There are numerous dimensional axes to reality; it’s probably best not to grind just one of them at a time

Well, it’s Tuesday morning, and again, I’m beginning this post on my smartphone while still sitting in my room at the house.  I know that’s not very exciting news, but it’s one of the more noteworthy things in my day-to-day existence.  To quote my own song, albeit ironically, “Don’t you wish that you were me?”

I wish I had more interesting things to discuss here.  Goodness knows there are always many “interesting” things going on in the world, depending on your point of view.  But that’s the nub of the rub: interestingness* is very much in the eye of the beholder.

Many of the things that seem to intrigue other people seem dull to me.  And some controversial subjects about which I do have interest and at least some opinions are being addressed by others, to the degree that I really don’t have a whole lot to add.

I suppose the subject of mental health is near and dear** to me.  I do become irritated when the public argumentation about things like “mass shootings” using “assault” weapons becomes divided into poles of:  focus on restricting access to assault weapons versus focus on mental health issues, as though only one of the two matters could be addressed at any time by any government or political party.  But surely, these are semi-orthogonal questions, and both are worthy of discussion.

Now, I’ll grant you that, when it comes to deaths among civilians related to firearms in the US, more than half‒and sometimes as many two thirds‒are suicides, so here, mental health is truly a major concern.  I have personal experience with this danger; I used to target shoot recreationally, and owned a few pistols, but when I was deeply depressed, my therapist asked, rather pointedly, that I turn my guns over to her for safe-keeping, which I did.  Once I was doing better, she returned them, but later, after I had back-slid, I did come one sixth of the way to killing myself with one of them.

But all this isn’t really relevant to the so-called mass shootings, which actually make up a tiny (but slightly growing) fraction of even gun-related homicides.  Weirdly enough, it’s not a simple, one-dimensional question.  There are many things happening all at once, and some of them are independent variables, and some are dependent, and some are partially dependent, and the causal relationship from one to the other(s) can often be difficult to ascertain at a superficial glance.

Complex issues are rarely best understood via an “us versus them”, tribal approach, which rapidly tends to descend into ad hominem attacks and other manipulative, rhetorical, self-deceptive and counterproductive tactics.  Reality doesn’t actually take sides in general, and more importantly, it does not make exceptions even for people who are honestly and innocently mistaken.  The safest approach to dealing with it is to try to understand it as objectively and thoroughly as possible, without political bias or other tribal nonsense.

Oscar Wilde once wrote that fashion was a form of ugliness so repulsive that it had to be changed every six months.  Politics is in some ways slightly more durable…but only slightly.  The overarching trends can be important‒to humans and their victims and beneficiaries, anyway‒but the momentary fads and fashions and personality cults are so much candy floss, and they have essentially no relevance to the greater universe***.  Humans are tiny, pathetically self-important newcomers on the surface of one planet among hundreds of billions‒perhaps trillions‒in this galaxy alone.  Everyone needs to get over him- or herself‒or whatever pronoun-self an individual prefers.

I have thoughts and “opinions” about various subjects, about some of which I have reasonable knowledge and expertise, but one thing I notice very much is that almost every subject of controversy is more complicated than humans seem to tend to want to think.  That’s partly just down to primatology; humans approach many questions not from a position of dedicated, disciplined, rigorous, and self-critical seekers of truth, but as rival flanges of baboons, or rival groups within a flange of baboons.  They often behave not as if they actually seek to understand the nature of reality to the best of their abilities, but as monkeys throwing feces at other monkeys to gain or maintain a position in a dominance hierarchy****.

It would be nice if people could actually try to address the very real problems of adult mental health, which is still underappreciated and in an even poorer state than healthcare in general, instead of using it as a distraction from the orthogonal question of why there are an increasing number of “mass shootings” and whether restricting access to “assault weapons” would do more good than harm, and by what measures.

An honest discussion***** of serious topics should recognize that finding the truth is not a zero-sum contest but, ideally, a mutual exchange to mutual benefit.  No one has all the facts in hand at any given time, and probably no one ever will have all the facts, but to try always to gain more facts, more knowledge, seems to be a useful guideline.

But if you see someone who disagrees with you, even about an issue that you consider important, as merely an enemy, then you make yourself into an enemy, too‒not just of the person who disagrees with you, but of anyone who seeks objective knowledge and understanding of the world.

*This feels like it’s not really a proper word, but the alternatives that come to my mind seem worse.

**Perhaps something like “anti-dear” would be more accurate; a quantity with the same absolute value as “dear”, but on the other side of zero.

***Except as they might influence whether the creatures of the Earth ever truly initiate, as David Deutsch called it, The Beginning of Infinity.

****It’s in encounters with such tendencies that I find myself sympathetic with Lord Foul’s disgusted statement, “…yet in their pride they dare to name themselves earthfriends, servants of peace.  They are too blind to perceive their own arrogance…”

*****Note that I do not say “debate”.  I generally consider debate a poor means by which to seek truth, since the process tends to become merely a contest, a display of skill, where rhetoric and charisma become more important than actual facts, reasons, and explanations, and thus the spectacle devolves into mere chest-thumping by hubris-addicted apes.  Regrettably, the very courts of law take this approach, and thus we have the mortifying spectacle of a prominent murder trial pivoting on the mildly clever couplet, “If the glove does not fit, you must acquit”.  If anyone saw and heard that and was not filled with abysmal despair regarding the criminal justice system, I don’t know what you’re missing, or what I’m missing.

Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky…

It’s Tuesday morning, and instead of sitting at the train station, I’m sitting at the bus stop.  It’s been quite rainy out, and after riding my bike back to the house from the train station yesterday afternoon in a non-stop deluge, I decided to walk to the bus to the train and so on instead.

I’m a glutton for punishment, obviously enough, but everything in my body aches now after the wet ride yesterday, and I was up more than usual during the night with back and hip and leg pain.  That’s not really anything new, but it felt clear that it was exacerbated by the thorough soaking, and then of course, by nearly slipping on the wet floor in my room, which is hard, smooth tile.

I say “nearly slipping”.  I guess I actually did slip, but I caught myself before getting very close to falling.  I suppose that’s a good sign of improved physical strength and agility from all my walking and biking and everything, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel the consequences.

Even my supposedly water-resistant boots were literally squishing inside by the time I’d gotten back to the house, only five miles from the train station.

This is boring, isn’t it?  I keep realizing how boring it is that I’m writing about this stuff, and I do apologize.  I guess it’s the sort of thing about which most people talk to their friends or their spouses or their family in general when it happens, but I don’t really have any such people to whom to talk about it on a daily basis.  I suppose I can mention it at work, and people will probably listen politely, as they will when I tell the about a physics article describing the extreme roundness of an isolated electron and so on.  But no one really interacts about it.

No one really interacts much about anything I’m interested in; I bore people pretty quickly with them.  I, in turn, have a hard time getting interested in anything in which they are interested.  Certainly, typical matters of gossip or popular entertainment are pretty lost on me.

The closest thing I really have to regular, daily social interaction is reading and leaving comments and getting responses on Jerry Coyne’s website Why Evolution Is True.  But yesterday, at least, every comment I tried to leave disappeared.  I don’t know if that was a technical glitch or just that my comments were blocked or whatever by PCC(E)*.  I sometimes get the impression, on the rare occasion when he responds to one of my comments, that he doesn’t like me (this is not an unusual attribute), so he may just be disallowing my comments.  Thus, even that little outlet is fading or at least is glitching.

It’s irritatingly windy this morning, and the wind is blowing water from nearby trees even here to the middle of the bus shelter, and it’s getting on the screen of my computer some.  I may have to stop and finish this later.  It’s frustrating.  But what do I not find frustrating?

I felt horribly depressed almost all day yesterday.  In fact, ironically, I was probably least depressed while I was riding through the rain, partly because my locking mechanism for the seat of my bike had worked, and partly because it was just kind of hilarious how wet I was getting, from above and below.  I would have been less soaked if I had walked, because I could have used an umbrella.  It’s hard to use an umbrella on a bike.

There were a number of times during the day yesterday when I thought about how much I hated my life and hated the world and (mainly) hated myself, and how I wanted to just swallow all the Tylenol in the bottle I have at the desk** or slice myself open with one of the box cutters I have, or douse myself in lighter fluid and set myself on fire***.

None of these are great options, and I would prefer to find something less painful.  Of course, the governor of the sunshine state and the goobers in the legislature are, I think, working on making it so that I’ll legally be able to purchase a gun again soon, if they haven’t already.  Anyway, there are plenty of people in gun shows and so on who probably wouldn’t care about restrictions on selling guns to people like me—you know, non-violent “ex-felons” or whatever the proper term is, even though my “felony” charges were ones to which I pled guilty only because of extortion by the legal system.  I never knowingly or willingly “trafficked” in drugs; I was trying to help people with chronic pain in a society in which those with non-lethal causes of pain are expected simply to keep soldiering on despite constant misery, even though—ironically—their pain will continue much longer than will that of a person with, say, terminal cancer.

It’s hard to say, though, whether I could use a gun to kill myself.  I have too much knowledge about guns, and have used them with respect, shooting competitively and for pleasure—never once having so much as fired at another living thing, unless you count scaring squirrels or raccoons off with a low-power bb gun.  I did once play Russian Roulette, but only once, and afterwards, though I was obviously horribly depressed, my hands were shaking.  I didn’t do it again, though if I had succeeded, at least I wouldn’t have gone to prison, not that I knew that at the time.  I had no clue what was coming.

I don’t know why I’m talking about all this, or rather, writing about all this, sitting at the bus stop waiting to go to the train to the walk to the office.  I don’t have a therapist anymore, so that’s part of it.  I don’t have a personal physician of any kind, either.  I don’t have any local emotional support, and I don’t make a good friend, so I’m not likely to obtain any new ones or any other form of a social circle.

I keep wishing I would catch pneumonia or some other severe illness and be killed by it.  Maybe that’s part of why I was so amused by getting so wet when riding last night; there was just the bare possibility that my resistance would go down low enough that I would catch something.  But of course, that isn’t really how infection works, and I know it only too well.  You have to be exposed to an infectious agent, and I don’t seem to be all that susceptible.  Probably I have lots of antibodies and whatnot from medical school and then medical practice.

I’m just so tired.  I can’t sleep at night for more than about an hour at a time, then I wake up and try to go back to sleep and sleep at most another hour, and then eventually just watch the clock reach the time for me to get up.  I want to be able to sleep and just stay asleep until I feel rested, or forever, whichever comes first.  That would be like…well, I was going to say “like a dream”, but it’s not quite accurate.  That would be wonderful.  That’s what it would be.


*This is how many of us refer to Professor Coyne.

**This is probably not a good choice.  It takes a long time to work, and if it fails it can still cause terrible liver problems, and it’s a long and drawn out death even if it works.  It’s very unpleasant.

***That’s something best not to do indoors, of course, and it was rainy yesterday, so it probably wouldn’t have worked outdoors if I had tried.  Also, it’s not got too high a fatality rate, or if it is fatal, it too can be a long, drawn out, and very painful death.  My point, overall, is to try to diminish and avoid or escape chronic pain, both physical and psychological.

Well, here we go again.

It’s Saturday—the one that comes two days after Thanksgiving, though I don’t think it has any special designation—and as I said I would, I brought my laptop with me, so I’m using it to write this post today.

I didn’t play any music or write any fiction yesterday.  Obviously.  I mean, I haven’t written any fiction in months, now.  I’m not sure how many.  And although on three occasions I’ve done a tiny bit of plinking on the guitar and once on the piano, it’s really been nothing like what I did in the past.  I just don’t have the desire to do it, even though I used to enjoy it.

As I’ve said, I used to enjoy fiction, mostly fantasy/sci-fi and horror.  I have a difficult time forcing myself to read any fiction anymore; even the Japanese light novels are getting daunting.  Non-fiction that I would normally have enjoyed, like books about physics, or biology, or psychology, or even politics and sociology, are all just blah.  Most of the videos I want to watch, I’ve already watched, over and over again, and though I am able to enjoy things repetitively, and I always have been, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve just about squeezed what I can out of the ones that I like.  I haven’t even been able to get more than a few dozen pages into Sean Carroll’s new book.

And now, here I am, sitting at the train station on Saturday morning, ready to go into the office.  The person who last triggered my meltdown on Monday*, was off yesterday and will be off today, enjoying his holiday, and will get paid for his bending of the rules.

All the people I love in the world are elsewhere, with the ones they love, presumably enjoying their holiday weekends—I certainly hope they are—or just enjoying themselves in a faraway land, experiencing other cultures and so on.  And I’m here by myself, near the distal dorsum of America’s flaccid, syphilitic penis.

I think I stay here because, honestly, I don’t feel like I deserve anything better, and anyway, this apparent ASD that I probably have—or whatever psychopathology I have that mimics it—makes it very difficult for me to contemplate changes to any given situation, even though it’s far from ideal.

After I got out of prison, I decided to come back to Florida after a brief visit to my parents, instead of staying with them (I was invited to stay), because I hoped to be able to see my kids sometime relatively soon.  That, of course, did not happen, and I don’t give high odds on my ever seeing them again.

I’m certainly no good at being pushy about trying to get my own way in interpersonal relationships.  I didn’t fight my divorce or any related stuff, never fought about how much child support to give—I was happy to give as much as I was asked.  Frankly, there was nothing better for me to do with my money.  I honestly have little to no inherent sense of having any rights of my own, certainly with respect to other people, though I will tend to demand that people keep their hands off of me, literally and figuratively.

So, I missed the last few years of my parents’ lives that I could have spent with them, in the vain notion that I might get to see my children sooner.  And, of course, that was why I pled guilty in the first place, though I consider myself innocent according to the law as I understand it.  I certainly never willingly broke any laws, but was trying to help people who had chronic pain, such as I have.  I’m not claiming my thought processes were clear or ideal, and I was certainly naïve and foolish, but I never meant anything criminal, and certainly made no profit.

But I figured, three years’ plea bargain (with time served counting toward it) was better than a chance at a longer sentence, especially since I’m not a likeable sort with whom a jury might be expected to sympathize; or so I was told by my court-appointed lawyer.

This is the way the state extorts people into taking “shorter” offered sentences rather than going to court to fight legitimately for their side and their rights.

Anyway, I gave all that up for what turned out to be a pie in the sky notion.  I lost my medical license, my community, my use of skills that I’d put years and years of effort into gaining, and I lost the last years of my parents’ lives, and I lost my children anyway.  I wish I were just some selfish prick who was good at looking out for number one and living for his own enjoyment.

Well, no, no I don’t.  I despise such people.  But sometimes I envy them their ability not to care what anyone thinks of them, or what impact they have on others, no matter what they do.  I mostly don’t worry too much what other people think of me, but I do want people I love not to hate me.  I’m not sure I’ve been very successful at that.  I’d also like to be able to be with my kids and I certainly didn’t want to be divorced, or to disconnect from various other people, but I’m not good at people, it seems, though I was always good at being a caring doctor.

Oh, well.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s all pointless and irrelevant, and I don’t expect I’ll ever see my kids again, any more than I’ll see my mother and father again, though for different reasons.  I guess not seeing my kids is my punishment, or whatever the proper term is, for being utterly incompetent at human relationships.

It sucks, but I can’t get the rules changed as a special dispensation for me.  And I certainly don’t want to inconvenience my kids in any way; I want them to have the dreams they want to achieve, to do what they want with their lives and to enjoy the world as best they can.  Same with my old friends, and my ex-wife, and her family, and everyone else I’ve known.  I’m not interested in being the center of anyone’s attention, unless it’s something they feel good about.  For instance, if they like my writing or my music, I don’t mind if they pay attention to that.  But I’m certainly not worth derailing anyone’s plans out of any sense of obligation or anything along those lines.

I have no idea what I’m trying to say, today.  I’m getting bored with this blog, both today and in general.  I’m calling it good for now.  We’ll see how Monday goes.

*I want to make it clear that he was not the primary cause, he was merely the last straw…but he does often put himself in that position.

I hear the train a-comin’, it’s rolling ’round the bend

It’s Saturday again, and I’m going to work today, so I’m writing a blog post.  Any of you who follow me on the weekend may be glad (or not) that this is the case.

I’m waiting at the train station for the first Saturday train, and they just announced that the northbound train, the one I take, is delayed “15…20 minutes due to a mechanical failure”, so I’m going to be sitting here longer than I thought I would be.  I wish I had a reliable alternative means to get to the office, but the buses are also slower on Saturdays, and the trip always takes longer via bus, since the train doesn’t have to stop for traffic lights, and has fewer stops to pick up passengers.

It’s curious that the announcements for delays say, for instance, “15…20 minutes” rather than “15 to 20 minutes” which seems to me to be the more normal way to express such a range.  If one took it as giving an estimate in the way people often read off strings of numbers, one might infer that they were saying the train would be delayed by 1,520 minutes, but that’s 25 hours and 20 minutes.  Surely anyone waiting would just take the next train, in an hour, rather than wait until tomorrow morning at 6:09 am.

Of course, based on past experience, the train may end up being cancelled and I’ll be taking the next train anyway.  It’s not an auspicious start for a Saturday, but one doesn’t do what one does because it’s convenient (necessarily).  A lion on the savannah that gives up hunting because the prey seems too difficult to get and it’s an unpleasant day will have a much lower chance of surviving to reproduce than one that just buckles down and keeps trying.

Lions are idiots.

Ha ha, just kidding.  Of course, lions aren’t that bright relative to the average human, but they’re pretty bright as far as the overall animal kingdom goes.  So are their competitors.  Their prey is not necessarily as bright as they are, but they don’t have to be.  It doesn’t take much brainpower to sneak up a blade of grass, but herbivores still need to be smart enough to avoid carnivores as often as feasible.

I’m a tiny bit nervous about today—about how I’ll be, that is—because I have not taken my antidepressant.  I haven’t mention it, but I’ve been back on them for some weeks now (I don’t recall exactly how long) as an attempt to see if they can help me with my worsening depression.

That hasn’t happened, as I’m sure you can tell if you’ve been reading my posts.  My depression has, if anything, worsened, though that may just be a natural progression that has nothing to do with medication.  Also, I cannot know how I would be if I had not taken them, though perhaps, if the many-worlds description of quantum mechanics is correct, somewhere out there in the omniverse are versions of me that have acted as the experimental control to my attempt.

Hey, they just said the train will be boarding in 10 minutes!  That will, honestly, make it only 15 minutes late, not 1,520 minutes, which is quite preferable.  See, sometimes things go better than expected, even for pessimists.

Anyway, the reason I’m stopping my antidepressants, at least for now is that—in addition to seeming to fail to improve my psychological state—they are giving me side effects that give me even more difficulty interacting with people around me, and leave me feeling more tense, more irritable, and also more dry-mouthed.  That latter bit isn’t such a big deal, but the others are a problem when, possibly because of my supposed ASD, I already have trouble interacting and connecting with people.  And that only makes me feel worse about myself.  I don’t feel worse about the other people; it’s not their job to connect with or look out for me, after all.

Oh!  I got at least some of the editing done on those sound recordings from yesterday.  The one from the middle of the night was really full of background noise, and also, apparently, the microphone on the phone is especially susceptible to breath and movement noise, so that’s required a lot of fine-toothed editing.

The phone app records in stereo, which is interesting.  I’m assuming that means there are at least 2 microphone inputs on the phone, though they can’t be very far apart.  Anyway, I also recorded a brief addendum, which I’m just going to tack onto the end of the first and turn into a “video” which I’ll front with a picture that I’ve manipulated and altered and made, I think, pretty cool.

I hope that having stopped my antidepressants doesn’t lead me to crash and burn today, but I’ve been losing altitude steadily anyway, and sooner or later there’s going to be a hill or a building that I can’t clear, and that’ll be it.  There are rarely survivors of airplane crashes—though I’m not sure what the statistics are for metaphorical airplane crashes.

I think the reason medicines have sometimes worked for me in the past was because I was also getting therapy, and for someone like me, who has trouble connecting, but who can talk about what interests me once I get started, it was very useful to have someone whose job includes listening.  I tried the Better Help website to do therapy late last year, but I think I’ve mentioned that that fell apart because my therapist had to go on maternity leave within a month or so of my beginning, and the online therapy wasn’t a great fit.  I also just didn’t have the strength to start again with a new therapist so soon.

I had to do text-based therapy, since I didn’t feel up to Skype-style talking over the computer, and I didn’t want to talk out loud about my issues in the house where I live, anyway.  Unfortunately, in-person therapy is expensive, and I have no insurance, nor good transportation or spare time.

A lot of why therapy has helped in the past was, I think, because I was just in a better situation then, overall.  I was depressed, as well as being apparently “neurodivergent” without my knowledge, but I was—the first time—happily married, finishing med school and then doing residency.  After that, unfortunately, my back injury and chronic pain and then failed back surgery syndrome and all that jazz made it less effective, as did the failure of my marriage and, later, my professional catastrophic failure.

Prison wasn’t much help, either.  Not because it was bullshit* that I was sent there—I’ve never expected anything but injustice from the world in general, and by that time, with chronic pain and my marriage having failed I didn’t see it as being much worse than where I already was—but because it separated me from my children, whom I haven’t seen in person in over ten years now.  It also made it very hard for me to return to my previous profession.

Anyway, if I get “worse” from stopping antidepressant treatment, well that’s just too bad.  Hell, I may just steer myself toward a hill or mountain if I can see one.  I’ll avoid buildings, because it wouldn’t be nice to injure other, innocent people, just because I hate the world and my life and myself.  That would be petty and pathetic, and I have no patience for people who do such things.

Well, that’s enough for today.  Be on the lookout for my “video” this weekend.  I may do a reading of Poe’s The Haunted Palace for Halloween and put that on YouTube, so be on the lookout for that, too.

Thanks for reading, today and otherwise.  Until we “meet” again (if we do, which is far from certain) I wish you the best.

*Yes, I know, surely everyone who is arrested and then takes a plea bargain because the state has threatened to try to put them away for a minimum of 15 years (and as much as a few hundred) for (naively and foolishly) trying to help others who have chronic pain, but not grasping the societal dynamics of the situation fully (probably at least partly because of ASD) would say that their situation was bullshit.  But I honestly think I’m being objective about this.  It was a politically motivated process, in which I was something analogous to a dolphin caught in a tuna net, but there was no incentive for them to throw me back.  My uncle, who was a criminal attorney for many years, had even said that it was obvious that they knew I wasn’t a bad guy—they barely paid any attention to my case other than to finally offer the plea deal to avoid having to prove anything, knowing that someone who doesn’t have millions of dollars at the ready and so cannot easily defend against a state machine that does, and the risk of getting a possibly very long sentence if found guilty (jurors are unsympathetic toward doctors, apparently, and I was judged not to be a likeable person to put on the witness stand) is going to take it and save the state the trouble of actually trying to prove any crime.  Of course, I figured, three years is better than the risk of fifteen or more, and I’d be able to see my kids again after that at least before they were all grown up**.  But the state wasn’t about simply to drop the case; that would have looked bad and been politically inexpedient.  What wonderful reasons they have for ruining so many people’s lives.

**Insert gales of sardonic, scornful laughter at my own repeated naiveté.  I am so foolish when I’m optimistic.

Heaven give you many, many merry blogs.

tardis with wreathHello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday, and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  It seems I’m still here so far, for better or for worse, and I’m writing a blog post this week.  I expect it to be relatively short, at least for me, though I’ve been wrong in that expectation before.

I haven’t written anything new still this week on Outlaw’s Mind, but I thought I would try to get myself more inspired to write it by rereading what I’ve written it so far, which I hadn’t done before restarting it after finishing Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  So, I saved it as a PDF file* and sent it to myself both at home and at work.  I’ve begun rereading it, and I think this will help, because I’m enjoying the story so far and kind of refamiliarizing myself with the events therein.  Hopefully it will make a difference.  If it doesn’t, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.  I’m really having difficulty summoning the will to do much, and I don’t know how to counter it—I’m already taking the best dose of the combination of depression treatments that’s worked best for me in the past, and I’ve tried most at one time or another.

I did write a little impromptu blog post on Iterations of Zero about the Solstice, which you can read if you’re interested, though it will be a few days late.

It’s a tad late for them to arrive before Christmas, I suppose—except for Kindle editions—but if there are any avid readers in your list of present-recipients, I’d like to offer or suggest that you might want to give or send them a copy of one or more of my books.  If they like fantasy/sci-fi/horror, they might enjoy at least some of my stuff.  Here’s my blog page, “My Books”, and here’s the blog search of My Books, if you’d rather look at something like that.  And below is a screenshot, with link, to my Amazon author’s page, if you’d rather just look there.

authors page capture

The picture of me associated with that page is basically the same photo that’s here on this blog.  It’s ten years old, roughly, but I don’t think I’m going to update it.  I’ve “aged” (in appearance, anyway) far more than ten years’ worth in the interregnum.

I guess that shouldn’t be surprising.  In that time, I spent a few years in Florida State Prison, and this is a place that even Stephen King has referenced in at least one of his stories**.  That’s not the only thing that’s worn me down, obviously, but it was not minor, nor have been the consequences on my subsequent life of having been there, and of the fact of having been sent there.  I don’t recommend it.  The Florida DOC prides itself on not being any kinder than they are required to be by law; they boast*** on their website about their lack of air conditioning, for instance.  Their philosophy, and the entire attitude of Florida criminal law, is explicitly not about rehabilitation but about retribution.

This is not to indict every person who works in the organization.  There are many whose motivations are honorable, who want to do the best they can both for society and for those in the system, and this includes administrators, correction officers, educators, healthcare personnel, and so on.  Of course, there are also plenty of assholes, but that probably is no surprise.

Enough of that subject.  It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow and Christmas on Saturday.  I hope all of you who celebrate, either directly or indirectly, have a wonderful time.  If you’re able, spend time with the people you love the most, and with those who love you.  Be forgiving, and patient, and give them all the benefit of every doubt, even if they don’t return the favor.  Don’t take them for granted.  Remember, “Every Christmas is the last Christmas for somebody.”  Why be anything but kind in the meantime?

That’s a rhetorical question; I’m not inviting any suggested reasons.  I have a hard enough time being positive as it is.

Anyway, again, have fun, eat well, laugh hard, play games, sing songs, watch TV and movies, love your friends and family****, and above all, be kind.


santa who

*To avoid the urge to edit it while I reread it.

**The one that comes to mind is in his excellent, chilling, pseudo-sci-fi short story The Jaunt, which I first read in the collection Skeleton Crew.  I recommend both the story and the collection.  Actually, it’s hard to go too wrong with any of King’s short story collections!

***They used to, anyway.  I haven’t checked lately.

****“Because love, it’s not an emotion; love is a promise.”

In States Where They Lose Voting Rights, ex-Felons Should Not Pay Taxes


I first learned about many of the principles behind the United States government while watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, on Schoolhouse Rock.  These cartoon shorts are available to own, and if you have kids, I strongly encourage you to make that investment.  In any case, on a particular History Rock episode about the Declaration of Independence, I first heard of the concept of taxation without representation, as one of the major complaints that led the American colonists to rebel against the government of Great Britain.  If I recall the exact quote from that cartoon, it said, “That’s called taxation without representation…and it’s not fair.”  Having learned at least a little bit more about the concept in the intervening years, I’ve decided that I agree, and I think most people in America would concur.  How can a person reasonably and ethically be forced to pay for the activities of a government in which they have no ability to participate?

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We Need to Socialize–Fully–the Criminal Justice System!

I’m not a huge fan of socialism in most things.  Not that there aren’t social programs that are good, in principle, to protect all citizens from the unpredictable vicissitudes of fate.  In general, regrettably, governments tend to do many things poorly and inefficiently (although, as someone who grew up in the Detroit area, I know that big corporations can often be just as lacking in that area as governments, and just as immune to internal correction).  However, there is one area of life in which I think it is a complete travesty that there is anything but complete socialization, and that area is the criminal justice system.

I can tolerate the use of privately employed attorneys in civil cases–though just barely, and arguments can be made that money unfairly sways matters even in such venues (Your comments on that notion would be welcome).  However, it is utterly unconscionable that private attorneys are ever allowed in the criminal justice system.

Our court system itself is of course utterly antiquated.  It has more in common with medieval jousting matches to determine guilt or innocence than it has with any honest attempt to find the truth of any particular matter.  In a typical court proceeding, the person who has the best attorney, or team, is the one most likely to win.  And that usually means that the person with the most money wins.  It’s not true universally, of course, but it is a strongly dispositive factor.  Consider the O.J. Simpson trial:  Would O.J. likely have been acquitted had he been represented by a public defender?  I think we can all agree that the answer is “No.”  Well, why should he have had any better chance of winning than any other man charged with murdering his wife and her friend?  Why should a person’s individual wealth have any bearing on the quality of defense they receive in a criminal case?

The argument can, and probably will, be made that make all defendants rely on the public defender’s office would simply mean that even those with money will face the same ridiculous miscarriages of justice, the same hobbled defense, as a non-wealthy person does when charged with a criminal offense.  To this, I say, “Good!”  Maybe if a few of the movers and shakers of society realize just how horrible the situation is for a non-wealthy person who is charged with any crime in America, they will see to it that changes are made.  Maybe they will see to it that defendants in criminal cases get at least as many resources applied to them as the prosecutor’s office has to bring to bear (and do recall that the prosecution has not only the power of their office, but also that the resources of all pertinent police forces are more or less at their disposal…something that certainly cannot be said for any defendant).

The hallmark of our criminal justice system is supposed to be that a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Given that presumption, we must be scrupulous to err on the side of the defendant.  The state has tremendous, monolithic power, and can destroy the lives of citizens almost with impunity by means of simply bringing a criminal prosecution, whatever the outcome.  Given this fact, and the supposed basis of our criminal justice system, all biases should be in favor of the accused.  Clearly this is not the case; if it were, the United States would not have five times its share of the world’s prisoners based on population…the largest number of prisoners in absolute numbers and per capita.  This is to say nothing of the outrageous inequality in the application of criminal justice to minorities.  This would be at least partly rectified by having the wealthy receive the same defense as the poor, since minorities, in general, are less likely to be wealthy than their counterparts.

Of course, the privatization of prisons absolutely has to stop as part of this process.  It appears simply impossible for inappropriate bias not to be introduced into a system when a for-profit interest becomes involved in it (See the ACLU’s report from 2012 here).  In general, I see government itself as a necessary evil, but it is necessary, precisely because human nature has not yet reached a state of development where we can be trusted to do many things honestly and justly if our personal interests are engaged.  But when we give our governments certain powers, and those powers are then put at the disposal of private interests, who have their own monetary gain at heart rather than the achievement of actual justice, it is perfectly predictable for disaster to occur.

How comfortable would we all be if police departments were privately run?  What if the degree of one’s protection by law enforcement were overtly and explicitly dependent upon one’s financial power (as opposed to being only implicitly so, as it is now)?  How safe would you feel?  What if you had to pay a fee for services, or pay to become a member of some club in order to have the police investigate, say, your stolen car…or the murder of one of your family members?  I think we can all agree that this is not a system under which we would hope to live, where the power of law enforcement works only for the highest bidder.

So, why should the quality of a person’s defense against charges of crime be dependent upon the financial resources one can bring to bear?  Even if it were true that every person’s financial status were dependent upon the quality of their character and their personal ability, even if all fortunes were honestly and openly made in truly fair trade–a notion that veers away from mere fiction into the realm of wildest fantasy–there would still be no justification for giving the financially successful better defense against charges of criminal activity than a person who was not successful.  There is no data to demonstrate that financial success is inversely correlated with degree of criminality, and in reality, the correlation is often a positive one.

Of course, depriving individuals of the ability to hire their own criminal defense attorneys would further drain the budgets and other resources of our court systems; this would be a good thing.  It would help force us, as a society, to do a better job of prioritizing our application of police and prosecutorial (and thus also defense) resources–to decide how important it was, for example, to arrest people for possession of marijuana or even of more powerful drugs, when they have not taken any action that brings harm to any other person.  Needless to say, in applying such a policy, we must avoid the pitfall of simply increasing the use of plea bargaining to deal with such resource burdens, since that system is, by nature, biased and unjust, a criminal process in its own right (see my blog on the subject here).

The changes I call for are drastic, I know.  I don’t apologize for that, and I will likely continue to call for even more such changes as time goes by.  Our system is drastically malfunctioning, drastically inefficient, and drastically unjust.  It must be changed, overhauled, or completely replaced with something better, if we wish to have the right to continue to call America a free society.

The above post is actually a re-posting of an entry I originally posted in my other blog:  Justice the American Way, which can be found here.  I am reposting it here just be sure that those who want to read it and follow me here are aware of it.  I will only be doing this for a bit, however.  I want to try to keep my political philosphy/criminal justice postings separate from those about writing, publishing, and other generally more positive things.  That’s why I made the new blog.  If you are interested in such topics, by all means, do follow that blog.

I have an earlier post there–“In States Where They Lose the Right to Vote, ex-Felons Should Not Pay Taxes“–which I have not reposted here, but I invite you to read it, nevertheless.

On unrelated matters, Mark Red: Chapter 15 should be released next weekend, or possibly before.  Then, within a few weeks, I’m going to be releasing “Welcome to Paradox City:  Three Dark Tales.”  I’m excited about it.  I hope you’ll be excited, too.