Category Archives: Our World

The Irish Pub

I watched a great documentary on Netflix called “The Irish Pub”. A film crew went to some famous Pubs in Ireland and talked to the Tenders and their customers. These Pubs are not actually places to drink and party, although they are famous for exactly that. They have no TV’s or music – unless it’s on the proper night. They are community centers with Guinness and Ales.

The Pubs I saw in this wonderful look at the Old Country have been handed down through families and they have not changed much inside since they were built in the 19th century and earlier. These family Pubs think of their customers and Barmen and “Lounge girls/boys” as family as well, and they speak of them as “Characters”.

I think you have to see people in a certain way to think of them as characters. They must, at the least, have enough character to be thought of as a character. I’m sure the Irish have a word or two for the dicks among them, but they affectionately call their people characters. That takes a bigger look at someone, I think, to call them a Character.

The sense of community I got from the film about Ireland is more than what I picked up in the American neighborhood bar I grew up in. In Ireland famous local personalities like my brother Ken or the less great Sidney Stone would have small bronze plaques placed in the stone outside of the Hoosiers or Bobos or somewhere real American Characters would be honored forever.

We don’t do that in America because the Hoosiers and Bobos are not community centers with Guinness and Ales. They are investments that are created and sustained for profit at sale. Unlike Ireland, they were made to sell and enjoy in the meantime. The Irish Pubs and their people go nowhere without someone forcing them.

I think this is an interesting contrast in our peoples. My brother Ken and the less great Sidney Stone, were equally “Characters” of the American West. They would be taken in as great “Characters” In Ireland as well.

I don’t know what those “Characters” in Ireland do to get those bronze plaques, but I have some Plaque-worthy stories about the great Ken Cook and the less great Sidney Stone – and some others who I grew up with on the streets of our home towns, who will probably read these words.

Something for the Sophists


Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), was a brilliant German philosopher. These 38 Stratagems are excerpts from “The Art of Controversy”, first translated into English and published in 1896.

Schopenhauer’s 38 ways to win an argument are:

1.Carry your opponent’s proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it. The more general your opponent’s statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it. The more restricted and narrow his or her propositions remain, the easier they are to defend by him or her.

2.Use different meanings of your opponent’s words to refute his or her argument.

3.Ignore your opponent’s proposition, which was intended to refer to a particular thing. Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it. Attack something different than that which was asserted.

4.Hide your conclusion from your opponent till the end. Mingle your premises here and there in your talk. Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order. By this circuitious route you conceal your game until you have obtained all the admissions that are necessary to reach your goal.

5.Use your opponent’s beliefs against him. If the opponent refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.

6.Another plan is to confuse the issue by changing your opponent’s words or what he or she seeks to prove.

7.State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the opponent many questions. By asking many wide-reaching questions at once, you may hide what you want to get admitted. Then you quickly propound the argument resulting from the opponent’s admissions.

8.Make your opponent angry. An angry person is less capable of using judgement or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.

9.Use your opponent’s answers to your questions to reach different or even opposite conclusions.

10.If your opponent answers all your questions negatively and refuses to grant any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite of your premises. This may confuse the opponent as to which point you actually seek them to concede.

11.If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises, refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion. Later, introduce your conclusion as a settled and admitted fact. Your opponent may come to believe that your conclusion was admitted.

12.If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable in your proposition.

13.To make your opponent accept a proposition, you must give him or her an opposite, counter-proposition as well. If the contrast is glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being paradoxical.

14.Try to bluff your opponent. If he or she has answered several of your questions without the answers turning out in favor of your conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does not follow. If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily succeed.

15.If you wish to advance a proposition that is difficult to prove, put it aside for the moment. Instead, submit for your opponent’s acceptance or rejection some true proposition, as though you wished to draw your proof from it. Should the opponent reject it because he or she suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by showing how absurd the opponent is to reject a true proposition. Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on your own for the moment. You can either try to prove your original proposition or maintain that your original proposition is proved by what the opponent accepted. For this, an extreme degree of impudence is required.

16.When your opponent puts forth a proposition, find it inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions, or lack of action.

17.If your opponent presses you with a counter proof, you will often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction. Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense for your opponent’s idea.

18.If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end in your defeat, you must not allow him or her to carry it to its conclusion. Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or lead the opponent to a different subject.

19.Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any objection to some definite point in his or her argument, and you have nothing much to say, try to make the argument less specific.

20.If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises, do not ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion. Rather draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.

21.When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial, refute it by setting forth its superficial character. But it is better to meet the opponent with a counter argument that is just as superficial, and so dispose of him or her. For it is with victory that your are concerned, and not with truth.

22.If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in dispute will immediately follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.

23.Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating his or her statements. By contractiong your opponent you may drive him or her into extending the statement beyond its natural limit. When you then contradict the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the orginal statement your opponent tries to extend your own statement further than you intended, redefine your statement’s limits.

24.This trick consists in stating a false syllogism. Your opponent makes a proposition and by false inference and distortion of his or her ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not intended and that appear absurd. It then appears the opponent’s proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies, and so appears to be indirectly refuted.

25.If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the contrary. Only one valid contradiciton is needed to overthrow the opponent’s proposition.

26.A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent’s arguments against him or herself.

27.Should your opponent surprise you by becoming particularly angry at an argument, you must urge it with all the more zeal. Not only will this make the opponent angry, it may be presumed that you put your finger on the weak side of his or her case, and that the opponent is more open to attack on this point than you expected.

28.This trick is chiefly practicable in a dispute if there is an audience who is not an expert on the subject. You make an invalid objection to your opponent who seems to be defeated in the eyes of the audience. This strategy is particularly effective if your objection makes the opponent look ridiculous or if the audience laughs. If the opponent must make a long, complicated explanation to correct you, the audience will not be disposed to listen.

29.If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a diversion that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of something else, as though it had bearing on the matter in dispose. This may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on the matter.

30.Make an appeal to authority rather than reason. If your opponent respects an authority or an expert, quote that authority to further your case. If needed, quote what the authority said in some other sense or circumstance. Authorities that your opponent fails to understand are those which he or she generally admires the most. You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote something that you have invented entirely yourself.

31.If you know that you have no reply to an argument that your opponent advances, you may, by a fine stroke of irony, declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.

32.A quick way of getting rid of an opponent’s assertion, or throwing suspicion on it, is by putting it into some odious category.

33.You admit your opponent’s premises but deny the conclusion.

34.When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you no direct answer, or evades it with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is a sure sign you have touched a weak spot, sometimes without knowing it. You have as it were, reduced the opponent to silence. You must, therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent evade it, even when you do not know where the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.

35.This trick makes all unnecessary if it works. Instead of working on an opponent’s intellect, work on his or her motive. If you succeed in making your opponent’s opinion, should it prove true, seem distinctly to his or her own interest, the opponenent will drop it like a hot potato.

36.You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast. If the opponent is weak or does not wish to appear as ife he or she has no idea what you are talking about, you can easily impose upon him or her some argument that sounds very deep or learned, or that sounds indisputable.

37.Should your opponent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a faulty proof, you can easily refute it and then claim that you have refuted the whole position. This is the way which bad advocates lose a good case. If no accurate proof occurs to the opponent or the bystanders, you have won the day.

38.A last trick is to become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand. In becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. This is a very popular trick, because everyone is able to carry it into effect.


(abstracted from the book:Numerical Lists You Never Knew or Once Knew and Probably Forget, by: John Boswell and Dan Starer)






The Paradox of Social Media

I think there is a paradox in doing social media — a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

I’ve noticed a relationship between the time it takes to produce an article for social media and the time it takes to answer the responses from a growing number of profiles.

The profiles in question steal time and they make social media a battleground.

The Game

I usually spend about 4 hours preparing an idea for publication on social media. An article is usually 750-1500 words, 3+ references and a few relevant pictures. After hitting the post button, if the article was political, there will be posts in opposition that seem to be intensifying in anger.  The form of that opposition is destroying social media.

I’ve noticed, just too often, that the opposing posts will make statements against the article and ask for a response. These requests require additional information or explanations beyond what was given in the original article. Those additions require thought, references and time to produce, usually as a courtesy to the reader.

I’ve also noticed after this additional work is offered to the responder, they will write back so quickly that I am convinced they could not have the time to review the new information and write a response — It just can’t happen that fast. But the clincher is that the new response will mention exactly nothing about the new information or reasons I just offered.

There is the paradox

As a question, given this observed pattern, is it best to save our time to make well-crafted articles by not communicating with the people we are writing for?

Also, consider this: There is a growing NEED for rudeness on social media. If we are going to take writing and communicating seriously, then we must spend our time doing so. If there is a chance that an opposing poster is setting us up to advance their agendas without considering the article we have worked on, then we should ignore them and move on.

If we determine we are about to be pulled into a “troll” experience, where the questions are only asked to give the responder a chance to advance their own agendas, then we are not communicating, we are simply providing a platform for an opposing agenda to launch their ideas without doing the work to make a position.

Our time is being stolen away and our intended contributions are just placeholders for a hijacker.

In self-defense, and in defense of the public discourse in general, we must be more respectful of our ideas, our abilities, our products and our time. We must separate ourselves from the time stealers.

There is a problem in doing that: How can we know who is about to hijack our ideas and steal our time and who deserves a better explanation? This is part of the paradox. Should we take time to allow good people to catch up with a poorly explained idea or do we worry about our time and the next hijack?

I was once counseled by an owner/editor of a publication to not respond to the people commenting on my articles. After just a few months dealing with social media sites, I realize that editor knew something I was figuring out the hard way.

We must still factor into this discussion the maddening frustration brought to us by the trolls who seem to enjoy their self-imposed and dearly held ignorance. That alone, in a society on fire, is a deal breaker for social media.

Write, drop the article at the usual places, and get out. Save your time for the work – not the people we are trying to communicate with – they are stealing our time away from communicating with the people.  Really?

The paradox of social media




The Disabled Family


Published in:

October 13, 2015

By Mark Johnson

There are many tragedies that play out daily in families with disabled members. Along with the obvious and constant heartache for the plight of a loved one, there are many additional costs most people can’t imagine.

The maximum federal benefit for an individual receiving Social Security assistance will rise, this year, from $710 per month to $721. That’s it. Rent, food, transportation, entertainment, all the other things we need, toilet paper, toothpaste, cold medicine, band aids — completely unaffordable. All this I know from personal experience.

There are 65 million disabled people in America. That’s 19% of our entire population. I care for one of the 42 million severely disabled. I am one of the nearly 66 million caregivers who contributes an extra $5000 each year to the $450 billion-dollar pool of unpaid labor needed to care for disabled Americans.

The $5000 in additional costs I pay to care for my disabled daughter, Erin, is only a small token of what we have really paid. The total is hard to express. It represents much more that is lost than mere money. There are costs that we explain in terms of lost potential, lost participation, and lost relationships. Since these are all much more important than money, it’s hard to tell readers about the real losses involved with disability.

The loss of potential is perhaps the easiest to minimize. We can’t know what-ifs. I believe my daughter would have been the new light of the world had she been able to shine. She shines brightly in our home and wherever the internet takes her, but she needs lots of therapy before she will even be able to sit all day in her wheelchair. We have developed different ideas about success.

My daughter feels the sting from not being able to participate in activities with her friends, her community and country. Travel is painful and the drugs many disabled people must take to tame their bodies dulls their minds and crushes their will. A family outing often becomes a painful endurance.

If it’s a good day and we can get somewhere, we are severely restricted as to where we can go. The mall, a refuge for America’s youth, is out. Shopping, in general, is out. Although there are laws making it mandatory to build ramps for wheelchair riders to get into malls, getting into the shops is another thing all together. If you have ever shopped at a mall, you understand.

It’s not just shopping. Ball games are out. Concerts — out. Plays — out. Musicals — out. There are areas for wheelchairs in each of these venues, but the competition for those seats is fierce. There are so many places we can’t get into that we don’t see America as inclusive. America is barriers.

Some math will help: There are 92,542 seats in California’s Rose Bowl stadium; 380 of those seats are reserved for people in wheelchairs. There are 3 million people riding wheelchairs, currently. Three million people is .9% of America’s population. The rose bowl should have .9% of their seats reserved for America’s wheelchair population. To be equal in America, my daughter should be able to leisurely pick her seat at the Rose Bowl from 900 available seats. But as I said, the Rose Bowl offers 380 wheelchair seats.

We don’t mind a little competition. It is a little weird trying to beat another wheelchair rider out of a seat, but that’s America. It usually doesn’t get that far. Before we ever find out something is happening, professional scalpers buy up all the wheelchair tickets to sell for twice, maybe three times the face value. There is profit in making those gimps compete for their seats.

An interesting note about the search for this information: The number of wheelchair seats at any given venue is, apparently, a closely guarded secret. I look things up for a living and finding out how many wheelchair seats are actually available, anywhere, is not easy. The venues will not say more than that they comply with the law. I assume if they were proud of their accessibility, they would include that in their abundant advertising. My suspicion is that their accessible seats are in line with the seats available at the Rose Bowl — the one venue where I could find any information at all about disabled seating.

All this pales when compared to the real cost of disability — relationships. It has been my experience, supported by research, that the devastation caused to relationships by the sorrow, helplessness, frustration, loneliness and physical labor created by a disability will take the strong to their knees and destroy the rest.

The mothers never recover. They believe themselves to be abominations of god and nature. There exists no love, no actions, no words that will ever sooth this pain. There is, no longer, romanticized notions about the reasons for marriage. Spousal love loses its position as the very object of our bonds. There are only remembered moments of our dreams for ourselves and each other. We aren’t ever really married again in the beautiful, free world of endless possibilities that sprang to life simply because we found each other. Those are long-ago ideas. We became co-care givers who loved each other.

The fathers are crushed. Their one job in the cosmos is to protect their families and make certain they flourish. Our children, our worshiped children, know pain and limitation because we have failed our only job, to secure their bright futures. If we are strong men this failure, mixed with our rage against god and probability, will beat us. We may still be men, whatever that means, but we will never again think we are the kind of man that matters.

Many fathers of disabled children leave the home. Every year my wife would come home from a mountain retreat for mothers of disabled children, complaining about the disproportionate number of fatherless disabled families. We might want to call them out for their cowardliness and compare them to the “real men” who stay, but we don’t. Those who stay have learned that some things are just too much to take and although we swear to all that we hold important that we will stay, we know we are just screaming our hope.

Sadly, there is more devastation surrounding disabled parents and their children — the extended family. They bring their own set of problems to the disabled. Some have no idea what to say to the parents or the child or how to say it. It is uncomfortable and soon, mercifully, they stop trying.

Some are noticeably embarrassed that their children are not disabled and they feel strange telling stories about their “healthy” kids to the parents of disabled kids. It’s sad, but we have to understand — the extended family wilts away. The end result is that we don’t get to see our relatives much, if at all. We can’t travel much and they won’t. We don’t get to hear the stories about our family, its children, their hopes, successes, failures, redemption, none of it. They don’t want to hurt us, so they abandon us.

Still, there is comedy in all of this. It’s an acquired sense of humor, but people can be funny. We call, whatever this is, the “is-it, can-it, does-it” question. These are questions about my college educated and disabled daughter, to me, in front of her. I stare at them in response. These pregnant pauses are hilarious. I stare and smile for as long as it takes for them to realize she is next to me. On my great days, they will turn to my daughter and shout their question, slowly.

If all of this is sad to the reader, I certainly understand. It is sad for me to hear any of this about another family. We share these lives and concerns and something very special.

I will try, if I may, to speak for the millions of other disabled families. I think I know them.

Most of us would do this all again and think we were cheating the devil for the chance.

We can tell you, you should have our lives, when they don’t suck. We are familiar companions with dreams, struggle, failure, perseverance, will and triumph. Regular people have to buy tickets to be near those life affirming ideas. We live them every day with our warriors. We know what greatness is. It has nothing to do with money, titles, toys or social class. Greatness lives in people who cannot walk and are not too proud to crawl.

We can also tell you, we are afraid. We are afraid for our disabled loved ones and we are afraid for ourselves. Most of all, disabled people and their families, are afraid of America.

America is scaring the hell out of the very people it should be honored to protect. We have just two viable political parties. One of them wants to eliminate social assistance programs, and if not entirely, they certainly want to make significant cut-backs. Their truly horrifying argument is this: There are slackers in the system. Slackers are bad. The one sure way to punish those slackers is to eliminate the programs entirely. There must be a better way to exact some Old Testament justice on slackers.

Our final appeal to America: We would not be as afraid if there were fewer Democrats and Republicans and more Americans. Democrats and especially the Republicans scare us. We are the sitting ducks in their hunt for power. Ignore everything you may have heard, $721 a month is just enough money to allow the weakest Americans to die, alone, by the side of the road. It might not take a village, but it takes more than $721 dollars.

By definition, legislation, and our countrymen’s attitudes, the disabled are the weakest among us. Must they also live in fear of greedy and capricious political machines? When is enough, enough? They are not slackers. They are alone. They could use some help from the real Americans.