Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Contra Prager


"All those who support the American war in Iraq should make a deal with anyone opposed to the war," writes Republican polemicist Dennis Prager in his latest column. "Offer to answer any 20 questions the opponents wish to ask if they will answer just one: Do you believe we are fighting evil people in Iraq? That is how supporters of the war regard the Baathists and the Islamic suicide terrorists, the people we are fighting in Iraq. Because if you cannot answer it, or avoid answering it, or answer 'no,' we know enough about your moral compass to know that further dialogue is unnecessary. In fact, dialogue is impossible."

Nothing like a good challenge -- and since I suspect that, sooner or later, someone will take Prager's advice and ask me this question (for that matter, just about every question posed by advocates of the war to opponents of the war is a variant of it anyway), I might as well just go ahead and answer right back into the horse's mouth.

My answer is a qualified "yes." At least some of the people US forces are fighting in Iraq are evil, and any principled opposition to the war must perforce deal with the question of why and how fighting evil could ever be a bad idea.

Before I elaborate on my own answer, I'd like to dispose of the three answers which Prager holds the war advocate is likely to receive:

"The Bush administration is just as evil: for illegally invading a country that did not threaten us; for 'lying' to get us into Iraq; and because it is a war for corporate profits."

Such an answer would not be dispositive -- whether or not the Bush administration is evil tells us nothing about whether or not its opponents in Iraq are evil.

"Some of those we are fighting may be evil, but not all; some are simply fighting against foreign occupation of their country."

This is, I think, a given. Once again, however, it is insufficient: It still does not amount to a case against fighting evil.

"We cannot call anyone evil; only God can make such judgments."

I dismiss this answer out of hand -- not out of irreligiosity as such, but out of a sense of the response's absurdity. Whether or not there is a God, and whether or not He judges, is irrelevant. We live on earth, the exercise of judgment is a constant requirement of survival, and we are therefore going to judge.

As I said, my own answer to the question is a qualified "yes." In addition to noting that not all opponents of the US war on Iraq are evil, I hold that the creation of new evil is an improper and impractical response to evil.

There are many ways to put this, but two come to mind:

- The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

- The first step in getting out of a deep hole is to stop digging.

It is a matter of public record that the United States, at one time, supported Saddam's Ba'athist regime in Iraq as a regional counterweight to Iran.

It is also a matter of public record that the United States, at one time, supported a Saudi Arab by the name of Osama bin Laden in forming the core group of what later became al Qaeda as a means of bogging the Soviets down in Afghanistan.

When the US supports new evils against old ones, it is left with new evils to combat even if the new evils dispose of the old ones -- which they seldom do, at least completely. "Blowback" may not be readily quantifiable in every case, but there's no doubt that it is a real phenomenon ... and quite frankly, the Iraq war has turned into one of the most rapidly metastasizing cases of blowback we've seen yet. The US has effectively turned governance of southern Iraq over to Iran and left central Iraq in chaos, while at the same time empowering Iraq's Kurdish minority in ways which are, to a near certainty, going to result in increased, and increasingly violent, agitation for the creation of "Kurdistan" out of not just Iraqi, but Iranian, Turkish and Syrian territory.

That's the price paid for "victory" in Iraq -- a Pyhrric victory indeed, even if it eventually transpires, which it shows no signs of doing. Ba'athism has not been eliminated, and the primary impulse upon which it thrives, pan-Arabism, will almost certainly be strengthened over the long term by the continued US intervention in the region. Al Qaeda is almost certainly bigger, stronger, more proficient and more well-funded today than it was on March 19th, 2003, or September 10th, 2001.

In 2000, some libertarian-leaning individuals supported George W. Bush for the presidency of the United States based in part on his call for a "humbler" foreign policy: One which did not bring the United States into needless and pointless conflict or lead it to support "lesser" -- at the moment -- evils over "greater" -- at the moment -- evils. Whether one speculates that that call was insincere, or that 9/11 truly changed Bush's mind, or that political opportunism dicated abandonment of the call, the fact remains that George W. Bush has perpetuated and extended a foreign policy paradigm which he previously acknowledged to be faulty ... and the results are predictable.

We empower new evils by the manner in which we choose to fight older evils. That 9/11 is directly descended, as an historic event, from the marriage of US support for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and a decade of direct military intervention in the Middle East is true beyond any reasonable doubt. Our interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia obscure the evil of our foes to those in our path. By making ourselves the enemy, we allow our foes to successfully masquerade as the ally of our victims. Al Qaeda enjoys such support as it has on the "Arab street" almost entirely on the basis of US intervention in the region. Support for al Qaeda's core goal of imposing a Wahabe version of sharia law on the Islamic world is thin on the ground; support for al Qaeda's transitional goal of booting out the "western invader" is rife.

There are costs and benefits to fighting evil. Would anyone honestly argue that we have sufficiently addressed the domestic evils which vex us to an extent that we should regard ourselves as having a free hand to spend our blood and treasure seeking out new, distant evils to fight ... especially when the game is likely not worth the candle, and when the candle, once lit, threatens to burn our own house down?

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Advent of the blogocratic deformation?


People have always talked about politics; more importantly, in America "the people" have always talked about politics. Cracker barrel conversation is rightly numbered among our nation's distinguishing characteristics, and that kind of conversation has, perversely, for the most part allowed a lid to be kept on the populist impulse. Since we're free to talk about things, we don't feel like we have to do much, or at least much in the vein of Wat Tyler, about those things.

Technology has, of course, altered both the tone and content of political conversation (beginning with radio and then television in the US, and proceeding apace into the Information Age) -- and for those seeking to understand the impact of the Internet in general and the blogosphere in particular, it's worth considering the possibility that those alterations have not all been for the better.

Since the blogging phenomenon captured my attention (and then captured me, proper), I've felt that bloggers tend to take themselves a little too seriously (and yes, mea maxima culpa). Lately, that feeling has given way to an emerging, not yet fully formed fear that everyone else may make the mistake of taking us too seriously as well.

Easy web publishing -- that's all blogging really is -- doesn't just make a soapbox available to anyone and everyone with an axe to grind. It also creates the illusion that Axe Grinder A's ideas are inherently as worthy (or at least as worthy of consideration) as Axe Grinder B's and C's and D's ideas. The blogosphere is fast proving true Marshall McLuhan's dictum that "the medium is the message." That worries me, because it portends a flat, equalized view of message as such, paired with filtering through the same polling mechanisms that have been playing hob with political decisionmaking for a couple of decades now, to produce something that looks a lot like Government By Blog.

Sorry if this sounds Orwellian; it really isn't. As a matter of fact, it's the opposite of 1984-style oligarchy ... but, like so many pairs of opposites, these two share certain attributes. In oligarchy, the oligarchs fine tune their propaganda to play to the sentiments of the proles. A blogocratic polling function attached to our present hyper-pluralism would not displace our oligarchs -- it would merely press the blogosphere into their service as the fine-tuners. Winston Smith on WordPress, so to speak.

A far-out vision? I don't think so. During the period that Republicans refer to as "The Eight Dark Years," the premier political accusation against President Bill Clinton was that he formed his policies by closely following polling numbers and then, per Dick Morris, "triangulating" in on the positions that would increase his "positives" and keep his "negatives" down. The blogosphere, by its very nature, is positioned to be Rasmussen squared, Zogby cubed, Harris to infinity and beyond:

- With the right tools, sampling is instantaneous. There's no need to sign a contract, write a check and wait for a pollster to have his boiler room operators call a thousand voters. "Trend tools" (like this one) make it possible to compare attitudes over a given time period and to get the results in seconds.

- The blogosphere is both larger than almost any reasonable poll sample and better fitted than traditional polling operations for distinguishing the randomly selected voter who answers his phone from the guy who actually throws the weight of action and activism behind his political beliefs -- or, if you will, distinguishing the contented sheep who are happy to pull a lever for one of two choices presented them from those who seek to be shepherds and actually frame the choices. If you've got the shepherds in hand, you've got their flocks with them.

Would "government by blog" as bad as "government by opinion poll?" Personally, I think it would be worse. I don't go the full boat with Rousseau in asserting an inchoate "general will" which, if discerned, would constitute nearly divine guidance, but I do think that taking the blogosphere as representative of any "general" will is a big mistake.

The farmers and factory workers around the aforementioned cracker barrel have opinions -- but they also know they're farmers and factory workers, not inspired cognoscenti upon whose every word the machinery of government should turn. Their opinions are usually reasonably simple, even simplistic, and that's not a bad thing. They're the voices of competing principles and worldviews, not the purveyors of detailed policy proposals. While I'd give a lot to achieve a society in which they are completely in charge of their own fates (and therefore become not only the purveyors, but the implementors, of their own policy proposals), the fact is that right now we live in a society with a state sitting on top of it.

Political bloggers are -- pardon me while I, pot, call the kettle black -- snobs. Every quibbledick with a Blogger account and some search engine optimization skills thinks he's Henry Kissinger, on steroids and with a think tank operating out of his guest bedroom. We churn out policy demands, with supporting cases for those demands, at the speed of write. And the simple fact is that most of us don't have even as much, let alone more, information on which to base those policy demands; or even as much as, let alone more, in the way of real political knowledge, than the people in government who are increasingly keeping an ear open to what we're talking about. Do we really want those listeners to assume that we know what we're talking about? Of course, I do know what I'm talking about ... but I also know that for every government functionary reading Kn@ppster, there will be ten of the little bastards stovepiping nonsense straight from Little Green Footballs to the White House Situation Room.

The bottom line is that I'd rather have the people whose hands rest on the the levers of state listening to (and attempting to cater to) the principles and worldviews of those farmers and factory workers than to the detailed policy demands emanating from blogosphere. Hell, I'd rather see these things play out in a manner resembling the "Delphi Boards" in John Brunner's Shockwave Rider, or related to the already existing market futures exchanges on political developments. At least that would be more broadly based and market-driven than blogosphere "triangulation."

Res Publica Delenda Est -- but until that day, God save us from Rule By Blog Wonks.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Maybe I was wrong ...


... and I really, really hope so.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Cindy Sheehan's Texas protest seemed to be a story without legs, incapable of taking significant ground in the poltiical battle over the war on Iraq.

She's still there, though ... bringing as much attention as ever to the cause, even to the point that the War Party now feels compelled to stop the silly tricks like defacing monument's to America's war dead and actually drum up a counter-protest.

For more than two years, the War Party has relied on holding the "high ground" in terms of actual power to keep a lid on the issue. When you control the White House and Congress, you don't have to make your case in detail -- the weak spots can be covered with the armor of "leadership" and "making the hard choices in a complex situation." As Bush's perceived authority declines with his popularity and the popularity of his policies, however, the hawks are being forced out onto the field of actual debate. With Bush's numbers already in freefall, this weekend may be the decisive ideological engagement: The point where the hawks are forced to either make their case as they've never been able to (or been required to) before, or where the country, for all practical purposes, wholly abandons their president's policies. That wouldn't end this thing, but it would bring the end into view.

The country's "progressive" pols are already hedging their bets and trying to save some tattered remnant of the administration's policy. They've always wanted an anti-war movement that's just strong enough for them to gravy train on with other issues, but not strong enough to achieve goals beyond those set for it by status quo-approved "leaders." Their only problem with the war itself is that the Republicans get credit for it.

Go, Cindy, go.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Do America's veterans support Bush?


Well, not all of'em, obviously.



It's usually inaccurate to ascribe views to a large group of people who share only one characteristic, even if it's a characteristic that has had a defining impact on their lives. Some veterans -- and active duty personnel, serving reservists, et al -- certainly support the president and his policies. Others oppose the president and his policies. And all of them should be allowed to speak for themselves rather than having words put in their mouths or sentiments attributed to them by third parties who may or may not know what they think.

FMNNClip: Price tag


Excerpt:

"When it comes to policy decisions in a representative democracy, the job of politicians -- at least in theory -- is to weigh costs and benefits and then act to minimize the former and maximize the latter. Of course, politicians do tend to evaluate the risks and benefits according to criteria other than the strictly representative. Which do you think carries more weight: How a policy might cost or benefit you, or how a policy might cost or benefit the politician? We can safely assume that the latter concern does play in the politician's decisions -- for even if he's a really, really good guy who really, really cares about you, he's also a really, really good guy who really, really cares about his other constituents, and who really, really cares about getting re-elected."

Da whole thing.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Correction/Retraction


In "A curious exodus," I wrote:

- "Word on the Internet 'street' is that Bruce Cohen of California will be seeking election to Congress as a Republican ..."

and

- "A little bird tells me that he may also have the support, whether tacit or explicit, of the retiring incumbent ..."

Mr. Cohen just emailed me to let me know that the "street" -- and my little bird -- are incorrect. Here are a couple of relevant quotes:

"All of the nice things you said about me being good looking, smart, tall, desired by women and having a good public image are true. Even better news is that the little bird telling you I had switched parties is incorrect. I am still a registered Libertarian and plan to stay."

and

"I never considered changing parties for a moment. If you don't mind, please put said information on your blog. You are also welcome and encouraged to put my phone number [949-813-8001] and e-mail: bruce@getbruce.Com ... We're raising money at a breakneck pace to do TV advertising with."

Best of luck to Bruce, and thanks for helping me get it right!

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Is the War Party turning on Bush?


Awhile back, I noted that, in response to the growing realization that the US has not won (and cannot win) the war on Iraq, the "we were defeated at home" meme was beginning to circulate. This week, a more virulent strain of that meme -- "the President won't let the troops win" -- is beginning to rear its head.

This is a very interesting development. I hadn't envisioned the possibility of a pro-war backlash against Bush, at least this quickly. Lockstep loyalty to George W. Bush in the Republican Party has been much more pervasive than Democratic loyalty to LBJ in similar times. Until now, Republican Surrealist digs at the administration have generally taken the form of attacks on Donald Rumsfeld, preserving the image of Bush as "the guy who's on our side, but constantly undermined by his subordinates."

What's going on here ... and why is it going on now, at this particular time?

We know that the neocons have no compunction about biting the hand that feeds them. Although they've attempted to don the mantle of Reaganism lately, they savaged the 40th president as spineless on foreign policy -- even as he gifted them their own tax-funded featherbed and PR bureau, the National Endowment for Democracy. In the current situation, though -- they want us to believe that we are well into "World War IV," remember? -- a partial falling out isn't very likely. They either have to stand resolutely by Bush or eat him alive. There's not much room for anything in between.

We also know that the neocons aren't above jumping party lines. Those who didn't come to the GOP from the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party jumped over directly from Max Shactman's Socialist Party USA/Social Democrats USA or, earlier, directly from Trotsky's Fourth International. Organizational loyalty isn't their strong suit -- "you can call us whatever you like, just don't call us late for D-Day."

The primary, if not originating, vector for this new meme seems to be Jed Babbin, a former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for the first Bush administration and now a neonut columnist for The American Spectator and National Review. I hate to descend into anything resembling conspiracy theory here, but Babbin seems to frequently play "stick man" to the "carrot men" at The Weekly Standard/American Enterprise Institute/Project For A New American Century. He fairly reliably beats on the same targets his counterparts are attempting to woo, as if to drive his target into (or back into) their waiting arms.

Working hypothesis:

- Not being an idiot, George W. Bush knows that the situation on the ground in Iraq is untenable, that the US military is badly damaged from the abuse heaped on it in the expedition, and that every day brings his party one step closer to disaster in November, 2006. That's why the administration has been floating withdrawal trial balloons for a month now: They're not willing to commit sudden and explosive political suicide by going to Congress to request conscription, and there's just no way that the occupation of Iraq can be maintained indefinitely without conscription.

- Seeing these trial balloons -- and being more than willing to sacrifice a president, a party, an army or a even a nation in order to realize their goal of "permanent revolution" -- the neocons are positioning themselves for 2008. If they can bring Bush back into the fold, then they can back a Republican running on a "stay the course, only harder" platform, with Bush's support. If not, then they look for a hawkish Democrat, switch horses and run on the "we can win this war, but the current leadership is incompetent to do so" line. With the Democrats still on the fence, the idea of a Clark or Lieberman run at the White House from the neocon side is not at all outlandish ... if one factors in the neocons' unshakeable, irrational belief that things are going to turn around just any day now (or, for that matter, their less astute followers' bizarre belief that things are going swimmingly already).

Conspiracy theory? Not really -- at least not in the sense that I'm positing some unknown or unlikely phenomenon. The usual suspects are publicly known to work together and are publicly known to affiliate with identifiable organizations. Those organizations have made it clear that they have an interest in affecting US foreign policy. If you think that there's not a neoconservative "war room" in some of the neocon principals make plans are made and hammer out talking points -- even if that "war room" happens to be Bill Kristol's dining room or Norman Podhoretz's den or a teleconference account -- then you're not thinking very clearly. It's no more "conspiracy" than are the brainstorming sessions of any other political group (and yes, all of those brainstorming sessions are, technically speaking, "conspiracies").

What seems to be going on here is a game of "good cop/bad cop" with George W. Bush in the perp's chair. The Surrealists are offering him legacy points if he sticks with their delusions and a horsewhipping if he abandons them. Meanwhile, of course, the Realists are gently trying to coax him into facing reality ... and reality is getting harder and harder to ignore.

The real question for Bush seems to be whether he wants to let the neocons drag him down the chute with them as they slide toward their historical dustbin, or whether he'd prefer a slightly less confining and defining dustbin of his very own.

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Out and about ...


Ah, Monday!

My guest blog entry, in which I get to say some things that don't quite fit here on Kn@ppster but need to be said, is up at Crazy Like A Fox.

I forgot to "clip" this one last week, but I have an article up on Free Market News Network that didn't appear here first: "By the horns", in which I answer a couple of questions about libertarians as "leftists" and "Democrats."

We're starting -- starting to roll out the new, WordPress-based, version of Rational Review this week.

Finally, check out BlogExplosion's new look and features. Nifty!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The lie of the land


The comments section over at my post on "supporting the troops" has been pretty active as such things go here at Kn@ppster. Several discussions have opened up that I'd like to see kept going.

Let's start with this one: Lying politicians. In this comment and this one, Morg from The Wide Awakes takes the anti-war side of the argument to task for calling George W. Bush and/or the Bush administration liars. He refers to his own well-written post on the subject of what Democrats thought about Iraq and WMD before Bush ever made it to the White House.

This is something I'd really like to see more discussion on, so discuss away. Here are my personal opening remarks:

- I agree that Democratic politicians, particularly Bill Clinton and his cabinet -- but also John Kerry and others -- "wagged the dog" with Iraq throughout the 1990s. Whether that wagging was justified is another question entirely. Democratic error? Democratic dishonesty? Democratic duplicity? Democratic hypocrisy? These things are not news. They're the status quo. Libertarian Democrats have set themselves the task of making the Democratic Party more pro-freedom (and more accurate, more honest, less duplicitous and less hypocritical). We aren't pretending that the job is already done.

- While Morg points out accurately that the Clinton administration held out Iraq as a threat and claimed that it had substantial stockpiles of WMD, what he doesn't point out is that the Bush administration claimed precisely the opposite prior to 9/11. Both then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly and unambiguously claimed that Saddam Hussein a) had been contained, b) represented no substantial regional threat and c) had had both his WMD toys and his capacity for making those toys taken away. If we're going to slag Democrats for changing their story (when many haven't), how about a little GOP accountability for changing theirs (which the administration, at least, certainly did by 180 degrees).

- When Bush and Company claimed that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and programs for producing more, I don't think they were lying. If you read what I was writing at the time, I made it clear that I thought he had them, too (although I didn't think that their existence constituted a legitimate casus belli. On the other hand, it seems fairly obvious that they were lying about the specifics. Both Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice publicly stated not just that the WMD existed, but that the US government knew what those WMD were and where they were. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell wowed the United Nations Security Council with satellite photos and little arrows pointing to trucks and bunkers and telephone intercepts to demonstrate that the US knew what Saddam was up to in detail.

Now, here's the thing: We can argue about what the penultimate justification for invading Iraq was, but those WMD were, beyond any rational argument, at least one of the central elements. We know that US satellites are capable of 24-hour surveillance of key areas, and we know, because our government told us, that special operations forces entered Iraq before the invasion proper in order to locate targets, etc.

To put it simply, if the US government knew what Saddam had prior to the invasion, and if the US government knew where he was keeping it and what he was doing, or planned to do, with it prior to the invasion, then there is just no damn way that the US government didn't know what happened to that stuff during and after the invasion. And if they knew, they'd have told us. After all, it was pretty embarrassing after the invasion for them to not be able to trot out any captured chemical or biological weapons to establish that they'd been right. And it was pretty embarrassing for their own survey team to report back that there was no evidence of substantial stockpiles and no evidence of ongoing programs. All that they've been up to come up with so far are a few pre-1991 artillery shells that almost certainly were never in Saddam's control from the 1991 war to the 2003 invasion, and lurid tales of a "convoy to Syria" which they can't produce satellite surveillance photos of, or any explanation for with respect to why, if it was transporting the WMD caches that we claimed to know the location of, it wasn't taken out en route.

Do I believe the Bush administration lied? It's beyond doubt. I don't believe they were lying in early 2001, when they claimed there were no WMDs, because I think they believed that there were no WMDs. I don't believe they were lying after 9/11 about the existence of WMDs, either, because I think they became convinced that they had been wrong. But with respect to knowing the amounts and locations? Yep. They were lying. They were pretending to detailed knowledge that they didn't have in order to drum up support for the war, and they trusted that the general case was sound enough that they'd be vindicated in the end and not have to account for those lies. Instead, it turned out that they (and the administration they replaced) were wrong about the general case, which in turn left those lies hanging out in the air where they could be seized for purposes of demanding accountability.

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Guest Post: The Lure of the Road


Note: I'm happy to have a guest poster here on Kn@ppster -- my sometimes political opponent, but always cordial fellow blogger, WebLoafer of Sanity's Bluff. Enjoy! -- Kn@ppster


Many of you know I am a diesel truck driver. I could not begin to count the miles I have driven, the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met as a truck driver.

Have you ever wondered what that semi-truck driver is listening to as you pass his rig, or his rig rolls past you?

For ease of writing I will refer to truckers as male from now on in this article, although I know many fine and talented female truck drivers.

That driver may be listening to one of a thousand songs about the road.

There have been more songs written and sung about the road, and truck driving specifically, than all the songs about doctors, lawyers, nurses, politicians, factory workers, NASCAR drivers and movie stars combined.

Here is a link to a government website that lists songs written about the road. The people who compiled this list say this is only a partial list; they know there are more songs about the road than these Songs about the Road.

Like me, you’ll probably say “our government has way too much time and money on their hands” but this list is great. Probably not worth the money spent compiling it, but you know how government works.

Truck drivers listen to all kinds of music, but in the noisy world he works in, a truck driver wants songs with lyrics he can hear above the roar of the road. That is one of the reasons country music is the staple of most music loving truck drivers. I love country and western music, because I can hear the lyrics. The last thing I would want booming on the speakers of my diesel truck is rap, or some heavy metal band screaming out unintelligible drivel. I might choose to listen to some when not at work, but when I am at work, I have to be able to understand what is being said or sung. Yes, I want to hear words, words I can understand. This is one of the reasons talk radio is so popular with truck drivers. To me, talk radio is how I invite people into my world as I work.

Sometimes it almost seems like Rush Limbaugh is sitting next to me in the passenger seat, talking just to me. [editor's note: Might be a good time to avoid the scales! - Kn@ppster]

Good company of country western singers, and talk experts have helped me compile a remarkable driving record, several million miles of safe driving.

Truck driving gets in your blood, some of the truck driving songs say, I know they speak the truth.
Truck driving can be a lonesome vocation; I know this to be true.

Truck driving will test your nerve and mettle, oh, how I know this to be true.

Truck drivers love their jobs. Yes they may be cranky old men like me when I climb out of the drivers seat, but they love their work. I love driving truck. YET. There is no logical reason anyone should love driving truck, at least not one I can lay my finger on. It is hard work, the pay is not all that great for the constant stress of the road. It is dangerous, very dangerous. A truck driver must be 100% right 100% of the time, or he ends up in the ditch, or piled up against a bridge pillar. And, it is hard on relationships and marriages. I am fortunate to have a dedicated route now, the same 400 miles, 5 days a week and home every night with my family. There are not many vocations that require as much perfection as truck driving. Soldiering would be one equally as demanding, but there aren’t many more. Perhaps that is why truck drivers are sometimes referred to as "Road Warriors."

There is one intangible though, which trumps all of the hardships of the road. It is the Lure of the Road.

The lure of the road became apparent in my life at the early age of fifteen, almost sixteen. That is when me and my friend, Jerry took to the road. Yes we thought we were ready to head down the road, and remove ourselves from parental control. There was a "Youth for Christ" rally every Saturday evening that Jerry and I were required by our parents to attend. A bus picked us up and took us to the auditorium where the rally took place. It was very easy to skip out of the rally and sneak back on the bus later when the rally was over. We did this many times, got caught and punished a few times, but this night 43 years ago, Jerry and I, decided to run away from home. Somehow we obtained ten Rum Soaked Crooks and we figured this would be all we needed to get to California.

We walked for several hours until we spotted train tracks. We both joyfully spoke “we’re on our way now.” We hid in the darkness and watched what was going on. We decided to leap up into a boxcar that was headed west. This was a reckless dangerous plan, but we were young. Somehow we both safely held onto the side of the boxcar at the open door and vaulted up into the boxcar. Yes we were finally on our way.

But we had no idea we had chosen to jump a freight train in a large switching yard of the Union Pacific Railroad. The trains were going slow, but not very far. We knew something was wrong when the train switched directions and headed back east. We jumped out of the boxcar and waited for another westbound train. It wasn’t long until a long line of hopper cars rolled towards us. We decided to jump onto one of them, I jumped the ladder on the front of the hopper and Jerry jumped the same hopper at the other ladder.

We both made the leap safely and climbed to the top of the ladder, and there it was! Coal, hard, dark, dirty coal. By this time we were tired and starting to get scared, but we wouldn’t talk of such things out loud. We both lit a cigar and fell asleep talking about California. I was sure that when the sun came up, we would be almost to California. It was not to be! Like I said it was a switching yard. I don’t know which of us realized our mistake first, but it became apparent that we had goofed, so we decide to jump off of the train and walk to a nearby highway where we would then hitch (bum) a ride to California. By this time it must have been well after midnight and there was not much traffic on the road, but we headed for the highway. Standing there in the chill of the morning, things didn’t look too promising. One or two cars passed us by, but finally a big diesel truck and trailer pulled over and we ran toward it. The driver got out of the rig and started asking us questions. Questions like, “what are you two young boys doing out here in the middle of nowhere hitching rides?” “We’re headed for California” we said, and the driver answered, “Jump up in the cab, boys.” He actually never said he would take us down the road on our way to California, and he did the wise thing and drove us to the nearest police station. The great trip to California was over, and we both were in lots of trouble at home.

The short ride that night, in the semi truck was like heaven to me, the headlights beaming down the road, the gauges and switches glowing in the cab, and the noise, yes the noise of the rig was glorious to me. I think I remember the song, ‘I’ve been everywhere,’ by Hank Snow filling the cab of that diesel truck on that fateful morning.

I was hooked on the road, at a very young age and have been on the road since then.

By the time I was 18, I had made my mind up to follow in the steps of Jack Kerouac and head to places unknown somewhere down the highway.

I have a wealth of memories from the days of my youth. Dropping out of college, hitchhiking like my heroes, Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac. For many years I would emulate either Jack or Neal, and lived on the road. Now as I look back upon those years of my life, I realize I was headed down the road to a sad ending, just like Jack Kerouac.

During these "beat years," later known as "hippie" years of my life, I rode in a lot of diesel trucks. I have lost all my journals, but I know I crisscrossed this great land at least 40 times with only the use of my thumb. Every time a truck stopped for me and anyone else I was traveling with, I found myself envying the driver. But, I knew truck driving took dedication, and I was not ready at that time to be reliable.

Truck Driving helped save me from a dead-end path, and has provided me with a comfortable life for over 3 decades. No wonder I like Truck driving songs.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A curious exodus


It's safe to say that things are touch and go for the Libertarian Party right now. It's a party in the process of finally deciding what it's going to be (a political party) and going through some pretty wrenching procedures (ending the social-club-like practice of charging for membership, and therefore ending the practice of splitting membership fees between state and national organizations, to name two) to get from here to there. Voters in some states may soon find that they are denied their right to register as Libertarians or have their party's candidates represented on the ballot. Over the last century, the two wings of the Uniparty have progressively legislated to make it more difficult for "third" parties to compete in the United States than in, say, Iran.

Looks like tough times ahead. There's little doubt that the LP will survive and continue to elect public officials, but the 2006 election cycle may be devoted more to rebuilding dilapidated organizational structures and creating new ones from scratch than to seeking electoral victories.

It's not surprising, given the current situation and the party's recent history, to see some prominent past LP candidates leaving for greener pastures. It's happened before (Murray Sabrin and Andrew Horning come to mind), it will happen again, and it's happening now:

Scott Bludorn, former president of the Cook County, Illinois LP, has thrown his hat into the GOP primary for a state legislative seat, and Dennis Hawver of Kansas -- a former LP gubernatorial candidate -- is now seeking the same seat as a Republican. Word on the Internet "street" is that Bruce Cohen of California will be seeking election to Congress as a Republican, after having chased that same seat as the LP's candidate.

So, what's different about these three candidates? Well, when Sabrin and Horning were ran as Republicans, the GOP was in the ascendant -- it had taken control of Congress and then the White House and was clearly on a roll. In 2006, however, going Republican can only be characterized as like unto rats (no personal insult intended -- I don't question these guys' motives or sentiments) swimming toward a sinking ship.

Granted, the LP hasn't been successful as yet. Granted, the chances of it becoming successful are debatable. But if you're going to leave a party that hasn't succeeded, why would you join a party which is on its way down?

The Democrats have made it clear that they are preparing to tack into the political wind; Howard Dean has been campaigning for his party in areas which he characterizes as "libertarian" and has promised a "western strategy." That promise may be stillborn, but at least it's being made, and at least it's being made by a party which is well-positioned to win elections next year and which is willing to make significant concessions toward civil liberties and fiscal responsibility in order to close the deal. The Republicans, on the other hand, have ignored the policy proposals of their party's libertarian wing for more than two decades now. They've always been a party of big government, but in the last four years they've surpassed the Democrats as the party of big government.

Let's look at this from a practical perspective:

- Running against an incumbent in his own party's primary is almost always a losing bet. A bad incumbent is still an incumbent. The parties like success, and they don't tend to want to fix what ain't broke by backing a primary challenger to their proven winner. That means that the only realistic prospect for Libertarians entering the GOP is to seek nomination to open seats.

- You are an LP activist who has run for office on your party's ticket. A lot of people may not know who you are, but the chair of your county's GOP damn sure knows who you are. You're the guy whose name was listed across the ballot from their candidate's name two years ago. You likely haven't walked precincts for the GOP, worked phone banks for the GOP, attended rallies for the GOP, written op-eds for the GOP or even voted for the GOP's candidates in the recent past. You may have even cost their last candidate the election. It's safe to say that support for you within your party's leadership is going to be lukewarm at best -- and if you are opposed in the primary by someone who has walked precincts for the GOP, worked phone banks for the GOP, attended rallies for the GOP, written op-eds for the GOP, voted for the GOP's candidates, and perhaps even represented the GOP in previous elections, you're going to be running not only against that candidate, but against the party's establishment.

- And, finally, the GOP has experienced the thrill of victory in recent years. They're about to experience the agony of defeat again, but that's not something they intend to face and do something about. They're going to stick with the same formulas that worked for them in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004. Only after those formulas have failed are they going to be willing to consider a new approach ... and their current approach is anything but libertarian.

I'm not saying that it's impossible for any of these three candidates to win.

- Cohen's district is traditionally very Republican and he's done his best to create a reasonably high, positive public profile for himself. A little bird tells me that he may also have the support, whether tacit or explicit, of the retiring incumbent. Then again, the local GOP machine may already have a candidate in mind for anointing and laying on of hands. Cohen's paid his dues ... but has he paid them to the GOP?

- Bludorn's district is Republican and in addition to his association with the LP he seems to generally be publicly identified as a "conservative activist" and appears to have significant grassroots GOP support (he polled 8.2% in his last LP run for the seat -- not bad for an LP candidate in a three-way race). He may have a chance if the incumbent, Sid Mathias, decides to run for an open seat in the state senate, but that chance slims way down if it's an incumbent-challenger primary.

- Kansas is very Republican, too. The sitting Democrat governor, Katherine Sebelius, is favored for re-election by Campaigns & Elections magazine's "Political Oddsmaker", but only by odds of 6 to 5. Unfortunately, Hawver already faces two opponents: A "frequent candidate" type who is likely to split any insurgent vote that might lean toward Hawver in the primary ... and the Speaker of the Kansas House of Representative. The odds of a past LP candidate who garnered 1% in his last election outing beating an experienced, establishment political leader are exceedingly low.

Jumping party lines is not a silver bullet to make losing candidates into winning candidates. And, to the extent that party defection makes sense in the coming three years, the Democrats are just a better bet. They'll be cutting more slack to newbies, because they're hungry for the victories have eluded them for the last decade, and in general Democrats are likely to do better than Republicans in the general elections.

I wish Bruce Cohen, Scott Bludorn and Dennis Hawver the best of luck. I'd rather have a libertarian with an "R" next to his name in office than a non-libertarian of any party designation. But to the extent that I can offer real support of the volunteer and financial variety to candidates next year, I think I'll stick with the libertarian Democrat slate and pull for candidates like Frank Gonzalez of Florida, who polled 27% of the vote in his last run ... and did it on the LP ticket.

Addendum/Errata, 08/22/05 --

Above, I wrote:

- "Word on the Internet 'street' is that Bruce Cohen of California will be seeking election to Congress as a Republican ..."

and

- "A little bird tells me that he may also have the support, whether tacit or explicit, of the retiring incumbent ..."

Mr. Cohen just emailed me to let me know that the "street" -- and my little bird -- are incorrect. Here are a couple of relevant quotes:

"All of the nice things you said about me being good looking, smart, tall, desired by women and having a good public image are true. Even better news is that the little bird telling you I had switched parties is incorrect. I am still a registered Libertarian and plan to stay."

and

"I never considered changing parties for a moment. If you don't mind, please put said information on your blog. You are also welcome and encouraged to put my phone number [949-813-8001] and e-mail: bruce@getbruce.Com ... We're raising money at a breakneck pace to do TV advertising with."

Best of luck to Bruce, and thanks for helping me get it right!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"Supporting the troops"


I've taken a bit of guff in the past from fellow opponents of the war on Iraq for "supporting the troops." I have no apologies to offer for that support, and I don't care to make my arguments in favor of that support yet again. Suffice it to say that many of the men and women now fighting and dying in Iraq are friends of mine, that I served with many of them when I was in uniform myself, and that I choose to keep personal faith with them and assume that their motives for continuing to serve are motives which are either worthy of support or understandable given their circumstances.

I've also taken more than a bit of guff from supporters of the war to the effect that it is not possible to oppose the war or the President of the United States while simultaneously "supporting the troops." It is to that rhetoric which I now address myself. "Web Loafer" of Sanity's Bluff has graciously provided grist for the mill. Below, Web Loafer's comments appear in italics, my responses in plain font.

In my opinion it is shameless to say "the Commander in Chief is a dunce and a liar, and I don't support anything he has done to fight terror and I don't think we should be in Iraq. You are welcome to have this opinion and express it publicly because someone fought for that right you have. BUT, don't say in the next breath, "I support the troops."

I am, indeed, shameless. I do not regard George W. Bush as a dunce (idiots do not make it to the Oval Office), but it is indisputable that he's a liar. I don't support anything that he has done to fight terror because I don't know of anything that he's done to fight terror. And I don't think "we" -- i.e. the armed forces of the United States -- should be in Iraq. There is no shame in saying these things, because they are facts; nor are any of these utterances in the least incompatible with the factual statement "I support the troops."

What part of this don’t you understand, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF ALL ARMED FORCES, SO HE IS INCLUDED IN THE TROOPS, YES HE IS PART OF THE TROOPS YOU SAY YOU SUPPORT. Our wise forefathers understood that the military of this great Republic needed to have a civilian leader, but HE IS THE LEADER.

Because I support the troops, I decline to sully their reputation by numbering among them a coward and deserter who has abused his power and used those troops in a manner at odds with their legitimate mission. Constitutionally speaking, the President of the United States becomes Commander in Chief of the armed forces when those armed forces are "called into the service of the United States." The war on Iraq being of no service to the United States, George W. Bush is, as in so many other roles, a usurper when he claims the title of Commander in Chief, or the authority thereunto pertaining.

Furthermore, America's understanding of the role of the presidency has evolved far away from the original intent of the founders. This may have been inevitable, given that the first President (after the adoption of the Constitution) was George Washington -- who had, indeed, been a "leader" in the Revolution. Nonetheless, the Constitution is clear that the presidency is an executive, administrative position, not a position of "leadership" in the sense which WebLoafer clearly means. That concept is alien to the foundational ideas of American governance. As a matter of fact, it is characteristic of an entirely different form of governance.

In the old days, it was characteristic of absolute monarchies. In the 20th century, it was adapted to fascism a la Mussolini, Hitler, Franco and, in the disintegration of the Soviet Union's political system from Cult of Party to Cult of Personality, Stalin. This concept had undeniable cachet and the Americans of the 1930s and 1940s eagerly incorporated it into their worldview. FDR's cult was, and remains, as strong as that of any of the aforementioned "leaders." The "leader principle" was basic to the emerging post-WWII political paradigm in the Middle East as well, culminating in the foundation of the Arab Baath Socialist Party and the eventual ascension of two of its "leaders," Hafez Assad and Saddam Hussein, to power in Syria and Iraq.

Or, to quote straight from the horse's mouth:

"The true vision of the leadership of the Comrade Leader Saddam Hussain begins with a true vision of his stature, which is sometimes not ever-present to the senses, as in the eyes of children whose parents belong to a party or whose parents were killed by your honored hands, and who have been left as orphans. Show concern for all of them, especially those who are orphans. Teach them to love the Leader and the Revolution, and clarify to them the evil of their sons and brothers who committed treason. Let them damn them as they lie buried underground, and teach them that the pure air of Iraq is not deserved by anyone other than a Baathist." -- Plan of Action Annual plan for 1992 from 1/1/1992 to 1/1/1993, Al-Ta'meem Governorate Security Directorate

Fortunately, Americans have continued to resist the creeping influence of the fuhrerprinzip, realizing that there's no place for it in a free nation -- not even if the fuhrer is George W. Bush. He is not our "leader." He is our employee, and his performance evaluation sucks. I reject the notion that I must love him or his works, or regard his opponents as unfit, as a pre-condition of patriotism. Deal with it.

Plain and simple: You don’t support any troops that are fighting in a war you don’t want fought. What part of this escapes your reasoning?

In modern evangelical Christianity, a principle has developed over time regarding homosexuality: "Love the sinner, hate the sin." While I disagree with the notion that homosexuality is a sin, I respect that principle -- and a parallel principle is easily applied to the troops: Many of us dislike the way in which they are being used, but decline to allow that dislike to extend to the troops themselves. Much as evangelical Christians regard homosexuals as in subjection to Satan when they engage in sexual activity, we regard the troops as under the command of a liar, fraud and usurper who has abused their trust and loyalty and compelled them to act in a manner contrary to their oaths of enlistment and contrary to the legitimate function of the force to which they belong.

Extending the parallel, evangelical Christians realize that many homosexuals do not in fact believe themselves to be in a state of "sin" and regard this not as a character flaw but something resembling a disease or mental defect. The Bible itself even distinguishes between those in mere subjection to sin and those of reprobate mind, i.e. those beyond redemption. But even given that, the Christian doctrine seems to be that all which is required to transcend the "sin" is an awakening and a spiritual experience -- where in the case of members of the armed forces, real change requires not only recognition of the wrong use to which one is being put, but a commitment to change in the face of imprisonment or even, in extremis, execution for declining to further participate in the "sin."

So yes, I can support the troops -- realizing that many of them do not understand the nature of the uses to which they are being put, and that many who do understand are unable to summon up the courage to face severe punishment for refusing their consent to continue being put to that use.

"Love the soldier -- hate the war."

Naturally, this produces dilemmas when shopping for care packages. Are the candy, socks, etc. which I buy at the store and throw into the "support the troops" bin merely offering harmless succor to the sinner, or are they facilitating the sin? In this matter, I've decided to err, if at all, on the side of kindness. Given the environment, I doubt that a bag of starlight mints or an unblistered foot lend themselves to an increase in atrocity (the Sergeant doesn't care that your sweet tooth hasn't been serviced, and the corpsman is going to have plenty of moleskin to get you on your feet and out on patrol) and I believe that reducing the environmental discomforts to which my misused brothers and sisters are exposed is a good thing.

So yes, I can -- and do -- "support the troops" while opposing both the war and the monster who has sacrificed nearly 2,000 of those troops to the neoconservative Moloch. I support the troops because I've been one of them, because I know the pickle they're in, and because I want to see them return home alive and safe, where they will hopefully be put back on the job they signed up to do.

In the spirit of such arguments, however, I do believe that it is time and past time to question the motives of those who support the war on Iraq, and their claims to "support the troops."

To support the war is to objectively align one's self with al Qaeda and Iran -- since the war has redounded to their benefit versus the benefit of the United States -- and to place one's self in opposition to the safety of America's troops and to their mission to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. Those who support the war from outside military ranks are free to correct themselves at any time without fear of reprisal, and the failure of many to do so (many, not all -- a majority of Americans now realize that invading Iraq was a monumentally bad idea) cannot be made up for with a yellow magnetic "ribbon" on one's bumper or a box full of butterscotch candies and paperback books.

Is this another case where "love the sinner, hate the sin" applies? I don't know. What I do know is that while it is possible to support the troops and to support the war, it is not possible to do both simultaneously. The war is a fundamentally un-American endeavor,support for it is a fundamentally anti-American sentiment ... and there is a point beyond which ignorance of these facts ceases to serve as a plausible excuse.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

L(i)P service to the libertarian left?


Steve Gordon weighs in on taxes and Libertarian Party platform reform over at the LP blog. Several interesting points, and I'll save the best for last:

- Neal Boortz (R-Talk Radio) and John Linder (R-GA) have a book on the "Fair Tax" (a national sales tax intended to replace the existing federal income tax, allowing the IRS to be eliminated) atop the New York Times bestseller list.

- Of course, the "Fair Tax" conflicts with the Libertarian Party's platform as interepreted by non-incrementalists. But, Gordon (and many others) see a problem with the platform in that its wording lends itself to use by those who oppose incremental steps in "the right direction" in favor of demanding instantaneous transport to Libertopia. A number of LP candidates have come to one sort of grief or another within the party by advocating incrementalism in reducing (and eventually eliminating) taxation.

- IMO, Gordon's waxing a bit facetious with us when he writes "[p]erhaps this issue will be addressed at the next LP Convention." That's putting it mildly. The rumor that Boortz will be seeking the LP's 2008 presidential nomination has been circulating since at least 2002. Even if he doesn't seek it, I expect a strong draft effort on his behalf ... and I expect this book to be cited as one his qualifications, if not the top one, as a candidate. While I do not and will not support a Boortz presidential candidacy, his talk radio background and recent authorship of a bestseller certainly won't hurt his chances. Obviously, the "Fair Tax" is going to come up at the convention. Bigtime. Especially with the Libertarian Reform Caucus already pumping up for a platform reform effort.

- I say I do not and will not support a Boortz presidential candidacy ... but that doesn't mean I don't see benefits from either a candidacy or a threatened candidacy. Combined with the success of the book, it just might force the GOP candidate into the "Fair Tax" corner for real -- especially since the GOP candidate won't have to worry too much about winning, or at all about having a Republican congress to which he might have to actually submit it if he does win. The 2008 Republican candidate can afford to be radical, because he'll know his party is going into minority/opposition status anyway and won't have to actually deliver on his promises.

But enough of that. Let's get to the real coolness of Gordon's piece. When was the last time any official LP organ admitted to the existence of, let alone alluded to, geolibertarians? Could we be seeing the start of a genuine attempt at building a party with two wings instead of the ersatz-Right dominated Jabberwocky of the past couple of decades?

Maybe, maybe not. But bitchin' swell to see LPers taking official notice of the fact that the libertarian movement is more than just the Kokomo chapter of Disgruntled Republicans of America.

P.S. Steve Gordon also blogs at Liberty For Sale ... and usually, if you want to know what's going on, he's the guy to look up.

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Gold Star Fatigue?


Cindy Sheehan is only ten days into her public attempt to get some face time with the Coward-in-Chief, but the new seems to be wearing off this thing rather quickly. I suspect that this should tell us something about how the event horizon around news stories has shrunk with the advent of Internet media, but I'm not feeling any particular need to get all abstruse today, so let's just move on past that idea and maybe come back to it another time.

Sheehan seems to feel that the media has turned her protest into a circus unbefitting its subject matter. She's probably right. She's also learning, at first hand, that when a protest gets real attention, every gravy-trainer with a cause buzzes toward the light, hoping to steal a little thunder.

From a media perspective, the story already seems to heading down the slope toward JerrySpringerville. Once again, I'm not not up for digging deep into the American psyche to find out why Americans are so quickly bored by Gold Star Mothers, dead soldiers and presidential arrogance, but I have to wonder what it says about our moral compass that this story has shorter legs than Monica Lewinsky's stained dress, Scott Peterson's fishing trip or Natalee Holloway's vacation misadventure. "Scandal fatigue" apparently doesn't manifest its symptoms as quickly as "protest fatigue."

Be that as it may, Sheehan's vigil down the road from Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch [sic], has served, and continues to serve, at least two worthwhile purposes:

- Every time Bush conducts another drive-by snooting past "Camp Casey," he puts his moral cowardice on display. Remember, a hefty minority of Americans still buy his John Wayne "bring'em on" act ... but every time he flees in terror from one little lady with a dead son, that percentage ticks ever so slightly downward.

- Nobody's surprised at the blogosphere smear-fest -- the war pigs are wholly reliable, if not overly coherent in this respect, right down to their pathetic attempts to portray Sheehan as an anti-semite -- but it helps. Really. Every time one of these chickenhawk knotheads takes a swipe at Cindy Sheehan, the readers get the message: "When we say 'support the troops,' what we really mean is 'piss on the troops -- theirs is but to do and die, quietly and with no fuss from their silly old moms, please.'" This message is driven home with even more panache when the warbloggers' offline spiritual siblings do things like drive their pick'emup trucks over memorials to America's war dead. I've always believed that the pro-war movement is the anti-war movement's single biggest moral and political asset. Thanks for proving it, guys.

Cindy Sheehan probably can't end the war with her protest, but she's already making a significant contribution to the next generation's (hopefully) retrospective understanding of the Bushevik/Republican Surrealist cancer now raging through the body politic.

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...


- It's getting damn near impossible to parody the political correctness movement, because readers find it difficult to distinguish between parody and the idiotic reality.

- The "oh, lighten up -- it was really just sort of like fraternity hazing, only with guns and dogs" crowd is dead set against the American people seeing the other Abu Ghraib pictures. According to feldmarschall Myers, release of the photos (which presumably include Lyndie England swallowing a goldfish and Charles Graner cavorting around with a lampshade on his head after whipping up martinis for the Iraqi rush candidates) would "aid the insurgency." The insurgents must be planning a panty raid on the Tri-Delta house or something.

- Thinking about investing? Might want to have a look at urine futures.

- Oh well. It could always get worse. And it usually does.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Don't wait to be invited


The Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left is here -- a web ring for anarchists and other left-libertarians. This is something I've been thinking about starting for a long time, but it took a little work to research how best to do it (and it still, of course, is imperfect).

The BLL is intended as an extension of the Movement of the Libertarian Left into, wouldn't you know it, the Blogosphere ... sort of. SEK3 intended the MLL to be anti-political and hostile to "partyarchy." Of course, he was founding a movement, and I'm just starting a webring. I don't plan to impose much in the way of ideological requirements on applicants for webring membership. If you consider yourself a libertarian, and consider yourself on the left end of the political spectrum, then add your site ... I'm content to let the ring's readers/surfers decide for themselves if you represent what they're looking for or not. There are obvious exceptions (a "Ku Klux Klan Libertarian Caucus" just ain't gonna fly), but libertarian Democrats, non-party anti-authoritarian "progressives," the various brands of anarchist and such are all quite welcome.

Let's see what we can build.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bailey: We're All Global Warmers Now


Ronald Bailey of Reason puts a longstanding debate to rest:

Anyone still holding onto the idea that there is no global warming ought to hang it up. All data sets -- satellite, surface, and balloon -- have been pointing to rising global temperatures. In fact, they all have had upward pointing arrows for nearly a decade, but now all of the data sets are in closer agreement due to some adjustments being published in three new articles in Science today.

People who have doubted predictions of catastrophic global warming (and that includes me) have long cited the satellite data series derived by climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) ...


Let's open that bottle of Maker's Mark, Mr. Stone. I'm not sure there's much of anything left we disagree about.

First they came for the restaurateurs ...


GOP heavy-hitter Jack Abramoff is in a pickle as authorities seek to arrest him on a fraud indictment. He's been on the hot seat for awhile in several investigations, including being questioned regarding the murder of a former business associate.

What? Arrest Republicans for fraud? If this is the beginning of a trend, then one has to wonder how long it will take to reach the West Wing.

And whatever is to become of those poor, starving Republican congresscritters now that good ol' Jack may not be around to pick up the tab for their $75 steaks? Perhaps the DC city council will take pity and open up a soup kitchen and VD clinic for them over on K Street somewhere (along with a delousing facility for those of us unlucky enough to come into contact with them).

Democrats have unwillingly worn the Championship Title Belt for corrupt machine politics since ... well, since before living memory. And there's been some justice to the accusation (JFK v. Nixon in 1960, everything else connected with anyone named "Daley," etc.).

If recent history is any indication, however, they've been outmatched for at least three decades now. GOP graft, influence-peddling, subversion of the bureaucracy to partisan ends and general purpose dirty tricksterism should probably be classified as an underground economy on the same scale as narcotics trafficking. The Halliburton no-bid sweetheart deals alone must have Boss Tweed whirling in envy under the dirt at Green-Wood Cemetery.

That Mark Twain's maxim -- "there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress" -- was written in 1897, two years after a Republican takeover of both House and Senate, does not surprise me.

Hat tip to John Stone.

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Say it again, Jim


Jim Henley found it so accurate he used it twice. I like it so much, I'm stealing it:

It is high time we recognize the grammatical inversion that has seized our Imperial Wing. While they produce sentences of the form "I support the War for the sake of this reason," the truer template is "I support this reason for the sake of the War."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Something's rotten in DEA'n'Marc


In 1980, Ronald Reagan was swept into office, at least to some degree on the basis of his perceived hostility to big government, overbearing bureaucracy and federal meddling. "In this present crisis," he said, "government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." To this day, I believe that he was sincere in those sentiments. That his agenda for rolling back government was stillborn is not an indicator of personal falsity on his part, but rather evidence of just how difficult it is to stop the growth of, let alone prune, an aggressive bureaucracy intent on its own preservation and expansion.

Behold, the house that Ron built. Today, in an age when the largest presidential campaigns dispose of a mere $200-300 million, one federal bureaucracy has a campaign fund of tens of billions of dollars, and spends it with impunity (but, fortunately, with a frequent lack of success) for the explicit purpose of ... fixing elections. I'm speaking, of course, of the Drug Thug Lobby: The Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Drug Enforcement Agency and assorted satellite nests of oligarchic vipers who largely owe their present position to Reagan's misguided belief that the "war on drugs" could be "won" by the very people he usually distrusted.

When an incumbent President of the United States wants to go out and busk for re-election, his campaign has to make at least nominal reimbursements to the Treasury for money spent flying him and his entourage from hither to yon. When America's "drug czar" (an odious, but telling, title) wants to tell Seattle's voters that they must not modify their local ordinances, or to warn Nevada's voters that they'd better not act to ease the suffering of the desperately and terminally ill, he flies on our dime, ignores federal election law ... and gets away with it.

Last week one of the nation's top narco-terrorists, DEA administrator Karen Tandy, let the cat out of the bag in a big way.

"Today's arrest of Mark (sic) Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and the founder of a marijuana legalization group," said Tandy in a DEA fax to the media, "is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. ... Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on."

Emery, who also operates the popular web site POT-TV (hold that thought -- we'll be coming back to it) was arrested in Canada after the drug thugs at DEA accused him of selling marijuana seeds to US customers, and demanded his extradition. While other culprits had the brains to put a whitewash on it ("[t]he focus of this case is on the drug trafficking of Marc Emery. It is not about his political activities, nor his campaigns for office. Nor is it focused on his magazine," according to US Attorney Todd Greenberg), Tandy's attack of self-promotional diarrhea of the mouth exposed the scam. It's not about the pot. It's about the politics. ... and this time, it's fairly obvious that the DEA has gone beyond using taxpayer money to protect its own existence and the job security of its employees with its illicit political interventions, and across the line into partisan dirty tricks on behalf of an unpopular Republican incumbent, by way of removing an inconvenient opponent.

Remember POT-TV? It just so happens that the name of medical marijuana activist, US Marijuana Party president -- and, not coincidentally, POT-TV correspondent and host -- Loretta Nall has been coming up as the likely Libertarian Party nominee for the governorship of Alabama.

If she runs, Nall will face off against Republican incumbent Bob Riley ... a governor in deep, deep trouble with just about every kind of Alabamian.

Christian Conservative Alabamians weren't especially thrilled when Riley tried to tell them that Jesus wanted them to support a tax increase. They like Roy Moore -- the former chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep a display of the Ten Commandments in his courthouse's lobby -- a lot better. And Moore has all but announced that he'll be opposing Riley in next year's GOP gubernatorial primary.

Even if Riley wins that primary, he won't emerge unscathed. He'll go into the general election as a wounded incumbent against popular Democratic lieutenant governor Lucy Baxley. Of course, Democrats being Democrats, Riley isn't popular among them. On top of that, all too many Alabama Republicans remember the days when the Democrats were the party of smaller government in their state, and Riley's record has them thinking that those days may be here again, at least relatively speaking.

Freedom-loving Alabamians consider their state the natural center of the states' rights movement, and the Supreme Court's ruling in Raich v. Gonzales put a lot of gas in the tank of Alabama's medical marijuana movement. Nall would almost certainly do well, and a lot of her votes would come right out of Riley's column (in 2002, Riley won the governorship by only about 3,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast, and even that margin was questionable due to vote-counting irregularities; Libertarian candidate John Sophocleus polled more than 23,000 votes).

"The establishment Republican operators in Alabama are worried about navigating past two roadblocks right now," says Alabama political maven (and state LP vice-chair) Steve Gordon. "Roy Moore in the primary and Loretta Nall in the general election. Bob Riley is the 'machine' candidate, but Roy Moore has more appeal with the party's activist base. Unless Riley just flat buries Moore in the primary, he goes into November running neck-and-neck -- at best -- with Baxley. And in a neck-and-neck race, with a strong Libertarian candidate running on medical marijuana, he might as well go ahead and reserve that U-Haul to move his stuff out of the Governor's Mansion."

Enter the DEA and the sudden, screeching halt to Loretta Nall's livelihood. If you think that's coincidence, give me a call -- I've got some Enron shares I'm looking to unload. Unlike Bob Riley and Lucy Baxley, Nall doesn't get a government paycheck to pay the bills while she tries to climb the political ladder. She has to work for a living. And the work she's done for some time has been for POT-TV.

Let's not take this lying down.

First and foremost, it is imperative that we fight the corruption of America's politics by its own bureaucrats, using our money. Please, write your congresscritters and ask for an investigation into the ONDCP/DEA's abuse of public funds and political power to stuff the ballot box.

Secondly, let's put the kibosh on the instant case and make sure that DEA isn't rewarded for its perfidy by being allowed to drag Marc Emery to the US for a show trial. Here's a list of action items to help out with that.

Third, let's make sure that the GOP's dirty tricks in Alabama don't pay off. Buy a a Nall for Governor t-shirt and wear it with pride (or send it to a friend in Alabama). Or, better yet, kick in a few bucks to help Loretta weather the storm so that she can kick some Republican ass next November. I just ponied up five bucks, and I challenge my readers to drop a few dollars in the hat as well. I'll even make it easy for you:





(Note: Loretta didn't put me up to this -- so if you think it's cheesy, blame me, not her).

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Burn, baby, burn


In today's email (from an anonymous address):

your blog sucks big fat cocks. i've already asked brad at blogg'd to smoke it.

(That was the whole message -- the correspondent identified himself or herself only as "me")


I've visited the Blogg'd site a few times. Dropped back by, and whaddyaknow, "me" really did ask.

Cool!

Bring it on!

You feelin' lucky today, punk?


Or ... whatever.

FWIW, I'm a traffic whore, so if Brad at Blogg'd burns Kn@ppster, I won't cry in my soup or anything. Matter of fact, I strongly suspect that a "burn" brings in more visitors than a "blessing." But either will do. I'll display the logo with pride, or something, for awhile, until the HMO approves my lobotomy and I replace it with one of those godawful "I am a: ring-tailed lemur" or "My mood is: pissed" or impossibly thin dancing anime slut geegaws.

This assumes, of course, that Brad is the kind of guy who takes marching orders from correspondents who haven't mastered the shift key yet and who aren't willing to personally identify themselves (or their blog, if they have one). Personally, I wouldn't bet the ranch on that assumption.

Am I eligible for a burn?

Probably so.

I'm running an only-slightly-modified Blogger template, at least until I can afford to have Jen tart me up. Until that happens, I'm more likely to get the "lazy" than "minimalist" label. After that happens, of course, it'll be a tossup between "posed, pretentious and outsourced" and "stylish" (not on the basis of the quality of Jen's work, but on the basis of the reader's preferences).

My content is probably blindingly boring to about 98% of the human race, since I mostly do the politics thing. The miniscule portion of the other 2% who actually read it seem to like it, or at least love to hate it (which, to be brutally honest, is six of one, half-a-dozen of the other -- it's nice to have friends, but enemies make the man).

In any case, thanks to "me" for smashing today's case of "WTF am I going to blog about?" And Brad, feel free to put the ol' Kn@ppster through a heat cycle or two. Just don't try to herd me into the Thunderdome -- I'm too much of a narcissist to shut my yap for thirty days, and too realistic to risk it.

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We will all perish in flames ... over a nice hot cup of STFU.

Just read it already. You know you're going to.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A rejoinder to "Enough dead"


Mike Linksvayer takes me to task for what he seems to regard as a somewhat single-minded focus on US casualties in Iraq (versus other good and sound reasons to not want US forces there, including but not limited to the Iraqi dead).

There's a degree to which I'm inclined to say "fair cop," admit that I find the US casualties to be the logical focal point of opposition to the war, and move on, but I'm also a contrarian and this is an interesting issue, so let's take it on.

- Is an American life "worth more" than an Iraqi life? No, it isn't, at least per se. As a matter of fact, the life of any innocent caught in the crossfire between two opposing forces, neither of which holds that innocent's life or liberty as a priority, is worth more than the life of one who has knowingly agreed to help create that crossfire. I'm thinking of innocents like little Ali Abbas, who lost his family, and his arms, in a US bombing raid on Baghdad. His case got particular attention and he received top-notch treatment, but the fact remains that he neither sought this war nor sought to participate in it, and the fact remains that he is an orphan due to it. We're fooling ourselves if we think that his case is unique. As a Marine, I was taught that people like Ali were the ones we were fighting for, and that military expediency was not an excuse for doing them harm.

- Is an American life more important than an Iraqi life within the context of seeking to rouse Americans to opposition and activism against the continuation of the war? You're damn right it is. Most Americans don't know any Iraqis. Most American parents aren't sending Iraqi children off to boot camp and hoping that they come out the other end of the process that begins with boot camp alive and one piece. Those American parents -- and brothers and sisters and friends -- are sending American children to the sound of the guns, and it is the cost in American lives, versus any perceived benefit to their loss, which will primarily shape their opinions of war. Don't have to like it, but that's the way it is: The life of Bob down the street who used to deliver the newspaper is simply going to be more important to the lady in his neighborhood than the life of Abdullah, who lives in a place she's never seen, speaks a language she doesn't speak and lives a life she'll never understand.

So, yeah, I pay more attention to American deaths, because my goal is to influence the opinions of Americans. Americans are the ones who can bring this debacle to an end. In case you haven't noticed, neither the US government nor the American people particularly give a rat's ass what Iraqis, alive or dead, think or want. Once again, don't have to like it, but that's the way it is. If the war is going to be ended, it's going to be ended by getting Americans to demand an end to it.

When putting together the daily edition of Rational Review News Digest, my editorial policy is to make the latest report of casualties in Iraq -- US or non-US casualties -- the top story. The good days come when I can't find any to report (although there probably were some which simply went unreported). Our editorial policy isn't a simple "if it bleeds it leads" policy. Our goal is to keep the human cost of the war at the front of our (primarily American and European) readers' minds.

Now, to the comment which was probably intended to chap my ass. Quoth Mike:

Those who joined the military volunteered to be slaves and volunteered to be murderers. Sure, many of them just wanted to pay for college, but most gangsters are primarily in it for the money too. Fuck the U.S. troops.

I know of no one who volunteers to be a "slave" when joining the US military. Doing so entails a time-delimited contractual obligation, not involuntary servitude (the contract even includes the specific provisions under which one's enlistment may be "involuntarily" extended).

Furthermore, not only do enlistees not volunteer to be murderers, but their oath of enlistment is very specific in that it binds them to "defend and protect the Constitution of the United States," not to randomly or non-randomly kill individuals without legitimate cause to do so.

Are those troops often misused contrary to the provisions of their oaths? Sure they are, and this war is a case in point.; but it's a far cry from that argument to the argument that they intended to be so mis-used, or even that they understand that they're being misused. And, if they realize they are being misused, it takes some big-time guts to stand up and say "no, this isn't in my contract, no that order is not lawful, and no, I'm not going to obey it." I do acknowledge that there's a point there where a transition into a state of slavery might be reasonably hypothesized ... but it certainly was not sought by the kid when he put his feet on the yellow footprints, raised his right hand and took the oath.

There is a difference between error and evil, there is a difference between naive acceptance and knowing, whole-hearted adoption, and there is a difference between what people think they're signing on for and what they're actually sent off to do. We are talking, for the most part, about enlistees who just got out of high school. When real crimes are committed, of course, the penalties for those crimes must be paid ... but let's not go assuming that every US soldier, sailor, airman and Marine is just Charles Manson drawing a government paycheck. They're kids, for the love of God -- and if you think having the courage of your convictions to "just say no" to the IRS is something, try "just saying no" when you're surrounded by people with guns on both sides of the issue, and when those guns may potentially all be pointed at you. Hell, it's a miracle that any of these kids are able to form the proper convictions, let alone muster the courage to stand tall, raise the bullshit flag and refuse to be part of the slaughter. That's why wars happen and why they go on ... because the gutsiness it takes to opt out at Forward Edge of the Battle Area is exceedingly rare.

So no, Mike, not "fuck the US troops." Fuck the system that abuses their loyalty. Fuck the cowards who are always all too willing to send someone else to do the killing they're too good to do for themselves. But don't fuck the kids who are dribbling their blood into the sand because they were naive enough to believe that their country would not ask them to do evil things. They're victims in this thing as much anyone else. You can't put someone in an insane situation and then expect sane conduct. It doesn't work that way.

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