Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Steve Kubby SitRep


Update, 4:45 CST: According to M.R. Jarrell, the TV News is now reporting Kubby's appearance in court. See the link for details, and add Uncivil Defence to your list of "sources of first resort." Thanks for the update, M.R.!

Awaiting word now on the outcome of Kubby's scheduled court appearance (I'm trying to balance getting "new news" out with combating the evil, lowlife, ax-grinding, blog-spamming assholes who continue to abuse the story's prominence and keep you from getting any real news at all).

Updates on the Kubby family's web site are spotty for obvious reasons, but bookmark it. Even if the news is slower getting there right now, you know that it's solid when it does.

No word on whether the hearing has actually even begun or not (if you believe the times listed on dockets, you've never been through the system), whether anyone will be liveblogging or near-liveblogging it, or whether any "real" news organizations will get a story through the mill in a timely manner. I'll get word out as soon as I have it, but Hammer of Truth usually has the scoop before anyone, so check there if you're wondering.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here are a couple of interesting recent pieces on Kubby (as opposed to the stuff put out by the the evil, lowlife, ax-grinding, blog-spamming assholes, or the appreciated but short/minor/re-post material):

- Death by Government: How to kill the sick by L.K. Samuels at Coastal Post Online
- Kubby: A martyr for jealous gods by Tom Morris

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Technorahrahrahti!


Awhile back, I mentioned that Technorati didn't seem to want to index my blog, and that the support ticket had been in for a looong time. If I'm gonna complain, I guess I should give credit where credit is due, and not just in the comments. Whatever the problem was, it got ironed out, and I had an email from Janice Myint letting me know. Technorati has promptly indexed Kn@ppster ever since.

A lot of startups with good ideas and innovative products/services get bogged down just about as soon as they get popular -- at least in some measure because support issues start pouring over the levees faster than they can deal with those issues, and their fans finally just walk away. One thing I noticed in researching my own issue was that the people at Technorati are generally very responsive to problems with their service (and just responsive in general to the blogosphere), and that when something comes up, they deal with it instead of letting it slide. Thanks, Janice, and thanks, Technorati!

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Monday, January 30, 2006

State of the Union: A preemptive response


Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tomorrow night, the president of the United States will address a divided government and a weary nation. In so doing, he'll attempt to make the case that the state of the union is sound, that his administration's policies have made it so, and that the continuation and extension of those policies is essential for the good of the country. The nominal opposition party, in the person of one of its more "moderate" orators, will respond with respectful disagreement.

Neither the president's speech nor the nominal opposition's response will truthfully address the true condition of the republic.

Neither the president nor the nominal opposition will offer bold solutions to the nation's vexing problems.

Neither the president nor the nominal opposition will own up to their respective responsibility for creating or perpetuating those problems.

I do not and cannot claim to speak for any party, group or assembly, although I have reason to believe that some may share my sentiments. The bulliness of my pulpit surely fails to measure up to that of the president's or his nominal opposition's; unlike William Lloyd Garrison, I cannot predict to any degree of certainty whether or not I shall be heard. I must, nonetheless, speak, and I choose to do so preemptively rather than in response.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are screwed.

Five years ago, the government of the United States was creeping, slowly and tentatively, toward a return to fiscal responsibility. Since then your Republican president and Congress -- with the connivance of many of their nominal opponents in the Democratic minority -- have engaged in the fiscal equivalent of a crack binge: They've piled up half again as much government debt in five years as the previous administration managed in eight. And, make no mistake about it, they expect you -- every man, woman and child in the United States -- to make good on their refusal to balance the checkbook.

Five years ago, the incoming president promised a "more humble foreign policy" in contrast to his predecessor's fixation on "nation-building." Since then, on the orders of the president and with the connivance of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the US has invaded, occupied, and conducted unsuccessful "nation-building" operations in two countries. These wars have so far cost more than 2,500 American lives, untold thousands of Afghan and Iraqi lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars. They have been conducted to the neglect of the administration's legitimate mandate to destroy al Qaeda and its associated terrorist organizations, and indeed have immeasurably benefited those organizations. They have failed to deliver Afghanistan from the depredations of its Taliban warlords, and they have succeeded in delivering Iraq into the hands of a proxy Iranian Shiite Islamist regime. Finally, they have -- according to the government's own investigations -- stretched the US Army to the breaking point, leaving America less secure.

Five years ago, the civil liberties of Americans rested on a shaky foundation -- the government's vanishing respect for the Bill of Rights. Since then, the Republican president and Congress -- with the connivance of many of their nominal opponents in the Democratic minority -- have done their utmost to wreck that foundation entirely. From secret "no-fly lists" to "free speech zones" to warrantless searches and wiretaps to detention without charge or trial to secret torture chambers abroad, this administration has eviscerated the Bill of Rights and erected a police state on American soil. The president now openly claims the "plenary powers" of a "unitary executive" -- the authority of a dictator, found nowhere in our Constitution and alien to the principles on which American freedom was built.

In five short years, the Republican president and Congress -- with the connivance of many of their nominal opponents in the Democratic Party -- have damn near sucked America dry: Of its money, of its honor, of its life.

Can we reclaim America?

It's tempting to say the task is too difficult -- that America's time has passed. There are those among us -- and I am one -- who would welcome a complete collapse of the rotted edifice of the state. Indeed, that is by far the lesser danger at this point: Even among those who are not anarchists like myself, anarchy must at some point become preferable to the boot this administration and Congress have placed on every American neck. And yes, it just may come to that.

For those who seek another chance for deliberative democracy, the choices are few and dismal.

The Republicans have nothing left to offer America. Those few advocates of liberty who remain in the GOP ranks do their country a disservice by allowing themselves to be used as window-dressing for an organization which has long since acquiesced in its leaders' will to unlimited power. The Republican Party is done, or America is.

It is just possible that an ember of hope in the bosom of the Democratic Party can be rekindled into a flame of freedom -- but it will be an uphill battle. In order for Democrats to become the obvious alternative, they're going to have to become an alternative: To return to their libertarian roots, become the party of Thomas Jefferson and Grover Cleveland once again, and stand unstintingly for liberty versus power. There are those in the Democratic leadership, as well as in the rank and file, who are attempting to lead their party in the right direction. I wish them luck and await the result.

Outside the major party "duopoly," the prospects are even more grim. The Libertarian Party may be America's last, best hope ... but only if it can rouse itself to exertions unlike any it has previously managed. For more than three decades, Libertarians have stood for all that is good and right about America, and have gone down to defeat after defeat. That they are still standing is not enough. They must prevail, or pass into history.

I write this in advance of the president's speech, knowing as well as you do that neither he nor his Democratic respondent will offer you anything of substance or integrity. All they have to offer are the last bitter spoonfuls of the poison that has nearly killed a once great nation. It's time to clench your teeth, refuse to swallow, and take your country back -- or kiss it goodbye.

Thank you, and good night.

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MSNBC is in the house


The Kubby story just picked up a shot of steam with a mention on MSNBC's Clicked blog. As fate would have it, Kn@ppster is the immediate beneficiary of the link love ... but let's keep it about Steve. Here's the latest from Michele Kubby:

A contact in Placer has just called to give me an update on Steve. I'm so glad someone heard from him. His main concern at this point is that Placer is not documenting the effects of his disease on his body or taking his illness seriously. His blood pressure is at 166/108. Placer is not testing for blood in his urine, either. Placer has also turned down Steve's request for Tylenol pain killer.

Steve wanted to express his gratitude for the calls. They are making a difference. One Sergeant, named Sanders has made sure that Steve is warm and has a blanket and pillow now, because of your concern. One thing my friend did say, Steve sounds amped and angry. This is to be expected because of the adrenaline in his body.

I hope this is resolved on Tuesday. Thanks for being there.

-Michele


Tune in to Kubby.Com for the latest updates from Steve's family ... and pass it on! Keep burning up the search wires, too -- it helps. As a matter of fact, the MSNBC mention seems to be a direct result of the Technorati search ranking.

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Steve Kubby roundup


Here's a rough list of some recent updates on Steve Kubby's situation. I shouldn't really have to do this -- "Steve Kubby" is the top search on Technorati and has been all weekend -- but a bunch of evil, lowlife, ax-grinding, blog-spamming assholes have been (intentionally) making it difficult for searchers to get real information on the actual topic. More on that below. First, a rough roundup of substantive posts:

- Ober Dicta's Steve on Kubby
- San Francisco Bay Independent Media Center on Kubby
- Uncivil Defence's M.R. Jarrell on Kubby
- webswamp's interview with Michele Kubby
- Hammer of Truth's Steve Gordon on Kubby

Late additions:

- Tor on Kubby

Like I said, these are recent substantive articles ... but a lot of people have been kicking in with a link and a nod, and that's great, too. Thanks to them, and I'll try to offer some link love in return later. If you blog, do a little research and help us deck the blogosphere halls with this story. It's worth telling and it needs all the attention we can turn toward it.

But, back to our bottom feeders. No, I won't be linking to them. I don't reward evil when I can avoid doing so. Most of them are involved in some kind of feud with Marc Emery, a prominent marijuana activist. I didn't have an opinion on that feud before. After seeing how one side conducts its operations -- complete with counterfeit "Pot TV" and "Cannabis Culture" labels (Emery runs the real Pot TV and Cannabis Culture, both worth your time and attention), smirking aspersions, gratuitous insertion of Kubby's name for no other reason than to spam readers who are looking for one thing with another, etc. -- I do.

There are some good really, really, good people in the medical marijuana movement; based on the enemies he's made if nothing else, I have to think that Marc Emery is one of them, and I know for damn sure that Loretta Nall is another. I haven't seen either of them trying to use Steve Kubby's situation as a cheap spotlight for their causes or ambitions. In that crowd, I'd also count the Kubby family themselves (I don't know them well, but I've met them and am familiar with their struggle).

We're trying to save someone's life here. So-called medical marijuana activists who will get in the way of that for a cheap chance to air their dirty laundry, or grab publicity -- even for a worthy cause -- with everyone else doing the work when they were too lazy to do it themselves before, deserve nothing but scorn. Maybe a good kick in the ass, too, but I haven't figure out how to deliver on that need ... yet.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Getting things back on the rails ...


Now that the phrase "Steve Kubby" is the number one search on Technorati, the opportunists are starting to show up, obfuscating search results and making it difficult for readers to get actual information about the situation at hand by posting material that happens to mention Steve peripherally but is really just stuff pertaining to petty controversies they're hopped up about.

Not very cool, guys ... and I'll remember and file it away for a day when I'm in a position to help -- or harm -- you, and act accordingly.

In any case, this post is just to remind people that we've got a situation worthy of attention, and to point them to a couple of links that actually have to do with Steve Kubby:

- Steve Kubby update on Brad Spangler's blog

- Update from Michele Kubby on Hammer of Truth

- My own recent entry on the Kubby situation

Let's try to keep the focus where it belongs, folks: On saving Steve's life.

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Kill dragon ... dragon is dead


These kinds of coincidences seem to follow me around and make me wonder if there isn't really some sort of mini-zeitgeist or something going on:

I'm in a thrift store a few hours ago and I come across a trove of the good old stuff, most especially one of the Zork titles from Infocom -- the old "two-word text" adventure games. I don't buy it, but I do pick up Ultima VII, Parts 1 and 2, with add-ons and a tie-in for something like 80 cents each. The kids have a Windoze PC for games. I figure they'll dig Lord British.

Then I come home, decide to surf a little, and immediately come across this fantastic little nugget from defective yeti, courtesy of a link from Henley. Brief excerpt:

> STAY COURSE
The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

> STAY COURSE
The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

> WEAR FLIGHTSUIT
You put on the flightsuit.

> SAY "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"
"Mission accomplished."

> EXAMINE MISSION
The mission is not accomplished.

> STAY COURSE
The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

Some insurgents arrive.

> STAY COURSE
The situation in Iraq deteriorates.


Weird. Cool. Beautiful.

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Join the KKK!


Yes. Really.

No, not that KKK, guys. The other one:

KEEP
KUBBY
KICKING


Quick rundown: Steve Kubby is a medical marijuana activist (he was prominent in the passage of California's medical marijuana law, and ran for governor of that state on the Libertarian Party's ballot line) who fled to Canada a few years ago so that he could remain alive. Steve is the world's longest-surviving victim of a rare form of cancer, for which marijuana is the only effective palliative -- and, having been targeted by America's drug thugs (the government) for using a medicine they didn't approve of, he was facing a jail sentence and the cutoff of his medicine.

Earlier this week, Steve was forced to return to the US when Canada's courts rejected his application for refugee status. Now he's sitting in jail, without his medication. This is not a matter that time will iron out ... Steve has nearly died several times when deprived of marijuana for as little as a few hours. At this point, the only thing that those who care about Steve Kubby -- and about the rights of all victims of all diseases to use effective treatments without the threat of prison and death hanging over them -- can do is to bring pressure on the authorities to let him go, or at least to let him have his medicine.

What can you do?

First, make noise: Blog about this. For more information than I've given you, check out the Kubby family's web site. More current updates and action suggestions may be found at Hammer of Truth, Brad Spangler's Blog, etc.

Second, spread the word to your friends and acquaintances and ask them to do likewise.

Third, spread the word to others:

- "Bookmark" articles about Kubby on sites like del.icio.us, Furl, Simpy, Spurl, reddit and Blink. Them more people "bookmark" such articles, the more attention they get and the more new articles they generate.

- Search on the term "Steve Kubby" early and often at Technorati, the web's biggest blog-specific search engine. You can open a regular search by clicking here. Right now, "Steve Kubby" is the number one search at Technorati. That's drawn attention and the blogosphere is responding with more articles, which will hopefully quickly translate into some "mainstream media" attention and pressure. Better yet, use Technorati's "mini" utility, which opens up a small window that searches for your term every 60 seconds ... then leave that window open while you're doing other things. Let's keep Steve's name spotlighted as best possible!

There are other things you can do, of course -- letters to the prosecutor, donations to the Kubby's legal fund or to Steve's "commissary" account (which he hopefully won't need because he'll be free by the time they get there), etc. -- and those things are covered on the sites I link to. The things I describe above cost you not one thin dime, just a few minutes of your time. Please help.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Profiles in Curage: Dick Cheney


cur, n. 2. a cowardly and despicable person [WordNet]
curage, n. 1. hypocritical cowardice [Kn@ppster]


Richard B. Cheney

2004 -- "We must be prepared to face our responsibilities and be willing to use force if necessary."
1989 -- "[I] would have obviously been happy to serve had I been called."
1963-66 -- Went to his draft board no fewer than five times to request deferments.


Hat Tip: LibertyPost

Profiles in Curage
Inspirational Leadership for a Nation at War

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Leaving Las BEgas


I'm a free market type. I don't see any reason why a webmaster -- for example, the webmaster or webmistress of the blogosphere's biggest traffic exchange -- shouldn't be able to make a business decision not to promote competitors, or to decree that his or her site will not be used as a forum for arguing that decision. Matter of fact, I've said precisely that right here before.

It may come as a surprise, then, that I'm leaving BlogExplosion (lack of link intentional -- I won't be around to benefit from referral signups, and I no longer care to promote BE). Not an earthquake or anything -- I've only referred 22 bloggers to them and only spend low double-digits in cash for their services, so it's not like I'm a "big fish" there -- but a surprise.

Why would I retire from a site that has driven significant traffic to mine? Several reasons, some good, some bad, all personal.

1) I'm still in the Top Ten on BE's "Battle of the Blogs" (number 8, last time I checked). However, I haven't been "battling" much lately, and I'd rather get off that dogpile while putatively "on top." It's been fun, but it's no longer absorbing.

2) I've met a number of worthwhile acquaintances and even good friends on BE ... none of whom I can communicate with via BE anymore since they introduced a "chat" beta that seems to require either connectivity speed or computing power I don't have. My friends know where to find me; I know where to find them.

3) The perpetual drama surrounding BE has reached a point where it's difficult to conclude that there's not significant childishness at the site's managerial level. They've gone from banning a competing traffic exchange (their call) to banning argument over that decision on their chat facilities (their call) to banning blogs residing on that competing exchange's hosting service -- which, by the way, their own new entry into that market looks a lot like, whether coincidentally or by design (once again, their call, but a stump-stupid one in my opinion -- and my opinions govern my affiliations, just as their opinions govern theirs).

To put it bluntly, I have no firm conviction that BE won't next start demanding that their clients remove links to competitors from their blogs, or banning blogs that link to blogs that are hosted at "the wrong place," or banning blogs that link to blogs that link to blogs that ... well, you get the picture. Moreover, after seeing the tone taken by BE's factotums in discussions of such subjects, I simply don't care to be involved in what seems to be turning more and more into ... well, a trite little cult. It may be more a reactive thing than a proactive thing, but it's visible in the arguments and the concomitant bans and subtle encouragement of abject toadying that follow those arguments. I decline to further support, or be involved in, these things. It's a market decision -- BE is welcome to continue its descent into blogospheric Pyongyangism, just not with me on board.

I hope that my BE buddies won't avoid Kn@ppster in the future, any more than I avoid their blogs. But they won't find me on BE.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Axiom attic


Interesting little tiff going, here. I'm not going to try to trace it all back to its starting point, but a reasonable place to start is with Jon Henke's piece at QandO, "The Social Contract Market." Which, of course, resulted in a typical and terse Billy Beck rejoinder, and Henke returned fire. Some or all of this, in turn, inspired Dale Franks to weigh in, with deconstruction (and yes, I'm aware of the perils of using that word in the company referred to) from Beck following.

All very interesting, and thrown out for your enjoyment and edification ... but I'm not going to follow it all the way down to metaphysics here. I don't have to prove the validity of natural rights to invalidate Henke's case against natural rights. All I have to do is establish that his case is contradictory to his own position.

Resolved: If "rights" are a "social construct" which exist only on the basis of "mutual agreement," then the absence of such agreement explodes the construct. We may not like what someone does, but it's not a matter of "rights," and what they are doing is not "wrong." The desire of Anne Frank or Sharon Tate to live is of no more or less value than the desire of Adolf Eichman or Charles Manson to see her dead. It's just a conflict of preference, that's all. Anne Frank only has the "right" to live if the Nazis agree that she does. Sharon Tate only has the "right" to live if Tex and Squeaky concur.

Is this what Henke believes? If so, he's a monster and worthy of no further consideration. But although I don't know Jon Henke well, I do know him -- and I don't believe for a moment that he'd categorize the Holocaust or the Manson Family's rampage as mere matters of preference. If I'm correct, then he must perforce believe that "right" and "wrong" exist -- in at least some cases -- independently of some putative "social contract."

Simply put, an individual's "rights" are those things -- conditions of existence or freedom to act -- which it would be "wrong" for another to interfere with or destroy.

Granted, it is only in a social context that "rights" are revealed. If you're alone, there's nobody else to reveal them by respecting them or violating them. The fact that they are only revealed in that context, however, in no way implies that they only exist in that context, any more than the exposure of a gold vein in a mine implies that the gold didn't exist until the mineshaft was sunk across that vein or that it exists only where the mineshaft crosses it.

Politics is the mineshaft in which rights are visible. However, they also exist in, and are a product of processes which take place much deeper in, the earth that philosophy digs up looking for such things. Beck takes it down to the metaphysical "center of the earth." So I don't have to.

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The people have spoken ...


... Kn@ppster was getting hard to read. It took too long to load. No, really. And, as I've mentioned, Technorati didn't seem to want to index it.

So, I've made some changes:

- I dumped the Amazon script that pops up previews of the books I link to. Cool idea, but it's in beta and I've noticed my browser waiting on it to load myself.

- I got rid of the Google search box. You guys know where Google is, and you know how to use it to search for my stuff if you're interested in doing so.

- I got rid of the Babelfish translator box. Any of my readers who don't speak English either know about Babelfish or, uh, wouldn't be able to read the damn thing anyway.

- I yanked some graphics. Most of those, I replaced with links in the blogrolls. If that's good enough, cool. If it's not ... well, I'm not saying that those sites need me more than I need them, but I definitely do need my readers more than I need a bunch of little buttons clogging things up.

- I thought I might have found a metadata problem that could explain the cold shoulder from Technorati. I fixed it. The fix doesn't seem to have adversely affected the blog's appearance, but it also doesn't seem to have changed anything vis a vis Technorati. Suggestions appreciated (if Mike L. isn't just correct in his statement that Technorati is just plain lagging on some sites, probably the larger/higher-ranked ones with more links to index).

- I got rid of my "flavicon." It wasn't anything special and it may have added a few milliseconds to load time. If you don't know what a flavicon is and can't tell what's missing when you load the site, well, it didn't really matter, did it?

Some stuff I kept: The javascript that makes my blogrolls manageable; the Haloscan script (I just like it better than Blogger's commenting system, and it's useful for trackback stuff, too). Overall, the site seems to load faster from my end ... but I'm interested in whether or not others see improved performance. Let me know. Kn@ppster can only be as readable as it is useable.

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Kubby countdown continues


To: Bradford R. Fenocchio
Placer County District Attorney

From: Thomas L. Knapp

Re: The Kubby case

Dear Sir,

I'm among those who've been encouraged in various blog articles to write to you, urging you to back off from your contemplated participation in the murder of Steve Kubby.

I doubt that it will be of much use now -- someone who's willing to kill the innocent in cold blood normally won't be put off by email arguments from people they don't even know that doing so is wrong -- but it seems like a reasonable step to take insofar as later, when and if you are held to account for your actions, you won't be able to credibly plead ignorance. You'll have been informed. It will be obvious that you killed him because you thought you could get away with it, not because you didn't know it was wrong.

So: Pretty please with sugar on top, don't murder Steve. He's a good man, and a friend, and he doesn't deserve to die for the "crime" of using a medicine that you don't like. Grow some guts and stand up for what's right instead of expecting others to pay for your sinecure with their lives.

Best regards,
Thomas L. Knapp
St. Louis, Missouri

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Asides and anecdotes


I've signed on with the Libertarian Leadership School as an assistant instructor for Campaign Management 101. My first thought, when Steve Gordon approached me about doing so, was that this was scary -- I've only got a couple of local election wins under my belt, and they're coming to me to help show people the ropes?

Then I started re-reading one of the course's supplementary texts -- Joe Trippi's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised -- and I noticed something: Trippi worked presidential campaigns for Ted Kennedy in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Gary Hart and Dick Gephardt in 1988, Douglas Wilder in 1992 and Howard Dean in 2004. What do these guys have in common? None of them became president. Only one received his party's nomination for the presidency. Does that mean that Trippi isn't good? Au contraire! Trippi started off by working a winning local race. He's since worked successful campaigns at other levels ... and he gave Dean the best shot at the nomination it was possible for an "insurgent" candidate to get.

So, I'm not as scared as I was. I don't have to be Karl Rove to be involved, and the fact that I've had any success at all stands me out from most LP campaign operatives. I'm not even alone as a "dual allegiance" type -- the LLS has gone outside the LP and recruited real experts from other parties to teach other courses. Cool. So far, LLS strikes me as more evidence that the LP is getting serious about winning elections.

--

Speaking of elections, one thing to consider for candidates and campaign staff: It doesn't matter which issues you or your candidate think are important. The issues that matter are the issues the voters think are important.

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Anyone else having trouble with Technorati? They say it's been 15 days since Kn@ppster updated (read: pinged them). I've done numerous manual pings during that time. I opened a support ticket circa 10 days ago, but haven't had a response. I'm assuming their indexing engine is burping on something in my template, but I haven't figured out what yet.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Murder in plain sight


The powers that be have been doing their damnedest to kill Steve Kubby for several years now. Via Hammer of Truth, I see that the plot proceeds apace.

I really have only one question: When are we going to start treating this kind of thing as what it is: a war, folks? The government declared (and vigorously prosecutes) its "war on drugs," and in so doing has declared itself the enemy of the people it allegedly serves.

If anything, my earlier article linked above is just not aggressive enough. It's becoming increasingly obvious that these assholes aren't going to cut it out until judges start turning up in parking lots with bullets in their skulls and DEA agents start reporting for their shifts via US Snail, one body part at a time in small packages -- routinely, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, day after day.

I'd rather it didn't come to that -- but then, I'm not the one who started this. They are. And they're the ones who can stop it, any time they want to. Maybe they'll want to if it starts carrying the same cost for them as it does for their victims.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

BlogProps: In Lehmann's Terms


Not sure how much buy-in the new buzzwords really command out in flyover country, but they're no worse than the constant Bushisms and maybe at the end of the day, given adequate mentoring, they'll produce some interesting new linguistic synergies. Latte, anyone? And by the way, who the fuck moved my cheese?

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Wanderlust


Own Horn, Tooting of -- I've got a guest blog entry up on libertarian movement/Libertarian Party divisions over at Hammer of Truth.

Smoke Blunt -- In truth, I just have no place weighing in on the GOP Majority Leader election process. I'm a Libertarian-Democrat and the GOP is, well, the GOP. Fortunately, the folks at QandO are running the right smack so's I don't have to. It's all over their front page and it's all good as such things go, but Dale Franks gives Roy Blunt the most comprehensive thrashing and it's worth a read. As someone who's lived in Roy Blunt's district, followed his career, and worked on opposing congressional campaigns, I can't help getting a warm feeling when I see him outed by his own party comrades (more or less) for the two-bit hack he is.

Yo mama, Osama -- A "truce" with bin Laden? Not a fucking chance, says Billy Beck. I agree. The only proper reaction to something like 9/11 is to hunt down every last one of the turds and off them. On the other hand, the condition which seems to be held out for such a "truce" -- a general US withdrawal from the Middle East -- is the right thing to do anyway. Bin Laden proposing it just makes it harder to get done by framing it in terms of surrendering to him, rather than to reality. Which is probably why he proposed it. As the damnYankee private said at Fredericksburg said, "Shit! They want us to get in. Getting out won't be quite so smart and easy. You'll see!" And seeing we are.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Al Gore -- born again libertarian?


Well, no. The perceptions of some to the contrary notwithstanding, I've not claimed any such thing. But damn, that was a good speech on a fairly strong (minarchist) libertarian theme, in a dual appearance with a fairly (as such things go) libertarian Republican politician and in a fairly (considering the city) libertarian forum.

I still say Gore would be a cinch in '08 ... and he talks like a guy who's running, even if he says he isn't.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The doctor is in ...


If it's in Pravda, it must be true, right? Well. Cool.

An article from late 2004 (which for some mysterious reason just appeared on Fark) says that making the beast with two backs is good for what ails ya.

As a humanitarian, I stand ... er, crouch ... ready to assist the needy, or even those with incipient sniffles.

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Mae West moment: Liberty For Sale


Judge -- Miss West, are you trying to show contempt for this court?
Mae West -- On the contrary, your Honor, I was doin' my best to conceal it.

Tim West writes at Liberty For Sale: "We [e.g. Libertarians] can't win elective office when we as a party, our candidates, or our writers and thinkers in the LP have a attitude of contempt for the very people -- the voters and the press -- that determine the fate of our candidates."

Pretty good point -- no argument from me. I do, however, want to point out that the whole discussion there (and it's carried over to Hammer of Truth as well) is getting tangled up with the subject of Michael Badnarik's 2004 presidential campaign ... and he doesn't deserve that.

I've watched Michael Badnarik in face-to-face contact with both Libertarian Party members and voters -- a lot more of the latter, as on the day he spent several hours "meeting and greeting" hundreds, if not thousands, of Rural Electrical Cooperative members at a regional event in Columbia, Missouri -- and I've never seen a politician treat people as courteously and respectfully as he does. Ditto for his interviews with newspapers, his radio appearances and so forth. I know that none of the writers I just quoted intended any such inference, but the point should be driven home ... if there's a "contempt problem," it's not with Michael Badnarik.

The proximate issue giving rise to the whole "contempt" debate was some Libertarians' reaction to the notion that his ... unusual ... beliefs on taxes and drivers' licenses might raise eyebrows. That means I should also point something else out in terms of "before" and "after."

Before he received the LP's presidential nomination, Michael Badnarik was more straight, up-front and promotionally oriented about his views than anyone could reasonably expect. He traveled 20,000 miles and spoke at numerous LP conventions and events about those views. He taught classes on those views. He wrote a book, and sold it at LP gatherings, in which he expounded those views. At least one Texas newspaper editorial, written by a former acquaintance, called attention to and made fun of those views (it was indexed on Google News and was in the top ten results for searches on "Badnarik" for several weeks).

After he received the LP's presidential nomination -- as a matter of fact, within hours, maybe even minutes, after he received it -- I ran into a number of the same delegates who had just nominated him, whining that they hadn't known about those views and that the apocalypse was at hand for the LP. At the time, I experienced severe ... well, there's no other way to put it ... contempt for people who were running around admitting they'd nominated someone they'd not bothered to investigate the publicly proclaimed views of, and blaming anyone but themselves for the fact that they'd done so.

But there's some more after:

During the post-nomination period, I recall not a single major media story on Badnarik which in any way alluded to his "tax problem" or his "driver's license problem" (yes, he did get some major media coverage -- not enough, but some; and yes, as his campaign media coordinator, I believe that I can claim a reasonably comprehensive knowledge of that media coverage).

During the post-nomination period, when questioned about these "problems" by movement publications, Badnarik handled the questions with aplomb, gave answers that wouldn't be considered too unreasonable even by non-libertarian standards, for the most part stuck resolutely to the issues that voters seem to care about, and always came off as being "the man who is on your side." That's important.

Perhaps if Badnarik's campaign had gained more traction, these issues would have reared up to bite him in the ass. But it didn't, and they didn't (and the former was not due to any lack of personal work ethic on Badnarik's part -- that guy wore me out!). I hope that those addressing the issues of a) "voter contempt" and b) "candidate weirdness" will be careful to hold separate two very general, and very real, problems, from the name of someone who is representative of neither.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Who's next?


Everyone has thoughts on who should, shouldn't or might move into the White House in Janurary of 2009, but those thoughts are mostly pushed aside for the moment in favor of a focus on surviving three more years of Bushevism, what Congress will look like after November, etc. Still, it's nice to keep a finger on the ol' pulse. As a matter of fact, it's time for a stemwinder.

The Next Prez deals exclusively with the 2008 presidential election and offers frequent updates on poll standings, events affecting various candidates' (or possible candidates') prospects and such. The site is also reasonably "third party friendly."

Also of great use is Ron Gunzberger's Politics1 -- my source of first resort for campaign, election and candidate information. With respect to this article, of course, Politics1's P2008 page and its complementary pages on the contenders, probable contenders, possible contenders and likely also-rans is of special interest.

Thoughts:

I'm still not seeing any "there" there for the GOP. The 2008 Republican nominee is going to be in, to put it mildly, a bad position: He can't get the nomination without lionizing the incumbent, and he can't win the election by lionizing the incumbent. That's why I can't get myself too worked up over who's a player for the nomination. At this point, barring some unforeseeable change on the order of, say, Independence Day, I have to work from the assumption that the Democratic nominee is going to win the general election. The very best the GOP can hope for is to pull off a Buzz Lightyear "falling with style" performance, perhaps by throwing Newt Gingrich into the ring and giving him a bully pulpit from which to start re-framing the party's message back toward something more less Rocky-Horrorish and more Reaganesque (yeah, yeah, I'm hitting the Amazon links hard today -- hey, I've got the tab open, why not? But I'll knock it off now).

Giuliani would crater almost immediately -- his, uh, "interesting" personal life aside, we got a glimpse into his political skeleton closet with the Bernard Kerik fiasco. If he runs, and especially if he's nominated, the door will be thrown open and the light will shine in. It won't be pretty. Giuliani has about as much chance of being inaugurated as I do.

Allen and Romney just don't create excitement around themselves. They're only presidential material in the same sense that Gerald Ford was -- if either of them stepped in to replace Dick Cheney and if anything happened to Dubyah, he could hold the seat down for awhile and then lose gracefully. But win the thing in an election? Ain't gonna happen.

McCain doesn't unify the GOP. That's not all his fault (as a matter of fact, a lot of it is George W. Bush's), but it's a fact. I can't see him making it past New Hampshire.

None of the others even show up on my radar screen as real prospects. Condoleezza Rice might pull the nomination if she threw in, but I don't think that will happen ... and she'd take a shellacking in the general election, if for no other reason than because she's too closely associated with Bush's foreign policy failures.

On the Democratic side ... well, like I said, I'm working from the assumption that the Democratic nominee will win the election. As a Democrat, I'd like to be happy about that. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton still seems to be the front-runner, and I can't be happy about that. When it comes to the Clintons, I'm of the opinion that it's time and past time to, um, MoveOn. As a matter of fact, if she's the Democratic horse, and if the Libertarian Party nominates anyone remotely plausible, I'll give up the "dual party, with emphasis on the one that actually elects people" thing and go back to the third party trenches.

I've written about the Democratic contenders before, and my opinion hasn't changed too much:

Governors Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Janet Napolitano of Arizona have started playing to the "seal the borders" crowd, which doesn't sit well with me, but a western governor would be an asset to the ticket, perhaps in the second slot. Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana is a dark horse, but one worth keeping an eye on.

Apart from my aversion to nominating sitting Senators, Russ Feingold still strikes me as the Democratic Party's best batter, save one ... Al Gore, whom Politics1 lists as "not running." I'm still thinking a Gore/Feingold ticket would be a slam-dunk in November, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

Biden, Bayh, Dodd and Nelson join Feingold, 2004 nominee John Kerry and Hillary Clinton in the "ambitious Senator" crowd, but none of the four have a shot and all four know it. They're angling for the veep slot, probably. The party needs to get over Kerry and Clinton. Either of them could win the general election, but neither should be nominated, because they'd be bad for the party in the long term. So would Jimmy Carter John Edwards. If we're remaking the party -- and we should be -- the last thing we want to do is put the Old Guard out front.

The only other contender who really captures much attention is Clark. Frankly, he didn't impress me in 2004 and he doesn't impress me now. He didn't, and doesn't, seem to be ready for prime time when discussing or debating policy questions, and if that changes, my gut feeling is that it will be due to focus group/"candidate packaging" hocus pocus and not because he really has a V-8 under the hood. As a former general, Clark ought to know that staff is there to provide information and opinion, but that the leader has to follow his own light ... and I can't see that Clark has any light to follow, except possibly "I want to be president."

Ah, now to the interesting stuff: As far as I can tell, the Libertarian Party is, once again, the last "third" party left standing. The Greens are in disarray and are much better at local than national politics anyway. The Constitution Party still shows no sign of having any gas in its tank. The Reform Party has been dead since before 2000 and will remain so, even if its corpse twitches occasionally.

Once upon a time, Michael Badnarik would not have been an obvious person to look at for a second run, because the LP eschewed nominating the same candidate twice from 1972-2000. However, Harry Browne brought that tradition to an end, Badnarik has expressed interest in the '08 nomination, and he's obviously the man to beat.

I like Badnarik. I worked as a volunteer early in his nomination race before Aaron Russo got into things, and I served on his staff post-nomination. I was wrong when I told him -- in March of 2004 -- that he couldn't win the nomination, and I believe that he did a creditable job in the general campaign. I also think he'll find it harder to win the nomination this time than last time. In 2004, he was virtually ignored by his opponents right up to the convention. This time, they'll be gunning for him from day one. I wouldn't count him out, though ... I've made that mistake before.

I also like Lance Brown and David Hollist. They're great guys. But Hollist has run several times now without garnering significant support, and I've not seen anything from Brown to convince me that his candidacy (which he's been openly planning for years) is backed by a significant -- actual or potential -- volunteer base. It's early for 2008 ... but Brown has been planning his run for years, and I'm puzzled not to be seeing more from him already. I'm willing to be surprised, though.

Politics1 lists Gary Nolan, who fought hard for the 2004 nomination, as a possible candidate. I don't think that he can make a comeback.

The name that keeps popping up -- as it does every four years, although it's not listed on Politics1 (and although she does not appear to have expressed interest in running), is that of Dr. Mary Ruwart. The New Hampshire LP has already voted to commit a delegate to her at the nominating convention, she's listed in the polling at The Next Prez, and she has a substantial base of admirers within the party. She threw into the 1984 nomination race at the last minute, garnered substantial support, and withdrew from a real bloodbath to break a fourth-ballot three-way deadlock. This may be her time. She'd be hard to beat for the nomination, and she'd almost certainly turn in a good performance, especially by LP standards, in the general election.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Plug: A New Venture for Liberty


The guys over at Hammer of Truth are launching a new project intended to enhance the libertarian movement's media presence and "market penetration." Having worked with Steve Gordon and Stephen VanDyke in the past, I know that they get the job done and then some. Check it out, and get in while the gettin's good.

[Disclaimer: I am associated in a consultative role for which I may receive compensation or renumeration with the project described above. Just so you know. If you're seeking writing (press release, position papers, etc.) or other services for your project or campaign, drop me a line.]

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

BlogProps and thoughts on Alito


I'm tempted not to even try excerpting this from Billy Beck, because it hangs together in a way that rewards cleaning your plate. But yeah, I think a teaser is necessary:

We'll get tapped again. For sure. However, I also do not -- cannot -- believe that everything this government is cranking up will be worth the payoff in terms of identifying and/or neutralizing the threat[s]. More and more, these people will not be able to get out of their own way -- all while they're killing everything in the essential spirit of Americans which is necessary to keeping them in the fight. ... I am convinced that we are at the final turning point. Liberty really is finally being traded for security, and I can never endorse that. Not under any circumstances.

Which is pretty much the bottom line as I understand it, too. We can carp all day long about motives and sentiments -- but when the sun goes down, it's gonna get dark whether the people spinning us toward night thought they were doing so for good reasons or whether they were just a gang of punks.

Now, to Alito -- because I've had a couple of notes asking why I haven't weighed in on him yet, and because the link above is a pretty good signpost for where I'm going.

I haven't watched the hearings, I'm not following them closely, and I don't feel any need to. Any real raw meat coming out of the Alito nomination will have little to do with Alito himself. This isn't about "judicial philosophy" or anything of the sort. That's window-dressing. It's about Republicans and Democrats trying to make each other look like assholes. And it's working.

I've told you before why Supreme Court nominations aren't as important as they're made out to be: There's just no reliable predictor for how a justice will rule once appointed. After all the hearings are done, they could just as well have drawn a name out of a hat and notified payroll. But if recent history is any guide -- and I think it is -- then the one statement I can make with total certainty is that all nine political hacks in black dresses have us, and rejoice in having us, and will continue to have us for as long as possible, by both balls; they're squeezing, and I'm more resigned to the fact that they're going to continue squeezing than worried about which testicle will pop first.

Now, Beck thinks I'm a weasel -- which is fine, I don't require his good opinion -- but I think that he might agree with me (given that he reminded me of it himself above) that what's been missing here for a long time is anything resembling the philosophy that made America. They can wave the "judicial philosophy" wand around all day long, but it's just stage magic -- flash powder, misdirection, sleight-of-mind. They -- and I include not just Alito and his probable future associates on the court, but also the president and the Senate -- aren't applying any coherent set of ideas to their actions at all, let alone good ones. They're just cannibals scrapping over the carcass of a great nation -- even if some of them really, truly believe they're doing CPR -- and any ideas involved are nothing more than ribs plucked from that carcass for use as cudgels.

Goddammit, Beck, you've got me all depressed now.

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Contra Hornik?


I don't write about Israel much -- the Signal-to-Noise ratio generally isn't good once the topic is broached -- but a friend sent a recommend for David Hornik's article Against the Sharon Cult over at FrontPageMag. Said link-love, btw, being part of an amicable argument over my recent decision not to waste time on FPM when gathering commentary material to abstract for Rational Review News Digest. After reading over my email response, I thought the substance of it was worth sharing. So here it is (with post-email changes noted in brackets):

The problem with Hornik's piece in FPM is that it starts from a false premise -- that there's some kind of media buildup of Sharon as "the only Israeli leader who could make peace." Everything I've seen is 180 degrees opposite -- the anti-Israelis hate him and consider him a warmonger for (insert excuse here -- the wall, the aggressive program of assassinating "Palestinian" [terror] kingpins instead of just trying to fend off their underlings, etc.), and the pro-Israelis seem him not as a peacemaker but as a capitulator.

The common thread in the media lionizing of Sharon is not that he has been a "peacemaker" but that he's been a strongman who's been able to ram his plans, whatever they happen to be, through over considerable opposition in Likud, in the Knesset, and in Israel generally, and then politically survive their implementation even when that came down to publicly dragging settlers from their homes by the hair of their heads.

Since the article starts from a false premise, it immediately falls apart. There's no "peacemaker" image to tear down -- Hornik is tilting at a strawman, and probably not even needfully. Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu] will make short work of any "peacemaker" rhetoric and call Sharon out for what he was ... a mob boss who parlayed his military resume into a lucrative career in getting his way -- whether that way coincided with Israel's interest in securing a genuine peace or not.


On re-reading the article, I do have to say that the problem isn't so much with Hornik's analysis of Sharon's character and actions as with his belief that there's some kind of media campaign to paint Sharon as a peacenik. I may have been hasty in my reply. On the former point, he gets it right:

The fact that Sharon remained popular is more connected to pathology -- a decline toward Third World standards and desperate clinging to a leader-cult—than to rationality.

The unstable political house of cards which Sharon built in Israel (and which will quickly collapse with his passing, wrecking most of that which lies in its shadow) was made possible by the situation of Israel itself. After more than half a century, Israel is still unable to bring an end to its state of continuing, variable-intensity war.

Let me emphasize unable. The Jews remain unwilling to march into the sea; their enemies remain unwilling to settle up and shake hands for any concession of a lesser sort. One side is right on this particular point and one side is wrong, folks. Israeli intransigence on reasonable grounds versus Arab intransigence on unreasonable grounds can't produce peace. Ever.

What it can produce -- and has -- are contests in the Arab world to see which "leader" can stick his head furthest down the Lion of Judah's throat without getting it snapped off, or which one can extort the most money from those who naively believe money will buy peace from extortionists (i.e. the US), and contests in Israel to see which "leader" can keep the situation tamped down enough for people to live in a state of less-than-constant fear ... whether that tamping takes an aggressive or appeasing form. Sharon played both both sides of that game to his own (although not necessarily Israel's) benefit, and spared no dirty trick in the competition. My disagreement with Hornik is purely on the point of whether or not the media and various hangers-on are rushing to worship at the "peacy" part of his "legacy."

Netanyahu -- whom I predict (a fairly safe prediction, I think; Kadima without Sharon and without Sharon's manipulative ability is an empty sack) will be Prime Minister again after the next elections -- will pick one side of the game (no need to guess which side) and play it to the hilt. Whether or not one agrees with the arguments underlying his position, it's worth remembering that both Israeli and Arab casualties in the ongoing war dropped dramatically last time he sat in that chair. Sans a real resolution of the conflict -- which can't be achieved until the Arabs give up their demand that Israelis either commit mass suicide or bare their necks for genocide -- that's a concrete achievement worth seeking.

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Technorati Tags: News, Politics,Middle East, Israel, Ariel Sharon
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Monday, January 09, 2006

Is it time for Cheney to go?


Another hospital visit -- this time for side effects of medicine he's been taking for a foot problem -- and so it's time for the question to be asked again: Is it time for Vice-President Dick Cheney to step down?

I say "yes," but not for the reasons you probably think.

Unlike many Democrats, I don't think that Cheney is "Bush's brain" or that he secretly runs the administration from behind the scenes, or anything like that. I think Bush picked him as VP for some good and obvious reasons: His long experience in the executive branch, his close acquaintance with how things are done in DC (including a stint in Congress), his obvious loyalty to the presidents he's served, and the "continuity" image of having a senior official from the previous Bush administration. All of those things were necessary to an incoming president with little political experience (and none in Washington). But, five full years into his presidency, Bush has presumably raised up his own crop of experienced, competent, loyal mandarins. He doesn't need Dick Cheney, at least not in the same way that he did in 2001.

Also unlike many Democrats, I don't regard Cheney as solely a factotum of "the military-industrial complex," slotted into the administration to guard the interests of big contributors in getting sweetheart contracts for Halliburton and friends. I don't write off the likelihood that he's a de facto White House internal lobbyist for those interests ... but any pork-shoveling operation on the scale envisioned by some critics has more than one middleman and this administration isn't going to turn 180 degrees just because the top such middleman retires. The pork will continue to flow.

Finally, unlike some Democrats, I don't think that Cheney's retirement would be a positive for Democratic prospects this year or in 2008. If anything, it would help the GOP, in two ways: Blame for various problems could be subtly re-directed toward someone who's no longer a member of the administration (instead of toward people who still are), and Bush could enhance the prospects of his chosen successor -- not, I think, enough to pull off a presidential victory in 2008, but a little, and possibly decisively for 2012 -- by making that chosen successor vice president for the remainder of the term.

So why do I think Cheney should go? Simple: He does have heart problems. He is walking with a cane. His health is very much in question. And that raises both personal and political issues.

On a personal level, I'm willing to believe that Cheney continues to soldier on as VP out of a sense of duty -- in other words, because he believes he's needed in that position. But no political official is irreplaceable. It's time for the president to sit down with Cheney and tell him, with all due sincerity, "thank you for everything you've done for me -- now go take care of yourself and your family."

On a political level, there's the matter of presidential succession. We've been told, repeatedly, that America is at war and that the times are dangerous. Accepting that, is it responsible to expose the country to the distinct possibility that, should anything happen to George W. Bush, America will be subjected to not one, but two changes of executive between that occurrence and January, 2009?

This is an odd place for me, an opponent of the state as such and most certainly of the Bush administration, to find myself in. I know that I'm recommending something that would strengthen the administration, the GOP and the state. But it still seems to me that it's time for Cheney to go ... if for no other reason, for his own good.

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Technorati Tags: News, Politics, Current Affairs, Current Events, Cheney
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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Guest-blogging and such


Got a guest entry over at My Waisted Life. madbull is one of my BlogExplosion buddies -- not highly political for the most part, just highly offensive.

Speaking of BlogExplosion, their new "chat" beta doesn't work for me. When I say "doesn't work" I don't mean "doesn't work well," I mean "doesn't work." It's got all kinds of doomaflitchits that try to load -- audio and video stuff -- and it just never seems to quite get there. I'm assuming that this is not because my puter (the new 2.8GHz/256Mb/Xandros Linux/Firefox box) isn't up to it, or that the beta is inherently defective, but rather my slow connect speed (56K). In any case, I don't chat often, but it would be nice to be able to when I want to.

Now that the blogrolls are attractive and functional instead of just eyesores, I've started expanding them. I'm also noticing that there are sites which should have been 'rolled ages ago, and that I thought were, that weren't there ... yes, Angie, this means you. Some corrections/additions have already been made, more coming.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

BlogProps: The Poor Man Institute


Sometimes Sifu Tweety gets it ever so right -- like, say, here (hat tip, as is so frequently the case, to Jim Henley). And right, wrong or just plain incoherent, The Poor Man Institute is always great fun.

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Mr. Fix-It


"I like this a lot better," writes Kirsten. "The only thing that is driving me nuts is that the Read More! link appears even when there isn't more to read." Which is the kind of thing I'd usually just answer inline ("fixed") in the comment itself, except that then my admonition that you should read and bookmark her fine blog, Enjoy Every Sandwich, would go generally unnoticed and also roll off the front page far too quickly, and then Kirsten might erroneously conclude that Kn@ppster doesn't harbor the same level of anarcholiberal love for her and her sex toy business as he does for others and their sex toy businesses, which would be an intolerable tragedy.

So -- the "Read More!" thing is fixed (it wasn't part of Jen's design -- I stuck it in there when I decided my posts were rather longish and that they should perhaps be truncated, but on re-thinking, screw it -- you people know how to navigate a site, don't you?).

In other news, the Libertarian Party took a giant step toward becoming a real political party on January 1st by eliminating dues for "membership." Now one becomes a Libertarian in the same way that Republicans become Republicans and Democrats become Democrats ... by deciding to be one and saying that's what you are. They'll still take your money, of course, but now it's a "contribution for political work" instead of a "payment so I can call myself part of the club."

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Working in the data mine


There's been a lot of speculation that the "Bush spy plot" has to do with data mining -- sieving large amounts of data (such as all the email sent through a particular server) for specific information (such as the use of the word "hijack" or "bomb") that might be of interest to counter-terrorism operators. My impression is that while there may be data mining a la that supposedly discontinued Total Information Awareness program, there's probably more to it than that. But, nonetheless ... How hard is data mining, really?

It's not that hard at all, especially if you're the government and can waltz into any ISP, flash a badge,tap into all the incoming and outgoing traffic, and run it through the largest and most powerful collection of computers in the known cosmos.

What you may not know is that it can be easy for us apes, too ... because a lot of sites have features which -- with your permission and even active connivance -- make the data available on request. You just have to know how to request it in large quantities and how to analyze it once you've got it.

Here's a fascinating article on "mining" Amazon.Com's wishlists for ... interesting ... stuff (hat tip to Bruce Schneier, whose blog I can't recommend highly enough for people interested in security, encryption and such).

Hmm ... there are 414 Osamas with Amazon.Com wishlists. The article explains how to find out that much simply by plugging a first name into a URL. After that, it's a matter of some operations even I can grasp (but don't feel like investing the time in actually doing) to figure out where they live (state/city/ZIP, anyway) and if any of them have expressed a burning desire to own piloting manuals, explosives guides, etc.

Not difficult (it just took an expert to figure it out and tell us how to do it). If you and I can do it, then it goes without saying that the government can do it. The government can do anything you or I can, and on a much larger scale, except maybe balance their goddamn checkbook.

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Stupid Government Ideas (Chapter 3.2)


This just in from Logan Ferree at Freedom Democrats (and more about the site below, too): Some idiot state senator (redundant? Yeah, mostly) wants to ban the sale of cold beer in Missouri.

Yeah, he's a Republican. Imagine that. For all I hear about the GOP being "the party of smaller government," it almost never turns out to be true where the rubber meets the road. Here in St. Louis County, a draconian smoking ban came before the county council -- all three Democrats opposed it, three of four Republicans supported it.

This one isn't just "for the children" -- it's by the children. Our "limited government" ... limited to doing whatever stupid idea pops into the heads of those comprising said government, apparently ... Republican, Bill Alter, got the idea from a fifth grader when he asked a class to suggest new laws. We don't have enough laws yet, see? We've only been a state for what, 184 years?

The senator's idea is that if liquor stores had to keep their beer at 60+ degrees, nobody would decide to pop the top on a cold one while driving home. My prediction is that the ice industry will rake in a windfall. Or maybe we'll all go Brit and start drinking the stuff warm and talking funny and listening for cricket scores on the Beeb. Dumbass.

But back to Freedom Democrats ... always good stuff there. They've got an "Act Blue" page for direct donations to pro-freedom Democratic candidates. US House and Senate scorecards, too (and damn, I need to get to work on the Missouri version). Check'em out.

Final note -- hat tip, once again to Freedom Democrats: Gotta help keep the Cory Maye case on the ol' blogosphere radar. Here's an omnibus site covering a miscarriage of justice that needs to be corrected.

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Early and ofte ... er, once, folks


Nominations are open for the Sixth Annual Weblog Awards. You know what to do. Wait, maybe you don't. Watch the pendulum swing ... you are very, very sleepy ... you will remember none of this ...

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Cardinal of the Cloakroom?


It's served as plot fodder for a hundred "suspense" and "techno-thriller" novels, usually but not always dating from the Soviet era: A Russian mole is planted at the highest levels of government, bending American interests to Russian ends ... and he must be stopped before it's too late! In at least one case (I'm pretty, but not completely, sure it's Daniel Da Cruz's science-fictiony The Ayes of Texas, which features a Ross Perot-like Texas billionaire who leads the state into secession -- fun stuff), the mole is the Vice President of the United States.

But what if truth is stranger (although slightly more pedestrian) than fiction? Or, to be more precise, what if recently -- and possibly temporarily -- dethroned House Majority Tom DeLay (R-TX) is a Russian agent, or at least was in the late 1990s?

Yeah. I know what you're thinking. But ... but ...

Russ Baker lays it all out all nice, smooth and flat over at TomPaine.Com [hat tip to my compatriot Steve at RRND]. For all that the story flew way under the MSM radar in general, it did make the Washington Post's front page last Saturday.

Excerpted highlights:

The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff .... Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them [$1 million funneled through a London law firm] came from Russian oil and gas executives. ... the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.). ... The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy. ... Buckham and DeLay were the dinner guests in Moscow of Marina Nevskaya and Alexander Koulakovsky of the oil firm Naftasib, which in promotional literature counted as its principal clients the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior. ... other dining companions were Abramoff and Washington lawyer Julius "Jay" Kaplan, whose lobbying firms collected $440,000 in 1997 and 1998 from an obscure Bahamian firm that helped organize and indirectly pay for the DeLay trip, in conjunction with the Russians. In disclosure forms, the stated purpose of the lobbying was to promote the policies of the Russian government. ... a Frederick, Md., pastor named Christopher Geeslin who served as the U.S. Family Network's director or president from 1998 to 2001, said Buckham further told him in 1999 that the payment was meant to influence DeLay's vote in 1998 on legislation that helped make it possible for the IMF to bail out the faltering Russian economy and the wealthy investors there.

A mouthful, and I left a lot out (fair use, you know). Some more factoids paraphrased from the Post story:

- Yes, DeLay lobbied hard for the Russia bailout.

- DeLay's wife "worked" for a connected firm to the tune of $3K+ per month for three years -- said "work" consisting of providing the firm with "lists of lawmakers' favorite charities."

- Part of the Russian money went into running ads against congressional Democrats in 1999.

- And some of it went into buying a townhouse to provide office space for, among others, Dick Armey's PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority.

Whodathunk? Weren't the Republicans the guys who spent the better part of the last decade lecturing us on the need to "restore honor and integrity" in Washington? And all but accusing Bill Clinton of holding down a part-time espionage gig for the Chinese when he wasn't busy holding down naked interns or, you know, being president and stuff?

Tom Clancy, your editor is on line one. Have at.

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But he cleans up just fine ...


As you can see, the new Kn@ppster is here! Some minor tweaks coming (I've been meaning to make my blogroll better-looking, for example), but Jen of Digitally Essential delivered in spades on my request for a simple but attractive design incorporating the same colors and feng shui of the old version. Thanks and hugs, Jen!

Now my job is to do my playing around without messing it up (template saved to hard drive, dammit!), and make the content measure up to the appearance. Help yourself to some chips and dip -- this here's a house party in Jen's honor -- and I'll be back. I wanna rev this baby up and run it around the block a time or two.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This and that ...


The new machine is here. I'll write a full review after I get to know it. First impressions:

- The case is haute cheap computer -- the little front door covering two USB ports doesn't like to be opened, and at the rear I'm not entirely comfortable that cards/ports etc. are that secure on the frame.

- When the machine booted up, my obvious first priority was to get on the net ... but it didn't find its own, manufacturer-installed internal modem. Not a real problem -- the external from my previous machine was sitting right there -- but not confidence-inspiring.

If those are the only two problems, I'll consider the machine a good deal for the price (even if I had paid for it instead of taking it in trade on a work contract). It runs fast. Xandros SurfSide Linux came pre-installed, and the user setup was quick and easy. Still messing with fonts, themes, etc. I don't know if my headache is because I ran out of cola early and haven't picked up any yet, or from the color scheme and such.

It's really nice to count bootup times, OpenOffice load times, etc. in seconds instead of 10-minute increments.

Enough of that. Kn@ppster had its 200,000th visitor some time early this morning (wow -- half the traffic The Evil One gets in a day!), and should hit its 300,000th page view some time in the next day or so. Cool.

Kn@ppster's new look is coming Extra Real Soon Now -- I've seen the "test template" and it rocks. Jen of Digitally Essential does too.

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Taking a leak


On her blog, Michelle Malkin summarizes her latest column thusly:

My latest column blasts the "good" leak/"bad" leak and "whistleblower"/"felon" memes now being used by the Left to defend the NYT/NSA story. To the Times' defenders, keeping secrets to protect counterterrorism operations is an impeachable offense, but keeping secrets to protect the Gray Lady's fanny is an elite media prerogative.

It would be fair to point out that "the Right" in general, and Malkin in particular, are playing both sides of the "PlameGate versus NSAGate" street as well ... if that street existed. But it doesn't. There's no comparison between the "outing" of Valerie Plame and the revelation of the Bush administration's illegal domestic espionage program. Here's why:

- Regardless of whether or not the Plame "outing" violated the specific statute on revealing the identity of a "covert agent," a grand jury did conclude that it involved the disclosure of classified information. If that finding is material to the case against Scooter Libby, his attorneys may, of course, attempt to rebut it.

- No grand jury, applying Executive Order 12958, could reasonably conclude that the existence of Bush's "warrantless eavesdropping" program is, or legally ever could be, "classified information." Not no way, not no how.

Here's the relevant section:

Sec. 1.8. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations.

(a) In no case shall information be classified in order to:

(1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;

(2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;

(3) restrain competition; or

(4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of national security.


Here's the New York Times article which started the ball rolling.

What are the distinguishing characteristics of the program which are revealed in the article?

1) That it was conducted extra-legally; and

2) that public disclosure of its extra-legality would embarrass the President of the United States.

That's it. That's all. The article does not reveal the name of the program. It does not reveal the names or positions of the persons conducting the program. It does not reveal sources. It does not reveal methods. It does not reveal heretofore unknown capabilities. It reveals only those characteristics of the program which are intrinsically unclassifiable. And if something is not classifiable, it is by definition not classified.

The disclosure of the program's existence and its criminal nature did not damage the national security; it only damaged the president's reputation. It did not endanger the United States; it only endangered the president's ability to continue committing crimes with impunity. If there's any parallel between the Plame case and this one, that parallel is to be found in the Bush administration's continuing insistence that it is above the law. To their everlasting shame, Malkin and friends' political raison d'etre seems to have become defending that insistence at all costs.

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