Saturday, September 30, 2006

Same old song and dance


The St. Louis Oracle is a pretty smart guy. Here's his take on the Talent-McCaskill LoveFest. I agree with about 90% of that take.

"Major party" candidates simply hate the prospect of confronting "third party" candidates. While the major party guys are angling for the center, third party opponents threaten them on their flanks by taking on the issues which may not drive the mass of voters, but which can swing an all-important 1-2% in or out of play.

In the 2002 contest to fill this same Senate seat*, Libertarian Tamara Millay and Green Daniel "digger" Romano polled a combined 1.6%; Talent won that election versus Jean Carnahan by an uncomfortably close 1.3%. Some supporters of both "major party" candidates blamed Millay and digger for that close outcome:

Some Democrats said that all of digger's votes and most of Millay's came "out of Carnahan's pocket" on the issue of invading Iraq (Carnahan voted for the war; Millay and Romano ran strongly against it).

Some Republicans said that Talent's margin of victory would have been far more comfortable had Millay not taken him to task over his anti-gun-rights record as a US Representative.

Both of these claims are a bit of a stretch, but neither is wholly implausible.

In the usual course of things, the "major party" candidates position themselves slightly to either side of the imagined "center." They believe that if they take strong stands further out on the "political fringe," they'll lose two center votes for every fringe vote they gain. So, they don't want to talk about those issues. As a matter of fact, they want so badly not to talk about those issues that they collude with their major party opponents to keep the third party candidates as far out of the public eye as possible.

Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill don't want Frank Gilmour or Lydia Lewis on the stage with them because it would force them to confront issues that need to be confronted.

- Talent toes the Bushevik line on Iraq and doesn't want anyone publicly pointing out the utter failure of that line. McCaskill is playing the centrist Democrat "we could manage the war better" card, and doesn't want anyone showing her up as spineless by taking a real anti-war stand on the stage with her.

- Talent backed the largest expansion of federal entitlements since LBJ (the Medicare prescription drug coverage program). He doesn't want Frank Gilmour pointing that out from his right. McCaskill doesn't want Lydia Lewis coming at her from her left on healthcare and entitlements by proposing universal "single-payer" health care.

And so on, and so forth. Major party candidates are cowards. They don't want to take stands that might cost them votes, but they don't want to be publicly outed as the walking blobs of Silly Putty they are, either. So, they erect difficult ballot access barriers to keep third party candidates out altogether, and when that fails they collude with their fellow Silly Puttians to, as best possible, exclude their third party opponents from the public discussion.

I'd like to briefly take the Oracle to task on the 10% of his column I disagree with:

Progressives clearly need a party of their own, and the Progressive Party is here to answer the call. The Libertarian Party might make a similar case for itself on the right, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.


Of all people, the Oracle should know that libertarians are not "on the right" per se. Some of our candidates have a more "right" orientation, some are more "leftish," but overall we have more in common with "progressives" than we do with "conservatives" or "liberals." As a matter of fact, the raw material for a "popular front" strategy including libertarians and progressives has been there all along and becomes more attractive and pertinent every day:

- Libertarians and progressives have long been natural allies versus US foreign policy, and much more so since September 11th, 2001.

- Libertarians and progressives have long been natural allies versus the "war on drugs."

- Libertarians and progressives have long been natural allies versus corporate welfare and corporate dominance of government.

- Libertarians and progressives have long been natural allies versus Know-Nothing anti-immigration schemes.

- Libertarians and progressives should be natural allies versus a national energy paradigm which relies on heavily subsidized, largely imported, polluting/high-greenhouse-emission, non-renewable fuels.

We certainly have our differences, but those differences have been moving away from our own mutual "centers" and toward the fringes. In another post -- or possibly in a dialogue with the Oracle himself -- I'm going to have to talk about the role of cases like Monsanto versus Percy Schmeisser in moving libertarians away from a naive trust in the ethics of corporate America, and progressives toward a new appreciation for property rights.

While I do not support the LP presidential candidacy of Robert Milnes (for one thing, I'm not supporting any candidate yet), I do think that his proposal for a "Progressive Alliance" has merit and needs to be explored. I suspect the Oracle at least partially agrees. He and I both did what we could to bring Libertarians and Greens together in 2002 (with some success, I think), and America's political situation continues to move in directions which make such an alliance attractive.

* Yes, I know Senate terms are six years. In 2000, Missouri governor Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash just before the election. His widow, Jean Carnahan, was appointed as his temporary replacement for two years, with the final four years of the term conferred in a special election in 2002.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Book Review: Middle America is upper class


Middle America
by Anthony F. Lewis
Booksurge Publishing, 2006

$17.99 from Amazon.Com

Middle America is Anthony F. Lewis's second novel (I reviewed his debut, The Third Revolution, in two parts here and here). Let me effuse in brief: The prologue is well worth the book's cover price, and it's all gravy after that.

Middle America takes up four years after The Third Revolution. Governor Ben Kane, who led several states out of the union in a freedom-driven secession movement, is now former Governor Ben Kane -- back in the restaurant business but with an eye always on, and an involuntary finger always in, politics. Middle America has lived through four years of explosive economic growth: A burgeoning tourist industry based on activities prohibited or tightly regulated in the Old USA has taken root, and freeing and reinvigorating the North American bison herds (instead of relying on federal subsidies for ailing beef operations) provides both a cultural rallying point and another economic stimulus.

All, of course, is not well. Something fishy's going on at Middle America's largest tourist trap, and a presidential race in the Old USA turns on the issue of Kane's secession and its impact. These two elements are the framework on which Lewis hangs his plot, bringing back his original cast of characters (with additions) to take on Some Big Questions.

No spoilers here: I'm more interested in talking about Lewis's obvious growth as a writer between the two books. The Third Revolution is competently written by any measure, but mainly carried along by its plot -- a plot which really only appeals to a small niche audience (fans of libertarian secession fiction). Middle America is a buffalo of a different color (speaking of which, there's one of those in the book). It's beautifully rendered, the characters come to life, and Lewis's vision seems much more tightly integrated into rational speculation about future technological developments and a realistic appraisal of how real people (and politicians) act under a given set of circumstances.

Lewis's portrayal of a tourist Mecca ("Shining City") in a libertarian enclave surrounded by "victimless crime" regimes is particularly striking. This is one area in which many fine authors fall short when it comes to achieving suspension of disbelief in the reader's mind ... but Lewis hits the nail on the head. Shining City -- and the reaction to it both in Middle America and the Old USA -- strikes me as utterly believable.

Moreover, both that portrayal and the story in general strike me as something which a non-libertarian (or someone not even especially interested in politics per se) could curl up with and enjoy, which is indeed a rarity among novels with libertarian themes.

As always, I have my little complaints, but little they are. The love story which sprouted in the first novel gets more believable, but only marginally so. I can live with that (if Lewis has male-female relationships figured out he's way ahead of most of us, right?). There's still a slight tilt toward the "Republicans are more open to libertarian ideas than Democrats" notion which prevailed in The Third Revolution, but that tilt is much less pronounced and Lewis does give the Left its due where the situation calls for it. The one thing I probably can't forgive is his retirement of Joe Adams's 1972 Norton Commando. That one hurt.

I've read a number of good books lately; Middle America is probably the best thing I've read this year. Lewis is going to regret this when his inbox begins filling up with my emails demanding the next installment.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The same thing we do every night, Pinky ...


On first pass, I didn't find MySpace very interesting or potentially useful. Chalk it up to lack of vision. As I noticed more and more candidates (for the presidency and other offices) creating MySpace presences, I decided I might as well give it a chance. And, all in all, it's pretty cool. Check out my little corner of MySpace and do the "add friend" routine if you like.

I probably won't be blogging there much unless I decide to use it as the launching pad for "What The F**k Is WRONG With You People 2012." Nothing wrong with an early start, I guess, and it might alleviate the itch I keep having to start working for one 2008 presidential contender or another so early.

And yes, I'll be back with substantive blog content Real Soon Now. You know how it is.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"This discussion is now closed"


Um, no. Not by a damn sight. Of all people, I expect Stephen VanDyke to know better than to think a blogosphere debate can -- or should -- be shut down, especially when threats of defamation suits are being thrown around.

The short version: Some people have waxed rather critical of Michael Badnarik's congressional campaign and, more specifically, of his campaign manager, Allen Hacker.

For several months, I've held my peace on the matter, figuring that it's better to feed out rope and let someone either hang himself or make sail than to string him up from the start. But those threats are pretty much like a red cloth in a bull ring for me, so I lost my temper and went on record: I think that Badnarik's campaign is a $400,000 bust, that he'll be extremely lucky to break 10%, and that that situation results from either incompetence (most likely) or malfeasance (less likely but possible) on Mr. Hacker's part.

I may be wrong -- I hope I'm wrong, because Michael is one of the hardest-working candidates the Libertarian Party has ever been privileged to have on its ticket for any office, and he's a genuinely good guy. And if I'm wrong, I'll apologize to (and try to learn from) Mr. Hacker.

But: When you start cracking out litigation threats in order to shut down discussion, you're wrong. And if the people you're threatening knuckle under (or if it even looks like they're knuckling under -- I suppose SVD may have just become bored with the discussion or wanted to conserve bandwidth, but it looks like he caved and looks count), it's only fitting that someone else should make sure you don't benefit from them having done so.

This discussion is now open.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ground floor opportunity!


Build a better franchise operation and the suckers world will beat a path to your door, right? Well, I've been researching the field with an eye toward important factors like net profit after operations costs, customer retention, etc., and I think I've found it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you

A CULT OF MY VERY OWN


No longer must you be an Indian ascetic, a Korean huckster or a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks he's Jesus to experience the benefits of cult leadership. We're talking turnkey operation here, folks!

- No mass suicides or murder sprees required -- as a matter of fact, they're prohibited in the Franchise Policy Manual. My intensive research has revealed that killing the customers or getting the operation's executives incarcerated for life has a long-term negative effect on the revenue stream. Your cult's activities will include non-cyanide-laced punch and aggressive paintball-based rituals to help you get the group tension out without the bother of police involvement or last wills and testaments.

- While yogic flying and human cloning are nice tricks, they also represent significant investments of mana or money -- investments that can bankrupt an otherwise successful cult before it gets off the ground. A CULT OF MY VERY OWN is committed to bringing the benefits of cult leadership to a class of investors who don't have the time to spend decades in a Himalayan ashram or the money to spend millions on biotech research. Our franchisee training is based on the proven principles of stage magic and commercial "psychic" trickery. In no time at all, you'll be doing cold readings, bending spoons and turning your pee into rosewater for delighted devotees!

- Pregnant devotees -- or, worse yet, franchisees? Disaffected followers demanding their Microsoft stock back? We've got you covered! A CULT OF MY VERY OWN franchisees gain immediate access to health benefits including discount vasectomies and tubal ligations. And our legal department stands ready to draw up airtight trust and transfer documents for a miniscule percentage of your take! We know your private jet and condo in Dubai are important to you, and we know you have a choice of upline suppliers to choose from. Thank you for choosing A CULT OF MY VERY OWN.

- A CULT OF MY VERY OWN puts modern technology to work for its franchisees. No more standing around airports hawking expensive books, or fiddling with pricy electronic gadgets to peel off bad juju! Your franchise web site comes pre-stocked with an amazing, configurable array of psychobabble essays and glitzy New Agey graphics -- not to mention on-demand ordering of attractive merchandise (how could you NOT offer your followers a limited edition bobblehead?) which is virtually guaranteed to run up devotee credit card balances to the max in record time (if there's anything left after their love offerings).

Get in on the ground floor now with A CULT OF MY VERY OWN! All you need is a building and a low-six-figures franchise buy-in fee, plus monthly percentages of gross. UFO encounters not included. Unserious inquiries only, please.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Staying the course


Because, you know, victory is right around the corner:

"Iraqi security forces will dig trenches around Baghdad and set up checkpoints along all roads leading into the city to reduce some of the violence plaguing the capital, the Interior Ministry said Friday. To help halt that bloodshed, more U.S. troops have been shifted to Baghdad from the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, a senior U.S. commander said. ... The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told the Security Council on Thursday that the average number of weekly attacks increased 15 percent and Iraqi casualties increased by 51 percent, compared with the previous three months." -- Associated Press


There used to be a word for this kind of thing, but it's curiously missing in action, both from the AP story and, so far as I can tell, from official statements:

siege, n. the action of an armed force that surrounds a fortified place and isolates it while continuing to attack [syn: besieging, beleaguering, military blockade] -- WordNet


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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How about a nice hot cup of Throw The Bums Out?


I've known Eric Dondero for several years -- and we're often on opposite sides of some very big issues. But I want to make one thing clear from the very beginning: If anyone says that Eric Dondero "tricks" people into signing petitions, I say they're lying. Period.

Furthermore, if anyone says that Americans for Limited Government and the groups they're working with are "tricking" people into signing petitions, I say they're lying, too.

I'm not saying this because I like Eric Dondero (although in person he's a good sort -- we did lunch awhile back when he was in St. Louis) or Americans for Limited Government (I do, even if they're a bit more, um, Republican in demeanor than I prefer). This isn't rocket science, folks. Challenging petitions has become as much an industry as collecting signatures on them is. Groups like ALG don't shell out the kind of money they're shelling out just to have their petitions rejected for shady gathering practices. And paid petitioners like Eric Dondero know that if they get caught playing games that do get signatures rejected, they'll be looking for a new line of work. Word travels fast.

I've watched Dondero pump himself up for a petition campaign more than once. If it's a questionable campaign -- like, for example, Joe Lieberman's "independent" bid, for which he also gathered signatures -- it's almost comical. Eric works himself into a lather making himself believe in the cause ... because he knows that when he gets out on the street, he has to be contagiously sincere. He can't fake it, and he can't lie. He has to be able to walk up to a voter, lay it all out honestly, and walk away with a valid signature.

What people ought to be concerned about is not Eric Dondero's signature gathering technique, but the fact that corrupt bureaucrats and lapdog judges are pulling out all stops in a concerted effort to disenfranchise voters in Missouri, Montana and elsewhere. Challenging the signatures is just another maneuver in their campaign to make sure that democracy doesn't get too, well, democratic.

Around the country, Americans for Limited Government and associated state groups have been promoting two big initiatives:

One would limit the use of eminent domain (read: property theft by government) to real "public use" instead of allowing government to take your house and give it to Wal-Mart or the New York Nets. Coming on the heels of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, that one sells like hotcakes. I'm surprised Dondero hasn't been injured by people trying to climb over him to sign it.

The other one would limit state government spending by requiring a public vote on increases above a given threshold. Once again, a slam-dunk. Most people trust themselves more than they trust their legislators, and think that having reasonable veto power over government growth is a pretty good idea.

Naturally, the politicians are beside themselves, and sparing no expense or effort in their campaign to save democracy from the people.

Here in Missouri, the legislature horribly mangled a bill on eminent domain before passing it, inserting loopholes big enough to drive a truck through so that they and their fellow politicians will still be able to sell your land to the biggest campaign contributor highest bidder whether you like it or not.

Then, when ALG and friends tried to take the issue to the people, the gloves came off: State Auditor Claire McCaskill (intentionally in my opinion) blew the "financial impact statement" that her office is required to add to initiative petitions. This, among other items of legerdemain and litigation, allowed Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to reject the petitions. Her job allegedly involves facilitating democracy. She chose instead to thwart it.

Nauseating. No other way to put it. And it looks like Montana has a bad case of ... hell, what else can we call it but "swine flu?" ... too.

As much as I want to see US Senator Jim Talent sent packing this November, Claire McCaskill has proven herself unfit to replace him, or for that matter to continue for one more minute in any office of public trust. Of course, I'm voting for Frank Gilmour for US Senate and Charles Baum for State Auditor anyway, but it's still disconcerting to see how willing McCaskill and Carnahan are to risk their own -- and their party's -- fortunes for unworthy goals like protecting graft and suppressing elections.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

I am a bitter dead-ender


Harvey says the war is over ... but I'm not buying. He offers alternative outlets for the rage, venom and link love, but it's too late -- I've gone Asiatic. I will continue to make up vicious lies about Glenn Reynolds until the guys with hoods and electrodes and stuff come to drag me off to Gitmo.

This is my blog.

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My blog is my best soapbox. It is my life pretty important to me.

I must master it as I must master my life bate.

Without me, my blog is useless.

Without my blog, I am useless still pretty cool if you like hard-drinking, womanizing malcontents.

I must fire my polemic true.

I must be more persuasive than my enemy who is trying to pwn me.

I must pwn him before he pwns me. I will ...

My blog and myself know that what counts in war is not the post count we rack up, the number of obscenities we can work in without scaring away advertisers, or the level of transcendent snark we achieve.

We know it is the hits that count. We will get hits ...


[Ye gads, this is getting old, my little voice says (my little voice always calls me "Isabelle"). Cut to the chase! Okay ...]

My blog and myself are the defenders of my street cred.

We are the masters of our enemy.

We are the saviors of my alloted bandwidth.

So be it, until there is no enemy, but GLENN REYNOLDS HAS BEN PWNED.


INSTAPUNDO DELENDA EST!

Review: The Third Terrorist, part one


I've finished reading Jayna Davis's The Third Terrorist. Now I'll begin to take it apart. I suspect I'll do this across several posts.

I'm not going to tell you I don't recommend the book, because I really do -- just not for the reasons that it was recommended to me.

I can't recommend it for the quality of writing, because the prose makes purple look beige. Davis can't resist having her alleged terrorists pause in the course of every alleged evil deed to "glower" at people or stare at them in "cold rage." Every datum, however pedestrian, is presented as Sherlock Jayna Davis Holmes, skinning the Speckled Band and stuffing it to hand out like a carnival prize. The book reads like one of those cheap thrillers you pick up at the airport when they're out of Grisham paperbacks ... and I shouldn't have to point out that a problem with suspension of disbelief in a non-fiction work is a bigger problem than it would be with a potboiler.

Of course, writing skill isn't everything. The book is allegedly non-fiction, so the real test of its quality is the strength of Davis's evidence and arguments. As to her theory -- that the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was carried out not just by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, but by a larger conspiracy backed by Iraq and/or al Qaeda -- whether or not it's correct I just can't say. Some pieces seem to raise real suspicions. On other fronts, the story tends to unravel upon examination -- and I've only just begun. For example:

Davis pseudonymizes most of her witnesses and many of her suspects, but a little web research quickly unmasks one of them ... and calls into question whether or not Davis observes the line between legitimate revelation and fact-challenged hyperbole.

To wit: Dr. Samir Khalil and Samara Properties are pseudonymized in the book as "Dr. Anwar Abdul" and "Salman Properties" (in a not very subtle attempt to forge a connection in the reader's mind between the latter and the Salman Pak camp in Iraq).

On page 67 of the paperback edition, Davis breathlessly informs us that

Dr. Abdul was paroled from prison [on an insurance fraud conviction] not long after the Gulf War ended. He immediately resumed operating his rental empire, but continued to run his business sub rosa. Scouring the company registrations with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, the Southwestern Bell phone book, and directory assistance, I found no official record of Salman Properties.


Now, the Internet is much more convenient, accessible and information-rich than it used to be, and it's always possible that things have changed, but it only took me a couple of minutes to find an "official record" of Samara Properties -- from the county assessor's office (a pretty obvious place to look when investigating a property management firm).

A few more minutes, and I had confirmation on my screen of an incorporation by Dr. Samir Khalil ... of Dr. Samir Khalil ... with the Secretary of State.

Since Davis doesn't bother to mention that Dr. Khalil went "legit" later (and her narrative runs up to 2005), either she wants us to believe that he's still operating, as she puts it, sub rosa or else she's hyping the story up beyond what the facts warrant with her claim that he was doing so in the first place (or, perhaps, she's just possessed of poor research and investigation skills). I'm not a lawyer, but it looks like the most Dr. Khalil could really be accused of here is neglecting to file a fictitious business name registration form, if even that.

And, frankly, her depiction doesn't hang together very well with her other descriptions of the company. On page 45, she describes it as a "multi-million dollar property management company" with "hundreds" of rental homes in play. She has her (pseudonymized) witnesses portray Khalil as disposing of large amounts of money (presumably in at least occasional support of a terror operation), buying cars for the Iraqi employees whom Davis believes were part of the team behind the Oklahoma City bombing and so forth. Then she turns around and tries to put the business and its owner on the shadowy fringe of the underground economy. Sorry -- it's one or the other.

A more disturbing alternative is the possibility that Davis intentionally obscured the man's identity and wrote off his business as "off the books" in order to keep a piece of information out of the narrative -- a fact which might call her case into question.

A major theme of the book is that Davis's prime suspect, Hussain al-Hussaini, can't satisfactorily (as Davis sees it) account for his whereabouts between 9 am and 10 am on the morning of the bombing. One of Davis's pseudonymized witnesses, "Larry Monroe," offers three different accounts of al-Hussaini's whereabouts (even though Davis publicly insists that none of her witnesses have ever changed "so much as a word" of their testimonies). The first is that al-Hussaini was nowhere to be seen on a job site that morning before 10 am. The second is that he was at one of Khalil's rental properties. The third is that "Monroe" doesn't know where he was.

In any case, two rental properties eventually enter the narrative as possible alibi sites -- a rental house on NW 31st Street, and another on NW 37th Street. To the best of my recollection, nowhere in The Third Terrorist does Davis mention the location of Samara Properties -- even though she recounts several visits to its office by herself and others, and even though she also produces accounts of the alleged getaway vehicle being parked outside that office before the bombing to strengthen the alleged connection.

Samara Properties is (at least now) located on NW 32nd Street in Oklahoma City -- smack in between the two alibi sites. Where was it located in 1995? If it hasn't moved, then that raises the possibility that al-Hussaini was at one or both of the rental properties in question, and at the office in between, getting his job assignments. Is that why Davis didn't mention its location? And is it possible that she obscured the record with respect to the business's legal status in order to keep that information out of the reader's sight and mind?

I used to work this kind of job myself -- and no, I wouldn't be able to reconstruct a coherent account of my travels back and forth between the office and various job sites on any given morning on demand. The fact that al-Hussaini can't convincingly (to Davis) do so is offered, over and over, as a major component of Davis's indictment of him.

Curiously, although Davis repeatedly portrays Khalil as a stateless Palestinian Arab, she slips once and casually mentions that he does, in fact, have a nationality. It's right there on his passport. Iraqi? Saudi? No ... he's an, um, Israeli. Understandably, she doesn't follow that thread anywhere. She's already picked her target -- Iraq -- and nothing is going to drag it out of her sights.

I could go on -- and I will -- but this post is getting a little long, so I'll take up the topic again later. For now, suffice it to say that The Third Terrorist is flawed as a work of fact from the very first page of the foreward, on which attorney David P. Schippers (of Clinton impeachment fame) mentions that he immediately suspected Middle Eastern involvement in the OKC bombing because its method conformed to that of the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia -- an attack which hadn't occurred yet and which still lay a year in the future. And it just goes downhill from there.

I do, however, recommend the book. I wouldn't recommend it as a factual account of the OKC bombing, but it's top-shelf conspiracy theory, and conspiracy theory is great fun.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In praise of Blogads 3.0


OK, now that I've announced Libertarian Ad Network's re-launch, I might as well follow up with the other piece of the picture: The new Blogads system ("Blogads 3.0") rocks.

It may look the same right now, sitting over there in the sidebar, but it isn't. Instead of "one size fits all," I can now sell four different kinds of ads:

Standard -- The same ad format you're used to: Title, a graphic of up to 16K in file size and up to 150(w)x200(h) pixels, and 300 characters of text.

Hi-Rise -- Title, graphic of up to 35Kb in file size, and up to 600 pixels tall (max width is still 150), plus 300 text characters.

Mini -- Title and a small graphic: 5K max file size and 100 pixels high (and, you guessed it, 150 wide). 100 text characters.

Classie -- Title, no graphic -- but up to 500 characters of text. I assume that "Classie" is short for "classified ad."

One-week advertisers won't notice much difference here at Kn@ppster unless you buy a "Hi-Rise," which is a little more expensive. I've priced the "Standard," "Mini" and "Classie" versions the same for one week (because it's the Blogads minimum, $10). But for longer-length buys, the price on "Minis" and "Classies" goes way down -- a three-month "Mini" or "Classie" costs half as much as a three-month "Standard," and you can get a month of either of these "smaller" ad types for the same price as a two-week "Standard."

Get 'em while the gettin's good. Once I get discovered by the MSM and have to hire someone to blog for me while I hobnob and carouse with the jet set, the rates will go up. The savings on the new categories are pretty nice over at RRND, too.

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Re-launch: Libertarian Ad Network


You may have noticed some hijinks over in the right sidebar the last few weeks: Blogads has been in the process of rolling out their new "3.0" setup, and there was some overlap that required me to run two strips so as not to give anyone the shaft.

Now that things are settling down, I'm also re-launching the Libertarian Ad Network ... and just like the new Blogads, it's going to be better than before.

What's changing:

- In order to belong to the new iteration of LAN, you're going to have to upgrade your setup to Blogads 3.0. Of course, you're going to have to do so anyway, since the previous version is going bye-bye.

If you haven't been paying attention and still have an old-style ad strip on your blog, get thee to the new login page (your old login info works there) and set up your new strips.

Of course, if you aren't affiliated with Blogads at all yet, you need to be. This requires sponsorship. I used to be a sponsor, but so far I can't tell whether that just hasn't carried over to the new version, or whether I'm not looking in the right place. I'll follow up on that -- in the meantime, if you're just too hot and bothered to wait, see here for how to get started -- Blogads may be able to hook you up before I can.

Either way, I can't add you to the network until a) you're running Blogads 3.0, and b) your site has received 3,000 views (with an ad strip in place) so that it shows up on the network's virtual "radar screen."

- No more automatically adding blogs to the network. If you want to belong, you have to say so. You can do that by emailing me -- please put "Libertarian Ad Network" in the subject line ... if you don't hear from me first.

- Network members must link to the network. If can be a text link, or this pretty version here (graphic by Stephen VanDyke) ...



... but ya gotta link. No gravy-training.

So, what's in it for you?

If you run a small blog, you have a good chance of picking up ads from the guys looking to advertise to a specific demographic (libertarian blog readers). Ad buys will "trickle down" to you from the big dogs -- someone who can afford to plunk down a few hundred dollars for an ad on a large site will likely see the value in multi-venue placement and throw the $10 or $20 that you charge on the counter, too.

If you run a big blog, you'll likely attract some "trickle up" from the smaller blogs. The advertiser who's placing a $10 ad here and a $20 ad there will see -- it will be right in front of him or her -- that your more expensive ad offers a very attractive cost per ad impression.

If you're an advertiser looking for customers in the libertarian niche, the Libertarian Ad Network makes it easy for you: A boatload of libertarian blogs under one virtual "roof." You can advertise on one blog, or a bunch of 'em. Upload your ad once instead of 20 times (although you can track them separately for response evaluation, and even designate a different click-thru URL for each blog if you like). Oh, and you punch in your credit card number or PayPal information and hit the payment button once, too. If you were planning to advertise on 10 blogs, make it 11 -- the time savings alone will cover the difference.

Of course, I've effectively "zeroed out" the old network list, so it may be a few days before there are 11 blogs for you to advertise on ... but they're coming.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Nobody ever tells me anything ...


OK, well, I guess they do. But in this case I had to be listening carefully (surfing the Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left, of course -- thanks to Brad Spangler and Wally Conger): A new print edition of SEK3's New Libertarian Manifesto is now available from Victor Koman's KoPubCo.

The NLM is available around the web in various typo-riddled versions. This one is (allegedly) properly proofread, and appended critiques from Murray N. Rothbard, Robert LeFevre, and Erwin S. "Filthy Pierre" Strauss bring it to 148 pages. Take that, neolib revisionists!

Sigh ... there's another $12.95 I can't afford not to come up with. I'm ecstatic to see this classic back in print and the Movement of the Libertarian Left resurgent (I guess the neocon quacking wasn't BS after all -- freedom really is on the march!).

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Some book notes


As always, I'm behind on the reading I'm supposed to be doing, but I'd like to put in some plugs for the books I'm finding interesting lately, especially where I've received review copies and haven't been able to get a full write-up done yet.

- I just finished David Dellinger: The Life and Times of a Nonviolent Revolutionary, by Andrew E. Hunt. I was excited to hear that this biography of one of the 20th century's preeminent peace activists was coming -- I first became familiar with Dellinger in high school when reading accounts of the "Chicago 8" trial -- and it doesn't disappoint. The book comes at a very good time from two perspectives that I care deeply about: Dellinger, while a pacifist and while certainly regarded as a leftist, was also an avowed anarchist; and his long-time publishing vehicle, started during WWII between his stints in prison as a war resister, was called (pay attention, liberventionists) "Libertarian Press." A fascinating read, and I'll get a full review done as soon as possible.

- I'm just digging into Anthony F. Lewis's Middle America, volume two of his libertarian "alternate future history" series which began with The Third Revolution (see my two-part review here and here). I wanted to read this one earlier, but I also wanted a timeframe when I could sit down with it and get up when I finished it. I've unfortunately been unable to block out that kind of time, so I'm reading it in little spurts -- and regretting it every time I have to put it down. Read it now, so you can nod your head in agreement with me when I review it.

- The final item in the "review copy" section is a forthcoming book by two men I'm privileged to work with as a contributing editor at Free Market News Network: Anthony Wile and Mark Fadiman. High Alert hasn't been released yet, but FMNN is already running a contest to hand out 12 autographed copies.

High Alert is huge in scope: It's an investment plan, wrapped in a near-term predictive model, based on an articulated historical worldview and an assessment of the impact of current technologies, analyzed in terms of economic premises. More narrowly, it's an attempt to differentiate its authors' historical worldview from the wilder "conspiracy theories" while retaining the parts of such theories which are in their opinion demonstrably true, or at least useful. Frequent sidebars relate the claims being made to their more bizarre "conspiracy theory" variants.

At first blush, I'm not by any means certain that this "separation surgery" is successful. Over the last couple of centuries, the general tendency to react skeptically to any suggestion of purposive action on the part of large groups has become more and more pronounced. Wile's description of a "visible power elite" should be, but probably won't be, non-controversial, and his analysis of that elite's actions will certainly raise flags with many readers. That doesn't mean the idea is without merit, of course. As a matter of fact, those advancing the notion of a "libertarian class theory" will likely find High Alert a veritable gold mine of useful material.

I've only just had time for a quick browse of High Alert -- once again, full review forthcoming ASAP -- but I predict that it will be the subject of much discussion and debate within the freedom movement over the next year so.

- In the "not a review copy" section, I'm also reading Jayna Davis's The Third Terrorist. You've probably heard of this one: It argues that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was not just the work of a couple of American racists, but of a larger conspiracy including terrorists headquartered in the Middle East. I'm reading the book because a number of liberventionists have cited it as part of their pro-Iraq-war arguments, maintaining that it constitutes evidence of a pre-existing, justifiable US casus belli versus Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion.

I've not finished The Third Terrorist yet, so I can't tell you whether that argument stands up or not. So far -- I've only finished the first four chapters -- it reads like a cheap "inspirational dramatization," written in "of course, we know Bill Clinton is a commie rapist" tone, with little cliffhanger/teaser hooks holding out the promise of more substantial material to come. In other words, it reads like a typical "conspiracy theory" exegesis (of the sort that liberventionists love to hold out as exemplary of their anti-war opponents' positions). I'm not impressed yet. But that may change.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The "Fair" Tax redux


My interest in the "Fair" Tax started out as an interest in the "omnipresent government" aspect of it -- the massive welfare scheme entailed by the "prebate." To me, that was enough to reject the whole idea. However, as I continue to read up on the proposal, more and more negatives pop up.

- The transition period is going to be an economy-buster. And no, I'm not over-reacting. Let's take one example: Cars.

The "Fair" Tax is applied to new, but not used, cars. Even today, a lot of people choose to buy recent-model used cars because the price of a new car drops dramatically as soon as it leaves the dealership. Now ... add 30% to the price of new cars, but not to the price of used cars, and see what happens to the auto industry. The effect of that differential will persist to some degree until the existing pre-"Fair" Tax fleet is in the junkyard -- by which time it's a reasonable bet that at least two of America's "Big Three" auto manufacturers will no longer be in business, and that the real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) price of used automobiles will be higher than the price of new ones is today.

Now, apply that same effect to pretty much every durable/resaleable consumer good in existence. Go ahead. I dare you. Danny Fontana opined on the radio earlier, in reply to my description of this scenario, that "that's just the market at work." I disagree. The government topping off the price of one product, but not the other, with a 30% tax is most manifestly not "the market."

- The transition period is going to re-tax anyone who has invested or saved in the past and is now ready to spend his or her money. Let's take a hypothetical young worker in the late 70s or early 80s. He worked hard. He paid income tax on what he earned. He wanted to make money and was willing to take risks to do so, so he bought some shares in a young, growing company called Wal-Mart. Then, in the 1990s, as he began to think more in terms of stability and risk reduction, he sold that stock, paid capital gains taxes on his earnings, and put the money away in a Roth IRA ("no income tax when you withdraw!") or a savings account, or whatever. Well, guess what? When he withdraws that money and spends it, he gets hit a third time, for another 30%. We're talking about a full generation of getting screwed in transition here, folks.

- And speaking of 30%, yes, that's the real rate. Sales taxes have always been described "tax-exclusively." If you buy a product at the store for a dollar and the total comes to $1.10, you're paying a 10% tax. The "Fair" Taxers do some fancy footwork by describing their proposal "tax-inclusively." If you buy a product at the store for a dollar, the total will come to $1.30 ... but oh, it's only a 23% tax rate if we pretend that the tax itself is part of the price rather than a government gratuity heaped on top of that price. This little piece of legerdemain allows the "Fair" Taxers to make nearly a quarter of the tax magically disappear from view. Now you see it, now you don't. But believe me, you'll feel it. Right in the wallet.

- Let's talk about enforcement. The "Fair" Taxers hold out the prospect of "eliminating the IRS." That may be technically true. Instead, we'll have 50 mini-IRSes -- one in each state, collecting the tax, monitoring business compliance, and trying to keep a lid on the black markets.

And, of course, we'll have a federal bureaucracy, too. Someone has to send the welfare checks out. But there's more to it than that. Who's going to monitor the state IRSes and ensure that Nebraska isn't raking off a little more than it's supposed to? Who's going to track down the welfare cheats who keep collecting the "prebate" after Grandpa dies or little Billy moves to Australia? Who's going to investigate interstate evasion of the tax?

On that last, let me throw another hypothetical at you:

The "Fair" Tax passes. The price of, say, new computers, goes up by 30% at the cash register. So, I start a computer business. I buy the computers wholesale (no tax) for re-sale. Then I cut open the boxes, take the machines out, turn them on, turn them off (or, if I'm really crafty, stick a CD in their drives which loads the machine up with on-the-fly-generated "personal information" to create the illusion that they are pre-owned). Finally I re-sell them "for resale" (no tax) to another business I own (or have an arrangement with) in the next state over, which stocks them on its shelves as "used" -- at the same price as Best Buy's "new" machines, but without the 30% tax on top. Best Buy isn't going to be happy. Neither is the Department of the Treasury. But ...

In the first state, I'm legit. I bought the machines for re-sale (no tax), I sold them for re-sale (no tax). In the second state, it's going to be difficult to prove that they're not "used" (no tax -- I may need to keep two sets of differing invoices/receipts, one in each state, but that's not a big deal). It's going to take a federal agency to catch me at it. Does it really matter whether we call it the "IRS" or the "'Fair' Tax Enforcement Bureau?"

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The "Fair" Tax just doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It's a welfare scam at one end and economic damnfoolishness at the other. Libertarians should be saying so, instead of falling for it.

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