Archives for category: Random musings


It is universally acknowledged that Anthony Weiner, now sentenced to prison and a hefty fine for messing about, online, with an underage female human,* has a deep-seated and quite weird fixation on taboo Internet flirtation of an overtly sexual nature.

Whew. That was a mouthful.†

“There’s just something wrong with him.” That seems to be the conventional wisdom.

In all the discussion of his perversions and prevarications, though, I’ve never heard anyone blame his compulsive fixation either on his marriage to Huma Abedin or to her more-than-professional connection with the poisonous Hillary Clinton.

I would be willing to entertain such notions. There is a sort of Sauronian, sexually chthonic power at the heart of the Clinton-sphere, quite capable of pulling in and corrupting otherwise innocent people.

Of course, more likely it just pulled in another creep.


* This is for future, alien historians, to distinguish Weiner’s humdrum fixations from post-Contact fornications.

† That’s what she said.


“Eleven” in “Base Eleven” would be written as “10.”

Eleven in Base Ten, on the other hand, is a palindromic prime. The next such number on the list is “101.”

img_1711When I was in grade school, my first fifth grade math teacher corrected me more than once for my habit of enunciating that number as “one hundred and one.” He was much exercised by that locution’s unacceptability.

“That is ‘one hundred one,’” he instructed, carefully eliding the “and.”

“‘One hundred AND one,’” he informed me, triumphantly, “means ‘one hundred and ONE TENTH!’” And he wrote the number down in “numerals”:


I was very frustrated. I had not been taught to defy my elders, much less my teachers. But I was vexed, for I knew B.S. when I heard it.

I even knew and understood the grounds for my heterodoxy. I was more than familiar with older English writing and speech. The King James Bible was the most important book in the house I grew up in. And I knew that Abraham’s wife was recorded to have lived up to but not beyond “one hundred and seven and twenty years” of age. I understood that the “and” signified addition, and saying “and seven” did not mean “7/10ths,” but seven ones, and just so “one hundred and one” was not “one hundred and one tenth” but, technically, “one hundred and one ones.”

I was right. My teacher was wrong to have censured my lack of conformity to fashion, at least so dogmatically, so lacking in perspective.

But at age 10 — or should I write “X”? — I lacked the courage, and perhaps the requisite verbal quickness, to challenge him. I knew the truth, but could not express it.

Prior to that day, my main reading interest had focused almost exclusively upon science. There existed, at that time, plenty of kids’ books not merely about geology and astronomy and chemistry and the like, but also about the major scientists who had made the most important discoveries. After this time, my interests shifted. A more human realm, somewhat more philosophical, became my stomping ground — a realm that allowed (encouraged) its subjects to take a wider view of alternative nomenclatures and customs.

Interestingly, that very teacher was pushing “the new math” at that time, and vexing the whole community in the process. He did not teach it well; he was not that novelty’s most reliable advocate. Almost no one in my class, anyway, “got it.” We did not see the point. And somewhere in the back of my head a heresy was developing: what if teachers did not teach the pure unadulterated truth? What if they sometimes pushed B.S.? I knew of one instance of B.S. for sure, and about math of all things — or the logic and semantics of math, anyway.

How much else was wrong, even nonsense?

Mathematics never became my bag, though logic did. Math teachers, on the whole, struck me as not very bright. And as for me, I dulled to the subject.

Leaving me here, at night, tonight, thinking fruitless thoughts about Base Eleven. How would one write out the natural numbers in that somewhat hypothetical “new math-y” system?

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, X, 10. . . .

But, to carry on, 11 (“twelve” in Base Ten, probably to be said something like “onelf” in Base Eleven), 12 (“thirteen” in Base Ten but “twelf,” no?), 13 (“thirtelf”). . . .

It beats counting sheep.



With the triumph of Donald Trump, we are told to beware of authoritarianism, fascism, totalitarianism. Those on the left, especially, ominously shriek their warnings, advising us to read Ninety-Eighty Four. But, like usual, leftists have chosen the wrong book. The science fiction classic relevant here is Frankenstein. The Left, after all, bred its Nemesis. It should learn to sympathize . . . if not with the monster, at least with its creator.

If you think that people who hold ugly ideas need to be hounded out of society, must be socially destroyed, you do not believe in free speech. You are illiberal.

The need for rules and taboos will surely never end in human society. We cannot think through the consequences of every act. We must make short cuts. By holding one or many sets of actions out of bounds, we are relieved of the necessity of evaualting those actions and their effects. This is what Hayek called nomocratic — the government of rules. The rule-following aspects of life allow for the purposeful aspects of life to be managed more effectively. Rules outsource wisdom from individuals to tradition and  folkways.

The world of facts is not all that is the case. Fiction has been a driving force for human adaptation and progress. Facts are for computers. Fictions are where humanity has thrived. Those who think morality compels us to always “stick to the facts” will fail to become fully human.

Determinism is a theoretical map placed upon the world. It is akin to measurement, which also maps reality, but by comparing reality to an idealized construct, a standard. Determinism runs afoul of the truism “the map is not the territory,” and proves off-point with Zeno’s arrow paradox, in which we buy into a premise of measurement — a mapping technique — forgetting the reality in the act of mapping, measuring. The truth is that the arrow hits the target and stops. The truth is that adding sign and significance and concepts to the causal reality, causal reality is transcended — leaving determinism measuring a world no longer relevant to it. For, as Hume showed us, the realm of ideas behave by logic and validity, not causality, and our life of the mind places us on another level beyond any simple causality.

Socialism is the fantasy of most Democrats, libertarianism of many Republicans.

The former has long been the case, but usually was discounted with a breezy admission that socialism be “unworkable” in some way, but still “a good idea at core” and “obviously the more moral way of organization” though, sadly, somehow leading to bad results when pushed too far. So most Democrats compromised, always nudging towards more government, but accepting some need for compromise. Recently, the understanding of socialism’s scalability problems have evaporated, and the Democracy has lurched towards hard-left collectivism and a sort of Cultural Revolution moralistic groupthink.

Republicans’ besetting fantasy has been increasingly libertarian, but they often impute to the recent past more libertarian features than it possessed. Because progressives thoroughly won the ideological wars by 1960, and recast much of American life in terms of heavy state interference, characteristically conservative attitudes tend to bolster existing progressive institutions. The Republicans’ libertarian fantasies have thus served more as a touchstone than a lodestar, or, better yet, more of an anchor to prevent hasty and unsustainable acceptance of further socialist incursions.

Amusingly, the Democratic socialists take the libertarian fantasies of Republicans more seriously than do the Republicans themselves. They see these fantasies as a real threat, and, like many Republicans, often mistakenly impute Republicans’ characteristically milquetoast reforms as “free market” and “ruggedly individualistic“ (“by the bootstraps!” in their demonology of convenient clichés) when the Republicans’ fantasies are in fact barely ever more than nods towards individualistic rigor.

This yields us the peculiarly daft ideological divide of recent history, and makes talking with normies of both sides quite frustrating. They rarely can distinguish between fantasy and reality, especially when contemplated in the other sides’ ideological eructations.

Recently, though, it has gotten more interesting. With the popularization of Bernie and Elizabeth Warren’s “ideas” (mostly, of course, fantasy and rank delusion) the Democrats have abandoned their previous distancing from socialism to an embrace of the very word on the grounds that any government program is socialist, so wanting more programs makes them, unabashedly, “socialists.” This is so stupid one wonders if they have any sense of history at all, or any respect for clear thinking.

But they look like Einsteins compared to the brain-deadening drain on principle that is the Trump phenomenon. Almost any love for individual freedom has been thrown out the window for the silly nationalism of Trump’s unlearned approach to policy. The only palliative, here, is the obvious build-up of failures in the new administration. Which may lead to an implosion. Soon.

We are reaching for an apogee of silliness, it seems, upon which we can expect the decay to be quick and catastrophic.

But I hope I am wrong. If the modern world can keep running through its witless iterations of fantasy and compromise, we may witness the unfolding of some new alignment of politics, perhaps of a Seussian nature: will your fronts be plain, while your opponents sport stars upon thars? Or the reverse?

Better that than a choice of hammer-and-sickle vs. swastika, leading to the conquest by people preferring to adorn themselves with the crescent.


usmapAs I often contemplate, these days, the dissolution of these United States into their several units, and their subsequent accession into new unions and (perhaps) a new union of unions (putting, of course, the current federal republic into receivership), the future complexion of these states — and the distribution of their separate unions — often weighs upon my mind.

The most obvious map would reflect “blue” and “red” state differences. But perhaps the country should be re-arranged on more cultural, less political, grounds.

Like this. The separate unions would be Soda States of America, Pop States of America, and Coke States of America, etc.


Yes, this is mere whimsy.


I cannot conjure up the effrontery it would take to scribble marginal notes in a borrowed book.

I remember borrowing a copy of George Santayana’s Life of Reason (the one-volume edition) from a local library and reading the inane commentary of a previous reader. It actually turned me off reading the book.

I made up for this by buying the book in its first, multi-volume editions. Alas, I have only read two of its five parts, and own a mere three of them. This is not the origin of my entry into the ranks of the bibliobibuli, or of book collectors, but it may have been a turning point of sorts.

So I may owe something (what, you decide) to one particular Pacific Northwest graphomaniac.



The history of philosophy is that of geniuses getting so close . . . but missing the mark.

Hence, my appreciation of a thinker is often not “do I agree” but “can I learn” from encountering said thinker’s work.

It is not for nothing that I am apt to say appreciative things about Jeremy Bentham but not William Godwin. Is Godwin uninteresting? Never, on occasion, correct? Irrelevant. It is merely that making sense of Bentham and where he went both wrong and right is much more edifying.

Thus, often we must look for truth, but keep a special eye out for the interesting and profitable mistakes, even blunders.

The two most interesting failures in political philosophy, in the last two centuries? Herbert Spencer and John Rawls. I am not sure anyone else comes even close.

The errors of great men are venerable because they are more profitable than the truths of little men. — Friedrich Nietzsche

When a friend or sibling advises me how to be safe, I attribute the concern as earnest, perhaps even as “heartfelt.”

When my insurance agent advises me in a similar manner, I infer self-interest on his part.

In both cases, I consider the advice in a spirit of equanimity and good feeling.

But when an agent of the government lectures me on safety, I check for ready exits, and eye any official weaponry with deep suspicion.


“Friendship lives on its income, love devours its capital.”

Last night, I set my iPad upon my lap and fell asleep.

I immediately began dreaming about a pushy man “borrowing” my iPad without really asking. He just walked away with it.

I was annoyed — so annoyed that I woke myself up with the express purpose of getting my iPad back. 

Yes, it was still on my lap. Quest achieved.

It is a pity that the conflicts of waking life are not so easy to fix.


You should not always want “your guy” or “your gal” to win the U. S. Presidency. After all, the economy being what it is — Damoclean — things could go awry at any moment . . . go terribly wrong. And the American people would witlessly blame whoever held power at the time of the bust for the bust.

The Presidency these days seems like a game of musical chairs — except that it is the one who takes the seat who loses.