Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ted Cruz Thinks He's Running for President. Papers, Please?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the guy isn't a US citizen. At least; if the US government can pretend that I wasn't a US citizen for several years; and if the birthers still can't be convinced that Obama is a US citizen; then I'd really like to know what portion of the population will accept that Ted Cruz, born in Canada to a US mother and a Cuban father, is a US citizen?

Courtesy Thousand Words Graphics
Fine, fine. He's naturalized. I get that. I'm willing to share the territorial boundaries of the United States with him, no problem.  I'm wishing he'd stop pretending he's a Texan, but the religious right here like him, so I'm stuck with him as a Senator from my home state even though he's the worst mannered canuck I've ever run across.

There is a problem though, as this Politifact article points out;
Sarah H. Duggin, a professor of law at Catholic University, has written about and studied the issue extensively. She told us in 2008 that the question of natural born citizenship is "one of the most deceptively simple, complex issues."
We reached her again this week to ask about Cruz’s eligibility. "It would be reasonable to interpret the Constitution’s natural born citizenship provision to include children born abroad to U.S. citizens, including Senator Cruz, for a number of reasons," she said.
But is it 100 percent sure?
"Unfortunately, we cannot say for sure without either a definitive Supreme Court ruling, or an amendment to clarify the Constitution."
Courtesy  Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian
What I'd like is for the SCOTUS to rule on this subject before we accept that this man is eligible to run for President.  It's a reasonable request, and I suggest that someone get started on this now, because I'd really hate to have to still be pointing this fact out come 2016.

The fun part will be listening to Obama birthers explain why their man Ted is different than Obama. Where is Ted Cruz's birth certificate? His naturalization papers? How, exactly did he become a US citizen so easily, when (as I've pointed out before) it took me years to get the government to admit I was a citizen, even when I had two parents who were both from the US?

No, I'm not kidding.  I want an explanation before I accept that the man can even run for President. I'm willing to grant he is a US citizen because of his mother's citizenship. US law, if not clear, is pretty definitive on that point. That in no way means that the Constitution allows that either of us, born in similar situations, can serve as President. That is up to the SCOTUS to decide.

Once that question is answered, then we can get to the even bigger question; Does Ted Cruz have the mental capability to serve as President of the United States and not manage to start World War 3 within a few minutes of taking the oath? I actually think that question is marginally more important.



There is an interesting Google fail related to this issue.  If you query Google on the nationality of Ted Cruz, the search returns a result of "American".

Now, I'm sorry Google, but American is not a nationality.  A Brazilian native is also an American.  American is a hemispherical status, not a national status.  Ted Cruz's nationality is actually in question here.  He was born a Canadian. From his father he might have had the right to claim citizenship in Cuba.  He definitely would be granted citizenship in the US from his mother's citizenship, if he applied.

But that nationality would be United States or US, not American.  This is easily demonstrable by a search of countries.  There is no country called America.

I get it that we refer to ourselves colloquially as Americans.  This is a lot like Germans thinking of themselves as Deutsche, Germany as Deutschland. However, everyone who lives in the Americas is American, they just don't happen to be citizens of the United States.  Nationality is United States or US, like German nationality is DE.

I'd appreciate it if you'd fix that, Google.



Today's Austin American Statesman puts the shoe on the other foot;
There are those who can imagine Ted Cruz being elected president – or at least being the 2016 Republican nominee – and those who cannot and will not allow themselves to contemplate that possibility. I am among the former, in part because every prediction of Cruz’s imminent political self-immolation so far has proved wrong, and because of how unhinged Cruz deniers tend to get in their denials.
Look, I get it.  He won once, he can win again (not against Hillary) What I'd like to establish is baseline credentials for  being able to do the job.  First on that list is citizenship. I don't think he even passes that test; which doesn't even begin to address the far more important fact that he's not a real person, or as the Statesman article goes on to note;
Cruz is testing the proposition whether, amid the rise of the tea party movement, there may be longing in the conservative movement for a return to its roughest theocratic and insurrectionary edges, albeit as brought to you to by a Princeton/Harvard anti-intellectual intellectual.
The guy has two degrees.  He's not stupid.  The jury is still out on his sanity, so I can't say if he's crazy. But the concept of an anti-intellectual intellectual is fake.  It is a pose, a hypocrisy, a false piety. There isn't any way he can keep up the image of borderline wacko for the next two years.

You also might want to take a look at tedcruz.com if you think this guy is serious about winning the election. That's some quality planning showing, right there.  If you can't even get the pre-candidacy resources in place before announcing, your ability to run the far more complex machine we call the US government will be (should be) the highest concern of any voter.

It won't be, but...



Come on I hear you saying, he can't be that bad, can he?

If you think that, then in my opinion you haven't been playing enough attention.  Ted Cruz is the guy who convinced the House of Representatives to shut down the government two years ago. If he had gotten his way, the government would still be shut down, which means it probably would have collapsed and been replaced by some other system of government (that's what happens when you create a power vacuum. Other systems emerge to take the previous one's place) probably one not based on such arbitrary notions as representational democracy.

Some of you would probably be fine with that. You people scare me.

Here's some more food for thought. After his announcement (at the religious college where the students were compelled to attend) several people spoke out concerning his unsuitability to be President, including California Governor Jerry Brown who said he was "absolutely unfit to be running for office."

In response, Ted Cruz commented to the Tribune (16:50 in the video)
“You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier,” 
(H/T to Skeptic's Guide to the Universe and Think Progress.org)
I'm a bit of a science geek.  Have been one all my life. The stunning lack of scientific understanding evident in that statement should give anyone pause to wonder what this guy is doing in government at all, much less running for President.

Why you ask? Let me explain it to you.

First off, it was Eratosthenes of Cyrene who calculated the circumference of the earth, a couple of hundred years before the birth of Christ, or Before the Common Era (BCE) as it is noted these days.  So, while the myth goes that people thought the world was flat, most people have not thought so for a very, very long time.  It is the modern era that has seen the creation of the Flat Earth Society, a tribute to the stupidity we humans can descend to when divorced from the natural world by layers of technology, and reliance on ancient texts for our knowledge.

Secondly, Galileo Galilei promoted the idea of a heliocentric system, as theorized by Nicolaus Copernicus more than a hundred years earlier, and was jailed by the then Ted Cruz's of the world  (the Roman Catholic Church) for daring to contradict scriptural doctrine.  The church finally apologized for this indignity in 1992 when Pope John Paul II admitted the church acted in error.

It only took 300 years.  Not an inspiring observation. Ted Cruz is displaying some Sarah Palin level savvy on the subject of reality.  Also not very inspiring. Or to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen;

"Senator, you're no Galileo Galilei"

So, yes. He really, really is that bad.  As I noted previously, just waiting for the sound of the implosion. Then we can get to the real political races.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Big Bowl of Crow

Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008;
The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out.
 Yes, that was me. That's not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it's still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today.  That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn't ready to admit it.

I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I'm ready.

Courtesy Occupy Democrats
No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.

If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked, in a program as complex as Social Security is, and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.

If the program fails, it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. By voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. It is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can't keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.

When your Representative or Senator tells you that the intent to see the elderly and the infirm are cared for is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think.  Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I'd say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment.  The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future.  If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.

That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I've needed to take for awhile now.

Socialism is not a dirty word.  There, I've said it. Contrary to virtually every sentiment I've expressed in the past, the idea that society should care for it's people; that programs should serve the group as a whole, not just those capable of paying, is a laudable goal.

State Socialism, which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in it's wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.

The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn't something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place.  I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?

It might still be possible at some time in the future.  One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a level enough that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care.  That the infirm are not left on the street to die. That day is not today.

In today's America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy. The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.

The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.


The leadership of this country, with the exception of the President, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of.  This is not the America I want to leave for my children.

It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive.  That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn't mean that? Government for the people, by the people.  If the government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.

If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us.  If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive.  Life should mean more than that.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

An Open Letter to the 47 Senators Who Should Have Known Better

I am forwarding this on behalf of a friend of mine, Jim Wright. I agree with his sentiments so solidly that I feel little need to embroider them with thoughts of my own. Please feel free to peruse his article that accompanies the letter, to be found at http://www.stonekettle.com/2015/03/the-second-coming-of-richard-millhouse.html (Please forgive the misspelling. Milhouse has already forgiven him)

To the United States Senate, Attention: Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Joni Ernst, James Inhofe, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Roger Wicker, John Hoeven, Richard Shelby, Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Jeff Sessions, John Boozman, Cory Gardner, Shelley Moore Capito, Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, James Lankford, Chuck Grassley, Roy Blunt, John Thune, Mike Enzi, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy, John Barrasso, Ted Cruz, Jim Risch, Mike Crapo, Deb Fischer, Ben Sasse, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, Pat Roberts, John McCain, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Rounds 
Senators,
Now might be a good time to rethink the road you’re on.
Your partisan fanaticism  and your self-admitted ill-considered actions make the Iranian government seem sane, sympathetic, reasoned and moderate in comparison.
You have measurably damaged the reputation of the United States and risked open war, the lives of millions, and the world economy, solely to further your own selfish goals. You have placed partisanship and loyalty to party above your own country and the lives of your fellows.
At this point, whatever the final outcome of your actions, history will very likely remember you in the same light as your fellow Republican, Richard Nixon – and potentially far worse.
Were I you, I’d give that some very, very serious thought.
Your oath, the oath you swore with your right hand upraised before your God, was to the United States of America.
The Pledge of Allegiance you swear is to the American flag, not the Israeli one.
Your legal, moral, and sacred obligation is to the citizens of the United States of America first, ALL OF THEM NOT JUST THE ONES WHO VOTED FOR YOU, and second to all of our allies and partners –  not just Israel.  Your duty extends far, far beyond the small and selfish interests of your religion and/or your political party and it is long past time for you to remember that.
I won’t presume to say you should be ashamed of your recent actions, since many of you obviously lack the capacity, but I will say it is NOT necessary to destroy the village in order to save it – and your fellow Senator John McCain should know the moral bankruptcy of that particular strategy better than anyone.  What will save our nation and our world, the only thing that will ultimately save civilization itself, is that we work together, all of us  - and that’s something else Captain John McCain USN(ret) and the veterans among your number should know as well. Perhaps they could explain it to the rest of you.
Respect is earned, Senators.
For people and likewise for nations, respect is earned – or lost – by every action, by every word.
Now might be a good time to consider yours.

Signed,
James Wright
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Navy (ret)
Citizen of the United States of America
It bears noting that if Ronald Reagan authorized the negotiations with Iranian terrorists holding US hostages in 1980, he was only following in the footsteps of his hero Richard Nixon, as noted in the Stonekettle Station article. I find it hard to believe that his administration only thought of negotiating with the Iranians 4 years later during Iran-Contra and not at the earlier time when it would have meant defeating Carter in the election.  Simply doesn't add up.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Emergent Principles of Human Nature; Not Natural Rights

Part 2 of a series of posts on defining Emergent Principles of Human Nature; an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I "explain inalienable rights without including god" like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time.
The title of this piece was chosen consciously and deliberately. There are many philosophers who have written over the years of natural rights and inalienable rights. Inalienable rights as Emergent Principles of Human Nature was addressed in the first piece, and will be addressed in a series of pieces that follow this one.

This piece (hopes to) explain the difference between natural rights and human rights.

I hemmed and hawed about writing this section at all.  I almost went back and re-edited the first section just to take the reference to this one out. Having written that section I was immediately faced with this problem;  Emergent Principles of Human Nature are by definition natural.  How can they not be the same thing?

The problem with natural rights as a concept is this; if rights are natural, a part of an individual, then that individual should be able to determine what those rights are. Unfortunately, human nature conspires to prevent this, making the common notion of natural rights almost unfathomable from the outset.  The limitations we face are a part of us and are consequently almost invisible to the individual. They are obvious when pointed out, but even then most people will deny that they are limited by them, never mind that there is no escaping these limitations while remaining human.

The first of these constraints is confirmation bias. If an individual believes something, that individual is going to work to confirm those beliefs, no matter what mountains of evidence to the contrary have to be climbed.  If you believe you have a right to a firearm, you're going to find every reason you can lay your hands on to justify having that weapon.  No amount of basic logic to the contrary; say, the simple observation of how will you get it if no one can make it? will dissuade you from that belief.

If you are one of those people, you are crafting counters right now, if you were even able to finish reading that sentence. However, the parameters of the argument are contained in that simple sentence. There really isn't an argument beyond I'll make it myself, which leads to the next constraint.

This is the fact that limitations in areas of understanding renders an individual blind to their own limitations. Also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, I wondered for years why someone I knew was incompetent in a particular area couldn't understand why they really shouldn't be doing whatever it was they were incompetent at.

I myself vaguely discern an echoing gulf of misunderstanding around me when I attempt to communicate with the average mundane (normal person) I simply cannot communicate in any form other than the written word, apparently.  The connections aren't there in the brain, I can't read faces, I have no idea what anyone is feeling at any given moment.  I have to blunder along hoping that person I'm talking too is willing to be as dead honest with me as I am forced to be with them.

The one makes essential the licensing practices we've come to establish over the last hundred years; and the other convinces us that we don't need anyone to tell us what we can or can't do.  Even though, to an external observer, it's obvious that you (me, everybody) really do need supervision.

It is these limitations that render impotent the common sense notion of natural rights.  It is these limitations that render the individual incapable of determining for themselves what their own aptitudes are. That necessitate the requirement for testing and licensing, so that others can know without having to become experts in all fields themselves (a technical impossibility) what proficiencies someone else is trained in.

These two related constraints are hardly an exhaustive list of the limitations we flawed humans face. The briefest investigation into the subject of priming should give you pause; especially when you understand that simply mentioning firearms earlier in the article, just their reading of that word, means that a significant portion of readers have formed opinions about my goals with this manuscript. Goals that I frankly haven't even worked out for myself.

Our knowledge of ourselves is flawed by our very nature; making self-doubt not just a necessity, but a virtue.  Every time that our certainties are challenged we should be willing to step back and question our most cherished beliefs. Capable of not only defending them, but of logically justifying them to the harshest critic.  It is this ability, this willingness to admit the possibility of fault, that embraces our humanity.

This was the need that motivated me to finally admit that the subject of natural rights had to be addressed. The need to point out that our nature allows for a definition of human rights, while at the same time in no way authorizes individual demands.  Yes,  Emergent Principles of Human Nature are natural.  But that does not mean that individuals are born with a right to a firearm. With the right to demand actions, services and material goods of unrelated others.

We are born with an ability to make our own way, to build upon the works of those who came before us and improve on that foundation; but we are beholden to those who contributed to establishing that foundation. We are indebted to those whose blood, sweat and tears are mixed into the knowledge that is preserved for us to utilize.  Every single individual who ever existed before you had to exist in order for you to be here, now, in this place and time with the knowledge you have at your disposal.  If you can grasp it, that is a daunting perspective to behold. The thousands of generations of creatures who had to exist just so that you could be here, now.

Every person longs to be part of something greater than themselves; it is through this longing that so many paths are forged. A wise man once said "No man is an island" and this is demonstrably true.  Those who perceive themselves as islands simply fail to grasp the necessity of all the people who came before him who supported him, educated him and elevated him until his head broke the surface to appear as an island.

All of those people who preceded that individual human being, who contributed to the vast database of knowledge made available to him, had to exist in order for that individual to exist. If this was not so then all of us could claim perfect understanding of the universe at birth, which is demonstrably untrue.

This is the nature of the flaw in individualist philosophies. Objectivism, Libertarianism, Anarchism. All of them carry the same flaw. Rothbard, Rand and all their ideas are flawed from the precept stage of development. They assume that there is just one natural law governing man, and that that law makes itself apparent to all men.   This is also demonstrably not the case. The vast majority of the world's population simply don't understand the notion of taxes as theft, or that socializing the healthcare system (or the school system, or whatever) interferes with the contract rights of every man, and consequently determines the paths of those caught within the system.

And yet Rothbard, Rand and those who follow their reasoning simply gloss these facts over, and continue asserting that what they see as the ultimate truth is the only apparent truth.

When I think of natural law, I see several possibilities for defining codes within the parameters of nature. The parasites' code. The predators' ethic. These are, of course, not correct codes, as people raised with a mid-western work ethic would conceive of them. And yet, like the misguided people who took the phrase right-to-life and perverted it into a belief system that takes away a woman's right to her own life; so too the phrase natural rights or natural law lends itself to many different interpretations.

Interpretations that become equally as valid as Rothbard's real intent when he crafted the ideas behind Anarcho-capitalism, or Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, because there is no central authority to determine what is or isn't right in the natural sense beyond might makes right. Because all of us are incapable of objective certainty at any particular point in time, try as we might to maintain a sense of objectivity.  It simply can't be done and remain human at the same time.

Our nature defines the principles that we live under, but by that same nature no one individual can say with certainty exactly what rights he should be permitted to exercise.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Adventures With Malware

I've been testing running Windows as a smart consumer for the last couple of years. Having bailed on attempts to run Linux without becoming a programmer; and having very little inclination to become a programmer just to run a computer as a user (although that mindset is slowly, ponderously, altering) I decided to just see if I can make Windows work in the limited fashion I've been using it of late.

Rather than installing 15 different programs to sniff all my information exchanges from the various networks I utilize as I have seen others do in the past, I decided that I would rely on the native scanners and firewalls that come with Windows now.

Confession time.  I don't actually run Windows 8, 8.1 or whatever they're calling the new Windows these days. Microsoft, cleverly figuring out that consumers skip every other release of their OS's, have skipped calling their new 0S Windows 9 even though that should be the number on the release, and are calling it Windows 10.  Now, I haven't figured out what version of Windows that Microsoft will deem LTS (long term support) next, so I'm not spending any of my limited funds on an OS that they put out simply to smother some fire that they inadvertently started.

I run what was on the system when it was sold to me (although I'm in the process of converting the laptop to Linux) and that version is Windows 7. I liked XP, stuck with it for as long as I could. XP was the last version of the OS that Microsoft deemed LTS, as was Windows 2000 before that.  Windows 7 has been a nice stable platform for several years, so I've stuck with it.

Starting in Windows 7 there were native malware and virus detectors.  If this wasn't the first time, then it was definitely the first time I noticed them or was willing to rely on them.  Virus scanners seem to be in bed with malware writers of late; witness McAfee being offered on sites that are clearly on the fringe of respectability, when McAfee once upon a time was a legitimate virus scanner that I couldn't live without.  Now if you rely on them or a Norton product, you'd be better off not finding the internet, if either of them actually let you on it.  So relying on a native Windows application that offered to screen malware and viruses seems as legitimate as actually paying someone else to keep your system virus free these days.

Realizing I was giving up ever visiting a porn site, or sharing a music file, video or anything more sophisticated than email, I set to work.  The native program in Windows was/is called Microsoft Security Essentials, and for the last two years, that has been the only program that I've run on this system that does anything related to malware screening or virus scanning.

When I go anywhere on the internet, I use a third party application to do it.  I never allow Windows to do anything aside from run programs which are native to this computer. This is a habit formed since I first started using Windows back in the 3.11 days.  Internet Exploder, er Explorer, has always been the most utilized vector for spreading malware, so I never use it on a website that I don't trust completely.  Trust like the vault at my bank (and I don't bank) So I use Firefox or Chrome, or whatever non-native browser that looks promising today, to go to websites.

Having been an MMO player for the last 5 years, I haven't had a lot of use for porn or music anyway. MMO's (Massive Multiplayer Online games) are notorious for sucking up all your free time.  The most challenging vector to manage, when dealing with online gaming, is how you get your addons updated. This is because every game has some cheat or other that you have to add to it in order to make it easy enough to complain about in online forums.  This process required a bit of legwork and investigation each time I changed addons or games.  There are addon managers that aren't too shady, so if you are careful about what you click, read everything and check every toggle before you agree, you can generally lease your entire life to online games and not worry about anyone else stealing it.

Lately I've noticed that I'm beginning to have trouble reading.  This is the biggest challenge I face, being a compulsive reader.  Every now and then the eyes fail to track properly, the mind wanders and I miss a paragraph of text, forcing me to curse loudly, backtrack and start over.  Consequently I've taken to downloading a lot of content from Audible and various streaming media sites, taking care to make sure that the programs I'm using are pretty solid.

Most audio is only available if you buy it in advance. This is a battle I've been fighting since the days of MP3.com and corporate music's foolish belief that they could stand in the way of file sharing.  To this day I strip audio that has restrictions on it, if I have a need to move it from some system that is recognized to one that is not.  Fortunately for Audible and my limited non-MMO free time, most of the systems I fiddle with these days are recognized by Audible or have Audible apps on them.  Consequently their heads-entirely-up-their-asses DRM remains on many of the latest works that I've purchased from them.  I don't know why they still keep DRM on their files, Amazon has offered native unprotected MP3's for years, which is why Amazon is about the only place I will buy music (rumor has it that iTunes now has unprotected MP3's as well.  Too late Apple!) and Amazon now owns Audible.

But they do and I roll my eyes and live with the frustration.

Still, it presents an obstacle to sharing files with family members once you've purchased them.  Technically you can share them, according to Audible.  But you have to share them on systems that are recognized, and you have to authorize the hardware with the software, hold your mouth the right way, sacrifice your newborn and leave a pint of blood.  Just a bit of a hassle.

Consequently I have resisted buying audible content that I actually have credits for, if I know I'm going to want to share that content with family members later.  That resistance has now officially ended my Microsoft only malware testing period.

The Wife expressed an interest in a particular work recently. Having just given a pint of blood last week trying to share an Audible file, I went out and found an unprotected copy of the work she wanted, rather than try that again. I did notice some odd behavior in the dialogs, but that reading problem I mentioned caused me to miss exactly what the prompts said.

Hilarity ensued, if hilarity involves 30 plus hours of digging malware out by the roots.  Malware writers are a humorous bunch. They piggy-backed a lovely bit of work in on my foolishness.  Calls itself Unideal. But it's not just Unideal. It's also Youtubeadblocker and a few other names aside.  Installed itself as a false virus scanner under yet another name. Runs banner ads across websites sponsored by Robin Hood. Specifically places ads in areas that Ad Blocker takes ads out of.

Courtesy Defectivebydesign.org
What is the moral of this story?  I don't think there is one.  File sharing was never a crime for me, because the things I share I either end up paying for anyway, or never would have paid for in the first place because it wasn't something I wanted after listening to it once.  The one time I've been caught torrenting (by HBO) was the time I was a paid subscriber (won't be doing that again) who couldn't actually watch the programs I was paying for due to faulty transmission by my cable provider. If you enjoy HBOGO now, you should write me a thank you letter. That service exists because of people like me.

Were it not for DRM on Audible books, I would have simply used credits that I have on my Audible account to purchase the work my wife was interested in directly. But because of suspicion and doubt, the nagging insistence that if payment is not secured in advance no payment will be made, you must step outside of the protected boundaries of commerce and make back-alley deals with less than desirable types.

Were it not for the backwards nature of copyrighted works, and the DMCA that protects them, it would be possible to take material that the copyright owner has abandoned on a previous format, update it to current formats and be able to charge for the time and effort spent transcribing the material (a service which does have value) without opening oneself up to punishing fines for daring to think that abandoned works deserve to be preserved.

Perhaps there is a lesson here about keeping your software and hardware up to date, but as a disabled person living on a fixed income, it's a bit much to ask me to purchase new hardware and software every few years just so I can keep current.  I have a test license for Windows 10 which has been made available to me, and in the next few days I may be testing that software after I get my second drive running a version of Linux I can count on.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Warlords of Draenor Fails to Hold Interest

This player has had a rocky relationship with World of Warcraft almost since the day I first started playing.  I really never understood what the hell was going on until I was well into Wrath of the Lich King, an expansion that I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end. I found myself able to live within the restrictions the game placed on me in that version of the game, without feeling like I was artificially constrained.

Then there was Cataclysm.  That was where the love/hate relationship I had with the game really came to light.  Starting with the changes to healing that the developers first introduced and then abandoned almost immediately, and progressing through most of that expansion pack the time wasting nature of most of the effort involved in the game which came to be summarized with the word Murglesnout.  I almost canceled my script during that expansion pack, and I only stayed because I really wanted to finish my long quest, something I have finally done.

Through all of Cataclysm there was one thing I actually liked; I could fly (there were a few other things as well, but)  I could fly all the time, everywhere. Well I couldn't fly in the world PvP areas, but then PvP is my least favorite part of the game and don't even level toons on PvP servers.  But I could fly everywhere else in the game, and that suited me fine.

Then came Mists of Pandaria. Once again, like at the beginning of Wrath of Lich King, the artificial limitation of required ground movement was imposed on the players, and this time that limitation wasn't lifted for alternate characters on the same account, making the grind of leveling characters a grind in truth.  At least flight was allowed for endgame characters, so I could purchase flight capability for all 22 of my toons by the end of that expansion.

When Warlords of Draenor was announced, I started hearing some troubling rumblings on the forums. Rumors that the developers might not include flight in this expansion pack, not even for endgame characters. As far as I was concerned, this was completely the wrong direction for game development, and I took to the forums again with a few choice posts;

Allow Flight in WoD From the Beginning (this link is leads nowhere. Fair warning)
For my nickel, I consider it poor programming to continue to ground flying mounts just because the programmers can't figure out how to make flying available without removing the challenge of the game.  As it is I don't see the point in paying for faster flight (ever) since I won't be allowed to fly at all until Blizzard decides we've paid them long enough to make it worth their while to give flight back to us.
It's simple enough to knock players off of riding mounts, I don't see the problem with knocking them off flying mounts, aside from the same frustration that is incurred from allowing players to be knocked off mounts at all. Either you have to fly so high you can't see the terrain, or you dive low enough to risk being knocked off by whatever. It's a game. Rez and run, it isn't painful. 
Funny thing; I remember when this used to happen in Outland. Rather than complain to GM's about my own stupidity at flying where I shouldn't be, I learned to pay attention to where I was on the map so as to avoid being dismounted. Problem solved, all it takes is not being stupid. 
Same case here. I get that it's a pain to have to fight when dismounted, or die when dismounted in the air if you can't damage mitigate. Now I could whine and cry about it and demand they make the game easier and thusly be bored sooner, or I could stick to my original suggestion that they not cripple the game by disabling functions that I see as an essential part of gameplay.
What I'd like is for the developers to treat flying as part of the game experience and not a perk to be handed out to endgame players. 
What I want is for them to finally embrace the fact that flying is part of WoW and stop pretending we have to plod in order to be immersed (whatever that is. Covered in flies, mud and sweat?) in the game world. The most annoying part of play in Mists of Pandaria was seeing areas that I could not get to because perfectly usable flying mounts were not allowed to be used until reaching 90 because someone was convinced the game was more fun seen from the ground. It's grindy-er and more boring that way, not more fun.
 None of this content still exists on the forums.  Tons and tons of feedback that could have profited the game developers was deleted carte blanche by the forum moderators in vain attempts to mute complaints by disgruntled beta players.  Players like Jandarus who posted the following;
You *can* design a world where flying is an option. It's more complex, more expensive, but Blizzard have both the time and the funding to do it. They *choose* not to, because the fastest and easiest route for them is to simply disable flying.

Imagine a tower with an objective inside. Players on ground mounts ride up to the doors and fight their way through the rooms in order. Stealthy players get the option to evade the mobs, but have challenges around timing of patrols and mobs that can detect stealthed players. Flyers get to fly in to the top floor and fight a different set of mobs to the objective. Maybe with anti-flyer guns on the way.
But the expansion rolled out just as it was presented in the beta version, including the highly inadequate improvements to my characters that I documented during the beta.  I did eventually find acceptable new faces for most of my toons, however the cosmetic problems with the game are far outweighed by the other structural changes to the game.

Don't get me wrong.  I really wanted to like this version of the game.  Being essentially a retcon of content first imagined in the expansion for Warcraft II, Warlords of Draenor goes into more depth than was ever possible given the limitations of the far more primitive computer systems available in the mid-90's, and the constraints of a strictly RTS game.  It really is engaging gameplay, and the changes to the various classes all seem to be pretty well balanced and streamline spell usage and rotations.

However, they've broken professions in their attempts to simplify gameplay.  None of the professions offer perks for having them unless you are into rare mounts.  Since you are limited to three crafted items equipped at the same time, maintaining professions that were useful for gearing in past expansions is pointless.  I now have upwards of nine Engineers in game, since engineering provides repair and resupply NPC's as part of the profession.  It is really the only profession worth pursuing any longer in a general sense.

Don't even get me started when it comes to the fresh hell that they've turned Cooking, Fishing and First Aid into.  First off, you can't just go and learn new cooking recopies, you have to taste them or cook something else to get them (randomly) so forget just cooking things you need.  But let's say you decide you want to fish and then cook that. That's a funny thought, really. I learned cooking while fishing with most of my original toons. Now you can't cook fish; or rather, you can't cook them until you clean them, and you can't clean just one. No, you have to catch 5, 10 or 20 fish of a particular size and type, and then you can clean that pile of fish.  Then you have to hope you have a recipe for them (if it's Saberfish you will) and then you can cook those fish. Some fish turn into first aid items so you'll need those fish to level that secondary prof, which is actually more useful if more maddening. Why maddening?  Because you can't just make bandaids as you did in all other versions of the game. No, you need to catch those fish and make them into healing tonic to level. Never mind there really isn't cloth drops any longer, now it's a fur from beasts but I don't want to go down that rabbit hole just now.

Suffice it to say that my pastime for 6 years, fishing, is something I just don't do any longer.  Which is too bad because there are some really nice rare drops if you have the infinite patience required to find them.

The one good thing about professions is that the rest of them are so useless now, Archaeology is almost interesting by contrast.  So there is that bright shining moment to enjoy. The only reason to play multiple toons (characters) now is to test the various classes and playstyles. Not really motivation enough for me.

Garrisons was another facet of the game that the developers pinned a lot of hopes on. That too seems to have backfired.  There is now no reason to ever leave your garrison. Most players never do except to get into group efforts, which returns you directly back to your garrison as soon as the group event is done. The garrisons themselves are entertaining for awhile. Some of the buildings (especially the engineering building that gives you a perk each day) are quite fun to to fiddle with and give valuable gear for you and your followers.

...Followers being one of the more puzzling introductions to this game, almost as if it wants to be an RTS like it's original version was. I just don't understand their purpose in the game, but it is entertaining sending them all out on quests then running out of your HQ to watch them all file out the gates and play the game for you.

The first official patch (6.1) for this expansion went live this Tuesday.  I have yet to really log on and do anything beyond snooping through a few toons burning cooldowns; pretty much all I do anymore. There are some nice improvements in this patch.  More skins for the improved character models.  A way to share the heirloom gear that radically speeds up leveling for alternate toons. Improved heirlooms that now can be used through level 100.

Don't really care.

I have a 100 for both factions now. I've played through both sides of the game, explored most of the garrison buildings, run the LFR for the first raid. I'll eventually run the LFR for the second raid, and dabble in the PvP before I finally do what I threatened to do in Cataclysm. I'm canceling my subscription to World of Warcraft for the first time in 5 years. I have better things to do with the monthly premium for server access if I'm not going to play the game content; and it has become clear that I'm not.

I did log on and spend eighty thousand gold on heirloom upgrades for the toons that I haven't leveled to 100, current endgame level. I will make that confession. I have (had) upwards of 400 thousand gold in game across 22+ toons. I think it was a good investment considering what unspent money in a game you aren't playing is actually worth.

I have the distinct feeling that the game developers are resting on the games popularity, not pushing themselves to actually find the boundaries of gameplay with the new systems and faster internet speeds.  World of Warcraft remains essentially the same game it was more than a decade ago, and I think I've played that game long enough.  Time for something new.

The Astonishing History of Vibrators

The title is identical to a article I saved on delicious way back in 2008.  Originally hosted on TBD, written by one Michael Castleman for that site. It has since been taken down and can be found archived on the Wayback Machine.  I found the story and book it was taken from to be quite entertaining.  I am placing it in my blog for preservation purposes only, having been forced to go looking for the information I thought would still be available but is now gone less than a decade later.   
None of what follows outside of italics is mine beyond the placing of links and images where they appear in the article. All copyrights revert to the original authors if they choose to assert them.
More information on the subject can be found at the Antique Vibrator Museum.  There is also a documentary on the subject of the book titled Passion & Power: The Technology of the Orgasm a clip of which can be found on Youtube.
I find the repression of sexual information which pervades US culture almost intolerable. If we ever want to get past pornography dominating all our information services, the US is going to have to come to grips with the reality of sexuality in all its various forms. The place to start is to admit that women like sex, need sex, just like men do. 

Mention vibrators, and most people think of women's sexual pleasure. But that was the furthest thing from the minds of the male doctors who invented them more than a century ago. They were more interested in a labor-saving device to spare their own hands the fatigue caused by treating "female hysteria." This condition involved a number of vague, chronic complaints in adult women, including: anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, nervousness, erotic fantasies, and moisture inside the vagina. Female hysteria was actually women's sexual frustration. The history of vibrators is a strange tale that provides insights into both the history of sex toys, and cultural notions about women's sexuality.

Until the 20th century, American and European men believed that women were incapable of sexual desire and pleasure. Women of that era basically concurred. They were socialized to believe that "ladies" had no sex drive, and were merely passive receptacles for men's unbridled lust, which they had to endure to hang on to their husbands and have children. Not surprisingly, these beliefs led to a great deal of sexual frustration on the part of women.

Over the centuries, doctors prescribed various remedies for hysteria (named for the Greek for "uterus"). In the 13th century, physicians advised women to use dildos. In the 16th century, they told married hysterics to encourage the lust of their husbands. Unfortunately, that probably didn't help too many wives, because modern sexuality research clearly shows that most women rarely experience orgasm from intercourse, but need direct clitoral stimulation. For hysteria unrelieved by husbandly lust, and for widows, and single and unhappily married women, doctors advised horseback riding, which, in some cases, provided enough clitoral stimulation to trigger orgasm.

But many women found little relief from horseback riding, and by the 17th century, dildos were less of an option because the arbiters of decency had succeeded in demonizing masturbation as "self-abuse." Fortunately, an acceptable, reliable treatment emerged: having a doctor or midwife "massage the genitalia with one finger inside, using oil of lilies or crocus" as a lubricant. With enough genital massage, hysterical women could experience sudden, dramatic relief through "paroxysm," which virtually no medical authority called orgasm, because, of course, everyone knew that women did not have sexual feelings, so they could not possibly experience sexual climax.

By the 19th century, physician-assisted paroxysm was firmly entrenched in Europe and the U.S. It was a godsend for many doctors. At that time, the public viewed physicians with tremendous distrust. Most doctors had little or no scientific training, and they had few treatments that worked. But thanks to genital massage, hysteria was a condition doctors could treat with great success. This produced large numbers of grateful women, who returned faithfully and regularly, eager to pay for additional treatment.

But treating hysteria also had a downside for doctors? tired fingers from all that massage. Nineteenth-century medical journals lamented that many hysterics taxed their doctors' stamina. Physicians complained of having trouble maintaining therapeutic massage long enough to produce the desired result. (For a look at 19th century treatment of female hysteria, see the film, The Road to Wellville.)

Courtesy Gizmodo.com
Necessity being the mother of invention, physicians began experimenting with mechanical substitutes for their hands. They tried a number of genital massage contraptions, among them water-driven devices (the forerunners of today's shower massagers), and steam-driven pumping dildos. But these machines were cumbersome, messy, often unreliable, and sometimes dangerous.

In the late 19th century, electricity became available for home use and the first electric appliances were invented: the sewing machine, the electric fan, and the toaster. These were followed soon after, around 1880, by the electromechanical vibrator, patented by an enterprising British physician, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville. The electric vibrator was invented more than a decade before the vacuum cleaner and the electric iron.

Electric vibrators were an immediate hit. They produced paroxysm quickly, safely, reliably, and inexpensively and as often as women might desire it. By the dawn of the 20th century, doctors had lost their monopoly on vibrators and hysteria treatment as women began buying the devices themselves. Advertisements appearing in such magazines as "Women's Home Companion," "Needlecraft," and the Amazon.com of that era, the "Sears & Roebuck Catalogue" ("...such a delightful companion....all the pleasures of youth...will throb within you....").

Electricity gave women vibrators, but ironically, within a few decades, electricity almost took the devices away from them. With the invention of motion pictures, vibrators started turning up in pornography and gained an unsavory reputation. By the 1920s, they had become socially unacceptable. Vibrator ads disappeared from the consumer media. From the late 1920s and well into the 1970s, they were difficult to find.

But some inventions are so useful that they survive despite attempts at suppression. Today, an estimated 25 percent of women own vibrators, and 10 percent of American couples use them in partner sex. Just think, we owe the world's most popular sex toy to physicians' fatigued fingers.

For more on the history of vibrators, read "The Technology of Orgasm: 'Hysteria,' The Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction," by Rachel Maines (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).
If you are more of a youtuber, or just want to explore the subject of sex with someone who clearly enjoys talking about the subject, let me suggest a further resource;

 (H/T to Point of Inquiry)
If it makes you feel better you can pretend that this old man did not laugh his ass off watching Laci Green explain about the history of the vibrator.   
It is also worth noting that the Texas law cited in Passion & Power: The Technology of the Orgasm is still on the books. It is still a felony to possess more than six obscene items (whatever that means, since the law has never been tested) and that they cannot be sold as sexual devices but must be euphemistically disguised with other language. 
It is a true observation of the backwards nature of this state that this law is still on the books.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Getting Disability; a Record of the Process.

I've been meaning to write this post for years.  When I started the process in 2005, I never dreamed that it would take me several years and multiple advocates just to secure the disability income that I had paid for through my taxes for my entire life. But it did, and when it was finally finished my then attorney said "you should write this all down so that other people can find out how this is done.  I'll even refer my clients to it" (going to hold her to that one) but months turned into years, memory fades, depression is an evil beast, and procrastination is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A few days ago a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to an article about Alecia Pennington. Now, I don't know how much of her story is true, but her tale of being denied basic services due to lack of documentation reminded me of the troubles I went through getting my disability approved.

...and it all started with the lack of a US birth certificate.  Well, actually it started with a friend of a friend who said he could act as my advocate for my Social Security claim, but several years later it ended with my getting my own passport.

I gave up working very grudgingly. I had been out of work for months before my last job, I worked some contracts but mostly just looked for work and wished I could get hired on somewhere. This went on for at least a year, and then I was offered two jobs simultaneously. One in Las Vegas that would have required me to move the whole family (I'm actually glad I didn't take that one now) and one here in Austin working for an architect who was adamant he needed me.  Knew what I was good at, was aware of what my health was like, needed me to save his business (this was how he phrased it to me) So I agreed to go work for him and turned down more money from the Las Vegas job.

I spent eight months working for him.  Eight months of learning another CAD system (I think that's 5 different CAD platforms) documenting the tools for other users in the firm, automating the process of modeling and document production as much as possible, and producing finish-out drawings for an office space in less than a day to demonstrate how the process could be completed quickly. That work, the kind of managerial design work I loved getting into, coupled with spending an excessive amount of time on paper getting to that point, through weekly active vertigo and the accompanying brain fog that slows mental processes most of the time. I spent months finishing the modeling and documentation on the building that was my primary responsibility, when it probably should have been finished in weeks. That fumble that I couldn't explain outside of sickness ultimately left me jobless again with a family to feed and even fewer possibilities than I had a year previously.

I was literally hopeless at that point.  I didn't know what else I could do, and the bills kept coming in, with my health care incurring mounting costs of its own. I was spending a lot of time helping a wheelchair bound family friend then, and she suggested I contact a friend of hers to see if disability was a possibility.  Given that the only remaining choice that appeared to me was life insurance coupled with a fatal accident, I figured I'd give the government a chance to own up to the promise that I could rely on it to be there when I was in need. So I called her friend, and we started the process.

First off, you have to have doctors on your side.  You have to have a medical finding, in writing, that you have an illness which is covered as a disability.  Luckily for me Meniere's is one of those illnesses, and I had an ENT who was happy to back up my disability claim. We filled out and filed the documents and waited.

You do a lot of waiting when dealing with the government. Everytime I mention filing or documents, you should understand that at least a month goes by before there is a response.  That is if you are lucky.  If you aren't lucky they lose your paperwork and you have to refile and wait another month.  It's also worth noting that every single application for disability will be denied the first time. So if you don't intend to appeal, don't even start.

So we appealed and went to the scheduled meeting. The appeal was denied. This was the point when I realized that what I needed wasn't just an advocate for my Social Security disability claim.  I needed an attorney, because the advocate I had just shrugged and told me he tried.

After finding a reputable disability attorney (if you are thinking of pursuing disability, start by getting an attorney on your side and save yourself some time) we started another application through the process.  This one had secondary documentation and signed affidavits from witnesses. This one was also denied the first time through. It was appealed. It was denied.  It was appealed again. Ultimately my attorney called me one day and told me "the Meniere's isn't enough".  She paused for a bit.  "Do you think you are depressed?"

Am I depressed? Well, I couldn't very well admit that suicide was my only other alternative to government assistance (not without ruining the viability of that option) if I wanted to see my family fed, so I had to admit that I was struggling with just a little bit of depression. The entire tone of the conversation changed at that point.  She said something like that will make it much easier for me and got back to work on my case.

I had almost given up the faint hope that disability would offer, when the approval for my claim finally came through.  After two years of applications, denials and appeals, I was approved for disability payments.  Just in time, because we had scraped out the last of our savings and was in the process of hocking valuable items in order to get the bills paid that month.

Just one problem.  One tiny little hitch.  Hardly worth the bother, really.  See here, Ray Anthony Steele, you aren't really a U.S. citizen.

Excuse me

I've paid taxes my entire working life, starting at age sixteen. Never failed to file, never failed to pay. I even paid twice some years. Every time that the IRS audited me I wrote them another check, and they audited me every year that I was a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party.  I've paid my dues for 30 years, I think I'm a member of this club.

Except for one tiny little problem.

When getting a Social Security card, make sure that you bring with you all the documentation required to prove US citizenship; do not, under any circumstances, allow the person handling your application to harbor any illusions that you are not 100% a US citizen or allow them to submit the application without insuring that the box "US citizen" is checked.  This is of paramount importance.

The base hospital where my parents were stationed didn't have care for babies that were delivered early, and I was early according to the charts. So mom went to where the prenatal care was at, a hospital off-base that wasn't considered part of US territory.  Consequently I have dual citizenship.  I'm a limey (it explains my love of a cuppa) I have one of those birth certificates that makes conservatives sleep poorly at night knowing I live next to them.

When I got my Social Security card back in the dark ages before computers, we went in with my British birth certificate.  They told us no problem and marked me down as not a US citizen. Forty years later, it really is a problem after all.  It's a problem because that little notation on my Social Security record means I can't claim benefits from the US government. So long, don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.  It matters not at all that taxes are deducted from your paycheck every time you earn a wage.  It doesn't matter that both your parents are American citizens. What matters is the checkbox next to US citizen on the Social Security form.

According to the computers at the Social Security Administration, I wasn't a citizen. We had stumbled across this fact early in the process, but I was assured that if the claim was validated, the citizenship problem wouldn't be an issue. I believe the phrase not a problem was repeated then, too. Except it was.  Because the birth certificate is British.  Very clearly British and not American.  What was needed to clear this up was a record from the embassy in London stating that I was an American citizen born to US parents. That piece of paper I didn't' have.

I started talking to immigration attorneys, because immigration law is a tangled jungle of lies and deception; and nobody, not even non-immigration attorneys have a clue how immigration decisions are rendered. I'm not even sure immigration attorneys know.  I did find out that the specific document I needed was called a council record.  If I could find that document it would prove that I was an American citizen born abroad, and I would qualify for disability.

Didn't have it. No idea what it looked like even (it's blue. I'll tell you about it at the end) so I started talking to relatives. Mom, specifically. She remembered that I came into the country on her passport, that I was listed as a US citizen when I entered the country. Unfortunately she couldn't find that old passport, it had been lost somewhere in the 20 or so family moves that had occurred since the 1960's. Back to the immigration attorney.

Well, it was possible to request a copy of the passport be sent to me, if I was indeed listed on the passport. Found that form. Filled it out, got it notarized and sent it in. Waited. Waited a long time. They eventually did find and mail the passport record back to me, and I was able to use that record to apply for my own passport, and that passport made me a citizen.  Congratulations, citizen.  Here's your first check.

Hang on now. This check is for one month. I've been working on this for nearly 4 years. Am I not owed disability since the date of my first application?

Well, yes that would be true if I had been a citizen when I first applied. But you see this date on your passport, the one saying it was issued last month? That is when you became a citizen. Once again, have a nice day, don't let the door...   Nothing doing. Four years I've been at this. Four fucking years. I'm not stopping till I get my four years of blood back.

At this point I'm trying to exude patience and understanding, just to see if I can get through to the bureaucrat on the other side of the desk.  I have this passport because my mother brought me back to the US on her passport back in the 1960's.  That passport makes me a citizen. Says so right on this document.

Well, that might be true, but that just means your mother was a citizen and she brought you home with her.  Was your father a citizen?

Was my father a citizen? Was my father a citizen? Well, he was in the US military at the time I was conceived, so for all of our sakes I hope he was. I mean, we don't want any foreigners fighting in our ranks, that would be unthinkable.

I don't know my biological father. I sent the man an invitation to my high school graduation even though I had never met him in living memory. I was raised by several different men in succession, all of which tried to be dad and failed in various ways. He never replied to my invitation. I have never seen a page of correspondence from him anywhere in records that I kept or my mother kept.  He's a cipher to me. A complete unknown. I wouldn't know where to even contact him at this point.  Don't even know if he is still alive. I'm sure he had a Social Security number. I'm sure he has a military record.  No idea how that information is dredged up without contacting his family, which is also an unknown to us.

So I asked the Social Security administration if they knew how to find his number, how to track down his military record. Started putting out feelers for getting that information, looking for his family to contact. As luck would have it, the Social Security administration blinked at that point, and came up with the information themselves, attaching his file to mine and approving the back payments.

There was a year or two of argument about paying my attorney and discovering that they had withheld two attorneys worth of money from my back payments that followed the admission that I really was a citizen since birth; but at least I got them to admit that I really was a citizen after all. That (and the money) was satisfaction enough.

Then my dad died.  Not the cipher, the man I never knew. The man who spent the most time with me. The man I could rely on even though he wasn't married to my mom anymore. He died after a decade of battle with cancer. He made up for his earlier failures, and I accepted his apologies and considered him my dad for a good number of years before the end, even though his genes are not mine.

While we were in Colorado preparing for the funeral, going through old records and photos, reminiscing about the past, his last wife (my second mom. I think I have 4 now. Maybe even 5. Well, mom is mom, but then there are other moms. Yes, it's confusing) was suddenly struck with a memory. Going through the attic at gramma's house as they prepared it for sale, they stumbled across a box of stuff that had been shipped back to the US from England when mom moved back to the States with me. There was a document about me in the box, and she didn't know if it was important but she thought I'd want to keep it. After rummaging around in a drawer for a few minutes, she produced the Council Record that would have saved me years of work had I only known who to talk to about it. I just thanked her and gave her a hug. What else are you going to do, at that point?

That's it.  That's my disability story finally written.  I'm sure I'll re-edit it at some point, add some photos probably. Put in the names of the appeals courts I went to, the documents I submitted, just for clarities sake.  But right now, I just want to step back and admire the fact that I've written this damn thing.  Took me long enough. Longer than it took to get my disability approved? Just about.