Tuesday, August 31, 2010

eReader Price Wars!


Someone at Borders must have read my "requirements doc outline." Per TechCrunch:

As competition in the e-books device market heats up, Borders is cutting the prices of its leading eReading devices, the Kobo and Aluratek to $129 and $99.99 respectively.

Not in my price range yet, but moving in the right direction.

Or is there one in my price range?

The Aluratek Libre looks a lot like the $50 eReader I'm craving.

It supports epub and PDF.

No wi-fi or 3G -- download the books to your computer and port them to the device via USB.

SD card for storage (I should have thought of that instead of thumb drives, of course -- not hitting on all cylinders that day!).

No backlight, but it uses something called "reflective light LCD technology," which I assume means I can read it in the dark.

Hell, it even doubles as an MP3 player.

If the price really is down to $99.99 (the Borders page still shows it at $119.99), and if it still comes with a 2Gb SD card loaded with 100 books, and if at least 50 of those 100 books are on the list of old books I said I'd be glad to pop a buck apiece for if I could get a cheap reader, then it's a $50 eReader, isn't it?

The only thing missing is "cheap ebooks" to read on it. The prices at Borders seem to vary quite a bit, with best-sellers still above my $7-10 threshold.

But I think we're getting there.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Baked Alaska


In comments at The Other McCain and Independent Political Report, I made two predictions yesterday:

1) That the Alaska Libertarian Party will not make its ballot line available to US Senator Lisa Murkowski if she loses the GOP primary for re-election to office; and

2) That Murkowski will, in fact, win that primary.

Prediction #1: Check. While I'm no longer a political partisan (this is all just horse-race stuff to me now), my nostalgic attachment to the Libertarian Party is still strong enough for me to be proud of and grateful to the Alaska LP for not selling out.

Prediction #2 has yet to play out, but the number of as-yet-uncounted ballots keeps increasing (it was 8,000 on Wednesday morning, now it's at 25,000 and rising) and that tends to advantage Murkowski.

Why? Two reasons:

1) Absentee ballots tend to be marked and sent in early. Murkowski's primary opponent, Joe Miller, closed a ginormous polling gap in the month leading up to the election to emerge as the apparent victor on Tuesday. The earlier the ballot was cast, the more likely that ballot was marked for Murkowski.

2) Miller's campaign was a grass roots, "on the ground" operation in Alaska. A lot of Alaska's absentee voters aren't just disabled and homebound, or out of town on election day. Some of them designate Alaska their official residence, but split their time between there and elsewhere. Some are military personnel deployed outside the state. Some live in areas remote enough that the candidates won't be knocking on their doors and absentee voting just makes the most sense. Murkowski has the advantage of incumbency and name recognition with those voters.

Miller is ahead by 1,688 votes. There are, at present, 15,720 uncounted absentee ballots; 663 uncounted "early votes;" and 9,117 "challenged" ballots. That's 25,500 ballots.

The statistics I've seen put the ratio of Republican to Democratic primary ballots at 80/20, so we're probably looking at about 20,400 ballots here. To tie it up, Murkowski needs to get 11,888 of those votes to Miller's 8,512 -- 58.x%.

I expect that she'll do at least 55% on the absentee and early ballots, and far, far better than that (75% would not surprise me) on the "challenged" ballots.

Why so well on the "challenged" ballots? Because she's got the money behind her (her own campaign's money and money from the national GOP establishment, in particular the National Republican Senatorial Committee) to lawyer up in a big way. She'll challenge every ballot for Miller, and hotly contest every challenge to a ballot for herself.

Could I be wrong on this? Sure -- it's happened before. But I remain confident in my prediction that Lisa Murkowski will appear on the November ballot as the Republican Party's candidate for US Senate.

Update, 09/01/10: Well, I blew the second call there. Murkowski has conceded. I thought her chances still looked reasonably good on the absentee/challenged ballot count, but apparently she decided it was over (and/or wanted to get it under the bridge and in the past before the weekend news talk TV cycle ticks over).

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Competing, Non-Territorial Blog Post


Comments are closed on this post over at Gene Callahan's blog, but I find the discussion interesting enough to continue.

The gist of the post is a comparison of feudal liege/vassal relationships to the anarcho-capitalist [sic] concept of "competing defense agencies," at the expense of the latter.

I contested this notion on the premise that at least one group among those he treated as "clients" of said "defense agencies" -- serfs or villeins -- were not in fact clients but chattel.

What Gene took issue with (and, as is not especially unusual, got a bit testy about) was my claim that:

The history of the end of feudalism is the history of those serfs retaining their own "defense agencies," formal and informal, from the Peasants' Revolt to the Levellers to the sans-culottes to the Continental Army.

The disagreement here seems to me to be a disagreement between viewing history as a set of discrete periods versus viewing it as a continuum with considerable periodic overlap. To wit, Gene writes that:

[A]lthough I'm just finishing a dissertation during the writing of which I did a lot of reading on the American founding, I can't think of a single case in which I saw the American Revolution described as a battle against feudalism, which generally is seen to have ended, in Western Europe, with the consolidation of the large nation-states from, say, 1300 to 1600 or so.

He'd probably really and truly blow his stack if I told him that I place the actual end of widespread feudalism in the early 20th century (with the Russian revolution and, if one views pre-Republic China as a feudal rather than bureaucratic system -- scholars are still arguinig about that -- Sun Yat-Sen's revolution).

Anyway, I popped back with a quote from Jefferson describing the revolution, at least as it progressed politically in Virginia, as essentially a revolt against feudal land relations and in favor of a restoration of the pre-feudal Anglo-Saxon way of doing things.

I probably should have been more detailed: In my opinion, Locke put the kibosh on the intellectual underpinnings of feudalism; the project of Jefferson et al was sort of janitorial. They were cleaning up the messes (monarchy, remnants of liege/vassal land relationships, etc.) left by that system's gradual disintegration.

Which brings me to this comment, from Daniel McCarthy:

In any event, Tom is not alone in considering the American Revolution to be a revolt against "feudalism" of a sort. But even if one grants that, the history may suggest the opposite of the conclusion Tom wants to draw: it was the development of modern states (and armies) that displaced feudalism and "liberated" the individual.

I strenuously disagree. Modern states and armies (especially standing armies) filled the vacuum left by feudalism's final disintegration, but they weren't responsible for the disintegration itself, or at least not in England and America and France. In fact, the modern state was a restoration of certain aspects of feudalism -- those convenient to the power and prosperity of a new political class that was emerging to replace the old (feudal) political class.

Let's see if I can find some heavy hitters who agree with me on these two points -- that the American revolution was a revolution against feudalism, and that the constitutional convention served up old feudal wine in new republican skins:

Here's John Adams -- "founding father" and second President of the United States -- in 1765, inveighing against the Stamp Act in A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law:

The canon and feudal systems, though greatly mutilated in England, are not yet destroyed. Like the temples and palaces in which the great contrivers of them once worshipped and inhabited, they exist in ruins; and much of the domineering spirit of them still remains. ... it seems very manifest from the Stamp Act itself, that a design is formed to strip us in a great measure of the means of knowledge, by loading the press, the colleges, and even an almanac and a newspaper, with restraints and duties; and to introduce the inequalities and dependencies of the feudal system, by taking from the poorer sort of people all their little subsistence, and conferring it on a set of stamp officers, distributors, and their deputies.

And here's James Madison -- "founding father" and fourth President of the United States -- writing to Thomas Jefferson in October of 1787 on the difference between the Articles of Confederation and the newly framed Constitution:

Encroachments of the States on the general authority, sacrifices of national to local interests, interferences of the measures of different States, form a great part of the history of our political system. It may be said that the new Constitution is founded on different principles, and will have a different operation. I admit the difference to be material. It presents the aspect rather of a feudal system of republics, if such a phrase may be used, than of a Confederacy of independent States.

So:

Contra Gene, I don't believe that it was only Jefferson who "THOUGHT he was struggling against 'feudalism?'" Adams clearly thought so as well. Nor do I attribute that notion on the part of Jefferson and Adams to the idea that, as Gene puts it, "[t]he enlightenment dudes were generally not very good historians."

And Contra Daniel, I don't believe that "it was the development of modern states (and armies) that displaced feudalism and 'liberated' the individual."

But hey, I could be wrong.

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Radiation-Emitting Mobile Porn Production Units Hit US Streets


No, really:

American Science & Engineering, a company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&E’s machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.

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Frivolous Litigator of the Day: Paul Allen


Sez Reuters:

A firm owned by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen today sued Apple, Facebook, Google, YouTube, and seven other companies, charging them with infringing patents filed more than a decade ago.

One of the patents (here, if Google Patents search results produce static URLs) is "Alerting users to items of current interest." It was frivolously filed on September 7th, 2000 and thoughtlessly granted on June 29th, 2004.

Keep in mind that "Alerting users to items of current interest" is the purported invention. Not a particular way of doing it, but the concept itself:

It should be appreciated that the present invention can be implemented in numerous ways, including a process, an apparatus, a system, a device, a method, or a computer readable medium such as a computer readable storage medium or a computer network wherein program instructions are sent over optical or electornic communications links.

Nonsense on stilts, as Bentham (the real Bentham, not the Lost character) would say.

The Patent Office should have taken Allen's money just because anyone stupid enough to file this kind of idiocy deserves to be shaken down.

Then they should have dragged him out onto the National Mall and stuck him in stocks for administration of the bastinado and public ridicule as punishment for wasting their time.

Instead, they gave the crazy sonofabitch a piece of paper that he's now using to extort money from companies that kept on doing new things long after his own previous company (Microsoft) had exhausted its innovative energies and fallen back on stealing, digesting and regurgitating in mangled format the work of PARC, Apple et al.

Does anyone on Earth honestly believe that web sites weren't already "alerting users to items of current interest," manually and with automated processes, before Allen lurched into the Patent Office with this cocktail napkin bullshit on September 7th, 2000?

That "invention" has been around at least since the first newspaper printed a "see page A4 for related story" blurb, and probably a lot longer. I bet there's a Sumerian clay tablet somewhere with "on a related matter, see Hammurabi's 'What I Did on My Summer Vacation'" cuneiformed on it.

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Property Rights and Freedom of Religion, Yes; Taxpayer Financing, No


Per Reuters:

The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.

There's some weasel wording in there, so let's unpack it.

The issue isn't "tax-exempt financing" per se. All financing (and everything else!) should be tax-exempt.

Nor is "tax-exempt financing" by definition a "subsidy." Not taking money from someone isn't the same thing as giving money to someone.

But this actually is a subsidy -- it's one of those "public-private partnership" things, where a quasi-governmental organization (a "local development corporation") is allowed to issue bonds (the interest on which is tax-exempt to the bondholder, hence the "tax-exempt financing" language) to complete the project. If the project goes under, the taxpayer takes the hit for payment on the bonds.

REFILE - CORRECTING STAGE OF TOUR mam Feisal Abdul Rauf (L), executive director of the Cordoba Initiative, shakes hands with worshippers after leading midday prayers inside the Fanar-Qatar Islamic Cultural Center's mosque in Doha 27 August, 2010. Abdul Rauf is currently on the second leg of his funded tour to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as part of an outreach effort by the U.S. State Department to promote religious tolerance, according to a State Department spokesman. Abdul Rauf's Cordoba Initiative is building a Muslim cultural centre in lower Manhattan, which currently faces an emotional campaign to block it by conservative politicians and families of the Sept. 11 2001 attacks, claiming that locating it only two blocks north of the site was a provocation. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad (QATAR - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION)
REFILE - CORRECTING STAGE OF TOUR mam Feisal Abdul Rauf (L), executive director of the Cordoba Initiative, shakes hands with worshippers after leading midday prayers inside the Fanar-Qatar Islamic Cultural Center's mosque in Doha 27 August, 2010. Abdul Rauf is currently on the second leg of his funded tour to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as part of an outreach effort by the U.S. State Department to promote religious tolerance, according to a State Department spokesman. Abdul Rauf's Cordoba Initiative is building a Muslim cultural centre in lower Manhattan, which currently faces an emotional campaign to block it by conservative politicians and families of the Sept. 11 2001 attacks, claiming that locating it only two blocks north of the site was a provocation. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad (QATAR - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION)
Note to Park51/Cordoba House's principals, especially Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: You shouldn't even be thinking about trying this.

A majority of the populace appears to have already swallowed the "Ground Zero Mosque" demagoguery hook, line and sinker and there's a strong mob mentality movement hell-bent on stopping you from building your cultural center.

Of the minority standing up for your property rights and religious freedoms, a significant portion of us are civil (or uncivil, as the case may be) libertarians who are standing up only for your property rights and religious freedom.

Most of us aren't Muslims or particularly enamored of Islam.

Most of us don't really give a tinker's damn whether the thing gets built or not -- we're just standing up for your right to build it, if you choose to, on your own property and with your own money.

It's a fragile coalition centered around rights versus might, freedom versus compulsion, tolerance versus suppression.

As soon as you start claiming a "right" to stick your hand in taxpayers' wallets for a bailout if your project goes south on you, that coalition disintegrates.

So don't do it.

[see what others are saying about this story at memeorandum]

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Friday, August 27, 2010

The Center cannot hold ...


... onto the gains it's been making for market anarchist access to the mainstream media, unless it has your support.

You know I'm a "matching funds" kind of guy, so here's the deal:

The Center for a Stateless Society pays me $640 a month, in return for which I work 20 hours a week on media stuff (building lists, submitting our commentaries to newspapers, posting our materials on the web, attempting to book our people on talk radio, etc.), as well as writing an original piece of my own once a week or so (here's my latest, which is a little bit "inside baseball" -- I usually do news-oriented stuff for mainstream media submission), helping edit and proofread other writers' submissions, and answering the Center's phone when it rings.

This month, I've pledged to donate $100 of my pay back immediately upon receipt, as well as to cover the $30 tab for extending the Center's phone service by two months (it's a prepaid cell linked to a Google Voice number) out of my own pocket.

Why not just tell them to dock me $100? Because I want my donation to show up on the "ChipIn" meter that totes up the fundraiser's progress:



When people see a bigger total and more donors on the meter, they tend to be more willing to "chip in" themselves.

This week, we've managed to get our pieces into two print newspapers, with notification from a major US newspaper that they'll be running a C4SS commentary on Monday, and from a Canadian monthly that they'll be running a second C4SS piece in their September issue.

For more on what's happening, see my weekly Media Coordinator Update. Since June, we've gone from pretty much zero on the media front to putting market anarchist pieces in newspapers large and small from coast to coast US-wise and and abroad.

We've got some momentum going here (I personally expect us to be at 5-10 US media pickups per week and 10 or more per week abroad -- I'm working on building an Australian media list at the moment, having covered much of central and southeast Asia yesterday and earlier today -- by the end of the year), but if we can't pay the bills we can lose that momentum quickly.

Obviously not everyone can match a $100 or $130 donation, but every little bit helps, so please do what you can. Thanks in advance.

Update, 08/28/10: I've now been paid for July, and have, as promised, donated $100 of that pay back to C4SS. It's impossible for me to tell for sure from here whether or not KN@PPSTER readers have been behind the jump in the Center's fundraising (from less than $500 to more than $1500 in a couple of days!), but based on exit pages, etc., my guess is "yes" and I thank you for it.

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Notes toward a Market Requirements Doc for a true mass-market ereader


I know we're going to get there eventually, but I'd rather not wait.

No, I'm not going to pony up $150-$200 for a Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader or Kobo. Ain't gonna happen.

Right now, I buy most of my dead-tree books used for $5 or less, shipping included. No way am I going to spend the price of 30-40 books (assuming I read one book per week, that's the better part of a year's reading!) on a device to read books with.

The max price point needs to be no more than $50, preferably less. $50 is my line of separation between "purchase requiring household discussion and perhaps earmarked savings" and "something I'll either jump on immediately or talk myself into by the time I've walked past the end cap display at Micro Center a couple of times."

For that price, some hardware concessions are obviously in order.

It doesn't have to sport color graphics (good contrast control and a backlight are enough).

It doesn't have to be able to store a bazillion books. It needs to be able to store several, but not a bazillion, as long as I can change them out and store what I'm not reading on my computer's hard drive or a thumb drive or something.

The battery life doesn't have to be stellar. For that matter it doesn't have to have a built-in rechargeable battery. I'll pop for the AAs or AAAs.

It doesn't have to offer Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connectivity (I'm willing to download the books to my computer and port them via USB).

It doesn't have to support multiple file standards. The ePub format strikes me as the likeliest candidate, PDF a distant second.

It doesn't have to support Digital Rights Management. As a matter of fact I'd rather it didn't.

On the other hand, there's one inducement which might lead me to tolerate DRM or some other scheme for keeping me tied to your store for my e-book needs: Cheap book prices.

If you'll sell me a cheap device and make reasonably new titles available for $3-5, and price current bestsellers at no more than $7-$10, I'll probably accept DRM.

Hell, I'll even willingly pony up a buck apiece for all those old public domain titles (Ivanhoe, Les Miserables, GK Chesterton's stuff, etc.) that I read for free on Stanza or Bookworm now, if I can read them in bed on an inexpensive, back-lit, hand-held device.

The company that brings a device to market meeting the above specs (plus one more spec -- it can't fall apart after a month) can count on selling me the device, and on a perpetual revenue stream from my wallet somewhere in the low double digits per month.

Update, 08/31: I follow up here.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jack Lord, Your Attorney is on Line One


Hat Tip -- Thomas Costanzo at Freedom's Phoenix. Per CNN Money:

Facebook is suing start-up site Teachbook.com for using the word "book" in its name, according to court documents.

The complaint, filed in a California district court last Wednesday, alleges that Teachbook is "rid[ing] on the coattails of the fame and enormous goodwill of the Facebook trademark," said the document obtained by Wired.com.

But what comes around goes around, and I think that CBS has a pretty good case against Facebook.

That "book'em, Danno!" is among the most memorable lines in American pop culture, and that Steve McGarrett, Danny "Danno" Williams and the accused in each episode all had faces, are indisputable and easily documented facts.

I'm tellin' you, man, it's airtight.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Connecting two dots


Voice of America, August 24th:

South Korean defense officials say North Korea is deploying massive numbers of troops and arms near the capital of Pyongyang. ... The report said the deployment appears to be related to a meeting of key communist party delegates next month and the party's 65th anniversary on October 10. ... Some analysts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will probably designate his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his successor at the September meeting, only the third such gathering since the communist state was founded in 1948.

CNN, August 26th:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is visiting China, the South Korean JoongAng Daily reported Thursday, citing a South Korean government official.

"[North Korea's] National Defense Commission chairman Kim was detected to be visiting China on his private train," said the official.

The official said Seoul did not understand the purpose of the visit nor did the government know whom Kim planned to contact.

My guess is that the DPRK's military plans for the Kim dynasty to end with Kim Jong Il, and possibly for Kim Jong Il himself to end sooner rather than later; that he knows it's coming; and that there's a lot of jockeying for position going on. Maybe the coup is coming, maybe it's already happened, maybe he's trying to get Chinese intervention lined up to put it down when it comes. But something's going on.

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Know-Nothing Labor Myths


Jacob Lyles at The Distributed Republic:

Open border libertarians like to pretend that the supply of immigrant laborers has no effect on the welfare of existing United States workers. But this is not the case.

Broadly speaking, the welfare of an average Joe who trades his labor for a living depends on two factors. The first is labor productivity which determines how much employers are willing to bid for workers. The second is the supply of labor of similar quality. Increasing the supply of labor with a particular skill set will bid down the wages of workers with substitutable skills. ...

There is no a priori reason to think that labor markets are immune to economic incentives.

I've never, ever, ever heard a libertarian claim that "the supply of immigrant laborers has no effect on the welfare of existing United States workers."

On the contrary, an unconstrained ability of workers to move back and forth across imaginary lines drawn on the ground by politicians ("borders") almost certainly has a great many effects -- some of them putatively negative (increased local labor supplies where labor is needed, driving down wages), some of them putatively positive (decreased labor costs driving down prices for everyone), many of them unnoticed, all of them certainly subject to what Mises referred to as the "calculation problem" when it comes to regulation.

The real question is not whether or not Worker A will have less leverage in seeking higher wages if Workers B and C are "allowed" to cross one of those imaginary lines.

The real question is whether or not the state has a legitimate power to distort the market for the alleged benefit of Worker A at the expense of Workers B and C who are forbidden to rent their labor, at the expense of the employer seeking to rent labor, at the expense of those called upon to involuntarily "undo" the distortions with still further distortions, and at the expense of the customer who has to pay more for the product or service because Worker A got the monopoly he wanted.

The libertarian answer to that question, in case you were wondering, is "no."

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"A milk cow with 310 million tits"


Alan Simpson nails it on Social Security. And of course he's taking holy hell over it.

Update: Well, he caved and apologized. For telling the truth. Let's see where it goes from here.

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Apparently so, Nat ...


... apparently so.

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"Liberaltarian" is sooooooo two thousand "aughts"


It occurs to me that I haven't linked to David Weigel at his new Slate gig yet ... done. And there's never a bad time to ping JD Tuccille's Disloyal Opposition ... check. Finally, might as well go right to the horse's mouth on this "liberaltarians leaving Cato" thing.

Why are Brink Lindsey and Will Wilkinson leaving the Cato Institute? Helifino.

Maybe they just coincidentally both got job offers at places they'd rather be at about the same time.

Maybe they were shown the door because their views don't fit with whatever direction Cato is going in (or about to go in).

Maybe it was something in between, i.e. "you guys might want to explore other opportunities, because we're about to get markedly less friendly to 'liberaltarianism' around here."

Or maybe it was something else.

I don't think it really matters that much, because "liberaltarianism" is way over.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea as such, necessarily. Some of my best friends, or at least favorite bloggers (e.g. Jim Henley and the rest of the crew over at Unqualified Offerings, and the guys at Freedom Democrats), are arguably "liberaltarians." Hell, I even spent some time in that sector of the freedom movement myself, specifically the Democratic Freedom Caucus, about mid-decade.

Here's the thing, though:

The focus of political libertarianism -- the axis around which it turns in terms of realpolitik -- is opposition to the party (whether formally organized or ideologically defined) in power.

For most of the history of the modern American libertarian political movement (which I'd personally date to the mid-40s under the influence of Leonard Read, Ayn Rand et al), the formally organized party in power has been the Democratic Party and the ideologically defined party in power has been "the liberals."

To the extent that the modern American libertarian political movement generated momentum and acceleration, it did so in the direction of opposition to the Democrats/"liberals" from its early days through at least 1994, when the Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since the 1950s. I'm not saying that libertarians were necessarily allied with Republicans/conservatives in any particular way, but we were very clearly opposed to e.g. the New Deal, the Great Society, etc.

You don't undo 40 years of movement in one direction overnight. It wasn't until the Republicans had been in the majority in Congress for awhile that "liberaltarianism" (whether identified with that label or not) started making itself really visible. And by the time it had worked itself up to a jog, the Democrats had re-taken Congress and it was pretty obvious that the next president would be a Democrat too.

"Liberaltarianism" may have slowed the libertarian political movement's speed of rightward spin a bit, but it didn't stop that spin, it certainly didn't reverse it, and the opportunity to do so passed out of view in the distance about the time Nancy Pelosi assumed the title of Speaker of the House.

Sorry, guys, you ran out of time.

There's certainly still some action to be had on the libertarian left (more than ever, actually), but that action is in the anti-political libertarian movement, which understands that the real party in power is the political class -- Democrat and Republican, "liberal" and "conservative" alike -- and which has, as its long-term project, the overthrow of that class in all its manifestations.

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Dammit ... foiled again


I was secretly rooting for JD Hayworth in today's Arizona primary for the Republican Party's US Senate nomination.

No, I'm not a Republican.

No, I don't live in Arizona.

No, I'm not even particularly enamored of electoral politics any more.

I just happen to think that the GOP accelerating through the S-curve on its course toward institutional suicide by sending the wildest big-government whack-job west of the Pecos back to DC would make great television for the next two years or so (I can't imagine the crazy SOB making it for the full six years without ending up in prison, or at least out of office and guesting on Jerry Springer), that's all.

Instead, GOP voters stuck with Old Reliable (read: Boring as watching paint dry) John McCain, by landslide numbers reflecting a collective IQ a full order of magnitude higher than I'd have predicted.

The Other McCain is as disappointed as I am but for very different reasons (I have to write his affection for Hayworth off to Moonie brainwashing during his tenure at the Washington Times or some other similarly malign influence). One thing we do agree on is that there's only candidate left worth voting for (if you must) in that race.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The government's definition of phone sex ...


... appears to be "let's screw people who pay full price for their phones so that we can give phones to other people."

This program appears to have been around for awhile, but it's only lately that I've seen television commercials for the landline version and web ads for cell services like this one.

A little Googling pulled up the details of the scheme:

Lifeline - If you qualify for this program, Lifeline can save you at least $10 a month on your phone bills, depending on what state you live in and which phone company in your area provides this program. Some states provide more discounts to make local telephone service even more affordable. To determine if your state offers these additional discounts, contact your state’s public utility commission, www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm.

Link-Up - Link-Up pays up to $30.00 of a qualified consumer’s home phone startup fees (even if it’s a cell phone), not including the cost of the phone. Link-Up also lets consumers borrow up to $200 of set-up fees, interest-free, for up to one year.

Tribal Lands - Those living on tribal lands may qualify for additional discounts.

The word "discount," of course, is just a euphemism for "subsidy."

How expensive is the program? There's a lot more fog around that, but here's a clue from 2004:

Currently, California's ULTS is a $570 million program. Of this amount, approximately $330 million is financed by federal Lifeline/Link-Up funds and $240 million is from an all-end-user surcharge assessed on consumers' intrastate telephone bills.

California's population is 12.09% of the entire population of the US.

So, if the program is evenly distributed population-wise (I have no reason to believe it is, and reason to believe it isn't, since some states apparently don't participate, but give me a break for cutting the Gordian "lots of unknown variables" Knot), the federal expenditures come to ... lessee, where'd I put the calculator ... about $2.7 billion, or nine bucks or so for every man, woman and child in the US. That's just the federal money, not counting the state phone tax. And that was six years ago!

Once upon a time, $2.7 billion was considered a lot of money. These days, that much change apparently falls out of Nancy Pelosi's purse and rolls into the gutter during her walk from the US House chamber to her car.

I don't know about you, but there have been times in my life when I couldn't afford a phone at all, let alone a cell phone. And during those times I lived without one.

In order to even find out about this program, you apparently need access to either cable television (the commercials I've seen have uniformly been on late-night cable) or a computer with an Internet connection ... but Uncle Sugar's supposed to hook you up with phone service at everyone else's expense? Good grief.

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Bottom line: Caveat emptor


The Daily Caller offers up a lurid tale of bloggers corrupted by political cash ... or something like that [hat tip -- The Other McCain]:

Katie Couric once described bloggers as journalists who gnaw at new information "like piranhas in a pool." But increasingly, many bloggers are also secretly feeding on cash from political campaigns, in a form of partisan payola that erases the line between journalism and paid endorsement.

Well. That doesn't sound too good, does it?

But frankly, I don't see the problem. Or, rather, I don't see that the problem exists as framed in that paragraph.

First of all, most bloggers don't pretend to be "journalists." We're opinionated SOBs, and what we're purveying is our opinions. Some bloggers actually are journalists by current or former trade, and most of those (the aforementioned Other McCain being a prime example) take care to visibly separate the "just the facts, ma'am" stuff from the opinion stuff.

I won't say that we can't be bought, but if we're bought, there's about a 99% chance that what we sold was the opportunity to have us say what we were going to say anyway, albeit perhaps at a higher tempo and/or with greater apparent conviction.

To put it another way, I don't think there's a brown paper bag big enough to hold the cash it would take to get (to pick two more or less at random) Pamela Geller to endorse Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf for Congress or Markos Moulitsas to come out for Palin/Tancredo 2012.

It just ain't gonna happen, and if it did happen their credibility and their audiences would evaporate like a saucer full of water at noon in Death Valley without moving the polls so much as a millimeter their corrupters' way.

Should you read blogs with wary eye for hidden agenda stuff? Sure.

Should bloggers be honest, and perhaps even "transparent" via disclosure to a degree, about how they make their money? I think they should be, I try to be myself, and I think most bloggers are actually more honest than most "mainstream journalists" about their motivations ...

... but most of all I think that any mechanism to compel those things would cost more in chilling effect on honest opinionists than it would gain in compliance from dishonest political whores.

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Well, now that you mention it ...


Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf attends an iftar, or the break of fast, dinner at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Saar, west of Bahrain's capital Manama August 22, 2010. Rauf, the imam leading plans for an Islamic community right and mosque near "Ground Zero" in New York, is on a U.S. government-funded tour in the Middle East to talk about religious tolerance in America. REUTERS/Hasan Jamali/Pool (BAHRAIN - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION)

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf attends an iftar, or the break of fast, dinner at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Saar, west of Bahrain's capital Manama August 22, 2010. Rauf, the imam leading plans for an Islamic community right and mosque near "Ground Zero" in New York, is on a U.S. government-funded tour in the Middle East to talk about religious tolerance in America. REUTERS/Hasan Jamali/Pool (BAHRAIN - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION)
The aggregator at over at memeorandum is picking up a lot of action on this quote from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, head of Park51 a/k/a Cordoba House, the Islamic cultural center proposed for construction two blocks from the outer edge of the World Trade Center complex ("Ground Zero"):

We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims. You may remember that the US lead sanction against Iraq lead to the death of over half a million Iraqi children.

My first reaction is to wonder what in the hell that has to do with the price of tea in China, or with the question of whether or not Muslims are possessed of the same property and religious rights as, and entitled to the same respect for and protection of those rights as, every other type of damn-fool superstitionist (or, as the case may be, non-superstitionist).

My second reaction is to note that the statement is -- especially if the word "government" is inserted after the phrase "United States" for clarity -- undoubtedly factually correct.

Even setting aside the deaths attributable to the US government's murderous sanctions/air war campaign against the civilian population of Iraq from 1991-2003, it remains true.

The bottom end of estimated civilian casualties in Afghanistan specifically attributable to the military operations of the US and its allied occupiers from 2001 to the present is 5,791. That's nearly twice the 2,976 casualties al Qaeda inflicted on 9/11. The top end, including casualties only indirectly caused by the US and its allies (and not casualties inflicted by Taliban or al Qaeda "insurgents") is 28,583.

That's not counting civilian casualties in Iraq, which are apparently many multiples of the Afghanistan figures, but which don't seem to be as well sorted out by who inflicted them.

Nor is it counting all the civilian casualties of both wars, which are attributable to the US government on the same principle as governs criminal justice in the US itself. If you rob a bank and the security guard keels over with a heart attack while you're waving your gun in his face, you're on the hook for murder. If you launch two wars in violation of international law and without even the fig leaf of the constitutionally required declaration ... well, like Colin Powell said, "you break it, you buy it."

It would be downright morally offensive, if we all weren't long desensitized to the Republican Surrealists' penchant for just making up whatever shit they can think of to try and shift blame onto others for the results of their own policies, that Rauf's statement is being portrayed as even mildly controversial.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Ich bin ein Philadephian!


I've just changed my Blogger profile to indicate that I reside in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Pray goeth now and do likewise.

Why?

Our fellow bloggers in The City of Brotherly Love need some camouflage from the idiot politicians who want to tax their online speech.

Pity the fool who contacts me demanding a "business privilege tax." He'll get at least $300 worth of hearing loss when I put the air horn up to the phone and press the button.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kubby: Back in the political saddle!


Steve Kubby is running for city council in South Lake Tahoe, California.

Yes, I'm helping out a little. Don't bust my balls, OK? Once a political junkie, always a political junkie, and a Kubby campaign in particular is like waving a tall glass of Old Crow® under a detoxing alcoholic's nose.

On the libertarian side of things I always try not to be unduly optimistic, but we definitely have the makings of a winning campaign here.

Ten candidates are seeking three seats. Kubby was the first to file. If that means he's the first name on the ballot, he's got a tremendous advantage right there.

He's got good roots and good political history in the area -- serving on the Northstar board, working on "pothole" issues, raising money for local good works (fire department, ski team) etc.

He's got a great venue for his issues positions. South Lake Tahoe's city government got caught up in a "redevelopment" scheme gone bad a few years back -- 28 businesses and hundreds of jobs eminent domained out of existence to make room for a convention center project that failed, leaving a decrepit construction site now known locally as "The Hole." A recent grand jury report called the city government "dysfunctional." He's emphasizing cutting city government back to core functions (street maintenance and law enforcement against real crime) and promising to hold the line against tax increases to address a forecast city budget deficit.

He's getting good advice and great practical assistance from California's Libertarians.

Yes, he does need money. This is the kind of campaign where a few hundred dollars for yard signs, literature and such may make the difference. There's a donate button in the right sidebar at his campaign site. Please use it.

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Stewart nails it


[Hat tip -- The Liberty Papers]

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Everybody's got one, and they all stink


Dianna Meeks, in comment #21 on this post at The Other McCain, writes:

"[Y]ou need to realize that the many people who oppose [the Cordoba House project] also have the right to express their opinion about it without their opinions being denigrated."

Everyone has a right to express his or her opinion.

Nobody has a right to express his or her opinion without it being denigrated.

An opinion not grounded in fact deserves to be "denigrated" (denigrate 1: to attack the reputation of: DEFAME .... 2: to deny the importance or validity of : belittle). As Daniel Patrick Moynihan (or perhaps it was James R. Schlesinger) said, "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

The lower Manhattan building that will possibly house the Cordoba Initiative Mosque and Cultural Center is seen in New York August 16, 2010. The project, planned near the "ground zero" site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, has emerged as an emotional issue 2-1/2 months before U.S. congressional elections in which Republicans are trying to take back control of Congress from Obama's fellow Democrats. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY)
The lower Manhattan building that will possibly house the Cordoba Initiative Mosque and Cultural Center is seen in New York August 16, 2010. The project, planned near the "ground zero" site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, has emerged as an emotional issue 2-1/2 months before U.S. congressional elections in which Republicans are trying to take back control of Congress from Obama's fellow Democrats. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY)
An opinion describing the Cordoba House Project as "the Ground Zero mosque" is not grounded in fact.

It's not at "Ground Zero." It's two blocks away on foot, four by car (due to one-way streets which necessitate driving three blocks then circling back a block), from the outer edge of the old World Trade Center site.

Is it a mosque? According to some moderate/liberal Islamic sects, perhaps. But according to the strict doctrines propounded by the fundamentalist Wahabi Islamists whom the project's opponents claim are behind it, no.

The fundamentalists hold that a mosque may only be used for Muslim worship. Cordoba House will host interfaith services.

The fundamentalists hold that a mosque must audibly/publicly broadcast the adhan (call to prayer). There will be no minaret w/loudspeaker on Cordoba House from which to assault the ears of the infidels walking down Park Avenue or tramping around "Ground Zero."

The fundamentalists hold that non-Muslims may not eat or sleep in a mosque. Cordoba House's halal food court will be open to the non-Muslim public.

The opponents of Cordoba House can't have it both ways. If it's a mosque, it's being built by non-Islamists. If it's being built by Islamists, it's not a mosque.

So, when someone issues an opinion inveighing against the "Ground Zero mosque," he's establishing up front that he's either ignorant or lying. The opinions of liars deserve only denigration. Ignoramuses may perhaps be deserving of instruction/correction, but such instruction/correction must start with the explanation that they're parroting lies.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. -- HL Mencken, In Defense of Women

That's the game Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin et al are playing.

As a statement of fact, "Islamists are building a triumphalist mosque at 'Ground Zero'" is in the same class as "Jews use teenagers' blood for Purim pastries." Being false, it is not and cannot be the basis of a sound opinion. Those who utter it in ignorance should be corrected. Those who attempt to parlay it into political gain should be shunned and driven in shame from public life.

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Make Fitz up and let Blago go


Yes, he's so crooked he has to screw his pants on in the morning.

So? Try to name an Illinois governor since John Peter Altgeld who wasn't a crook.

The prosecution got a full-on run at Blagojevich in front of a jury and came up with one conviction and 23 hung jury non-verdicts.

The cost to the taxpayers? Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says "his office does not break out individual cases' costs" ("If TV shows can't pay Blagojevich's costs for retrial, taxpayers may have to," Washington Post, 08/20/10).

Blagojevich's attorneys guesstimate that the government spent $25-30 million going after him the first time, and he spent at least $2.7 million defending himself (op. cit.). If they put on the dog and pony show a second time, the taxpayers may get to pick up the defense tab as well.

Fitzgerald should ask for the maximum sentence on the one conviction -- and that should be the end of it.

I don't really care one way or another about Blagojevich himself, but it's just plain a bad idea to let the government take a Mulligan every time prosecutors fail to make their case. Government prosecutors have an effectively (with respect to any individual case) unlimited budget, and a habit of re-trying failed cases over and over until they get lucky or until they've bankrupted defendants and forced them into plea bargains.

When "hung jury" charges are re-filed, the first thing the judge should do is sanction the filing prosecutor -- personally, not from taxpayer funds -- to the tune of double what the defense spent the first time, to be held in escrow and disbursed for defense costs the second time around. For each conviction, he gets a pro rata portion of his money back. For each hung jury, it's gone. For each acquittal, he gets sanctioned another pro rata portion as damages to the defendant.

That would put a stop to the bullshit.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Scientists reach back 48 million years to discover the first politician


From the Guardian:

The oldest evidence of a fungus that turns ants into zombies and makes them stagger to their death has been uncovered by scientists.

The gruesome hallmark of the fungus's handiwork was found on the leaves of plants that grew in Messel, near Darmstadt in Germany, 48m years ago.

The finding shows that parasitic fungi evolved the ability to control the creatures they infect in the distant past, even before the rise of the Himalayas.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

No War But Class War!


That's the title of my latest at the Center for a Stateless Society. Teaser:

America's politicians, by habit, frequently call upon the populace to eschew "class warfare," by which they are generally understood to mean war between the rich and the poor.

Left unsaid, but becoming increasingly clear even to those who generally take little interest in matters political, is the fact that every operation of government is, by definition, an exercise in "class warfare" -- a raid by a political class whose very survival depends on its continued ability to loot your wallet, your wealth, your work.

Like everyone else, the political class has to eat.

Unlike everyone else, the political class proposes to eat us.

Click here to read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A recital of certain facts


Over the last couple of days, a would-be political opponent of mine, one Eric Dondero, has publicly asserted no fewer than three times that I receive money from the government on the basis of some claimed disability.

The first such assertion might have been an honest mistake; the subsequent two were either knowing and intentional lies or else a severe misjudgment as to the character and expertise of his alleged sources.

After the third such assertion, I challenged Mr. Dondero to a duel at a location, and with weapons and terms (first blood, surrender or death) of his choosing. So far he's only got as far as location (Mexicali, so I may have to do some hitchhiking), and seems to want to weasel out of the consequences of smearing me without withdrawing the smear. Granted, the maximum such consequence he faces unless he chooses to take responsibility for his actions is that I'll call him out as the coward I believe him to be.

Just to make this as clear as humanly possible:

I do not receive a "government check" on either a regular or irregular basis.

The last regular check I received from any government was my final US Marine Corps paycheck in early 1995. The last irregular check I received from any government was a tax refund some years ago.

I do not receive a "disability benefit" of any kind -- military or civilian, public or private -- nor have I ever applied for same, nor do I intend to.

I am not on "welfare," food stamps or any other form of government largess.

Anyone who says otherwise is a liar, an ignoramus, or both. If you hear this from anyone, ask them to produce evidence. They won't, because they can't, because there isn't any, because the whole claim is 100% fictional from start to finish.

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

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scan Project


Tamara's grandfather came home from the World War (the World War, the War to End All Wars, the only one at the time and for nearly 21 years after) and brought with him or later acquired (I'm thinking the latter, as the first edition is copyright 1923) a stereoscope, 300 cards printed by the Keystone View Company, and a book describing the cards, The World War Through the Telebinocular.

The book includes an enthusiastic endorsement of the collection from, among others, General of the Armies John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing.

We have two things in mind for this collection:

- Get it scanned so that people can see it on the web (and perhaps even print their own copies, make or acquire their own stereoscopes, and view the images in "3d"); and

- If extant copies are rare, get the collection into a museum or library where it can be preserved in ideal archival conditions for posterity.

Here are a couple of low resolution scans. I can do up to 600 dpi on the home machine, and will be experimenting to get the best quality possible (the cards have significant curvature, which may make it interesting).

From The World War Through the Telebinocular

From The World War Through the Telebinocular

Got some other old goodies in the same box, including a bodybuilding system on large card stock, circa 1919.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Free at last!


Congratulations to the newly elected or re-elected officers of the St. Louis County (Missouri) Libertarian Central Committee:

- Julie Stone, Chair
- Jeff Coleman, Vice Chair
- Ray Harbert, Treasurer
- Eric Harris, Secretary (re-elected)

Going into this meeting there was one certainty and one uncertainty.

The certainty was that this would be my last meeting as chair.

The uncertainty was whether or not the committee would continue to exist.

A change in Missouri law, effective August 28th, takes county party committees out of the "political party committee" campaign finance reporting loop and requires them to function as PACs if they continue to exist.

My opinion was that the committee should dissolve itself and, if its members wanted, re-organize as a PAC, building new bylaws from the ground up instead of having to go through a cumbersome amendment process if the new law required additional changes.

The majority's opinion -- and there were some sound arguments for it -- was that we should just become a PAC in mid-career as it were.

It would have been really, really sweet from an anarchist cred standpoint to be able to say "at the end of my term as chair the county party voted to dissolve itself." Alas, it was not to be. I think the committee has good leadership going forward and wish it the best.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Not in the hospital!


But not done navigating the maze of medicine yet either.

Saw the doctor today.

Blood sugar from finger stick: 199. That's after about 18 hours with almost nothing to eat (a couple of stray bites of food I was preparing for others).

So, tentative diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, but I have to go get more bloodwork done tomorrow (no food and only water to drink after midnight tonight), and then back to the doctor later in the week.

My instructions for now are: 1) NO SWEETS; 2) Eat small portions frequently instead of big portions in one or two big meals a day; 3) Don't get too wrapped up in a bunch of food analysis just yet, but that's probably coming; 4) Watch the blood sugar and get to an ER ASAP if it goes over 400.

I can do that.

Either the garlic works REALLY well, or they caught me at a weird system point. Eight days ago, my blood pressure was 177/100. Today, it was 100/60.

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With his boots on


Yes, yes, I know I'm supposed to hate Christopher Hitchens because he supported the US invasion of Iraq, etc. I've never been able to work up a lot of venom toward him, though. He may be unequaled as a polemicist, and he's an all-around interesting guy.

Now I've found something else to like about him: His response to the news that he probably doesn't have very long to live.

Here's an interview he gave to The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg last week. Enjoy.


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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thiessen confirms the establishment definition of "responsible journalism"


Lapdog \Lap"dog`\, n. 1. A small dog which is or can be fondled in the lap. [1913 Webster] 2. One who does the bidding of another; a servile follower. [informal] [PJC]

From Marc Thiessen's puling complaint versus Julian Assange of Wikileaks ("Sorry, Time, Assange is a criminal, not a journalist," Washington Post, 08/04/10):

Unlike reputable news organizations, Assange did not give the U.S. government an opportunity to review the classified information WikiLeaks was planning to release so they could raise national security objections (such as, for example, the fact that they contained the names of Afghan informants who are now being hunted and killed by the Taliban as a result of his disclosures). Providing such an opportunity for review is common journalistic practice. ... let’s not pretend that Assange is a journalist who is simply doing what other responsible journalists have done for years.

From the perspective of the political class, "responsible journalism" subsists in telling the public what the state wants it to hear, zipping your lips against anything the state doesn't want the public to hear, and giving the state advance notice of and access to reportage so that it can make sure you're toeing the line.

Fuck that noise.

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The Era of Secret Government is over


That's my opinion, anyway, as expressed in my latest C4SS column, "The Valley of the Shadow of Wikileaks." Teaser:

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holds up a copy of the Guardian newspaper during a press conference at the Frontline Club in central London, July 26, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST)
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holds up a copy of the Guardian newspaper during a press conference at the Frontline Club in central London, July 26, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST)
The state (any state, but in this case the United States) claims a right to keep secrets from those whom it governs, from those upon whose consent its purported "legitimacy" rests, from those who are taxed to pay in the first place for the activities which generate those secrets.

Ixnay on that aimclay!

It's the equivalent of the janitor telling the building owner "it's none of your business whether or not I cleaned the toilets, and if you try to have a look yourself I'll hit you over the head with my mop and lock you in the broom closet. Now hurry up and sign my paycheck, I've got a date tonight."

That the US government considers publication of the Wikileaks Afghan War Diary even remotely controversial shatters the whole "consent of the governed" myth. The state doesn’t work for you and in this matter it's not even pretending to.

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Voters Anonymous, Anyone?


[Note: This is my latest column at the Center for a Stateless Society. Usually I just blurb and link, but I feel like reprinting this one in its entirety. Enjoy - KN@PPSTER]

Yes, I voted. Schlepped down to the polling place on Tuesday, presented my papers, and poked the screen until the machine informed me that I had successfully cast my ballot.

I even took one of those cheesy little "I Voted" stickers. Just one. On my way into the polling place, a toddler came bouncing out with one sticker on each hand. Yes, it's a machine Democratic precinct -- why do you ask?

The anarchist arguments against voting ("it only encourages them;" "if it changed anything, they'd make it illegal;" "it falsely legitimizes the system") all strike me as sound, although Murray Rothbard's "voting as self-defense" argument holds some water, too.

The "voting as self-defense" bit was part of what got me this time (this one last time, just this one last time, I keep promising myself).

Here in Missouri, Proposition C -- a measure to nullify ObamaCare's "individual mandate" -- was on the ballot.

I personally and individually nullified the "individual mandate" nearly a year ago, before the bill even passed, by swearing to drop my health insurance and go to jail rather than pay a fine when/if it goes into effect. Proposition C, to my mind, represented an opportunity recruit a majority (that's all I hoped for, anyway -- it actually clocked in at over 70%!) of voting Missourians to have my back on the issue.

Voting as self-defense, see?

But really I'm just kidding myself. I voted for a lot of reasons, all of which really boil down to one: I've got a monkey on my back.

Have you ever tried to quit smoking? It may go well or badly in general, but once you've had the nicotine habit it's always there to at least some degree. I've talked to "ex-smokers" who still get the craving 10, 20, 30 years later.

If you also happen to be a drinker, you're going to constantly catch yourself thinking "you know, a cigarette would go really well with this Fat Tire®. How the hell can I drink a beer without a smoke?"

I had my "beer" on Monday when I had to drop in at the local election authority's office to sign some paperwork -- one of my duties as chair of my county's Libertarian Party committee, a job I leave behind me without regrets next week.

Bam ... off the wagon! One little sip of electoral involvement, next thing you know I'm blazing up a political Marlboro®.

I told myself it was about Proposition C. That I had an obligation to support Libertarian candidates whom I had recruited in contested primaries. That the act of voting bore no moral significance. That it was just an exercise in social camaraderie.

But I took a long, long shower when I got home.

At the end of the day, I understand that voting not only changes nothing, but reinforces the putative legitimacy of an evil system which I've dedicated my life to dismantling.

The first step in recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

Hello. I'm Tom, and I'm a voter.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Adventures in self-diagnosis


I'm not big on doctors. Matter of fact, the only times I've bothered to consult one since the 1980s have been a) exams or workplace injuries where my boss required me to; and b) the time I thought I'd had a stroke (it was Bell's Palsy -- the doctors gave me anti-virals which didn't help; Kate Graham recommended Lysene which did).

But, I've had a sneaking suspicion lately (for the last year or so).

The suspicion began with me noticing that I no longer noticed small injuries on my extremities when they happened. My family would notice a cut or whatever that I hadn't even felt and tell me about it, but I wouldn't feel it unless it got infected.

When I began experiencing vision changes (I now have to remove my glasses to read up close), that compounded the suspicion, but I mostly wrote it off to aging and started planning on maybe getting bifocals.

Then there was the general lack of energy thing, etc. Once again, hey, I'm getting older, my lifestyle tends to be sedentary because I work on a computer instead of a factory floor, etc.

Of course, I've also been consuming sugary (and high fructose corn syrupy) beverages in great quantities for as long as I can remember.

I bought some of those strips at the store that you pee on, but they're not especially informative. All I knew was that if they were accurate, I was pregna ... er, my blood sugar was over 110. 111 or 500? No way to know.

Tonight, I was lucky enough to procure a digital blood glucose meter, the kind with the lancet and the strips and all that stuff.

If that is accurate, and I have no reason to believe it isn't (I read the instructions carefully), my blood glucose level as of a few minutes ago was (drum roll, please, and no "for God so loved the world" jokes) 316.

The limited amount of research I've done on the subject has me thinking that this may be a ... less than ideal ... blood glucose level. I'm no expert, but I'm given to believe that it's rather a bit on the high side.

Fortunately, my blood pressure is nowhere near 316 ... but last time I checked it, the systolic and diastolic added together weren't too far short of that (I'd neglected my garlic supplement for several weeks; I'm back on it religiously now).

So maybe I'll see a doctor. But hell, I might as well crowd-source my dietary and exercise and supplement and medication options first. Anyone got any recommendations?

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Missouri voters nullify the ObamaCare "individual mandate"


As I write this, with 3,035 of 3,354 precincts reporting, Missouri's voters support "Proposition C" to the tune of 72.7%. Here's the full text, but the upshot is in the ballot description:

Shall the Missouri Statutes be amended to:

* Deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful healthcare services?

* Modify laws regarding the liquidation of certain domestic insurance companies?

Not sure what the full story is on the insurance thing.

For months, the mainstream media has been howling about the expenses of "the lawsuit" that Proposition C would entail ... but I don't see how it entails a lawsuit at all, unless the feds sue Missouri's government.

Missouri's government doesn't have to sue, it just has to enforce its own law, e.g. arrest and jail any IRS thugs who show up trying to collect fines from uninsured taxpayers, make sure Missouri employers know not to honor any garnishment/withholding orders pursuant to those fines, freeze federal assets in Missouri banks if necessary to make Missouri taxpayers whole for federal theft of assets pursuant to the fines, etc.

Looks like Missouri's voters are sporting some big, hairy balls tonight.

And yes, junkie that I am, I voted today, swearing up and down that this was the last time (it only encourages them). I keep trying to break the habit, but I really did want to be part of this nullification vote.

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