Thursday, March 31, 2005

The blogosphere versus Jeff Gannon

The Agonist is sponsoring a letter from "progressive bloggers," and encouraging phone calls, etc., to the National Press Club.

At issue: The NPC's upcoming panel discussion on "blogging" versus "journalism," which seems to really be more aimed at discussing the controversy over Jeff Gannon, the porn site operator who magically came into possession of a White House press pass that other "journalists" with similar qualificatins couldn't get.

The Agonist letter's point: If this thing is going to be about Gannon (who will be one of the panelists) rather than about "blogging v. journalism" per se, then one of the bloggers who exposed Gannon should be included as well.

Sounds fair to me. Presumably if the NPC held a panel discussion on "journalism and the Iraq war," they'd pick a military or government official who helped plan, or participated, in the war and a journalist who covered the war, rather than a military or government official who didn't help plan and/or participate in the war and/or a journalist who covers 4H meetings. The whole point of a panel is to bring together the diverse perspectives which are relevant, right?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

FMNNClip: Food Fight


For those who believe that the court order to starve Terri Schiavo was a horrendous decision, possibly even a crime:

What did you expect, given government's track record? This is what government does. Granted, events have conspired to highlight Terri's individual case, and no excuse is needed for heartfelt sadness, even outrage, over her fate. But when it's all said and done, will Terri Schiavo be any more dead, or any more unjustifiably so, than Peter McWilliams, who choked on his own vomit after being denied the medical marijuana that kept him alive? Or Donald Scott, murdered by the National Forest Service for his land? Or, for that matter, any patient who dies waiting for FDA to 'allow' the drug which might save his or her life to be sold?

For those who believe that the court order to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube and 'let her go' was justified by the evidence of her medical condition and the testimony concerning her likely wishes:

Why leap to the conclusion (this debate has only been going on in literally deadly earnest for a few months -- hell, many libertarians are still debating World War II!) that this time the people who brought you Amtrak, $400 toilet seats, Social Security, public education, Ruby Ridge, Waco and the debacle in Iraq finally got something right? Don't the history and the evidence militate toward a more skeptical approach?

Click here for the whole thing.

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Southpaw musings

Once upon a time the Left was rightly regarded as standing up for "the little guy" -- not just against predatory plutocracy and crony capitalism, but against the power of government as such. The default supposition was that Joe Sixpack should be substantially free to live his life under the protection of, rather than with every action regulated by, the state.

That's an idea the Democratic party and the American Left need to get back to.

I didn't really want to pick on one blog in particular, but in going through my blogroll, I found one where the current posts, notwithstanding the author's occasionally bright and useful contributions, exemplify the problem:

America's teachers are too stupid to be allowed to protect themselves and their students.

Pharmacists are slaves who should not be allowed to have -- or act upon -- religious beliefs.

Medical patients are children who need their hands slapped to keep them from putting the wrong things in their mouths.

With the exception of 12-year-olds seeking abortions, the Left doesn't seem to trust anyone to exercise judgment or make unregulated, unsupervised choices any more.

Don't mean to get surly, Craig, but if I'm not qualified to live my life, then precisely when and how the fuck did you -- or your designated bureaucrats -- magically get qualified to live it for me?

Monday, March 28, 2005

There's "niche" music, and then there's ...

... this.

"[A] Commodore 64 revival band, (almost) exclusively playing tunes from the 80's home computer Commodore 64 as rock on real instruments."

Apparently, they're not the only ones.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sold American

Michael Schiavo has spent at least half a million dollars of his wife's money for the purpose of having her murdered. For that sum, he's been able not only to proceed toward accomplishing the killing, but to procure the assistance of the courts in carrying out the hit in direct violation of Florida law.

Richard Alan Meywes, on the other hand, was allegedly only able to come up with half as much money -- $250,000 -- to have Michael Schiavo taken out, in accordance with Florida law.* Not only has his bid been disallowed, but he's probably going to go to jail.

Money certainly does talk.

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* From the Florida statutes: "776.012 Use of force in defense of person.-- A person is justified in the use of force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, the person is justified in the use of deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Terri's law -- a prediction

I support the right to die. By this, I mean that I believe any adult should be legally entitled to end his or her life at any time, for any reason; that anyone whom he or she asks for assistance in doing so should be held harmless for rendering that assistance; and that he or she should be recognized as entitled to direct in writing, with full legal force, the conditions under which he or she may or may not be kept alive when incapacitated and unable to communicate upon such matters.

Because I support the right to die, I hate the Terri Schiavo case. Supporters of the right to die have allowed themselves to be led into a clever trap that will spring shut in the next year-and-a-half, and they'll have only themselves to blame for it.

Right now, most people don't see the trap. They're falling for the camouflage -- the misdirection. I fell for it too, briefly. The main concern right now among right to die advocates is that the Schiavo case will set a precedent for federal intervention. The fact is, no such precedent will be needed.

As I write this, it is March, 2005. By fall of 2006 -- in other words by the end of most states' 2006 legislative sessions -- many, if not most, states will almost certainly have passed one version or another of what I'm going to call (and what they're likely to call) "Terri's Law."

Do you have a living will? If so, you should take it to your attorney and have it gone over with an eye for detail. By early 2007, "Terri's Law" will be in effect. If you don't have a living will, or if so much as a semi-colon is out of place in that living will, the law will dictate that the plug can't be pulled. Period. End of discussion. No exceptions.

It won't matter if you verbally told every person you ever met that you'd never want to be kept alive with tubes and machines.

It won't matter if you're a headless lump of meat lying in a bed, with a ventilator pumping air through a tracheotomy tube into what's left of your throat.

You'll have a perfect living will, or you'll live whether you'd have wanted to or not. You'll have a perfect living will, or your family will be powerless to act on your behalf no matter how well they might know your desires or intentions. And I guarantee you that the state will be very exacting in its standards for those documents.

That's what right-to-die advocates and many libertarians will have won with their decision to abandon fact, reason and reality in support of a lying husband (and yes, Michael Schiavo is a liar -- he's made too many conflicting statements which can't all be true to classify him as anything else) and to support a lawless judiciary in its murder of Terri Schiavo.

I'd say that the "right to live -- whether you want to or not" crowd is enjoying a good belly laugh at your expense right now, but I don't think that's true. Agree with them or not, they really believe that Terri Schiavo deserves the benefit of the doubt and they will genuinely mourn her death. That's because they've held on to what right-to-die advocates and many libertarians have given up as this case has played out -- their principles.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Yeah, what Bernay said ...

Excerpt from a Yahoo! Groups post:

"[U]nder the Fourteenth Amendment, every citizen in every state is accorded equal protection under the law. The law, in this case, is Florida Statute 744.3215 (Rights of Persons Determined Incapacitated), which states that incapacitated persons cannot be deprived of necessary services including food and water. Absent a clear advanced directive -- not something based on hearsay from a person with conflict of interest, but a clear, written, advanced [sic] directive -- this Florida law must apply to Terri Schiavo."

The rest is here.

Bernay has the federalist angle exactly right. That doesn't mean there won't be negative consequences accompanying federal intervention in the Schiavo case, of course. The best thing would have been for the Florida courts to abide by Florida law, or for Michael Schiavo not to have petitioned them to do otherwise.

Scratch that. The best thing would have been for Terri Schiavo to have never undergone whatever accident, incident, illness or injury put her in this situation in the first place.

Pangloss was stupid and abnormal.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

BlogClip: US Congress VS Michael Schiavo

Ted Dunlap weighs in.

BlogClip: Vox Day on Schiavo

"I view this as a lose-lose situation. Increasing central government power in order to save 'just one life' strikes me as the usual liberal-socialist tactic and doing the wrong thing for the right thing usually doesn't turn out very well. "

Read all about it.

STRClip: The Anarchist Inside

Somehow I forgot to blog my latest for Strike the Root when it appeared. Enjoy.

Then and now


"[W]hen I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me god."

-- George W. Bush, GOP nomination acceptance speech, 08/03/00


Hat tip to Wally Conger.

BlogClip: A convention worth adopting?

Julian Sanchez on quibbly quotes.

BlogRolled: Liberty for Sale

Awhile back, Tim West packed up The New Libertarian and went off to start a new site. Here it is.

Synopsis: Critical analysis aimed at improving the prospects of the Libertarian Party for political success. Obviously, Tim and I are somewhat in disagreement on whether that's possible or even worth trying at this point. The valor of the effort, however, should be noted, and the site is certainly worth visiting and bookmarking.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I see your Schwartz is as litigious as mine

This is a link. This is a link to a photo. This is a link to a photo of a guy who sometimes calls himself "Stephen Schwartz" -- when he's not calling himself "Comrade Sandalio" or "Suleyman Ahmed" or whatever he happens to be calling himself at any given time.

Comrade Stephen Suleyman Sandalio Ahmed Schwartz is (not for the first time) threatening to sue AntiWar.Com for linking to the photo.

To expropriate Tolstoy's take on Nietszche, Comrade Stephen Suleyman Sandalio Ahmed Schwartz is stupid and abnormal. Linking to something is not grounds for suit. If you don't want the damn photo linked to, move or remove it. And no, Mr. Schwartz, you have no grounds for a suit here either. Matters of opinion, especially about "public figures," are protected speech. If they weren't, you'd be screwed yourself.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Congress versus the Axis of Evil

It's not very often we get to see an attempted murder played out live and in real time. Hopefully, it won't be a frequent occurrence.

As we should have expected, the case of Teri Schiavo is beginning to become much more than just the story of one man's determination to kill his wife. Now it's testing the very fabric of federalism. Congress has subpoenaed Teri Schiavo -- and her husband -- as witnesses for hearings on the 25th.

I'm personally very conflicted about this transparent ploy to stave off Teri's execution, using dubious congressional authority as the instrument. Federal intervention is never pretty and usually has horrible consequences even if the intentions are good.

Then again, if the Florida courts had given Teri Schiavo the equal protection of the law to which she is entitled under the 14th Amendment, we'd never have heard about this case. The judge would have simply told Michael Schiavo "no, you can't murder your wife -- we have laws against that," and that would have been the end of it.

Maybe federal intervention is the only way to redeem Florida from its courts' determination to make it a rogue state.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Domains for sale ...

I have three domains for sale: News-Digests.Com, NoBullshitGuides.Info and PaidToReadTheNews.Info.

Prospective buyers, please contact me.

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The news digests go blog

We've been hard at work over at Rational Review ... moving the news digests all back under one roof, upgrading their appearance and function, and changing them from "updated once daily" static web pages to frequently updated blogs with comment and trackback functions, archives, etc. Check them out:

Rational Review News Digest

Second Amendment News Digest

Progressive News Digest

Conservative American News Digest

... and our newest publication for activists, Liberty Action News Digest

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Puffed Rice

The Iranians can't have a nuclear weapon. And that's what everyone has said. -- Condoleezza Rice, 03/13/05, "Meet the Press"

Now we know why she's saying she won't run for president. She thinks she's already everyone's mom.

Notes from the House Pinko

I've received less email than I expected, and more of it supportive than I expected, about this article for Free Market News Network. I have, however, received a few messages of the type that I expected, to wit:

"What the f--k, Knapp. Are you going commie on us or something?"

Deserves an answer, I guess.

A working writer has several tradeable assets:

1. The will to actually sit down and write. Don't knock it. For everyone who actually writes, there are a hundred who think about writing. It used to be a thousand to one, back in the day of typewriter and ball-point pen and mailing off manuscripts via US Snail. The Internet Age has reduced the ratio of "thinking about its" to "do its," but it hasn't eliminated the latter class.

2. The thick skin required to risk criticism. There's always someone who doesn't like what you write. Often, that person has a point. You messed up. The thing about writing is that when you mess up, you do so in public. It's like that dream where you're in high school, and suddenly realize you're naked ... only now it's real, and it's a day-in, day-out routine. Not everyone can take it.

3. Fundamental competence. Spelling. Grammar. Sentence construction. Pacing. Writing to word length. Writing to deadline. Another side effect of the Internet Age is that a bad writer can now achieve wider distribution. What he can't achieve is long-term respect. If you're really, really bad, your articles will appear ... and then sink without a trace.

The fourth and final asset, for a writer working with a multi-writer publication, is whatever he has that distinguishes him from the other writers creating content for that publication.

I've had the luck to fall in with some of the finest writers on the planet due to my association with FMNN. Some of them are great at explaining how to apply libertarian principles to policy questions in general, others target particular policy niches.

I don't see any advantage in competing with Harry Browne, Tibor R. Machan or Walter Williams in the former area, or with any of FMNN's "specialists" in the latter (I do not have Ph.D. in Outer Mongolian Micro-Economics or some other niche in which I am uniquely qualified to act as an "expert"). It's not that they're necessarily better writers than me (although I'd argue that some of them are). The way I see it, I'm better off looking for unexplored "market demand" to fulfill.

Thus have I designated myself FMNN's House Pinko: The guy who walks around the FMNN house -- which has what one might think of as a fairly "right-libertarian" foundation -- and looks for "left-libertarian" holes in the walls. Hell, when I think nobody's looking, I might even punch a couple of those holes myself.

I've chosen this niche for the reason described above (I want to cover a "beat" that isn't being covered by someone else in FMNN's editorial stable), and also because my current political projects give me good reason to explore the Left End of the Political Spectrum (sorry, Marshall -- the WSPQ is great, but "left" and right" have some utility as descriptors).

Finally, I think that having a House Pinko is good for FMNN. If you look at other publications, most of them have an on-staff gadfly: Bill Press at WorldNetDaily. Christopher Hitchens at The Nation. Please don't infer any comparisons with respect to either temperament or talent here -- I'm talking about function, not quality. A publication benefits in several ways by publishing at least one writer whose work challenges that publication's "editorial line" either generally or on some of the hotter issues.

The House Pinko can attract readers to the publication who aren't already part of the "the choir." He can make "the choir" break some skullsweat and perhaps falter in whatever semblance of four-part harmony it usually maintains for long enough to question itself a bit. And, if nothing else, the readers who disagree with him may love hating him enough to read his stuff anyway.

Over the years, I've noticed that bringing up certain issues in libertarian (or other political) forums makes people uneasy. Asking certain questions elicits sulky silence. Uttering certain inconvenient conclusions of fact brings forth quotes from "scripture," but not the underlying arguments required to make those quotes into real rebuttals. And, occasionally, standing by one's guns calls down the fire of "party line" rhetoric designed to squelch, rather than advance, debate.

At FMNN -- surrounded by confident, experienced libertarian writers who will likely remain unshakened, unthreatened and unsurprised by whatever I might have to say -- I believe I've finally found the perfect venue for exploring those kinds of issues, asking those kinds of questions, uttering those inconvenient conclusions, and standing by my guns until I'm satisfied that what I've arrived at is the truth. And that's precisely what I intend to do.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Hall of Shame

"First they came for the candidates ..." Some displays of cowardice are so in-your-face that they demand comment. Such is this online letter from various "Internet personages," begging the Federal Election Commission to just take the Jews ... er, the political candidates, parties, publications, etc. ... and let the bloggers stay out of the camps for awhile longer.

Let's get this straight, right now: If giving ten bucks -- or any other amount of money -- to a political candidate isn't a protected act of free speech and freedom of association, then neither is blogging. If interviewing one candidate but not the others in a newspaper or on television isn't a right, neither is writing a column for a web site. Either Americans are free to engage in political advocacy, or they aren't.

This letter says they aren't, or that they shouldn't be ("While paid political advertising on the Internet should remain subject to FEC rules and regulations, curtailing blogs and other online publications will dampen the impact of new voices in the political process ..."). It just pleads for a special exception to the suppression of political speech for one group of speakers while kowtowing to the abomination of "campaign finance reform."

Check out the list of signers. From Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos to "libertarian Republican" Chuck Muth to Michelle "intern'em all, let Bush sort'em out" Malkin ... a rogues' gallery of pusillanimous "do it to Julia-ism."

Maybe they think that if they can fumble FEC chairman Scott E. Thomas's zipper open, he'll promise not to come in their mouths.

Hat tip to Steve Gordon for pointing this out (in an email -- presumably he'll blog it soon, too).

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Friday, March 11, 2005

FMNNClip: George, Jefferson's piece of the pie


One of the more vexing problems to which libertarianism addresses itself -- or, more frequently, cowers from addressing itself -- is the problem of land, whether or not it can be owned and if so, how.

These days, that problem is largely ignored by "right" libertarians. You have a "title" to the land upon which your home sits. You purchased it voluntarily from the prior holder of such a "title." Ergo, you "own" that land. End of story.

But it's not as simple as that. Who held the first "title" to that land? How did he get that "title?" And did that title represent any legitimate claim to "ownership" which he could then rightfully convey to another?

Here's the rest.

BlogClip: Flash of Freedom

I meant to mention this issue the other day, but it's been hectic. The FEC v. The Blogosphere. Steve Gordon says the bureaucrats can have his mouse when they pry it from his cold, dead fingers.

Steve's got the right idea, but we differ with respect to outcome. Brother, anyone screwing with my right to write -- in any format I find convenient -- is courting a date with a rope and a lamppost. I need those fingers for typing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Didja ever hear the one about ...

... the self-described former Marine who claimed that Saddam's capture, as portrayed, was a fakeup?

Some rag calling itself the National Ledger takes the story apart pretty well. I can't vouch for the site as a whole (looks pretty neoconnish offhand, and I haven't had time to dig into it), but this particular analysis is pretty sound:

1) There were few Marines in Iraq at the time of Saddam's capture.

2) The alleged former Marine doesn't seem to exist in standard locator databases under the name he's using.

3) The alleged former Marine declares that another Marine was killed in a firefight during the capture of Saddam ... but no Marines are listed as KIA in Iraq during that timeframe.

Does that mean it's not true? Well, no.

If the Marine Corps fielded a special operations force to hunt down Saddam, they wouldn't advertise it.

Some military personnel don't necessarily appear in publicly accessible locator databases (I knew some intel Marines who wouldn't even pose for class pictures at military schools ... there are MOSes in which obscurity is a virtue).

And while hiding a combat death would be difficult, it wouldn't be impossible -- if the KIA had no close family, or if that family agreed to keep a secret for purposes of national security.

Still, this one just doesn't smell right. Just because you can't believe anything the Department of Defense says, it doesn't follow that you can believe everything that everyone says about the DoD.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

FMNNClip: Good Ol' Boys R Us

All right, folks, the campaign to get yours truly appointed vice president of CMT's Dukes of Hazzard Institute is now officially under weigh. Or maybe underweight.


No media franchise, however late and unlamented, ever really dies. Put a stake through its heart, bury it, forget it -- walk over its grave 25 years later and its gnarled, bony hands will erupt from the soil to grasp at your ankles. Thus has Country Music Television committed itself to reprising 1979-85's "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Here's the whole article.

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

I am so there ...

The star search is on ... Country Music Television[TM] is seeking a blogger to serve as veep of the CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute! $100K to watch -- and apparently liveblog -- the show, do public events with Bo, Luke and Daisy, etc.

I've got this one nailed down, folks, if I can master the written word well enough to fill out the application. Ben Jones ("Cooter" to those of us who grew up driving the General Lee in our dreams) ran for Congress as a Democrat a few years back. Now that I'm a Democrat, too, I'm looking forward to getting together with Mr. Jones and James Carville for Old Home Day, complete with a hogshead of mint julep and a stack of wet ribs taller than the Blue Ridge to talk things over -- a Southern Democratic Corn Liquor Caucus, if you will -- and seeking some patronage.

Hat tip to Cheryl Bates for noting that I'm a Tennessee-bred, whiskey drinkin', teeth-missin' redneck and pointing me at the job I was so obviously born to do.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005


The latest reported American deaths brought the toll to 1,502 since the United States launched the war in Iraq in March 2003, according to the AP count. The military said two U.S. troops died Wednesday in Baghdad of injuries suffered when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle. Another soldier was killed the same day in Babil province, part of an area known as the "Triangle of Death" because of the frequency of insurgent attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Not to worry. Put a yellow ribbon magnet on your car and everything will be just peachy, right?

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Yay, beer!

CHARLOTTE COUNTY [FL] -- Search and rescue teams this morning found a North Fort Myers man who was reported missing several days after he set off on a rowboat trip, with little more than a case of beer to sustain him.

Let us now give thanks to our omnipresent friend, beer. Hat tip to Fark.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Nice form, but a little weak on the execution

In a 5-4 ruling, the US Supreme Court has done away with juvenile executions. [registration required, or use login "newsdigests/newsdigests"]

First reaction? It's about time.

Second reaction? I haven't read the opinions yet, but from the article's characterizations, I suspect the majority reached the right decision by the wrong logic, and that the minority reached the wrong decision by ignoring logic altogether.

The majority opinion indulges in flowery language about a juvenile killer's "potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity." And the minority opinion, or at least the excerpts from it -- but who trusts the Times to quote the good parts of Scalia or Rehnquist's opinions? -- just comes off as bitchy and irritated.

To me, it's really simple: When the state denies that someone is responsible enough to take part in typical, non-criminal "adult" actions -- drinking a beer, getting laid, voting -- then the state forfeits any legitimate authority to hold that same person responsible for "adult" crimes. If the kid isn't an adult when he tries to buy a copy of Playboy, then he isn't an adult when he buries an ax in Mom's frontal lobe, either.

Aside from that, of course, I just don't trust the state to get the death penalty right for anybody. It can't even deliver the fucking mail on time or balance a checkbook, and we're going to let it decide who lives and who dies? I don't think so.

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Well, that about wraps it up for the Libertarian Party

Or maybe not. Too many people have predicted its imminent demise, too many times, for me to know for certain that this latest episode of freakish, psychotic behavior (courtesy of New Libertarian) is the one which will bring it to the end of its rope and allow it to jerk a few times before it turns blue and expires.

But it's stupid whether it kills the party or not.

FMNNClip: Making "campaign finance reform" superfluous


One of the great promises of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign -- a promise no less shining for the fact that the Dean wave broke against the rocks of faux-"electability" -- was the notion that Big Money could be relegated to bit part status in the ongoing drama of American politics, and that this could be accomplished without the passage of a single law or regulation to stop Americans from associating themselves (and their checkbooks) with whomever they please, and to whatever extent they please. With Dean now in charge at the Democratic National Committee, we can hopefully look forward to the renewal and advancement of this promise. And libertarians have a stake in its successful implementation.

Read it here

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Gratuitous beer story of the week ...

OK, so not the week. It's been awhile. But I'm trying, folks. Check out the inspiring saga of the United States Beer Drinking Team. Hat tip to Fark.

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