Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Under old management?


My reading habits tend to launch themselves in odd, arbitrary directions based on glimmerings, hunches or just plain old "hmm, this sounds interesting." I'm blogging this just as much for myself as for y'all. It's easier to Google and find it here than it is to dig through the stacks of books that keep threatening to push me out the door, and then dig through the books themselves to find those sets of connections that brought up the "I need to follow up on this" impulse in the first place.

First connecting thread:

In the past, I've held that the differences between political systems among the world powers circa the 1930s were differences of degree, not of kind. Some a little earlier, some a little later, some in a tighter orbit around the organizing princple and some a little further out from it, but still more or less the same prevailing ... oh, call it Zeitgeist for the moment, but don't read too much into that, as we're going elsewhere quickly.

The above is not an especially controversial claim if we're just talking about Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain, Hitler's Germany and Tojo's Japan. And most people have come to grips with the similarity between the "fascism" of those four and the "socialism" of Stalin's Soviet Union. I'm not just talking about those five, though -- I'm also including New Deal America, Churchill's Britain, etc. (and let's not forget Ireland under Eamon DeValera). This is usually the point where the same people who freely refer to FDR as a "socialist" start sputtering -- they don't like his social programs and "socialist" is an easy term of oppobrium, but they draw the line at comparing, say, the US and Germany circa 1938.

Still, let's look at it less from a "social programs" point of view and more from a "what are the absolute limits of the power of the state" perspective. A lot of of people (even libertarians, unless they notice one brief reference to it in something by Ayn Rand) don't know that FDR attempted to introduce labor conscription under the rubric of the National Recovery Act, and was only stopped from doing so by the Supreme Court. Few remember that today's Planned Parenthood was founded on the "eugenics" vision of Margaret Sanger, who was awarded a medal by Hitler for her contribution to the theories underlying his monstrous racial programs. Most people write off factors such as the wartime internment of Japanese and nisei, the virtual nationalization of industry, food rationing and other horrors as temporary wartime measures necessitated by emergency and therefore not of great philosophical import. While there's certainly a case to be made for "wartime necessity," it's still true that, according to our own mythology, Americans didn't bat an eye at this stuff, once Pearl Harbor opened that eye. A populace doesn't just jump into that mindset ... insert the old "boiling a frog" analogy here if you like.

Some kind of general political trend was cresting in the 1930s, and while it may have reached its heights of horror in the camps of Stalin and Hitler, it was felt everywhere. What was that trend?

Second connecting thread:

I just finished re-reading Isaac Deutscher's three-volume biography of Trotsky (The Prophet Armed, The Prophet Unarmed and The Prophet Outcast). I re-read it (the last time was oh, a decade or more ago) for a particular reason: I wanted to trace the elements of Trotsky's influence in the current "neoconservative" movement.

Briefly, the "neoconservative" movement has strong roots in Trotskyism, or at least in the work of Trotskyites, from Irving Kristol's first New York "study group" to the influx of Social Democrats/Shachtmanites into neoconservatism in the mid-to-late 70s -- for example, Jean Kirkpatrick (Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the UN), Paul Wolfowitz (former assistant Secretary of Defense, now president of the World Bank) and Joshua Muravchik (of the American Enterprise Institute) -- and all the way back to the founding of National Review ... by right-wing enfant terrible William F. Buckley, yes, but also by James Burnham, one of America's leading Trotskyites in the 1930s and founder of the Socialist Workers Party.

That Trotskyites have had primacy of place in the neoconservative movement is beyond question, but in precisely what ways and to what extent Trotskyism itself has affected neoconservative theory -- and American political policy -- is a somewhat murkier matter. So, anyway, I wanted to know. While I was aware of the fact that Burnham, while still nominally a Marxist, had written The Managerial Revolution, which had in turn influenced Orwell's 1984 (indeed, Goldstein's book in Orwell's novel is alleged to be a thinly disguised edition of Burnham), I was unaware of the roots of his theory going further back even a little deeper in internal Trotskyite debate, to a tract called "The Bureaucratisation of the World" by Bruno Rizzi.

With me so far? Those of you who knew all of this already, pat yourself on the back for being more well-read than Kn@ppster. Those are the threads. What do they sew together?

Rizzi's work came to my attention via The Prophet Outcast, and a passage jumped out at me that hadn't caught my attention all those years before on my first reading:

"State control and planning were predominant not only in the Stalinist regime, but also under Hitler, Mussolini, and even under Roosevelt. In different degrees Stalinists, Nazis, and New Dealers were the conscious or unconscious agents of the same new system of exploitation, destined to prevail the world over. As long as bureaucratic collectivism stimulated social productivity, Rizzi concluded, it would be invulnerable."

Trotsky took exception to Rizzi. He held that even under Stalin, the Soviet Union was a "workers' state," albeit a "deformed" one for the nonce, and therefore qualitatively different from the Third Reich and New Deal America, which, if also "deformed," were still (in Trotsky's opinion) capitalist. As a Communist, Trotsky therefore held that the Soviet Union must be defended against all enemies by Communists, even while Stalin remained in charge. This argument culminated in the breakup of the Trotskyite movement in the US. Against the background of the Hitler-Stalin pact and the Soviet invasion of Finland, Burnham and Max Shachtman held that "revolutionary defeatism" a la World War One's Zimmerwald movement, was the proper attitude toward all the belligerents in the coming second world war -- that the Soviet Union was no longer a "workers' state" but rather just another imperialist regime to be overthrown.

I'm waiting to find a reasonably priced copy of The Managerial Revolution -- it's $38.50 a pop at Amazon -- to explore Burnham's take more deeply, but I believe that we can follow this thread a little further without direct reference to it, especially given Orwell's freely available 1946 essay on Burnham. Orwell summarizes The Managerial Revolution as follows:

"Capitalism is disappearing, but Socialism is not replacing it. What is now arising is a new kind of planned, centralised society which will be neither capitalist nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic. The rulers of this new society will be the people who effectively control the means of production: that is, business executives, technicians, bureaucrats and soldiers, lumped together by Burnham, under the name of 'managers.' These people will eliminate the old capitalist class, crush the working class, and so organise society that all power and economic privilege remain in their own hands. Private property rights will be abolished, but common ownership will not be established. The new 'managerial' societies will not consist of a patchwork of small, independent states, but of great super-states grouped round the main industrial centres in Europe, Asia, and America. These super-states will fight among themselves for possession of the remaining uncaptured portions of the earth, but will probably be unable to conquer one another completely. Internally, each society will be hierarchical, with an aristocracy of talent at the top and a mass of semi-slaves at the bottom."

We know that Burnham eventually served in the Office of Strategic Services in WWII, and that after the war he came out not just as an anti-Stalinist but as an anti-Communist. He went on to play a large role in the "rebirth" of American "conservatism" -- a "rebirth" that looks, in retrospect, suspiciously like a complete re-crafting under entirely new principles. As the Cold War blossomed, the Old Right ethos of "America First" non-interventionism which had dominated the Republican Party before Pearl Harbor virtually disappeared from "mainstream" conservatism. What replaced it? Back to Orwell, this time on Burnham's second book, The Machiavellians (even more expensive -- available used at $60 and up):

"Where the second book departs from the earlier one is in asserting that the whole process could be somewhat moralised if the facts were faced more honestly. THE MACHIAVELLIANS is sub-titled DEFENDERS OF FREEDOM. Machiavelli and his followers taught that in politics decency simply does not exist, and, by doing so, Burnham claims, made it possible to conduct political affairs more intelligently and less oppressively. A ruling class which recognised that its real aim was to stay in power would also recognise that it would be more likely to succeed if it served the common good, and might avoid stiffening into a hereditary aristocracy. ... Here Burnham undoubtedly contradicts his earlier opinion. In THE MANAGERIAL REVOLUTION, which was written in 1940, it is taken as a matter of course that 'managerial' Germany is in all ways more efficient than a capitalist democracy such as France or Britain. In the second book, written in 1942, Burnham admits that the Germans might have avoided some of their more serious strategic errors if they had permitted freedom of speech. However, the main thesis is not abandoned. Capitalism is doomed, and Socialism is a dream. If we grasp what is at issue we may guide the course of the managerial revolution to some extent, but that revolution IS HAPPENING, whether we like it or not."

Apparently Burnham liked it ("in both books," writes Orwell, "but especially the earlier one, there is a note of unmistakable relish over the cruelty and wickedness of the processes that are being discussed. ... it is clear that Burnham is fascinated by the spectacle of power ..."). And, apparently, he went to work to bring the "managerial revolution" into the "conservative" movement, and the "conservative" movement into power.

In 1952, Commonweal (a Catholic magazine) published an article titled "A Young Republican's View." In that article, the author -- a young Yale man who was serving a tour with the CIA in Mexico, a tour he'd signed up for under the auspices of his favorite professor, ex-Trotskyite (and ex-OSS/CIA operative) Willmoore Kendall, and Kendall's friend, ex-Trotskyite (and ex-OSS/CIA operative) James Burnham -- set out a stark political vision for the conduct of the anti-Communist struggle.

... we have to accept Big Government for the duration -- for neither an offensive nor defensive war can be waged given our present government skills, except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores ...


In other words, Burnham's "managerial revolution" -- a "bureaucratic deformation" of American polity under the guise of necessity for the defeat of Communism.

The young Yale man, of course, was William F. Buckley, Jr., who went on (with Burnham's assistance) to found National Review, the de facto journal of record for the "conservative movement" from the mid-1950s through the Reagan era ... indeed, until the current administration, under which the even more overtly "neoconservative" Weekly Standard has gained ground on it.

For 35 years, the formula worked flawlessly: Endless war without victory or defeat, endless growth of the managerial class (which may simply be the "political class" referred to in libertarian class theory as opposed to the Marxist variant), endless growth of government power, endless blurring of the lines allegedly separating the two "parties" within the managerial framework.

Then, the stumble: One of the partners in the enterprise collapsed. The wheels came of the Soviet Union; freedom threatened to break out; even as Europe worked desperately to consolidate its own managerial superstate, the EU, NATO seemed to be fading into obsolescence. The warfare state as an idea seemed to be on life support -- no monsters presented themselves for slaying, and the beast was reduced to feeding on feuds between small Middle East dictatorships and would-be potentates in the Balkans. In the US, the Old Right seemed to be at the edge of renaissance. "Isolationist" Pat Buchanan racked up surprising (and, to the neocons, disturbing) vote totals in presidential primaries as long as he remained within the GOP fold. The Republican congress began to question Bill Clinton's foreign adventurism ... and in 2000, a new president was elected on the platform of "a more humble foreign policy."

The neoconservative vision was on the ropes -- it even looked for awhile as if the "managerial" innovations of the New Deal might eventually come under siege. And the warfare state? Burnt toast. The new president seems to have allowed the appointment of neoconservatives to key defense positions to please his veep, placate a small constituency which had served the GOP for 25 years, and because there was nothing to do there -- no pretext upon which the managerial class could hope to crank up the war machine again in any substantial way.

No wonder, then, that the neoconservatives grasped with both hands for the opportunity which presented itself when Osama bin Laden, the figurehead of an increasingly marginal trend in Islamic politics, contrived to knock down the World Trade Center. Over the course of only two years, the neoconservatives, operating from their remaining bases of power -- the neocon press, "think tanks" like the American Enterprise Institute, and tailor-made bureaucracies such as the National Endowment for Democracy -- managed to turn the suppression of a rag-tag terror network (a military task of at best middling difficulty) into what they like to call "World War Four."

While much has been made -- and much should be made -- of the similarities between Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution" and the Bush/neocon horror-hash called "world-wide democratic revolution," it seems to me that we may have missed the point. The situation we find ourselves in may be partially rooted in Trotskyite ideology, but it is, in all probability, in greater measure rooted in a self-designated "managerial" class's desperation for return to power and aspiration to total power.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

BlogProps: Two -- Four


Billy Beck is older than dirt, meaner than a rattlesnake with an irritated set of hemorrhoids and cooler than liquid nitrogen, all of which happen to be very good things to be. I just wish he'd try to teach me blues guitar instead of philosophy sometimes.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

... also they live on cheese


To: Billy Beck
Subject: An apparently unrelated matter

Quoth you:

> I stopped calling myself an Objectivist nearly fifteen years ago.
> However...
>
> >... or at least subscribe to certain Objectivist tenets,
> > including Rand's theory of concept formation.
>
> ...I am convinced that *that* very thing is *the* premier
> philosophical
> achievement of the 20th century, bar none.

Actually, I rather agree. I find it odd, however that, having said such a thing, you'd then forego using that method of concept formation in favor of Humpty Dumpty's.

> The person who originally established that as the definition of
> socialism
> so that simpletons like you could tear it off the dotted-line for
> rote
> recital should have been *shot dead on the spot*.

Because: "When _Billy Beck_ uses a word, it means just what Billy Beck chooses it to mean -- neither more nor less." Humpty's Conceptual Method is convenient, I'll give it that. Its utility, however, is limited -- it's not good for much except letting people convince themselves that they can have their way at the expense of reality.

> Now, look: you can be insulted if you want to. It makes no
> serious
> difference to me, because I'm the one dealing in facts and truth.
> But you
> shouldn't be. That's because there is something for you to learn
> in all
> this -- whether *I* can teach it or not -- and you could *stop*
> being a
> simpleton.

You're right. There _was_ something for me to learn. I'm not sure that I wanted to know that the War Party was composed of initiates into some kind of secret Lewis Carroll cult, though. Frankly, I could have slept a bit easier thinking y'all were just a bunch of closet Moonies or Shachtmanites or something.

> I will not require history of theory.

Of course not. You're too busy spinning your new reality to let silly things like the existing one get in the way. What was I thinking?

> Serious people, Thomas -- whether you like it or not, or want to
> cartoon it
> as something like "foot-stomping" -- will understand and be able to
> come to
> grips with something like Tibor Machan's argument that "the debate
> between
> the collectivist and the individualist is at heart a *metaphysical*
> debate".

Yes, it is. And I could probably write a short book on your error from that very perspective. You want to treat epistemology as _independent_ of metaphysics, and in particular as independent of the requirements of _identity_. You want concepts to mean exactly what you want them to mean -- neither more nor less.

> This is an assertion -- a competent and, I say, true one -- that
> places the
> matter in a domain necessarily logically prior to the *derivative*
> context
> of political economy.

It's a competent and true assertion, but it's not a _necessary_ assertion if all you're wanting to do is place the matter in a domain logically prior to the derivative context of political economy. Political economy focuses on the economies of states. Since there are at least two broad tracks of socialist thought (state and non-state) which one cannot deny the existence of without completely wiping history's slate (of, for example, the Proudhon/Bakunin-Marx/Engels split, the collapse of the First International, etc.), then yes, the matter of socialism's definition ust logically fall prior to that split into areas in which political economy is relevant and areas in which it is irrelevant.

> Whether one endorses Machan's assertion or
> disputes
> it, or how, the debate certainly cannot be *predicated* on an
> "essential"
> like "collective ownership of the means"

In other words, if you can't wave a wand and make a concept mean something other than what it means, then dip into a more fundamental level of philosophy to try and find a debate you _can_ win.

> and this fact is
> demonstrated with
> the case of two men who own a plumbing business together and which
> case
> would only do manifest absurdity to any debate in which *that* was
> seriously
> introduced as an example of "socialism".

I'm not sure what you mean by "seriously." You trolled that example in front of me -- without details -- in the hope that I'd swallow some kind of unidentified hook. Reel all you like, but all you'll be pulling back in is your own bait.

> That's called a
> "business", in
> plain terms, and it is distinguished from socialism in the plain
> fact that
> either of those two men can sever his relationship to "the means of
> production" -- which he "collectively owns" with his brother -- on
> his own
> authority and people in socialism don't get to do that.

In some instantiations of socialism they can, in fact, do exactly that. You're also missing an important element there, which is whether they can sever their relationship with the "collective" _and_ take some portion of the "means of production" -- or some compensation for a pro rata share of it -- with them when they do. The anarcho-syndicalist cooperative I belong to includes that feature as well.

> This is a
> poltical
> consequence of logical integrity down to metaphysical assertions --
> completely different conceptions of what the world is.

Indeed it is. One point that your missing is that sometimes variant metaphysical assertions arrive at the same destinations as others. That's why you'll find adherents of schools as varied as those of Rand and Kant in the libertarian movement -- their premises are certainly very different, but their conclusions in one or more specific areas are the same, or at least similar enough to create similar interests.

For example, my metaphysical and epistemological grounding is, for all intents and purposes, Objectivist and my orientation is individualist rather than collectivist. However, from this I derive not some "spiritual" fight between "individualism" and "collectivism," but rather an ethos of in which any manner of economic organization -- including the nominally collective -- is acceptable so long as coercion is not among its features.

> (And don't
> try to
> pull any 'god' or 'religion' crap with me. I don't know that you
> would, but
> I'm just telling you. None of that has anything to do with it.
> *Certainly*
> not necessarily.)

Wouldn't dream of it.

> A statement of the *political arrangement* of
> socialism
> is not an "essence" of the thing: it's a high-level implication.

Precisely. And the *political arrangement* falls into one of two categories: coercive or non-coercive. That categorical is logically above and beyond the essential definition of the thing.

> And you
> can prove this to yourself by reflecting on the fact that everybody
> knows
> there is a difference between a business -- which fits your
> so-called
> "essential" definition -- and socialism.

If "everybody knows" something which happens to be false, that's their cross to bear. I don't intend to make it mine.

> "You can't get there from
> here"
> without tracing back down the conceptual hierarchy -- all the way
> back down
> to *existence* itself, if you have to -- to find out why you're
> asserting
> something that every intelligent person is going to tell you is
> just wrong.

Wow. I don't recall even Humpty asserting that words would mean _to others_ exactly what he wanted them to mean, neither more nor less. Don't ever let anyone tell you you ain't got balls.

> > -- and even the "the" part is debatable as a possible
> > case of omitted measurement.
>
> It is ridiculous to entertain that so-called "definition" and I
> will not do
> it. Certainly not with technical tools of Objectivist
> epistemology.
> They're worth a lot more than that, and not even necessary at this
> point in
> this.

In other words, "don't get technical with me, dammit [stomp] -- when I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

Regards,
Tom

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Eason Jordan -- rehabilitated?


Time and time again, President George W. Bush and his proxies have made claims -- and denials of claims -- which turned out to be false. It's long past the point of not being surprising any more. But the latest scandal emanating from Britain may -- may -- be end up being the most embarrassing yet.

At issue: Did Bush, in talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, propose the bombing of Arab news network Al Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar?

The Daily Mirror says it has a top secret memo claiming he proposed exactly that. The British government isn't denying the existence or content of the memo, but they're trying like hell to suppress it. The White House isn't even allowing itself to be cornered into a denial, instead going with a non-responsive dismissal: "We are not going to dignify something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response," says increasingly embattled White House spokesperson Scott McClellan. And who can blame him? He gets burned every time he believes what his bosses tell him and passes it on to the press. The attendant leaks are exactly what you'd expect: A British government official claiming that Bush's proposal was obviously intended as a "joke" -- despite the fact that the memo, as described, includes a serious (and negative) response from Blair.

Is the memo real? Is the Mirror's description of it accurate? We don't know ... yet. But the British government's efforts to shut down reportage on it, and the White House's desperate desire not to talk about it, militate toward the conclusion that there's some there, there.

If so, a little re-thinking of history is in order.

Take, for example, the dismissal of former BBC chief correspondent Katie Adie's claim that US military officials threatened to murder independent journalists in Iraq.

Or, of course, the relentless assault on CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan (ending in his resignation) for suggesting that US forces targeted journalists in Iraq.

Neither of these claims seemed especially outlandish to me in the first place. Think about it:

1) A recurring theme throughout the "war on terror" has been "if you're not with us, you're against us." And the Bushevik characterization of the media in general -- let alone an independent Arab network -- has been "they're not with us."

2) The Bush administration has claimed the arbitrary power to designate anyone it chooses as an "enemy combatant" and detain said "combatants" without charge or trial for as long as it likes ... if they're not "shot while trying to escape" or "killed in the course of operations." I don't recall the promulgation of any special exemptions for journalists.

3) There's no doubt that the Bush administration takes "the information war" seriously and considers anti-US (in the administration's judgment, of course) media to be legitimate military targets.

So why should we be surprised if it turns out that yes, the Bush Doctrine includes killing journalists, especially journalists who don't toe the Bushevik line? Al Jazeera itself is taking the matter seriously, that's for sure. If the memo is real, and if the reportage of its content is accurate, we'll have that little doctrinal point straight from the horse's ass's mouth. Those are big ifs ... but not so big that this story shouldn't be getting more coverage in the US mainstream media.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

With both barrels


Check out the big gonads on Jeremy Scahill! Huzzah! He lets the Democrats have it with rare (as in hot, but bloody) style. Wish I'd written it. Money shot:

"The bloody scandal of the Iraq occupation has opened a rare and clear window into the truth about this country: there is one party represented in Washington -- one that supports preemptive war and regime change. The reality is that the Democrats could stop this war if the will was there. They could shut down the Senate every day, not just for a few hours one afternoon. They could disrupt business as usual and act as though the truth were true: this war should never have happened and it must end now. The country would be behind them if they did it. But they won't. They will hem and haw and call for more troops and throw out epic lies about the US becoming a stabilizing force in Iraq and blame the Republicans for their own complicity and enthusiasm in the 15 years of bipartisan crimes against Iraq. Why? Because they support war against Iraq. All of this begs for a multiparty system in this country and the emergence of a true opposition."

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Blast from the Past: Lies, Damn Lies and Republican Rhetoric


[Note: the project of porting over my old stuff from tlknapp.freeservers.com is slow-going -- I don't want to drown current material in older material. But it's got to be done at some point, I guess. This was published the week after George W. Bush took office ... and I think subsequent events proved me pretty much right - TLK]

Lies, Damn Lies and Republican Rhetoric
01/28/01

I tried to come up with an accurate, yet pithy, summation of George W. Bush's speech to a joint session of Congress last night -- but it's so much better to let someone speak for himself than to try to put words in his mouth. With that in mind, I think I'll start off with an excerpt from the White House Press Release on the subject:

"[The president's] budget increases spending for Social Security, Medicare and entitlement programs by $81 billion, and increases discretionary spending by another $26 billion, a four percent increase that means government spending will grow at more than the rate of inflation."

As late as yesterday, I still had friends telling me that the Republicans were the party of smaller government -- the party that would rein in federal spending -- that all I had to do was wait and see -- that when I opined that the Republicans wouldn't do anything to cut government, I was talking through my hat.

More Social Security. More Medicare. More entitlements. More discretionary spending. Increased government spending, even accounting for inflation. Tucked into subtle phrases in the speech, we find more spending for the failed War on Drugs, more spending for welfare, more spending for, well, pretty much everything.

Is this what my friends mean by "smaller government?" Is this what they expected when they told me last November that they had to vote for George W. Bush because he was the only "smaller government" candidate who had a chance to win?

It's after midnight as I write this -- but when I'm done, I think I'll break out the Rolodex, start ringing up my friends, and whispering two words into the phone:

"Harry Browne."

Yes, I know that the Democrats want even more spending and even smaller tax cuts. That's beside the point. The GOP controls the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the presidency. They don't need Democratic support to pass the budget they want. Compromise, at this point, is not a requirement.

Not a single Democratic vote is required to pass the next budget. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the president's budget proposal -- specifics of which will be released tomorrow -- reflects what he wants. Given the glowing early reviews from the GOP's congressional leadership, it reflects what they want, too.

So, what do the Republicans want? In two words, more government.

Outside of some money for military pay raises and equipment improvements, every one of Bush's spending proposals, as described in the speech, flies in the face of the Constitution and of Republican rhetoric going back to Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential candidacy -- and unless the early trial balloons were false, those military spending proposals aren't an increase, but a reallocation of current military spending levels.

Quoth Bush:

"The highest percentage increase in our budget should go to our children's education. ... during the next 5 years, we triple spending, adding another $5 billion to help every child in America learn to read. Values are important, so we have tripled funding for character education ... [W]e have increased funding to train and recruit teachers."

Try as I might, I can't find the section of the Constitution that enumerates any federal power to provide for education. And unless I've missed something, the 10th Amendment -- you know, the one that says the federal government can't do anything that it isn't specifically tasked with doing in the Constitution -- doesn't seem to have been repealed.

The Republicans know this, of course. They've been bellyaching for two decades about it, and promising to eliminate the Department of Education and sow salt on the earth where it once stood. This hardly seems an auspicious beginning to that process. Perhaps Bush is hoping that all of the DoE bureaucrats will die of paper cuts incurred while riffling through the fresh stacks of Federal Reserve Notes he's having sent over.

On almost every budget item mentioned in the speech -- from education to Social Security and Medicare and beyond -- Bush proposes more spending and more federal intervention in areas where the federal government has no business in the first place.

For the first time in nearly half a century, the Republicans control the machinery of government. Their word is law. It's time to follow through on decades of promises to be fulfilled "some day," and last night's speech is a clear indication that they have no intention of doing so. "Some day" is here -- and the Republicans are fresh out of excuses.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

BlogProps: Finnegans Wake


One good turn deserves another. I noticed I'd been receiving some hits via Finnegans Wake and wandered over to have a look-see.

Nicely done by Dan Koffler and Co! It's a meaty blog -- none of this "Read this [link] today. Hmmm ..." and "Wonder what [link] Binky was thinking here, eh?" crap. Arguments are laid out in detail, pertinent comments are responded to, and nice things are said about Russ Feingold. What's not to like?

Blogrolled and mentioned in despatches. Check it out.

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A modest proposal for anti-war Democrats


Yes, I'm still sour on electoral politics at the moment. Will I get over it? I dunno. Given my addiction to the game, probably. I'm already back to thinking about 2008; in particular, the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. It seems to me that the anti-war movement went at things the wrong way in 2004 ... at least with respect to the Democrat Party's primary process. Anti-war Democrats rallied around a surging semi-sort-of-anti-war candidate (Dean) and a no-chance-in-hell-of-winning-anti-war Democrat (Kucinich) -- then when a turd turned up in the punch bowl, grimaced and drank anyway.

Yes, I'm aware that, for many, there was nothing else to do. To be an operative member of a political party requires a commitment to that party. You fight for your candidate, and you hope he wins. But, if he doesn't, you have two honorable choices: Buckle down and support your party's candidate, or leave your party. There's some wiggle room there, of course. You might not put the effort in for the other guy that you would have for your candidate. Your faction may not bust its gut supporting the party's ticket. But unless that faction is prepared to walk away and join another party or form a new party, it pastes on a smile and puts out a yard sign and makes the best of things.

There is, however, another way of doing things. Instead of rallying behind a particular candidate or candidates, a sufficiently active and dedicated faction can work in advance to ensure that all of the likely nominees are acceptable. What I propose is that anti-war Democrats start working in Iowa and New Hampshire now to ensure that only candidates with acceptable records -- of action where possible, in rhetoric where that's the only thing to go on -- on the Iraq war have any chance of receiving the party's nomination.

It's litmus test time, folks. It's time to set some standards, and then start working to ensure that the caucus attendees and primary voters in Iowa enforce those standards. By the time the Democratic primaries head south in early 2008, only solidly anti-Iraq-war candidates should be left standing.

Think about it: The 2008 hopefuls are already visiting Iowa, kissing hands, shaking babies and trying to get their names remembered. Why should single-issue advocates wait until mid-2007 to start affecting the process directly? It's time for a sustained and focused effort in places where that effort can be decisive. It's time to start creating a solid consensus in two small, but important, states, that pro-Iraq-war candidates need not apply for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Here's the good news: According to Ballot Access News, there were about half a million registered Democratic voters in Iowa, and about 175,000 in New Hampshire, as of January 2004. Even with dramatic growth and party shift, we're talking about reaching an audience of less than a million people. A million voters ... not 300 million Americans. And we have three years to affect the way they mark a ballot in two states, not three weeks to get them to take a day off work and march nationwide. That cuts the size of the job down quite a bit, doesn't it?

A movement which can turn hundreds of thousands of demonstrators out for street action across a nation can surely put together a PAC which can spend the next three years reaching a smaller, geographically more compact audience with a focused message on what to look for -- and what not to accept -- in its presidential candidates. The key is creating some simple and compelling litmus tests and then hammering them home at every opportunity, starting long in advance and with persistence. The goal is to ensure that the target voter audience will be willing and able to apply those tests.

Mailings to registered voters. Television and newspaper ads with pictures of all the candidates and Xes through the photos (with names) of the pro-war candidates. Volunteer shills to follow the pro-war candidates around to events and pop up at question time (or appropriate heckling times) with "how did you vote on the Iraq war resolution in 2002?" and "do you now or did you ever support the war on Iraq?" We can ensure that the Democratic Party nominates an anti-war candidate in 2008 ... by stopping pro-war candidates cold before they have a chance to gain momentum.

Hell, I'm even willing to get things started (and to pony up a few bucks to a PAC pursuing such a strategy):

Litmus Test #1 -- for presidential aspirants who were voting members of the US House of Representatives or the US Senate in October of 2002. How did these aspirants vote on HJ Res 114 (the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq)? A no vote puts the potential nominee over the first hurdle. A yes vote disqualifies the candidate from further consideration.

Let's see how the Democratic hopefuls (thanks to Politics1 for keeping score) fare:

Evan Bayh -- Voted for the war in the US Senate
Joe Biden -- Voted for the war in the US Senate
Hillary Rodham Clinton -- Voted for the war in the US Senate
John Edwards -- Voted for the war in the US Senate
Russ Feingold -- Voted against the war in the US Senate
John Kerry -- Voted for the war in the US Senate
Dennis Kucinich -- Voted against the war in the US House
Ben Nelson -- Voted for the war in the US Senate

Among US Senators and Representatives, our first litmus test narrows the field from 8 to 2. Obviously we need other litmus tests for potential candidates who weren't serving in federal legislative office at that time, but you get the point: We need to create an environment in which the pro-war candidates are told, in a binding manner, "you are unacceptable -- we will be choosing our nominee from among those candidates who did not and do not support the war."

Note that this approach does not require support for any particular candidate. It simply requires opposition to any candidate who doesn't meet the standards. And note that this is a single-issue effort. Let others sort out the candidates' views on health care, gun rights, Social Security ... our job is to make sure that the candidates pushing varying views on those issues after Iowa and New Hampshire are all acceptable to the anti-war movement as an anti-war movement (and as individuals, we end up getting to pick from an assortment of views with that one issue laid to rest already). Instead of putting our money on one or two eggs, it's time to start determining what's in the basket to begin with.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

New blog affiliate thang ...


I don't always keep up with, it, but I try: When I mention a book or movie, there should be an affiliate purchase link. Hat tip to Nick Wilson at Performancing.Com for pointing out a neat new feature from Amazon. I've enrolled as a beta tester, and from here on out, when you hover over said links (if they're Amazon links, of course), a little popup window (more like the "alt text" bubble that lots of graphic links have than a real "popup" -- I didn't notice any performance degradation in Firefox) should dispay more information. Hey, let's try it! Here's what I'm reading now. Does it work?

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No there, there


Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm probably the only remaining political blogger who's neither affiliated with, nor done a put-down piece on, the abortion formerly known as Pajamas Media. So enough already. Here it is:

Yaaaaaaawn

I tried to be interested in what eventually became OSMTM. Really, I did. Especially after Tex McCrae asked me what I thought of it (here's what he thinks of it). I heard from a couple of others, too, and felt like I ought to have a vehement opinion. But, to be honest, I've thought from the beginning that it's the most boring, banal and stupid idea since The Huffington Post.

I don't have anything against aggregation of content (it's the source of most of my income). I don't have anything against projects designed to bring like-minded (or differently-minded) writers together for a common audience. I don't even have anything against Glenn Reynolds. Well, maybe I have something against Glenn Reynolds, but let's not go there.

What bothers me -- or, more precisely, what bores me -- about Pajam ... OSMTM ... is that it seems to be a big ugly pile of old (and for the most part not especially profitable) ideas poured into a new and not very interesting sack. All this blogospheric visionary guruism crap is starting to look an awful lot like the junk bond craze of the 80s on a smaller, but more immediately visible (thanks to the Internet) scale. Or like the "tech stock bubble" of the 90s. And it's likely to end the same way, too (although hopefully nobody will go to jail or commit suicide or anything).

I don't agree that OSMTM is a "train wreck" or anything of the sort. Big, ugly, fatal accidents are impossible not to watch. They're horrifying and they're absorbing. OSMTM is neither. To be honest, I've only found three aspects interesting so far:

1) That the OSMTM folks were able to shake $3.5 million out of a group of venture capitalists for this turkey; and

2) That half the blogosphere wants in and the other half wants to drown this butt-ugly baby before it gets around to crawling off the ledge and falling into the bottomless abyss that overhyped ideas inevitably disappear into.

3) That (legalities vague and aside), OSMTM had the gall and temerity (of the stupid variety, not the precocious/engaging variety) to grab another project's name and to set sail under a flag ("open source") that implies free use of information ... while assiduously reserving their putative rights in intellectual property.

And now, a few disclaimers:

No, I'm not one of the 230-odd bloggers who were apparently accepted as partners in OSMTM and then kicked to the curb.

No, I was not asked to join OSMTM -- and I didn't expect to be. I'm still small fry, and I know it.

No, I did not apply to join OSMTM. I drink alone.

No, I don't have an axe to grind with the OSMTM bloggers in general (some of them are quite good, some of them aren't, and it's all a matter of opinion anyway -- suffice it to say that none of them have courted my animosity in any personal way).

No, I don't especially object to the "corporatization" or "consolidation" of the blogosphere, because I don't see any such phenomenon transpiring. Not to wax all hippy-dippy visionary or anything, but blogging is easy, blogs are ubiquitous, and there's a never-ending supply of literate individuals who will continue to blog -- in an interesting manner and visibly through the search engines and the grapevine -- whether they're making money at it or not. The blogosphere may or may not be a basis for the gee-whiz business model of the future, but if it is, that model will lend itself to widely distributed ownership/production/revenues on the content side. Any big blogging revenue centers will be in the form of hosting, facilitating (i.e. better blogging apps/platforms), and providing back-end support (like making it easy to sell and run advertising -- hello, BlogAds!).

... and that's all I have to say about that.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Politics is a disease


I've blogged a few times about politics in my little St. Louis suburb (see "Because they can," part one and part two) but I've refrained from focusing on it in the past, out of worry that my comments might damage my significant other's ability to do her job as an elected official. That's no longer a concern: Last night, Tamara Millay announced her resignation, effective January 1st, as the city marshal of Greendale, Missouri. I'll get to why in a moment, but I'll preface it with this: I shouldn't have worried. Her attempt to serve her fellow citizens was stymied at every turn, from the very beginning, anyway -- by the city's mayor and board of aldermen (or, if you wish, alderpersons).

From the top, then:

In the spring of 2004, we became aware that the board had placed a measure on the ballot to eliminate the office of city marshal as an elected office, and to replace that office with a board-appointed "compliance officer." This struck us as a very bad idea ... but it appeared so certain to pass that not a single candidate had filed for election to the office. So, we spent several days and $23 in a "guerilla campaign" to defeat the measure and elect Tamara as a write-in candidate. And it worked: The measure went down by about 2 to 1, and Tamara was elected with the vast majority of write-in votes (if memory serves, 29 votes for Tamara, two for misspellings of Tamara's name, and one for somebody else -- yes, it was a small election; it's a small town).

The backlash started almost immediately -- actually, before the election was even over. At least one board member objected to the language on our fliers, which stated Tamara's platform: That she intended to work to protect the property and safety of the citizens, not to act as a revenue-raising ticket-writer for the board. The counter-argument: "It's not about the money, it's about enforcing the ordinances." Maybe so, maybe not -- but I note that I've attended hardly a board meeting since when the same board member hasn't brought up revenues from enforcement as an important issue.

The attempts to undo the voters' clearly expressed desires dragged on for a year-and-a-half:

First, the board tried to put over the notion that she was required by law to attend a 120-hour police academy. I guess they didn't think she could use the Internet or the phone -- it took about five minutes before the election to establish, and about five minutes after the election to re-establish, that the law requiring such training had been repealed and that the state's Police Officer Standards and Training Commission imposed no such requirement. Confronted with the facts, the board backed down.

Then, in an effort to get around the fact that Tamara wasn't going to be a doormat and write tickets at the demand of any city official who had an ax to grind, the board appointed a "deputy marshal" so that little things like common sense, common courtesy and just plain civilized behavior wouldn't interfere with their desire to have tickets handed out like candy.

Next came the "trash can controversy." Deep in the ordinance book (there are almost as many pages in the ordinance book as there are people in the city) was an old ordinance requiring trash containers to be kept out of sight of the street. All of a sudden, the board wanted it enforced. We took a survey of one of the longer streets in town, and found that of 22 properties, precisely two were in compliance -- one of them belonging to an alderwoman, the other a vacant house. One of the properties which was not in compliance was a lot owned by ... the city of Greendale.

But, the board wanted the ordinance enforced. Okie, dokie ... so, in keeping with her promise to the people of Greendale, Tamara went about it in her way. The first thing we did was deliver a flier to every house in the city informing them of the ordinance's existence, notifying them that, two weeks hence, those not in compliance would be cited, and pointing out that if they had objections, they should make those objections at the board meeting which would take place before tickets would be issued. In delivering these fliers, I talked to one gentleman who had kept his trash can in the same place for forty years without a complaint from the city or anyone else. I attended the board meeting as an interested citizen, and pointed out that when an ordinance has a 95% non-compliance rate, the problem is probably with the ordinance, not with the citizens. The reply was precisely what I expected -- the board's patented "we're the government, we'll do whatever we want" smirk.

Eventually -- but not soon enough in the opinion of our Most Exalted Leaders -- tickets were issued. And then what happened? The mayor insisted that some of them shouldn't have been issued, because the owners of the properties in question lived in corner houses where it was more difficult to comply (I haven't found it difficult to drag my trash container inside the garage, nor did I find any exception in the ordinance for corner houses). The board hadn't particularly wanted the ordinance enforced. They'd just wanted something to bitch about, and some way to claim that the city marshal "wasn't doing her job."

This went on for a year-and-a-half, folks ... frankly, I'm surprised that Tamara put up with it for as long as she did. The ultimate insult to fact and reason, however, was yet to come.

Last night, the mayor presented the board with a "Bill of Impeachment" -- mostly a laundry list of incidents in which the marshal had not issued tickets quickly enough to satisfy the mayor (despite the fact that in a memorandum to the marshal late last year, the mayor emphasized that tickets were to be issued "within the marshal's timeframe," not the mayor's). There was nothing in this screed which rose to the legal definitions of cause required for impeachment of an elected official. Tamara was not accused of abusing her office, or of taking or giving bribes, or of corruption. She was accused of doing the job in the way she'd promised to do it and in the way the people had elected her to do it, rather than doing it the way the mayor wanted it done. The only accusation which didn't amount to a difference of opinion between the mayor on one hand and the marshal and the people of Greendale on the other was that she'd missed a court appearance early in her term (true -- she hadn't thought she was supposed to be there, and subsequently corrected it).

Since we knew this was coming (it had been mentioned at the previous meeting and she'd received a copy of the "Bill of Impeachment" a couple of days before this one), we talked it over extensively. I advised her to fight, on the grounds that if you turn your back on politicians -- especially these politicians -- you're likely to feel a knife slipping between your ribs a few seconds later. I knew she could defeat the "Bill" in court before the hearing was ever held, since it contained no accusations of any impeachable offense. And I knew that if she actually let the hearing occur, we could have numerous citizens present to bludgeon the board into doing the right thing and giving up their latest attempt to have their way at the expense of the voter's unequivocally expressed desires.

On the other hand, her "real" job has become more time-consuming as she's been promoted, and she's grown tired of wasting time on these games that she could be spending with her family instead. Tamara ran for the job because nobody else had filed for it, because she believed that the office should remain elected, and because she wanted to prove that a Libertarian can work and play well with others to do some good "within the system." And she did prove that, in a sense. Unfortunately, she also proved, to her dismay, that "the system" has no intention of working and playing well with ... well, with anyone.

I didn't know until she actually arrived at the board meeting what her decision was going to be. She let me know right before it started that she was resigning. After the mayor made a show of how expensive it was going to be to hire a court reporter for the impeachment hearing, and how the ruling could be appealed in the courts, etc., "if the board passes the bill," I half expected her to change her mind and ram it down their throats -- to make them actually put up or shut up for once. However, she's a better person than I am ... she went ahead and tendered her resignation, after making it clear that the charges were spurious and that her main concern was getting back to real life, doing real things instead of fighting with them. She didn't put it that bluntly, but she's decided she no longer wants to be a cast member in the board's perpetual remake of Animal Farm. Unfortunately, we still have to live on the set.

So, Tamara stole the board's thunder -- and mine. I was up for a fight. Fortunately, I have one in reserve if I start feeling my oats (an illegal tax increase -- or, if you prefer, an illegal new fee assessment -- of $200 per year per household to cover the board's ass on a trash removal contract, without the required referendum), and the board went out of its way to give me a new one (they're putting their "let us appoint a marshal to harass you" measure on the ballot again -- and I'm going to beat it again).

As for myself, I'm starting to seriously look for a twelve-step program. I'm an anarchist. Really. I hate politics, and I hate local politics above all. I'd just as soon send the soulless creatures known as "politicians" scurrying for the nearest rock to hide under, or maybe in front of a wall with a last cigarette and a blindfold. Unfortunately -- hopefully more so for those who arouse my ire than for myself -- I'm addicted to real politics. At least I'm fairly good at it it, and at least I have my fixes lined up for the next couple of years ensuring that various wrongs are righted and that certain officials stand no chance of re-election. But I'd much rather get the monkey off my back.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

BlogProps: Semper Fi, Gloves Off


I like a lot of blogs, and I don't manage to read most of them often enough. One of them is James Landrith's Taking The Gloves Off. People in the libertarian movement know James as the editor of Multiracial Activist and as a proud veteran of the Marine Corps. Just about any time I give his site a visit, I find something interesting ...

... like, for example, a link to Veterans for Common Sense and their (actually, now our) open letter demanding an independent commission to investigate allegations of torture by the US military.

I gotta get by more often. You should, too.

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FMNNClip: Oil's well that amends well ...


... but ANWR doesn't.

This is the FMNN piece that I mentioned at the end of my last piece on the non-existent "budget cuts." Somehow I missed its publication.

Teaser:

"In every up-or-down vote in the US Senate, opening ANWR for oil exploitation has gone down. The Republicans -- who complain constantly about 'liberal' end runs around the legislature's prerogatives -- resort to sticking the ANWR issue into unrelated bills in the form of amendments, in the forlorn hope that it will slide through with something so important that anti-drilling congresscritters will cave. I'm surprised they haven't attached it to a bill to pay the troops in Iraq yet. That's probably next. Or maybe not ... because what the Republicans may be saying with their latest shenanigan -- popping an ANWR drilling amendment into the bill to make some spending offsets for the purpose of hurricane relief (they euphemistically refer to these re-prioritizations as 'cuts,' even though they remove not one thin dime of spending from the budget) -- is that they like having ANWR around to use as a 'poison pill.'"

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

BlogProps Times Two


Few would be inclined to regard me as a "moderate" libertarian (although I've argued elsewhere that libertarianism is the moderate political approach). And, as a matter of fact, I've been wading ever more deeply into the radical/revolutionary end of the libertarian pool. On the other hand, the more perspectives the merrier -- even when we disagree, debate can be enlightening to all parties. Thus, props for Dave Hoscheidt's new blog, The Moderate Libertarian.

In other news, the much-missed Arthur Silber is back with a new blog, Once Upon a Time ... (hat tip to Tex via AntiWar.Com blog). Silber gives Michelle Malkin a well-deserved smack upside her rhetorical derriere here. Such should be the national pastime.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

The death of a thousand uncuts


Everyone's up in arms about the on-again-off-again "spending cuts" on Capitol Hill. Republicans are simultaneously bragging about their party's return to a fiscal discipline it's never known and dodging like hell to avoid actually making any of the actual cuts ... which, by the way, aren't cuts. Democrats are raising holy hell about the cuts ... which, as I just friggin' mentioned, aren't, um, cuts.

Let's start with an obvious, but usually unmentioned fact: If the bill in question passes, federal spending will not decrease by so much as one thin dime. As a matter of fact, it will go up regardless.

The "cuts" are actually "offsets" -- nobody is proposing to spend less money; they're just proposing to spend money on different things. "Katrina relief," to be precise. The proposal is to "cut" $50 billion from various programs over five years, in order to "offset" new federal spending on hurricane aid. Congress has already spent more than $50 billion and may go as high as $200 billion, on the hurricane projects in question. The size of the federal budget is going to increase. At the very most, these "offsets" will slightly decrease the increase.

Now, let's talk about what $50 billion over five years means. That's $10 billion per year. The federal budget for FY2006 was $2.57 trillion when President Bush sent his request to Congress. By the time they were done with it, it was not quite $2.7 trillion. Assuming only $50 billion in "emergency spending" for hurricane aid, and leaving out the various tricks and scams (such as leaving most Iraq war funding, and a lot of routine Pentagon spending, to "emergency supplementals"), let's call it $2.75 trillion. So, the $10 billion in proposed "spending cuts" (which aren't any such thing) for FY2006 would come to a ... well, let's see ... a billion is a thousandth of a trillion .... ten billion would be a hundredth of a trillion ... 1 divided by 2.75 is ... wow ... ladies and gents, what we're talking about here is just about a whopping one third of one percent of the budget.

Underwhelmed? You should be. If Congress was shopping for groceries, this controversy would be on a lesser pleateau of importance than whether or not to throw a couple of candy bars in the cart at the checkout line. Now consider that the quibbledicks on the Hill are doing their damnedest to avoid "cutting" even that much, and you should be more than underwhelmed. You should be righteously pissed off at the amount of public face time these guys are scamming for the purpose of pulling your leg about "sacrifice" and "fiscal restraint" (or, from the other side of the aisle "draconian cuts in absolutely essential social spending"). I know couples who pull down $500 a week and who argue about expenditures of a buck-and-a-half, but at least they don't insist on doing it on national TV.

Like making sausage, folks. Like making sausage. And it gets worse. Hopefully my FMNN piece on ANWR and the "conservative" wailing and gnashing of teeth will appear some time today. Stay tuned.

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It's Veterans' Day ...


... and I think we should celebrate.

After much thought, I've decided to do so in the spirit of the original commemoration, known as Armistice Day -- a celebration of the end of "The Great War" and a solemn day for renewing the (quickly and repeatedly broken) pledge to make that war "the war to end all wars."

Of course, I don't make much money, but five bucks won't break me, and said five bucks has just been conveyed to AntiWar.Com in response to their quarterly fundraiser. These guys have been getting the facts about US foreign policy out, with style and elan, for a decade, and they deserve our support. Please join me in this celebration by matching (or exceeding) my donation.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Happy!


USMC 230th, Kn@ppster 39th. Semper Fi and where's my f--king cake?

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Monday, November 07, 2005

C'est la mort?


Okay, so I'm a coward. I didn't want to comment on the riots in France until I thought I understood them. Damn near two weeks into the violence, I still can't really say that I've got a handle on what's going on, but I've seen the major arguments and have some opinions, so here we go.

It's only natural, given the apparently largely Arab/Muslim composition of the mobs, to speculate that the riots are Islamist in nature, and possibly even the opening move of an Islamist revolution in France. Unlike some other libertarians, I don't consider such speculation paranoid. As a matter of fact, there's considerable evidence of organized Islamist involvement -- web postings to organize Islamist rioters for nightly outings, attacks on synagogues, etc.

The counter-argument, of course, is that the mob is just an irrational mix of people pissed off about the deaths of two youths who, fleeing police, were electrocuted while they tried to hide in a substation, people pissed off that they can't find jobs or don't get the government aid they think they deserve, people pissed off just because they're pissed off, people who think that burning cars is a neat way to pass the time, and people who figure now's as good a time as any to smash and grab some new tennis shoes or a nice color TV.

Thing is, these could both be true. A mob without a purpose attracts purposeful participants. A mob with a purpose attracts purposeless participants, and participants with purposes all their own. But I don't think it's a good idea to reject out of hand the notion that al Qaeda and/or other Islamist organizations are playing a role in the riots and have objectives in mind which they think the riots will help them achieve.

Brad Spangler makes some smart observations about underlying causes that aren't necessarily rooted in religion or jihad.

Pat Buchanan sees the death of Western civilization foreshadowed in the riots. Not that that's anything new, of course, but for some reason the case just packs more whang when it's Paris on fire.

For anti-statists, there are some tough calls to be made. In my view, a united front with Islamists versus the state is simply not an option; but neither am I inclined to enter into a united front with the state versus the Islamists. I'm not sure precisely what Tim Starr had in mind when he said the following (I kiped it from Billy Beck's blog, and it appeared originally on a list I think I've been kicked off of for inability to demonstrate sufficient bloodthirstiness), but I'm beginning to warm to the sentiment as I understand it:

"We need to fight the Islamo-Fascists as if there were no State (or any more than a minarchist state), and fight the State as if there were no Islamo-Fascists."

Reads like a great concluding paragraph for a libertarian Zimmerwald Manifesto.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

PSA -- I get mail


The following arrived in my inbox today. Figured it was best to just reproduce it whole. Have at.

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Date: Wed, 2 Nov 2005 14:36:30 -0500
From: kmakice@indiana.edu
To: thomaslknapp@yahoo.com
Subject: PoliticWiki -- Could you help recruit participants in a research study?

Greetings,

I am a graduate student at the School of Informatics doing some research into online political collaboration. I have a 6-month project that is entering its second phase of study (ending by February). In the first phase, I asked the public contacts of political organizations and discussion groups to distribute a recruiting message to solicit participation in "PoliticWiki," a wiki asking members to help build a political platform from scratch. Now, I am asking owners of political blogs to do the same, by posting a call for participants.

I have included below some text that includes a description of the project as well as a link to the consent form (where there is more information). I would appreciate it if you could post this message or some version of it in your blogspace, Knappster.

Thanks in advance,
Kevin Makice
kmakice@indiana.edu

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POLITICWIKI: Build a Political Platform from Scratch

Researchers in Indiana are currently examining the effectiveness of a wiki in helping multiple authors create a political platform. A "wiki" is an internet site that allows multiple authors to edit pages through the web. Although more than a decade old, wiki forums have only recently started to be used widespread for collaboration projects.

Participants in this six-month study, offered by Indiana University in cooperation with 3rdparty.org, are asked to create a new political party platform from scratch. The findings could help improve and innovate political forums in the future. If interested in participating in this experiment, please go to the following web site URL:

http://www.politicexchange.org/politicwiki/consent.cfm

If you have questions at any time about the study or the procedures, you may
contact the researcher, Kevin Makice, by sending email to kmakice@indiana.edu.
-----

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Attack of the Whiners


Daniel Lyons takes the offensive against us mean ol' bloggers in Forbes Magazine (hat tip to Hammer of Truth; the Forbes article may require registration, or feel free to use the login "rationalreview/rationalreview").

Can't win for losing, can't we? It's always either some gee-whiz singularity nincompoop advertising blogs as the Second Coming, or a corporate buzzcrusher lamenting the loss of Big Media's grip on the new Big Medium.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've slowly seen the light where blogging's potential is concerned -- bloggers have re-channeled the public discourse in some pretty major ways. I also understand the potential for abuse. Any tool that makes it easier to publish makes it easier to publish, well, libel.

Lyons' article, however, makes it clear what the real issue is by quoting Stephen Down of Kryptonite, a company which makes bike locks (some of which turned out to be easily picked -- a discovery touted, and then expanded, sometimes at the expense of truth and fact, by bloggers): "A blogger can go out and make any statement about anybody, and you can't control it."

Actually, you can control it -- it's just that a huge, ongoing technological advance is occurring. Once upon a time, it was difficult to spread disinformation, because it was difficult to spread information, period. People got their news and public commentary courtesy of a few people who owned printing presses or radio or television stations; in turn, the newspapers and electronic media got their public news and commentary primarily through a few channels -- wire services and network news operations.

Over time, corporate America got used to having it easy ... if someone wasn't telling the truth (or, sometimes, if someo was telling a truth that someone didn't want told), it was a simple matter of having house counsel send a cease-and-desist/retract-or-correct demand to one of those bottlenecks or perhaps to one of a few thousand smaller outlets that were coming up with something on their own. At worst, an occasional defamation or libel action might be necessary.

Enter the Internet, and suddenly several million (now about a billion) people can publish what they like with the press of a button, and everyone else can read it instantly. It's no longer just a matter of keeping an eye on Associated Press and ABC News ... Technorati, as of today, indexes more than 20 million blogs. Corporate attorneys are curled up in fetal positions under their desks, wailing about the impossibility of policing their employees' good reputations.

Cue the violins. Or maybe not.

Yes, it's harder for a company to protect its reputation by calling in the attorneys these days, simply because the attack can come from, and go to, so many more places and the attackers may not be easy to track down. But the same companies which have to work harder to protect their reputations have access to the same medium -- they're benefiting from the positive exposure as well as suffering from the negative. They have access to advertising and promotion options that didn't exist just a few short years ago. They're increasingly able to move their products and services direct to the buyer instead of operating through expensive meatspace distribution networks. The scalar increase may not be the same on both positive and negative sides, but it exists on both sides.

The huge, ongoing technological advance that began with the introduction of personal computers and proceeded through mass access to the Internet and the Big Blogospheric Bang entails all kinds of changes, some of them tumultuous and not all of them welcome to all people. Corporate America needs to understand that it's going to have to roll with the punches like everyone else. Advance censorship of Internet publications, shattering reasonable privacy protections to make it easier to find attackers, etc., are not options, and they're not going to be options. You don't get to accept the benefits without incurring the costs.

If corporate America really wants to suppress blog criticism (which does admittedly sometimes extend to libel and defamation) instead of bearing its costs and exploring its own legal options, let's make a deal -- if businesses are willing to give up their own web presences and refrain from online advertising, then they can have a say in whether and how their corporate names are mentioned on the Internet, perhaps through some kind of on-the-backbone text filtering. What's that? No dice? Didn't think so, and I thought it was a bad deal for both parties myself anyway. So stop whining and get back to making money already. Most of us can tell the knotheads from the legitimate critics. Those of us who can't easily do so will likely be as responsive to well-framed retorts as we were to the original complaints. And if your legal costs go up in tandem with your profits? Deal with it. That's the cost of doing business.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A few questions for the Senators from Nevada and Mississippi


Question for Senator Reid -- If "the American people and U.S. troops deserve to know the details of how the United States became engaged in the war," then why call for a closed sesion instead of an open one?

Question for Senator Lott -- If Reid was just interested in making "some sort of stink about Scooter Libby and the CIA leak," then wouldn't he have done so in public instead of in secret?

Question for Senator Reid -- If Senator Pat Roberts "reneged on a promise to fully investigate whether the administration exaggerated and manipulated intelligence leading up to the war," then why haven't Senate Democrats moved to bring Senate work to a halt until such an investigation is done, or introduced a motion to censure Roberts for dereliction of duty?

Question for Senator Lott -- If Senator Reid's procedural move "violated the Senate's tradition of courtesy," how would you characterize Senate President Dick Cheney's admonition, given on the Senate floor, to Senator Pat Leahy to "go f--k himself?"

Full story here.

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