I just want to smoke?” Fine by me. Go do it somewhere else. Here, you can have my old supply of coffin nails, I’m not going to need them anymore.

Steve Kubby and the “Insane War on Drugs”

Actually, when you understand who Steve Kubby is and what he’s gone through then you pretty much have a picture of just how insane the War on Drugs really is. The Administration is willing to kill this man simply to prove that they have the right to kill him by denying him his medicine. Who voted for these nutjobs anyway?

Gonna crib some text from Knappster here:

Steve Kubby update on Brad Spangler’s blog

Update from Michele Kubby on Hammer of Truth

Let’s try to keep the focus where it belongs, folks: On saving Steve’s life.

Common Sense Alternatives

It’s my curse to see them, and then spend my time arguing with complete buffoons about them.

Like the smoking argument, the solution the the drinking and driving problem isn’t less alcohol consumption, or more expensive drinks. Just as the solution to problems with second hand smoke isn’t keeping people from smoking. The solution is architectural, or in this case, a zoning issue. If it was possible to set up neighborhood pubs or sidewalk cafes as they do in other cities around the world, it wouldn’t be necessary to drive down to the pub to get a pint, or to the cafe to get a taste. You could walk there.

De-stressing the forbidden nature of alcohol would go along way in stopping teenage drinking as well, but I don’t expect anyone will listen to this argument any more than they have listened to the other arguments I’ve offered.

Telemarketer Counterscript

Anyone who has called my house recently knows what an enjoyable time I have messing with telemarketers and their ilk. Just stumbled across a script for talking to telemarketers that I might just have to try:

Telemarketers make use of a telescript – a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance.

EGBG – martijn engelbregt
EGBG – martijn engelbregt

Too funny.

I’m Short a Couple of Bob

Gaelic Storm restores the mood of the day. Yeah it’s still a grim mood, but if you can’t laugh at your own problems like this song does, then you really need to seek some counseling:

Gaelic StormShort a Couple a’ Bob – Oct 4, 2018

I just checked the bank accounts. Not even going there. The teenager is frustrated. I’m not going there either. The range is on the fritz. Re-queue that song, quick. I better finish quickly while I can.

…Still

…Finish

Postscript

One of those rare times that I talked about music and the emotional effect it can have on me on the blog. Meniere’s took most of my love of music along with the bass parts of my hearing. Music has become largely soulless for me. It is a select few songs that speak to me now, if I haven’t heard them and learned to love them already. If you already know the work, your brain will play it back for you provided you can still hear anything. Luckily I still can hear some parts of the music.

…and it’s music from Marc Gunn’s Irish & Celtic music podcast too. I’m glad. He needs more listeners. I knew I’d been listening to that for a long, long time. I hadn’t realized how long until just now.

The Brobdingnagian Bards serenaded me on my birthday at an Armadillocon one year, I forget which one. I have followed them, Andrew McKee and Marc Gunn, ever since that time. Their music, and the music that Marc plays on his podcast, are about the only music I try to follow any longer.

Spotify

The passion has gone out of it for me. I never did obsess about following trends like most people seem to do, and once I became detached from music what little I did catch that was trendy was lost. Now I’d rather hear Marc and Andrew sing Lily the Pink than I would try and understand what passes for music these days.

Indirect Prohibition

I was sitting in the car with the teenager the other day, listening to the latest news reports concerning a local bar being threatened with a revocation of their liquor license. They were accused of forcing a patron to drink to excess. As far as I know, they didn’t hold the guy down, so I’m not sure where force comes into play.

Teenage question: “So why is the bar owner in trouble?”
Dad answer: “Because someone was stopped drunk, and he said he had been drinking at their bar.”
Teenage question: “But isn’t that what the customer went there for? Why should the bar owner care if his customers are drunk?”
Dad answer: “Well, the law says that the bar owner has to be responsible for not getting his customers drunk. If he thinks one of his customers is drunk, he has to stop serving him. It doesn’t stop there, either. He can’t let the drunk stay in the bar, because if the TABC comes in and checks the place out the bar can be cited just for having people in it that have drank too much alcohol. So he’s caught in a very bad position if he mistakenly serves someone too much.”
Teenage question: “Are they trying to make alcohol illegal?”
Dad answer: “No. They did that before and it didn’t work out.”

Teenage conclusion: “Well, they must be trying to make it impossible to drink without making it illegal then.”

Sharp as a tack, let me tell you. I hadn’t really thought about it that much, but it makes perfect sense. Smoking, as another example, is slowly trending that direction as well. Soon there will be alcohol and cigarettes available for purchase (if you can find them) but there won’t be anywhere you can indulge in them, except maybe inside your own house.

Fireworks are already that way, if you live in the city. You can buy them, but don’t even try to drive them back into town. It’s always struck me as ironic that the celebration of independence can’t be done in the traditional fashion anymore because the state has laid down the law and excluded everyone but themselves from being able to indulge. I imagine they’ll soon be keeping all the smokes and drinks for themselves as well. It’ll be a regular animal farm then.

A Woman President

I’ve been watching Commander in Chief on the tube lately. Friends of mine who have been trying to get me to watch West Wing for years ask me “why are you watching that show?” Getting beyond the obvious political leanings of the star of West Wing, I just have to answer “If I want to watch a man play at being POTUS, I just have to turn on any news channel.” Talk about a bad actor.

I’ve always had a weakness for Geena Davis, I can’t help it. Ever since Earth Girls are Easy, I jump at the chance to see her in just about any role. When I heard she was going to play the President, I just had to watch. She’s been quite convincing in the role (even if some of the story lines are a bit far fetched) Hard edged without being brutal, skating the thin line between a leader and a tyrant.

Yes I’ve heard the rumors concerning Commander in Chief’s creators. That’s why I’m not going to make an issue out of the obvious liberal (more aptly labeled socialist) leanings of those involved with West Wing. I would like to say one thing on the subject, though. If indeed they are trying to prep us for a woman president, I think they got the wrong actress to play the part. Perhaps Nichelle Nichols would be better suited to the role; I think that Condi has a much better chance of ever being president than Hillary does.

Prediction? Not really. Let’s call it an educated guess.

Postscript

I say liberal and socialist like it was a bad thing again and what is this thing I had for Condoleezza Rice back in 2006? What happened to her anyway? She disappeared without a trace after repeatedly lying for Bush the second. I must have been impressed with how she brazenly stuck to her guns on the subject of Bush’s blunders in Iraq. There is no other explanation for my obsession with her. Had the economy not crashed in 2008, things would have turned out much differently than they did for her and her Republican colleagues. I mean, Republicans don’t have a problem with liars, per se. Donald Trump proved that even if he didn’t achieve anything else. Republicans will happily support people who lie to them. They just won’t support women in leadership roles, apparently.

This article is proof positive that I was never a fan of Hillary Clinton. I was apparently a fan of Condi, though. Who knew?