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Radical Incline


The so-called war on drugs is utterly unwinnable and in its very conception perverts the purposes of good government.


[Published in the [*]Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise 1997 Mar 25.]

1997 March 16

Editor, the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
P.O. Box 1278
Bartlesville, Oklahoma 74005


I write to take issue, respectfully, with a recent Examiner editorial opinion. We are not by any reasonable measure winning the war on drugs, and whatever statistical blips may so indicate cannot compare with decades of continuing social self-destruction. Indeed, not only is the so-called war on drugs utterly unwinnable, it is in its very conception a perversion of the important purposes of good government, an approach more suited to totalitarian governments we have always opposed than to our bastion of liberty.

Drug abuse is an individual, personal, and medical problem with social repercussions, but it should never have been made a criminal activity in and of itself. Whether the drugs in question are relatively soft like coffee and marijuana, or relatively hard like alcohol or heroin, we will never be able to stop their acquisition and use, and a government ostensibly of personal liberty and social responsibility should not even try!

The hypocrisy, dangers, corruption, and social destruction caused by Prohibition is written in our very Constitution, and in the dark history between the 18th and 21st Amendments. Although you can see it even right there in such as the historic-reprint pages of the Examiner and the Tulsa World, Americans have refused to learn this hard lesson of history. Many evil and powerful vested interests are allied with the misguided well-intentioned successors of Carrie Nation to give us an era of modern equivalents to the rum runners, poison bathtub gins, speakeasies, and all a hundred times worse than back then. Prohibition inevitably magnifies, rather than alleviates, the social problems which drug abuse can create.

We have learned the proper approach to the problem of alcoholism is to treat the alcoholic, and adjudge the drunk driver or public inebrient, without making a criminal of the individual drinker. Repeal did not do away with the problems of alcohol abuse, but society suffers infinitely less from legalization and regulation than it does from prohibition, which is tantamount to law abuse.

We must abandon the "win the drug war" prohibitionist propaganda which supports gangsterism, invites corruption, undermines drug-awareness education efforts, and criminalizes non-threatening private adult behaviors. We must embrace the legal models we have evolved for dealing with alcohol and tobacco and apply those models to all these currently-illegal substances. Turn our "drug warriors" back into peace officers, end the obliteration of our precious Constitutional rights, end the threat to personal privacy and to familial and social stability, and release us from the burdens of a perverse, protracted, unwinnable civil conflict. As families stood up and protested in a previous generation, let our cry be: REPEAL!

Repeal Heals

1997 March 27

Editor, the [*]Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
P.O. Box 1278
Bartlesville, Oklahoma 74005

Editor, it's humbling to have one of my many swelled-headed opinions see print in our esteemed local paper, but my writing skills are poor if my call for repeal deserves the depressing headline "Lost Cause." Folks are weak, the toll of substance abuse terrible. Yet, in the spirit of the original editorial, I do see that we are making continuing progress in education efforts, franker and better-informed health-care approaches. Family, community, and congregation should continue to employ every tool in the arsenal of our families, educators, doctors, ministers to heal the sick in habit and educate for healthy spirits. In our "crusade for health," the social reform of repeal abandons a weapon which backfires. Repeal heals, amending the law to be just, consistent, conforming with the Golden Rule. History and faith both teach: the way to personal or social health is positive, peaceful yet powerful. This week most especially, I'm reminded that the best health habits come from strength of faith. Say not lost, but just cause!

Related Mindful Webworks:
Prohibition fuels gangsterism —It's not drugs but PROHIBITION which provides the fuel for the modern equivalent of rum-runner profits and Al Capones.
Independent Religionist's Liberty — Are USA Constitutional liberties not being extended to non-aligned religionists?
The Golden Rule and Prohibition — Countering common erroneous arguments for prohibitionism and applying the Golden Rule
A run-in with Officer Green"WHAT'S THAT SMELL??" scowled Officer Green, and ordered me out of my car.
Head Shop — Cartoons, songs, and more regarding the appeal of indulgences and the consequences of desire.

Radical Incline

Mass Media News

Cause for Despair, or...? On the evolution, status, and future of news reportage and the public interest.

Are you distracted about the news or about the media's handling of it?

ding!"What's the news, across the nation?
We have got the information
In a way we hope will a - muuuusssse yooooou...."
-from the old Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

If you live in Cape Cod, the major all-columns headline and the large full-color photo on the front page is Rose Kennedy's death. All you mentioned, Bob, and this, just shows to go ya that the news is there for its infotainment value.

Originally, or at least in colonial America, weren't "newspapers" more like the editorial pages, mostly opinion sheets? News came by word of mouth. So I think the concept of "journalism" newspapers, as allegedly objective reportage, came later. (I'm open to correction on my history here.) But while the good reporters, also artists, statesmen and businessmen, were looking the other way, the salesmen took over their worlds. The point of your local newspaper may be to influence opinion in the editor's mind, to report nobly on human doin's from the reporter's point of view, but the real reason for both is to sell ads.

Same with videonews. Now, I'm not decrying making a buck, and I make more if I can, but when marketing, sales, being the biggest and charging the most, becomes the driving force rather than a supporting function, then you have news that is shaped by ratings weeks and by which vidclip best goggles the rubes. What's the biggest selling newspaper in the nation? The National Enquirer, I believe. Even if it's USA Today, that's not such a significant difference [grin — now I'm sure to hear from some hardworking, journalistic USA Today reporter who's right here on line]. They serve those selfsame shoppers as your local "news."

National network news, CNN Headline News, these broader markets still try to maintain an air of journalistic quality, or so I guess since I haven't watched a broadcast network news report in many years and even on CNN, with some of the dopey stories and sensationalist approaches, it's hard to see how these people can think of themselves as being much above tabloids. All products of the public school system no doubt, like their audience. :)

You complain about your local news readers (where is you at, anyway?) hardly covering Kobe; CNN did some good extended reportage, but an awful lot of that "lingering on the mourning victims and heart-breaking individual examples" stuff. Yes, I know what pain is like, thanks. What's the news? (I'm not saying there should be none of this, only that they dwell on it far too much.)

So, what've we got? The locals don't have to deliver ze big news (didn't he work for Nixon?) because the networks take care of that, so they can focus on pumped-up local-interest stories that boost ratings and sell ads. But in all cases, cheesiest local to best network, we've got a public that's too much entertainment-gluttonous and news-disinterested. The media cater to the market, and the market shape the media. A downward spiral of quality of expectations and goods shapes a mediocre system. I recall folks addressing this very problem 'way back in the '60s, and how far the media have fallen since then only seems to bear the problem out.

But there's a (I hate this phrase, don't even really know what the heck it's supposed to mean, but having seen it several times in the past few days, I guess it's a fad and I want to be among the first to jump on a bandwagon for a change) sea change going on in your news access. If you know how to pump the web, you can get news right here on this screen you're looking at (and — heh — please don't tell me you printed this out), faster and more complete than your local newshounds even know about it. Besides the various newsnet feeds (like AP, Reuters &c. which CompuServe carries), just tapping into various forums on CIS has often brought me news long before it hits the papers. I've sometimes seen some news story, not the latest hard news of course but not all that soft either, printed in a newspaper days after I got the same story off CIS, as if it had just happened. And I've more than once read major news from people it's happening to right here on the nets before the media have had the story. It's back to word of mouth, with a worldwide ear. And with some of the problems of the "coloring" of the news of those days. Would you like to subscribe to my vidtext opinion sheet? [kidding]

This is only an embryonic stage, of course. For that word-of-mouth, you have to dig, and that's not as cozy as Joe Blow turning on his tube. So we have a problem here on the front end of stratification — the lazy media catering more and more to an undereducated and lazy market with an interactive media demanding intelligent application. And news providing, which has for years been aggregating into a few major sources, is getting thrown open as well. You can't yet get a CIS menu of today's video newsclips, download them, and view them, the way you can AP text copy, but we're very close. When both regional and world news are available in such customizable form, news provision will still be market-driven, but you won't have the mass choices dictating the arrangements. Joe Blow can catch his big basketball story (and Joe's not such a bad guy for being more interested in the local team than a distant tragedy, is he?) first up if he wants, and you can punch up your congressperson's activities of the day. (Something about the image of punching up a congressperson that I'll bet appeals to a lot of people.)

As the technology becomes more accessible to the ordinary person, as we become less oriented toward "running computers" or "watching television" and more oriented toward being able to get out of them what we want, we may be able to reduce the stratification. I have great expectations about the educational value of this evolving "new" medium, as well, because I've got to have something to lend me hope that the attitudes of Joe Blow will transcend the local and the mundane and the trivial. Otherwise, we'll have fifty thousand channels of I Love Lucy reruns. Hey, I started out trying to cheer you up and I end up getting depressed? Forgive my rambling. Been under the weather the past few days.

LucyDid you ask for this?

Another Mindful Webwork about mass media:
TV or Not TV — Yes, Virginia, there is an 'off' switch.

Radical Incline

War of the Sexes

Dueling monologues between the male chauvanist pig and the women's libber.


We're gonna take away abortion,
  Woman has to learn her proper role.
We're gonna outlaw the diaphram, take away your pill,
  and put the man back in control

We're gonna put ya back up on your pedestal
  And not care about what you think
Gonna take away your job so you'll stay at home
  Knocked up and at the kitchen sink

We're going back, back, to the good old days,
  of the bustle and the petticoat
We're going back to the ways that God intended
  Gonna take away your right to vote!
Oink! Oink! Gonna take away your right to vote!

You can never take away abortion, 
  You can only make one hard to get.
I'll never give up my self-control
  And you haven't found yours yet.

I'll never go back the way it was
  Because slavery is dead.
And you better wise up or you're liable to find
  You're in a big cold lonely bed.

We're going forward ho! to the better ways,
  And we've only just begun to grow.
God gave me a mind and the will to find 
  what's right and She ought to know.
That's right! I said I think She ought to know.

Radical Incline

TV or Not TV

Yes, Virginia, there is an 'off' switch.

1997 March 22

Editor, the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
P.O. Box 1278
Bartlesville, Oklahoma 74005


The caller to Off the Cuff who likened a television broadcast to people fornicating in the middle of main street is the most profound, and pitiful, example of the hypnotic power of television. Or, more accurately, the weakness of some American minds. It was all the more poignant and pitiable that the caller was responding to a previous caller who had, wisely, noted that our televisions come equipped with a very important control called the "off" switch.

Our family has followed the uproar surrounding the broadcast of Schindler's List, and the comments of an Oklahoma representative, with considerable amusement. From the time our first-born was very young, television in our household has been tightly controlled. Their viewing habits were monitored and directed. Even Saturday morning cartoons were tape-recorded and they were early taught to use the fast-forward button to bypass the commercial announcements. This didn't prevent them from watching the ads they wanted to see, but they didn't have to sit through them repeatedly, and they soon learned that by fast-forwarding they could watch three half-hour shows in about one hour — learning to budget as well as control their own viewing.

When the kids were old enough to be granted more freedom, I noticed that their early training worked pretty well. The kids were able to distinguish between a quality program and junk. (So if they were watching junk, at least they knew it was junk.) When I'd catch them unawares, they'd be absorbing something from the Discovery channel. They've never yet seen any of the violent material most of their peers grew up on, and they never grew cynical about the better Disney productions.

Last year, for various reasons, we simply switched the tube off, and it's been mostly off ever since. The kids were forced to give up their cartoons, and Dad gave up his Star Trek and, with great regret, Babylon 5. We all miss Touched by an Angel. But, it's all on tape somewhere, I reminded them, it'll all be around for decades, in re-runs, and before long TV programs will be available like the computer files I get from CompuServe or the Internet — downloadable and watchable at our own time and convenience, not that of some advertising-motivated network program manager on the Coast. We cut the cable, quit the satellite subscription, and ignored the antenna. The VCRs, indeed, went into storage. We weren't even remotely threatened either by someone's idea of "entertainment" or by that most lurid and fictional of material called "the news."

The other night, I stopped at the video rental store, just to see if they knew when that movie Michael would be released. My daughter mentioned some other show we had thought to rent. We were all reminded that there are so many great movies, yes, and television shows, to watch. But we drove off empty-handed. I noted that we had been getting along pretty well, and had plenty to fill our lives, since we'd started doing without television, and to my surprise one of my wonderful offspring, indeed the one I felt had been most television-habituated, remarked, "That's for sure!" Gratifying!

So for that poor hapless victim of television addiction who called the paper, there is, for some of us at least, a monumental difference between what happens in the middle of main street and what we have the choice to view, or not view, broadcast into our homes. What you see on main street is unavoidable. What comes across the television you have to actually invite into your home, by purchasing the equipment, setting up the connections (antenna, cable, satellite dish), supplying the electricity, and turning it all on at certain times. A far more apt comparison than to main street would be whether you would permit a couple to come fornicate, or (more aptly) do violence to each other, in your living room while the kids were there. If you have your television on, it's your own choice. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Yes, Virginia, there is an "off" switch. It is effective. There is also self-discipline and parental discipline. But none of them work if you don't exercise them.

Another Mindful Webwork about mass media:
Mass Media News — Cause for Despair, or...? On the evolution, status, and future of news reportage and the public interest.
Mike the TV from Reboot

Radical Incline

Freedom to Marry

Does the State define marriage?

Defending Common-Law Marriage

Background: The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a bill which would destroy common-law marriage in the state. Immediately below is a letter to the Tulsa World defending the right of individuals to contract to marry one another without approval of church or state. Further below is a follow-up article.

In 1980, my spouse and I married each other. We were not married by the State. We were not married by a pastor or a justice of the peace. We were not married "by" anybody. We did not even seek our families' approval. As free people, we chose to marry one another, and quite intentionally chose to marry each other here because, despite so many other tyrannical notions, Oklahoma law permitted free people to marry one another (at least if they were heterosexual and monogamous). Representative Ray Vaughn of Edmond says common-law marriages are "an affront to legitimate marriage." Our marriage of seventeen years and three children, legal and recognized by the State of Oklahoma, he has just as much as called illegitimate! Rep. Vaughn, you owe us an apology.

I sympathize, a little, with the judges, that divorce or estate problems can arise from poorly-substantiated common-law marriages. It is important that if (as the law has been) a man and woman "hold themselves forth as married," and they have property or children, they must do so in some public fashion to establish the legitimacy of their marriage for legal, financial, and inheritance purposes. (Actually, it is my opinion that there are no illegitimate children, and that every birth signifies a kind of marriage, regardless of the legal marital status of the parents, and regardless of the effective "bigamy" that may sometimes result; the separation of "marriage" from family-creation is one of the greatest peculiarities of our age. But that's another matter.) In our marriage, substantiation took the form of re-writing my will to identify myself and my spouse as married, and we let our friends and family know we were subsequently to be regarded as married from 1980 February 5. People who marry one another by any means without proper thought to the legal ramifications are asking for "headaches," as the World article put it. The burden of proof should lie with the couple. For those who wish to do so, registration with the State is a convenient way of substantiating marriage. However, the convenience of the State is no excuse for obviating adult liberty to marry one another.

Marriage Liberty, not Marriage License

In response to the article above, a lawyer replied to Law Forum on CompuServe. My correspondent suggested that the traditional reasons for common-law permission were antiquated and reiterated the legal difficulties and fraud which may occur due to common-law arrangements and asked how a requirement for a marriage license would violate the right of free adults to marry. This is my reply, slightly edited.

As if state-approved marriage is not a frequent source of litigation? I noted the difficulties with freedom to marry, and I noted the importance of careful establishment of even a common-law marriage, and I protested that the convenience of the state or the occurrence of difficulties is not sufficient cause for regulation. If, after such statements, you can still ask me to "explain exactly how much of a hardship it would have been for you to obtain a license," I despair of doing so as much as I would in attempting to explain the benefits of a free-market system to an ardent communist.

The point is not that we would have found it "much of a hardship" to kowtow to State overcontrol of a private contract, but whether the State has the right to stick its fat Big Brotherly nose in our private marriage at all! You may perhaps gather something of my radical libertarianism if I point out that I in the same vein protest such laws as driver's licenses, and Social Security registration, both of which are on my mind especially this weekend as I have just obtained an Oklahoma driver's permit for my daughter (as evidenced by my fingernail gouges in the dashboard), and attempted to, at long last, and under protest, register my three offspring with the Socialist Insecurities Pyramid Scam office.

(Amusingly, the SS would not accept their birth certificates as sufficient, and required a second i.d. Since they are all home-schooled, we have no school i.d.s to offer, and we have had to ask our physician to provide some kind of identification that they are who their parents say they are, which was the only other form of i.d. the SS serf said was acceptable. With redoubled irony, I note that now that the birth certificate which the SS said was insufficient has been used to obtain a driver's permit for my daughter, she can turn around and use that permit as i.d. to register with the SS. Go figure that!)

That which it is unnecessary for the state to do should not be done. Mary Jo and I have been married for over twenty years, legally, without recourse to State or Church, and since such liberty is feasible, it is not our burden to suggest why it would be a "hardship" to register with the Gummint, but the Gummint's impossible burden to prove why private marriage contract should not be valid without State approval. That others attempt criminal abuse of liberty should no more be a cause for us to be regulated than the private consumption of a substance by sociopaths should impinge upon the rights of peaceful and non-trespassing individuals to acquire and consume as they will. But of course, we know where our Prohibitionist-mad nation stand on that!

Marriage liberty, not marriage license. [grin] The right of the State to approve marriage also, no matter how careful the wording of the legislation, ultimately gives the State the right to disapprove as well, and that includes the prohibition of forms of contract which, as with liberty of speech or press, you or I might not like for ourselves or our children, as polygamy or homosexual life-contracts, neither of which has approval in any state, yet, last I knew, although the latter was being softened up in some states.

Thanks for the opportunity to attempt expansion on this, even if I'm not all that effective in my attempt.

2015 Jun 10: Years later, the question is more pertinent than ever.
Alabama’s marriage license abolition would be a bureaucratic nightmare by Casey Given, Rare

…While leaving the complex matter of marriage up to two consenting adults and their community is undoubtedly the best option in a libertarian utopia, the unfortunate reality is that doing so in the American legal system today would put a couple at significant disadvantage. To be specific, the federal government has a number of tax and entitlement benefits earmarked specifically for married couples, and Alabama’s failure to recognize a couple’s nuptials — gay or straight — could lead to a bureaucratic headache.…

(h/t TJ Martinell, Tenth Amendment Center)