Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Stimulus," libertarian-style


We're into our second year of "stimulus plans," and they all seem to feature the same logic: If the government spends more money (provided it spends that money "right"), the economy will improve. To quote Wayne Allyn Root, the Libertarian Party's 2008 vice-presidential nominee and one of my opponents for the party's 2012 presidential nomination:

Obama believes that the way to get out of an economic toxic disaster caused by too much government spending and debt, is to spend more and go further into debt. Interesting logic.


Of course, that logic doesn't just thrive on the Democratic side of the aisle. Last year's "stimulus" -- mailing out tax "rebates" financed not by cuts in government spending but by additional government debt -- went forward with considerable Republican support.

We've got to get past the notion that government is the engine driving the economy. It isn't now, and it never has been. FDR's New Deal -- which Obama's "public works" plan echoes -- probably added at least five years or more to the Great Depression. Hopefully we're not counting on another world war to pull our fat out of this fire.

Wayne Root and I agree on a lot of things, including the necessary foundation of a real "stimulus" program and a real economic recovery -- reducing the expense, not increasing the spending power, of government.

We agree on some of the details, too. For example, I wholeheartedly support Wayne's call for a 2009 income tax "holiday." As a matter of fact, I worked with 2008 pre-nomination presidential candidate Steve Kubby to craft and promote such a "holiday" last year.

On other details we disagree, and I want to explore that disagreement. But first, a disclaimer:

I don't oppose any of Root's suggestions for tax cuts. I've never met a tax cut I didn't like. When Root advocates cutting capital gains taxes, offering business tax credits for new hires, flattening taxes to lower rates, etc., I can only say "yeah! Cut, cut, cut!"

That said, if we are going to select only some tax cuts from the menu of all possible tax cuts (instead of just ending taxation, which I'd do if I could snap my fingers and make it so), I do disagree with Root's argument for cutting "from the top down." His tax cuts are concentrated on the "supply side," and his "flat tax" proposal is even specifically and intentionally "regressive" (your rate goes down as your income goes up).

I prefer a "bottom up" tax-cutting regimen which provides a tax cut for all Americans. If we stick to the current rate regime, that tax cut gets proportionally smaller as income increases, but everyone gets a cut. I support two mechanisms for achieving this cut:

- Adopting a regular annual increase to the personal exemption from the income tax. Every year, every American will be able to make more money before any of it is taxed, and some of the poorest Americans will fall off the tax rolls altogether.

- Applying that personal exemption to FICA -- Social Security and Medicare -- payroll taxes. Once again, every American will get that tax cut, although it will constitute a proportionally smaller percentage of their incomes as those incomes go up.

In support of this plan, I'm going to quote -- or at least paraphrase -- Wayne Allyn Root himself. In his book Millionaire Republican, Root (who, when he wrote it, was a Republican) characterized his party as follows:

The Republican Party isn't the party of the rich. It's the party of every American who wants to be rich.


That may be a paraphrase, because I can't find my copy of the book at the moment (I believe it's out on loan). But whether the quote is exact or not, I believe that it's an accurate statement of what Wayne was trying to convey. I also assume that the statement reflected one of the positive things he saw, or wanted to see, in the Republican Party at that time ... and that he considers it even more true of the Libertarian Party, which he joined not too long after writing it.

Cut taxes for the rich? Sure. No problem -- if we can cut all taxes. But if we can only cut some taxes, and that's probably the political reality, cut them for those who are trying to get rich, or at least richer. There are a lot more of them, and I love the word "more" -- the phrase "more votes for Libertarian candidates" has a very musical ring, doesn't it?

If we cut the capital gains tax, Bill Gates gets a tax cut, and Bob flipping burgers down at McDonald's doesn't. If we increase the personal exemption, Bill Gates gets a tax cut, and so does Bob. Thing is, for every Bill there are a hundred or a thousand Bobs. Bill's already rich. Bob's trying to get rich, or at least richer. If I could only cut taxes on one of them, it would be on Bob.

Call it "class warfare" if you like, and I won't argue with you. The fact is that more Americans consider themselves "middle class," or even "poor," than consider themselves "rich." When they hear (or think they hear) "tax cuts for the rich," that translates to them as "tax cuts for ... NOT ME." As we get about the business of leaving people's money in their own pockets, the more people we do that for the better. Especially when Election Day comes around.

"Supply siders" argue that tax cuts on what one might call the "entrepreneurial class" produce economic growth because the additional wealth remaining in that class's pockets gets invested in enterprises which create jobs.

That may be true as far as it goes, but I don't see that it's a one-sided truth. Money left in the pockets of the "non-entrepreneurial class" gets spent. It represents economic demand, and that demand is diffuse enough that it probably provides more accurate information to the "supply side" versus the guesses of a smaller number of entrepreneurs with a few more dollars in pocket to spend on testing those guesses.

Instead of hoping that those entrepreneurs guess correctly and create wealth which then "trickles down," why not let the market determine to whom wealth "trickles up?" And since we're going to run into "class warfare" considerations, why not be like God and come down on the side with the most battalions when we can do so consistently with our principles?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kids learn


Really. They do. Even, maybe especially, when you're not trying to "teach" them.

I just heard my seven-year-old tell my ten-year-old "we need to max out our chao's running stats." I'm not sure what that means -- it's a video game thing -- but I'm sure he knows what it means. They're both smart kids, and if they don't understand something, they either ask or they research it themselves. Right now, that video game happens to be their obsession, and they're burning up YouTube's stock of tutorial videos on how to beat it (while starting to talk about making some videos of their own about it -- they both got cameras for Christmas).

We've been homeschooling Liam (seven) for a year now. Daniel (ten) just decided to take the plunge (we've always encouraged the idea, but he had to make the decision on his own -- he really liked the "social" aspects of "public" school until the down sides became burdensome).

I started the homeschooling thing with the idea that I needed a very specific curriculum. I made Liam miserable for several months with daily worksheet assignments and such to build the "portfolio" and flesh out the logs required by our state's laws. I'm still doing battle with those record-keeping requirements, but over time we've shifted toward, and are now in the process of fully adopting, the "unschooling" approach.

I just procured a copy of Mary Griffith's The Unschooling Handbook, and it's already proving enormously useful in terms of helping me get over the panic aspect of not having a set-in-stone plan for each day.

I haven't given up "goals" and "lessons" entirely. I throw random math problems (mostly multiplication right now, but I'm looking forward to geometry -- Daniel just got a book full of skateboard ramp blueprints and is awaiting improved weather to build his first one) at them throughout the day. I purposely insert unusual words in our conversation so that we can discuss their meanings. When we decide to watch a movie, I try to find something with real historical content or a hook worth discussing in terms of some subject area. I'm also setting up some mechanisms for keeping track of what they're into online (the obsessions change -- sometimes daily, sometimes weekly) so that I can plug it into the paperwork, and expand on it offline. Within the next month or so, I expect that they'll both be blogging regularly as well.

Thing is, they're both already at or above "grade level" (as defined by the state standards) in all subjects. The curriculum approach wasn't helping them advance, and in some areas it was holding them back and boring them. The point isn't to get them ready for standardized tests, it's to get them ready for life.

They read like fiends -- when they find something they're interested in to read about. Their vocabularies are constantly expanding because when they don't understand a word it gets discussed (Tamara and I spent 20 minutes discussing the variants of "dedicated" and "dedication" with Liam the other night after he got independently interested in the difference between "dedicated server"and "this book is dedicated to ...").

Math's a little harder to work in at this point, but the "I'm trying to do this, how do I?" situations come, and when they do we show them the concepts instead of just giving them the answers. They can both add, subtract and multiply, we're starting to work on division, they've got a fair handle on fractions, and Daniel's doing some elementary algebra. Tamara and I are looking forward to having to refresh ourselves on geometry to keep up with them just for the next year or so ... and frankly I expect them to leap ahead of me and require outside help in the not too distant future (I've forgotten most of trig and never took calculus).

Science is easy. Not only do we work everyday situations into science lessons (bathtub displacement and volume! Why does a lightbulb glow -- which kind of lightbulb? We did incandescant vs. fluorescent yesterday), but they've got constant questions of their own that turn into "lessons" learned, and they inherited the space obsession from both sides. We watched the first half of Apollo 13 last night, pausing frequently for discussion; second half tonight; then it will be on to The Right Stuff and From the Earth to the Moon, hopefully with a segue into politics and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress resulting).

And, of course, social studies is a snap. They've already had more community involvement than most adults. They've attended state and national political conventions. They've marched in numerous protests. They've canvassed for ballot issues and for their parents as candidates. On the non-political side, we make a practice of helping them buttonhole hapless victims to discuss "what do you do" with them. That will probably turn into a series of "cultural journalism" video projects in the future.

The hardest part of this whole schooling thing is staying the hell out of their way so they don't run me down.

Interesting gizmo


I'm writing this from an internal window in Buzzbot. A lot of "Internet marketing" stuff (and yes, that's an affiliate signup link), but the concept itself is pretty interesting:

It looks like a GUI desktop. It acts like one, too -- there are games to play, widgets and gadgets for watching YouTube videos or whatever within the screen, etc. I actually found the YouTube window more user-friendly than opening YouTube itself in a normal browser window.

Buzzbot's main "Web 2.0" claim is that it makes every web site a "social networking" site. When you open a site (any site you like) within the in-browser GUI, it opens with chat, comment and blog tabs attached. The theory, I guess, is that eventually there will be enough Buzzbot users flitting around the web that they'll be "meeting" and interacting at these other sites, creating one massive all-encompassing social network.

I'm not ready to drop Haloscan commenting from KN@PPSTER just yet, but the concept is engaging and I plan to play around with it some more. As far as the "Internet marketing" angle goes, I don't have a handle on that yet, so I'm not going to try to sell you on anything other than perhaps giving Buzzbot itself a test drive (the parts of it I've described are free).

No good deed goes unpunished


Kudos to the House Republicans. I mean it. They voted unanimously against the Obama "stimulus" package. That was the right thing to do. It won't help them ... but it was the right thing to do.

Here's why it won't help them:

When I watch television (which isn't very often), I make a practice of tuning in to the most lapdoggish media I can find. During the Bush Era, that meant Fox. I knew I could count on them to reliably parrot the line of the party in power. Now the idiot box stays tuned to MSNBC, for the same reason.

The Democrats are pushing two standard lines.

The first one -- "Rush Limbaugh has taken control; he's filling the GOP's leadership vacuum and heading up a crew of wreckers to make sure that Obama fails to the country's detriment" -- probably plays well with the Democrat base, but it doesn't really hold much water. The Bush presidency and his own personal problems turned Limbaugh into a laughingstock -- pretty much a non-video GOP version of Jerry Springer -- long ago. He no longer electrifies the GOP base, or strikes terror into its opponents, the way he did in the early 1990s.

The second line is more effective, but there's some nuance to it: "What if the stimulus works? Aren't the Republicans screwing themselves by eschewing Obama's bipartisanship offerings?"

Folks, the "stimulus" ain't gonna work. FDR "pump-priming" was a massive failure in the 1930s, and it's going to be a massive failure this time too.

But ... I remember my grandmother, who raised three kids during the Depression and the war. She was a devout Christian (of the Pentectostal variety), and while she believed that Jesus sits just to the right of God the Father in heaven, she also evidenced no doubt whatsoever that FDR sits just to the right of Jesus.

FDR's version of "stimulus" didn't work any more than Hoover's did ... but it got him re-elected three times. Most people still think that the answer to any problem is for government to "do something," even (maybe especially!) if the government "doing things" was the cause of the problem in the first place.

Obama's version of "stimulus" won't work, either, any more than Bush's did. If he was really interested in stimulating the economy, he'd have his OMB director working overtime to produce a balanced budget -- with massive tax cuts factored in -- instead of warning us to expect trillion-dollar deficits. The only thing government can do to shorten the recession is shrink.

But just you watch. We'll be told that the recession (or depression) would have been even worse without this drunken-sailor spending spree, and that its failures were due to Republican obstructionism ... and if history is any example a voting majority of us will swallow the line (w/hook & sinker attached).

So, once again, kudos to the Republicans. They did the right thing, and I'm not interested in belaboring whether or not they did it for the right reasons. But I don't see them racking up any political capital for it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No show Friday


This cold/flu is still kicking my ass (or, more to the point, my throat). Hopefully over time I'll cultivate potential guest hosts and such, but until then my only option is not to have the show when I can't talk.

I'll lay on the whiskey and honey and see if we can't get this thing back on track for next Friday.

Friday, January 23, 2009

RELEASE: Knapp announces "Libertarian Shadow Cabinet," appoints three


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
01/23/09
POC Thomas L. Knapp
admin@shadowcabinet.us

ST. LOUIS, Jan. 23 — As President Barack Obama completes his administration’s move into the White House and his cabinet appointees take their posts, the libertarian opposition gave American life today to a longstanding British tradition — the “shadow cabinet.”

“In the United Kingdom, the political party not in power normally appoints ’shadow ministers’ to speak to issues of public policy,” says Thomas L. Knapp, a candidate for the 2012 presidential nominations of two US libertarian parties. “Shadow cabinets serve two useful purposes — they show the public how the opposition would govern, and they prepare that opposition to eventually administer the offices they’ve shadowed.”

Knapp named the first three appointees, all long-time libertarian activists with experience in the relevant policy areas, to the Libertarian Shadow Cabinet today:

Secretary of Defense: Captain Charles Wilhoit (USN-Ret) of Tennessee. Captain Wilhoit’s naval career spanned WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He graduated the US Naval Academy in June of 1945 (Class of ‘46, for which he served as Corresponding Secretary for 38 years) and awaited deployment in the Pacific as of V-J Day. Over the course of his career he commanded various surface ships and a destroyer squadron. He has also served as Deputy Executive Director of the Naval Reserve Association and a national trustee of the US Naval Academy Alumni Association.


Secretary of the Treasury: Joe Cobb of Arizona. Cobb served as President Ronald Reagan’s Deputy Director, Office of Policy Information; Economic Advisor to the US State Department’s US Mission to the Organization of American States; Staff Director of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee; and Chief Economist for the US Senate Republican Policy Committee; Past President, National Association of Business Economists, National Capital Chapter; and John M. Olin Senior Fellow in Economics at The Heritage Foundation.


Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy: Steve Kubby of California. A three-decade survivor of a normally terminal form of cancer, Kubby is both a living testament to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana and a long-time activist for an end to the federal government’s unconstitutional and unconscionable “war on drugs.” He’s the author of two books on drug policy reform, a co-author of the nation’s first “medical marijuana” law, California’s Proposition 215, and national director of the American Medical Marijuana Association.


While creating the Libertarian Shadow Cabinet in his capacity as a candidate for the presidency, Knapp emphasized that he expects it to outlive his own campaign. “The Shadow Cabinet is a tool for the libertarian movement to show America what’s possible if they make the right choices,” he says. “I welcome the advice, support and participation of other libertarians and libertarian presidential candidates in composing the cabinet, and intend to spin it off of my own campaign and to fully independent status as soon as possible.”

Libertarian Shadow Cabinet: www.shadowcabinet.us

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Welcome to Knapp 2012!


Yes, my campaign site is my blog. Here's why. This post is the landing spot for the URLs knapp2012.com and myfrontporchcampaign.com.

Below, please find some of the "permanent campaign stuff" that most people look for in a campaign web site (including, when it's that time, a donate button). I'll update this post over time to identify key policy/position articles and such.

- Announcement of Candidacy

- Campaign Events

Knapp 2012 Around the Web








The Parties









Paid for by Knapp 2012 and approved by the candidate

Rethinking campaign web strategy


Twice this week, I've noticed other sites linking to KN@PPSTER, rather than to my campaign URL, when referencing my presidential campaign.

The conventional wisdom is that using a blog as one's web campaign HQ is a really, really bad idea ... but I'm not sure the conventional wisdom is to be trusted.

After all, my main opponent for the LP's 2012 presidential nomination surfed to its 2008 vice-presidential nomination on a web presence that consisted (and still consists) of little more than a poorly presented, badly written blog with some gaudy multi-level-marketing-style ornamentation hung on it. That blog wasn't (and isn't) as pretty (or as popular!) as this one. Of course, there's more to victory than web presence ... but hey, I'm willing to learn from my opponents!

Up sides to making KN@PPSTER my campaign web HQ:

- Installed content of more than 1,000 posts, almost all of them relevant in one way or another to the campaign.

- Per the above, I start out with a significant search engine presence that doesn't have to be built from the ground up.

- Free hosting on a well-tested framework that can handle as much traffic as is thrown at it.

Down sides to making KN@PPSTER my campaign web HQ:

- The usual suspects will complain that I'm being weird and perverse. And they'll be right. I can live with that.

The next post on KN@PPSTER will be a "campaign HQ" post which will thereafter serve as the forwarding/landing spot for my campaign URL(s), with some of the important permanent stuff (social networking links, etc.).

No show this week ...


... nasty flu, complete with sore throat. Back next week.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Final Betrayals Watch: Bush frees Ramos, Compean


As one of his final acts in office, President George W. Bush has commuted the sentences of two evil, violent government thugs (hat tip -- Independent Political Report) for beating a suspected drug trafficker when he tried to surrender, shooting at him (and missing) when he ran, shooting at him again (this time finally hitting him in the ass) when he stopped and tried to surrender again, then leaving him lying in the dirt and running off to file false reports to cover up their crimes.

These goons got the bare minimum sentence that the law allowed the judge to hand down after a jury, on the basis of evidence so irrefutable than even a usually reliably "protect cops at all costs" prosecutor couldn't find a believable way to avoid charging them, convicted them of their crimes.

Ever since, they've served as martyrs cum mascots for the anti-America, anti-freedom Know-Nothing lobby -- but the case against them was so airtight that even George "I'm above the law, I'll wiretap without warrants and memory hole anyone I don't like as an 'enemy combatant'" Bush cringed from further debauching justice by springing them ... at least until he was on the way out the door himself.

How many people who've harmed no one remain in America's prisons while these two government gangbangers get handed a get-out-of-jail-free card?

How many future victims of abusive, out-of-control "law enforcement personnel" will die instead of just taking a bullet in the butt ... and how many more future victims will there be now that Bush has effectively notified "law enforcement" that if you have a government badge and gun, it's open season on the serfs?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

First Virtual March for LGBT Equality



Bush: Failure?


According to a CNN poll, 68% of American's regard George W. Bush's presidency as a "failure." Are they right?

Per the conventional wisdom, there's little doubt -- thinking of Bush administration from beginning to end, it's an eight-year stack of epic fails which, taken together, comprise perhaps the ultimate, the Great Pyramid, of Fail. Here's the criterion:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.


Fail, fail, fail from the original theft of the position in 2000 to the economic collapse of 2008, with two lost wars abroad and one fairly successful war -- on our civil liberties -- at home in between.

But ... "failure" presupposes an objective which has not been achieved, and it's by no means obvious that George W. Bush's objectives were those contemplated in the Constitution.

We know Bush's history, and it's a history of getting the things he wants through politics, often welshing on any repayment due.

He wanted to avoid Vietnam, and his daddy's politician friends obliged him by securing an Air National Guard billet for him (from which he subsequently deserted).

He bought into a failing baseball team and voila, Austin bailed it out and made it profitable for him with taxpayer money.

He decided he wanted to be governor of Texas, and the voters obliged. They even gave him a second term and he deserted them, too, because he decided he'd rather be president instead.

Is it really any surprise that after stealing the 2000 election (once again with the help of politicians of similar ... character), Georgie would spend the subsequent eight years doing the things Georgie wanted to do instead of the things the job required him to do? And can he really be classified as a "failure" if he got exactly what he intended to get out of his presidency?

IMO, the Bush presidency should be viewed as a (thus far) successful crime spree, not as a failed attempt at "public service." He's lined the pockets of his friends and campaign contributors well, even to the extent of trillions of dollars in new government debt. When he leaves office, he -- and they -- will continue to profit on the speech circuit, on the memoir-publishing gravy train, through gratuitous corporate board appointments, etc.

If Bush is a "failure," he's laughing all the way to the "failure" bank. Matter of fact, I'd suggest that he title his presidential memoir The Joy of Failure: How to Fail Your Way to the Top ... but someone else beat him to the title.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Flashback!




Back in the 80s, I fancied myself the Royal Nonesuch's biggest fan ... although there was a thin line dividing fandom and membership -- Dr. Kurtis Strange and Howlin' Alan Wolf were probably bigger fans, but they were also for all practical purposes members of the band, whereas I was just a hangin'-around geek who was occasionally allowed to take over rhythm guitar for a two- or three-chord song that I wouldn't be too likely to screw up while Jon McKinney took a beer break.

Oh, and they managed to get me kissed by Judy Tenuta once in my role as occasional roadie (you ain't been kissed 'til you've been kissed by Judy Tenuta). And I can't remember for sure, but it may have been Jon McKinney who got me a job at the Regency Showcase, which proved a portal to edifying personal experiences like an audience with Jonathan Richman, getting snubbed by Aimee Mann, etc.

Anyway, now that I've got that cool high-speed Internet thing (as I've mentioned several times now, but bear with ... I'm still agog over it), I've been able to actually look at / listen to some of the cool stuff that I knew was out there ... and damned if it isn't still fantastic. The band went through various lineups, but the one I was around for included John Marshall on drums, Walt Paisley on bass, Bez Petefish on lead guitar and Jon McKinney on rhythm, with Howlin' Alan becoming a full member on harmonica toward the end.

Those were the days, man. Those were the days.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wurzelbacher, pwnd


Apparently CNN's Rick Sanchez is as sick of listening to "Joe the Plumber" as I am:



Oh well ... at least John McCain's pilot for Let's Chant Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber, As Our Brains get Dumber and Number didn't get the series picked up for a four-year run.

Prediction: Sooner or later the National Enquirer catches him coming out of Sarah Palin's hotel room, after which they run off together to a shotgun shack outside Paducah.

Second Prediction: They last another month before she breaks a chair over his head on The Jerry Springer Show.

Some thoughts on advertising


Some KN@PPSTER readers may have noticed that the Blogads strip in the right sidebar has been replaced by an AdBrite strip. It seems worth explaining why, if for no other reason than that many of you are bloggers as well ... it's always nice to exchange ideas on how to make our guilty pleasures pay off.

I used Blogads on my sites for several years, and have no complaints whatsoever about the experience. Their system works, their customer service is great, their commission isn't onerous. They're a good, solid advertising option.

I'm not going to tell you I didn't make money with Blogads, either. I did, and sometimes it was pretty good money, too! What it wasn't was consistent money. I might sell three ads one month, then none for three months after that, then one or two per month for a few months ... it was a crap shoot. A lot of the time, I contented myself with running ads for my own projects or giving friends "complimentary" ads for theirs.

That's not Blogads' fault, of course. If KN@PPSTER attracted a lot of traffic, it would probably attract a lot of advertisers, too -- and it would probably do so on a consistent basis. As it happens, however, KN@PPSTER greets a few hundred unique visitors a day on average, and a few thousand when there's an anomalous spike (e.g. when a popular site links to something here). Instapundit I am not.

After looking over various options, I decided to go with AdBrite. I've worked with them before and know that their checks actually come and actually clear ... and that they'll generate revenue for me consistently, even if at a lower level than an outfit like Blogads would if I could keep that strip full of purchased ads. People who really, really, really want to advertise specifically on KN@PPSTER can still do so ... but any unused space is filled in with "network ads" keyed in one way or another to the site's content, and I get paid per thousand views and per click.

If you run a high-traffic site which caters to an identifiable market niche, you can attract advertisers who are willing to pay a premium to reach that niche. In such a situation, I still highly recommend Blogads.

If your site or sites are of the low- to medium-traffic variety and/or aren't tightly keyed to advertiser-attractive market niches, I believe that you'll get more consistent revenue with a contextual ad service. AdBrite isn't the only one, of course, but if you're interested in them, well, of course they have a referral program:



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

They're at it again


Missouri's politicians have always -- always -- hated the fact that mere citizens can draft legislation, petition to have that legislation put on the ballot, and campaign to have that legislation passed directly by Missouri's voters whether the politicians like it or not.

They throw tantrums any time the people consider limiting their power in any particular, and their usual strategy when such measures pass anyway (at least in the 20-odd years I've been watching) is to then regally ignore those limitations, with the full support of their buddies on the judicial bench.

Lately, though, they've been getting more bold.

In 2006, then state auditor Claire McCaskill blew the required "impact statement" so that she could keep a measure limiting government's power of eminent domain off the ballot, even though the thousands of required voter signatures to put it on the ballot had been collected and validated. Her punishment? Election to the US Senate.

This year, the politicians have apparently decided to up the ante and go for the throat of democratic self-rule, with bills already filed in the state legislature to increase the number of signatures required (HJR3) and to register and regulate petitioners (HB228 in the House, SB115 in the Senate).

An obvious first step in countering this attack on democracy is contacting your State Representative and your State Senator. Don't use email or site contact forms -- or at least don't use them first. Call the legislator's office, identify the bills, state your opposition to them, and request a response. Then consider following up with an email or contact form message that references the phone conversation.

A good second step is a well-written letter to the editor of your local newspaper(s). The text of the bills is linked above -- read them and consider their implications before writing that letter. I'll see if I can round up some linkable resources to make that research easier. I've received some analysis (written by Ron Calzone of Missouri Citizens for Property Rights) by email, but don't know if it's up on the web anywhere. If you've never written an LTE before, feel free to download my PDF booklet, "Writing the Libertarian Op-Ed." Hope it helps.

If you belong to any organizations with an interest in this matter -- your county Libertarian Party committee, for example -- consider introducing a resolution in opposition to these bills. Don't forget to follow any such resolutions up with a press release!

Update: Can't get through to my reps yet (phone problem), but here's the resolution I intend to propose for passage by the St. Louis County, Missouri Libertarian Central Committee tonight:

Whereas, Article I, Section 1 of the Missouri Constitution states that "all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole;" and

Whereas, Article III, Section 49 of the Missouri Constitution reserves to the people a power to enact or reject laws and constitutional amendments through the process of initiative and referendum; and

Whereas, certain bills have been introduced in Missouri's legislature to make the exercise of this power more difficult through onerous regulations, registration requirements and increases in the number of signatures required to place issues on the ballot;

Be it resolved, that the St. Louis County Libertarian Central Committee calls upon Missouri's legislators to oppose House Joint Resolution 3, House Bill 228 and Senate Bill 115, and to henceforth cease and desist from, or if proposed by others oppose, any and all attempts to abrogate or make less efficacious the power of the people to alter state law through the process of initiative and referendum.


Update: Resolution passed on voice vote, no audible "nays."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Send in the neoconservative clowns


Two articles on "stimulus" today in Kristol's rag.

One recommends having Congress fork over some amount of money -- the placeholder number is $2000 per capita by population -- to the states as "block grants."

The other recommends ... get this ... boosting "defense" spending.

Peter J. Hansen offers the "block grants" proposal as a "faster, better" alternative to federal "public works" projects.

Tom Donnelly touts the "defense" proposal to "help close the large and long-standing gap between U.S. strategy and military resources."

As the youngsters like to say, er, type: OMG! WTF?

Why have the federal government collect money and disburse it to the states as "block grants?" Let the states try to collect it themselves if that's what they think they need to do.

And "defense?" The primary activity of the US government for the last 60 years or more has been to see how much money it can transfer from your pocket to "defense" contractors' bank accounts. The US government spends more on "defense" than the next 20 countries combined. The bulk of the current defense budget ends up invested in waste, fraud, abuse and -- last but not least -- idiotic interventions in the quarrels of other countries, often escalating to just plain naked aggression. Want to link "stimulus" and "defense?" Start by cutting the "defense" budget in half.

Both of these proposals are non-starters not just from a libertarian perspective but from any reality-based perspective. Which, of course, is why they appear in a neoconservative publication.

The best way to get money into the economy is to leave money in the damn economy by reducing the amount of money taken through taxation.

And, if we're still on the right side of the Laffer Curve, the best way to get more money into "public works" and "defense" is to ... leave money in the damn economy where increased productivity and income will more than make up for reductions of taxes as a percentage of that income vis-a-vis government revenues.

Not that I approve of increasing government revenues, mind you -- I'd rather see us get all the way over onto the left side of the curve and start shrinking government. And I also reject the "supply side" argument respecting where tax cuts should start. Putting a "floor" under FICA and/or increasing personal exemptions to the federal income tax would put money into the demand side which, being an aggregate of more parts, would probably provide more accurate economic information (e.g. a thousand customers with $X each saying what they want to buy with it is a better indicator of economic demand than one entrepreneur with $X*1000 guessing at what those thousand people would want if they had the money to buy it).

Monday, January 12, 2009

The appointment of Cass Sunstein ...


... as head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is about as much an indicator of "libertarianism" in the coming Obama administration as the appointment of Gail Norton as Secretary of the Interior was an indicator of "libertarianism" in the outgoing Bush administration.

Even if Sunstein is a bona fide libertarian, one appointment does not an overall policy make. The Obama administration will be far from libertarian in general orientation if the bulk of the indicators are reliable.

Is Sunstein a bona fide libertarian? Although I'm personally a "purist" of a particular variety, I do try to use a fairly broad definition for general purposes of evaluation ... and I just can't stretch any reasonable definition far enough to encompass his vision of "libertarian paternalism."

Even if it's not ideological heresy, "libertarian paternalism" is a de facto label for naivete. States don't "encourage" or "nudge" their subjects, they rule those subjects. The only way to maintain freedom in any activity is to keep the state out of that activity. Once the state steps in, the criterion of "right direction" will, sooner or later (probably sooner) transition from the well-being of the subjects (if that ever was the criterion) to the maintenance and and expansion of the power and prerogatives of the apparatchiki.

Even if Sunstein endeavors to put some of the regulatory toothpaste back in the tube, he's unlikely to succeed -- and if he just tries to tweak things, well, "better" regulation is not the solution to the problem of regulation.

I suspect Holtz may disagree with me on this, given his recent comparison of state authority to parental authority. But that's probably going to be the subject of another post.

The real question ...


... is why this kid was arrested at all.

[Ahryal] King and his mother, Alma King, fired guns into the crowd that gathered outside their home in the 1100 block of Prigge Avenue. Some of the teens were throwing rocks and newspapers at the house and taunting Ahryal King to come out of the house to fight. ... A surveillance camera the King family had installed because of problems with gang activity recorded the shooting.


Ten years, folks, on a plea bargain so obviously intimidation-induced that any judge who countenances it thereby publicly proclaims her unfitness for the bench.

This is one of those cases which calls for -- at a bare minimum -- some firings in the police department and prosecutor's office and removal of the judge. For extra credit, prosecute the bad actors for their violations of the Kings' rights under color of law and stick them in the can for a decade.

Not that any of that will happen, but please: Remember well the name Colleen Dolan the next time she comes up for election or retention and vote accordingly.

Fridays Live at Five: Brad Spangler, 01/16


Alrightythen ... the podcast is a going operation.

Listen to the first episode, in which Eric Garris discusses the Gaza situation and the foreign policy challenges facing the incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama, in the sidebar player (or you can download the MP3).

This Friday, I'll be joined by Brad Spangler of the Center for a Stateless Society.

To listen live on the web, click here at the appropriate time (5-6pm Central on Fridays). To call in, use the mechanisms offered at the show site or call 310-984-7600 and enter the show code 330022.

Update: Download the show in MP3 format here.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

More on debt repudiation


This hobbyhorse isn't a new one with me -- I've been giving a lot of thought to it for the last couple of years.

From a libertarian standpoint, the justification for repudiating the debt is fairly obvious -- see Murray N. Rothbard's essay on the subject or listen to last night's episode of Free Talk Live (MP3), for example.

In terms of visceral, gut-wrenching populist appeal, debt repudiation has a lot of potential, too, and it's nice to see that appeal exploited. For a good example, see the YouTube campaign of kids (correctly) asserting "it's not MY debt."

Conveying the basic injustice of expecting someone else (especially a bunch of kids) to pick up the tab for spending that they had no part in is easy and effective, and the knotheads in Washington just keep making it easier with their bailouts, projections of future $1 trillion deficits, etc.

The case makes itself. What it needs to succeed is a popular grassroots movement to promote it.

Popular grassroots movements don't always win. One need look no further back than last year's "bailout" fiascoes to see that. The vast majority of Americans said "no bailouts" -- and they happened anyway, because politicians believe (usually correctly) that they can do anything they want and then talk their way out of the consequences later.

A popular grassroots movement for debt repudiation, however, would not depend entirely upon the politicians' cooperation for success. There's another class of actors involved, and those actors are much more sensitive to what's going on around them. I'm speaking of course, of those who speculate in US government debt -- the people and organizations who buy US government bonds.

The value of those bonds is dependent entirely upon the buyer's perception that "the full faith and credit of the United States" is bankable ... that the investment is, for all intents and purposes, risk-free. The perceived profitability of lending money to the US government rests on the notion that all us serfs are either willing, or can be forced, to pick up the check. Dispel that notion and the perception of profitability evaporates with it.

Take away that perception -- stir, in the buyer's mind, the possibility that those bonds may at some point in the near future become mere paper of no value whatsoever -- and that buyer is going to either stop buying or at the very least demand a much larger return for the risk.

And that is how we get at the politicians. They can always vote themselves the power to borrow money and try to stick the rest of us with the debt, but that power is meaningless if nobody's willing to lend it to them.

That's not to say that the politicians wouldn't have other options and evasions open to them ("paying off" the debt in worthless inflated currency while retaining the theoretical power to borrow in the future, for example), but in practical terms, they'd be forced to balance their books -- a creditor "paid" with worthless "money" is no more likely to lend again than one told to go pound sand. And a population aroused to the point of this kind of accomplishment would likely retain the initiative when the discussion turned to just how much of an allowance they're willing to give the politicians they just spanked.

A fourth thing ...


... (read the first three here):

We, the undersigned Americans, hereby call upon both houses of the US Congress to promptly pass, and upon the state legislatures to ratify, a constitutional amendment repealing section 4 of the 14th amendment, prohibiting future indebtedness and deficit spending on the part of the federal government, and repudiating all federal government debt and debt service obligations accrued prior to the ratification of said amendment.


Agree? Sign here -- and spread the word.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

True or false?


America's constitutional republican framework ... has been increasing personal and civil liberties almost monotonically for two centuries ... -- Brian Holtz, in a comment appended to this post


Discuss.

Some opening notes:

- As recently as about 100 years ago, I could have walked into any apothecary and purchased any medicine I thought I needed in any quantity I chose to buy ... without anyone's permission.

- As recently as about 100 years ago, I could have visited any purveyor of arms, purchased any weapon I thought I needed, and walked down the street bearing that weapon (openly or concealed) ... without anyone's permission.1

- As recently as a little less than 100 years ago, the money I earned would have been mine and only taxed on certain expenditures (excises on alcohol, etc.). The income tax wasn't permanently imposed until 1913 (two earlier versions ran from 1862 to 1872, and then in 1894-95). Even when it was imposed, it started at a whopping 1% on income in excess of $3,000 ($64,371.21 in 2008 dollars) and topped out at 7% on income in excess of $500,000 ($10.7 million in 2008 dollars). Most Americans didn't pay income tax for decades after that, and it wasn't until WWII that the government started grabbing it from your paycheck in advance.

- Aside from the Civil War, conscription and/or registration for conscription was not a feature of American governance until World War I. By mid-century it was near-universal, it continued (targeted mostly to the underclass) through Vietnam, and (with one brief break) mandatory registration to facilitate its resumption remains in effect.

- The US federal government didn't outlaw polygamy in US territories until 1862, and didn't really threaten to open a can of whipass on Utah over it until 1887. While some states had marriage licensing requirements, the federal government did not establish the Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act (presumably under the "constitutional republican framework" Holtz asserts) until 1923.

Some advances in personal and civil liberties? Sure -- especially in the area of recognizing those liberties as possessed by persons of both sexes and all races (although on the latter, there have been various retrenchments, such as the Anti-Chinese Acts and the internment of the Nisei). Almost monotonic advancement? Not.

-----
Notes

1. For that matter, I could have formed an organization, armed its members, and marched it up and down the square in uniform without creating any great flap, let alone risking imprisonment. Really -- I used to have an old (1898, I think) drill manual for "Home Rifle Clubs" that I picked up at a flea market. Try doing that now. I dare you.

Three things


Thing One:

Ecuador's president announced in early December that his country would not be paying the interest on its foreign debt in 2009, repudiating it as "illegal." The value of the bonds defaulted on amounts to 19% of GDP.

As the Australians would say, good on them. Denvir quotes a statement by the Confederation of Ecuadorian Kichwas (ECUARUNARI), part of the country’s indigenous peoples movement: "We have not acquired any debt. The so-called public debt really belongs to the oligarchy. We the peoples have not acquired anything or been benefited, and thus we owe nothing."
-- Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society:


Thing Two:

The federal budget deficit will rise to a record $1.2 trillion this year, and a package of new spending increases and tax cuts planned by President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats will push that figure higher, the Congressional Budget Office reported today. -- USA Today


Thing Three:


Monday, January 05, 2009

Big Head Bump


Completely unsolicited, folks -- I have no financial interest in Big Head Press, although I certainly would if I had money and they were seeking investors. I just like their stuff (and now that I've ditched dialup, I can read the online versions without a single page load encompassing breakfast and lunch).

Recommended reading:

Roswell, Texas -- UFO crash in Roswell? Check. But everything else is, well ... a little different than you may remember. Texas never became a US state, Roswell's in Texas, and that's just the beginning (two, count'em, two Popes, and one of'em goes heeled, ferinstance; and Disneyland ain't what it used to be either). Nobody does alternate history skiffy like L. Neil Smith, and nobody turns it into a graphic novel like Rex F. May ("Baloo"), Scott Bieser and Jen Zach.




The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel -- L. Neil Smith and Scott Bieser collaborated on this conversion of Smith's classic novel into graphic novel. This is one of those rare situations in which it's impossible to decide which version is better. I love'em both (although I especially admire the pogo-stick sequence in the graphic novel for personal ego reasons). One extra word in the Declaration of Independence! A successful Whiskey Rebellion! Great apes (as opposed to mere mischevious monkeys) in Congress! Good stuff.




A Drug War Carol -- I'm kicking myself for forgetting to mention this one before Christmas. The best piece of anti-drug-war literature you can put in anyone's hands, period. Written by Susan W. Wells and illustrated by Scott Bieser, ADWC lays out the history of (and the case against) prohibition in style ... and with rigorous, fully sourced arguments. Great story, great graphics, supremely effective agitprop.





Lots more at Big Head Press ... but these are the titles I've already read and heartily recommend.

Mountains and molehills


I'm shocked -- shocked! -- that an educrat caught with his hands in the till got off with only 30 days of actual jail time.

He's Henry P. Williams, former superintendent of the Riverview Gardens, Missouri school district. Over a period of five years, he apparently misappropriated a little more than $100,000. A month in stir does seem rather a bit light for stealing that much money.

Then again, look where he stole it from: A school district with (as of FY 2006) a $64 million annual budget, every last dime of it stolen -- some of it from nearby property owners, some of it from income tax slaves all over the US, some of it from the very children it's supposedly "for" (via deficit spending and trying to stick those children with that debt). Call it $300 million in larceny over Williams's five-year tenure.

Steal $300 million for the purpose of abducting children and indoctrinating them with government propaganda, and you're regarded as a "public servant." You'll probably get a plaque or something, not to mention a significant "legit" cut of the loot. Rake off 1/3000th of the take for personal use and all of a sudden people notice you're a crook.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Gaza, in brief


Want more of something? Subsidize it!

For decades, the US government has subsidized the defense of Israel to the tune of billions of dollars per year.

Is it any wonder, then, that the Israeli government -- and the Arab governments which also receive billions in "peace with Israel tribute" from Uncle Sugar -- always make sure to keep a dire, even existential, threat on low to medium heat to justify the continuation of those subsidies in perpetuity?

Or that they turn up the gas a little bit at key points ... points like, say, the weeks before the inauguration of a new US president?

The point has long since ceased to be whether or not Israel survives or the "Palestinians" get a state, if indeed that ever was the point. The point now is to make damn sure those checks keep getting signed.

Israel isn't going to crush Hamas, because their meal ticket would expire if they did. Hamas isn't going to settle, for the same reason. The show must go on.

High-quality theatre? Perhaps. But it's hell on the extras.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year


Well, it's 2009 ... a new year, and time for new things.

First new thing: A weekly podcast, KN@PPSTER: Fridays Live at Five.

This isn't going to be one of those short one-man pre-recorded jobs like some of the Gcast stuff I've done before. Think live call-in-enabled "talk radio" with guests. No video yet, but that may be coming as well. Now that I've finally upgraded to 21st century Internet (yes, I was on dialup from 1994 all the way up to the last week of 2008), I can do things I wasn't able to do before.

Premiere episode on January 9th at 5pm (Central US time zone). Topic: US foreign policy and the incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama. Guest TBA (I'm still awaiting confirmation). Guest: Eric Garris of Antiwar.Com.

There's a show "player" in the sidebar. I'm not quite happy with it, but NowLive's "widget" installation utility doesn't seem to want to work and play well with the latest version of Flash, so I had to take a circuitous route to get the damn thing at all. I'll try to get a nicer version up ASAP.

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